Pages Navigation Menu

How-To: Use a Circular Saw (Part 1)

“How do I use a circular saw?”

Makita 7-1/4" Circular Saw

How do you know how to use something unless someone has shown you? Tool Sage will attempt to guide you down the path to safe and proper tool usage for the most common hand-held circular saw.



We will start off with some of the basics to get you a little more familiar with circular saws.


Circular Saw Sizes

Blade SizeThere are several sizes of circular saws out there. The size of saw is based on the blade diameter, so a 7-1/4” (seven and one-quarter inch) circular saw specifically means that it is a saw with a 7-1/4” diameter blade.

The most common sizes are 6-1/2 inch and 7-1/4 inch saws.  However, they come in a variety of sizes, typically 5-3/8” up to even 16-5/16”.


Selecting Saw Size

The best choice is generally to use the smallest and lightest saw that will cut through your material in one pass.

The maximum cut depth of a circular saw is largest as a square cut (90 degrees). The higher the angle you set your saw to, the smaller the cut depth becomes.

90 Degree Square Cut and 45 Degree Bevel Cut

The smallest size saw that will cut a 2×4 (or any 2x lumber) at both 90 degrees and 45 degrees is a 6-1/2” saw.

However, the most common saw that is used and most widely available is the 7-1/4” saw. Therefore, for the sake of simplicity we will be using a 7-1/4” for this article and the video.


Circular Saw Safety

Electric Brakes come with some saws and slow the blade to stop much quicker.

Blade Guards are spring loaded and designed to retract as you cut. You should never pin the guard back. Sometimes you might find it necessary to thumb it back slightly at the start of the cut or back further for really narrow cuts and plunge cuts, but don’t continue holding it once the blade is in. Again, no pinning the guard back so that it can’t detract by itself.

Thumbing The Guard

Safety Switches/Buttons are not often seen on 7-1/4” saws but on many saws of other sizes. You need to push or press these as well as the trigger for the saw to start.

Protective Eyewear should always be worn when using a circular saw.

Safe Work Spaces are good for safety as well as efficiency. You should work on flat ground and clear the area of trip hazards as well as have a stable work surface.  If you are using saw horses, the feet should be stable and not wobbly.

Safe Handling of the saw is important:

  • Make sure the cord is not in the way when cutting, and if doing rip cuts make sure the cord can travel with you freely and not catch or bind.
  • Place your hands on the saw handles for better control and keep your fingers away from the spinning blade.
  • If you are thumbing up the blade guard for any reason keep the position of your hand relative to the blade in mind.
  • After your cut is complete, let the blade stop spinning before you set the saw down.
  • When adjusting the depth or bevels or changing the blade, unplug the saw.
  • Don’t have baggy clothes, loose-hanging jewelry, or even strings from the hood of a shirt or jacket on when working with power tools.

Now you are ready for part 2!


Part 2: Getting Started and Making the Cuts


Be Sociable, Share!
  • The Tool Sage

    If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate!

  • Akinlabi

    Nice review and I enjoy that. After reading this I think newbies should be able to know what’s the best for them. Going to read part 2 lol.