How To Rip Narrow Boards with a Circular Saw

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Have you ever tried to rip narrow boards using a circular saw with little success? It seems that no matter your efforts, the blade keeps wandering away from the marked line and binds up when you try to get your saw back on track.

In those moments, one thing you have to keep in mind about circular saws is that they can’t move in a straight line. However, making your lines with a circular saw more accurate isn’t as difficult as you might think. In this article, we are going to discuss how to rip narrow boards with a circular saw.

Tools You Need for Ripping Narrow Boards

Before you start ripping, you need to have some regular tools to help you accomplish the task successfully. Here are the tools you should have:

Close up of a person cutting a narrow board with a circular saw
  • A larger board, which should be longer and wider than the narrow piece of board you intend to cut.
  • A stand or pair of sawhorses for putting the larger piece of wood along with the narrow board you want to rip.
  • A wood pencil for marking the line you plan to rip.
  • A speed square to help you draw the line.
  • A measuring tape for taking your measurements.
  • 8d nails or two clamps for attaching the larger board.
  • Circular saw with a sharp blade for ripping the board.

Is Ripping Narrow Boards with a Circular Saw Easy?

Ripping narrow boards precisely using a circular saw is difficult. This is because the G clamps tend to get in the way of the motor or the saw sole as the standard guides do not work. 

Moreover, you may have a hard time clamping the guide to the board, which can make the ripping process more difficult. However, you can slide your material through the blade and hold the saw static to execute the task effortlessly.

Clamp your saw on a platform and allow the blade to spin under the sole. Now, pass through the workpiece you plan to rip under the saw sole and the job will be done.

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How to Rip Narrow Boards with a Circular Saw

Since a circular saw can’t cut narrow boards by itself, it will require some help from a cutting guide or fence. So, you can either opt to buy a fence or make a DIY cutting guide to rip narrow boards.

Here are the three ways you can use to rip narrow boards:

Use a Speed Square Tool 

This is an essential tool you should consider using, especially if you intend to cut narrow boards using a circular saw. To use the tool, place it on the side you plan to start cutting.

However, measure and mark on the board the locations you plan to make the cuts before using the speed square. Now, place the saw blade on the mark then position the square tool against the base plate. 

Once you are done, push the base plate against the tool to cut the board. If you want clarity, flip the speed square on the other side to enable you to see whether it is fitting well on the board.

Create a Cutting Guide

Circular saw cutting wood

Making a cutting guide is easy as it won’t take much of your time and will help you cut narrow boards precisely. To rip your board, look for some adequate pieces of plywood for your project. If you have MDF (Medium Density Fireboard), you can also use it instead of plywood. 

Next, select the largest piece of plywood and use it as a base for the saw blade and jig. Just like in the previous step, measure and put a mark on the locations of the cut. Be sure to place the jig’s edge exactly where you intend to make the cut, and then clamp it in position. 

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This way, the narrow piece will stick to the larger piece and will act as a fence for the saw’s base plate.

Look for a Rip-Cut Tool

This is another valuable tool that will help you cut narrow boards effortlessly using a circular saw. However, select a tool with a universal rip-cut to make attaching it to the sled easy. 

This will also ensure the rip-cut fence aligns to the straight edge so that you get accurate narrow boards. 

Tips for Ripping Narrow Boards Using a Circular Saw

Although ripping narrow boards may seem a difficult task to execute, if you have the necessary expertise, you can do it precisely. Here are some useful tips to make the process simple:

  • Position the cutting guide well, rip-cut, or speed square tool so that it covers the side of the board you want to retain. When you do this, the saw will only cut on the side you do not want to keep. Moreover, you won’t cause any damage to the piece you intend to keep in case the saw veers from the cut line.
  • Make cuts on a rigid foam board insulation since the board is a durable surface and ideal for narrow pieces of wood. The foam board will also ensure your saw blade doesn’t cut the pavement if working on the ground or workbench.  
  • If you don’t have a workbench, drive an 8d nail into a pair of saw horses and through the board to prevent it from slipping when cutting it. This way, you will cut narrow boards. Once you have completed cutting, remove the board from the saw horse.
  • Use support when making narrow cuts on a table saw. Although table saws are ideal for ripping narrow boards, doing it without support can be dangerous as the board can leave the saw. So, you can either buy outfeed supports or make your own to offer support. 
  • Ask for help from a friend when cutting narrow boards and teach him how to support the board before you begin ripping. He should not direct or grab the board. Instead, he should just move along with the workpiece. This will enable you to cut narrow boards accurately without worrying about kickbacks.

Also view our guide on ripping a 2×4 with a circular saw.

Person using a circular saw to cut two pieces of wood

Safety Measures to Take While Cutting Narrow Boards

A circular saw can be dangerous if not handled well. That is why it’s crucial to follow these safety measures when using the tool to rip narrow boards: 

  • Ensure the saw blade is sharp. Sharp blades are ideal as they reduce splinter and also work better compared to blunt ones.
  • Before changing the blade, disconnect the saw from the power source. 
  • Wear an eye protector before you start cutting to protect your eyes from loose parts of the saw, splinter and dust.
  • Avoid wearing loose clothes as they can get stuck in a spinning saw blade and leave you with severe injuries such as a cut limb.
  • Inspect the surface you want to work on and ensure it has no metallic objects like screws or nails.
  • Stand on either side when using a circular saw to prevent kickbacks and make cutting easy.
  • Wear a dust mask since circular saws produce harmful dust that can cause chronic ailments when inhaled.
  • If you need people around you to help you hold the board, they should also take the necessary safety measures since they can be injured with pieces of wood flying out. 
  • Hold the handle careful when starting the motor as it can twist in your hand.


Ripping narrow boards using a large or small circular saw is not easy. However, you can cut narrow boards if you follow the tips we have listed above. It will also be a good idea to practice often if it is your first time to rip narrow boards with a circular saw until you master the process. 

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.