Circular saws are versatile tools capable of straight and angled cuts. But for accuracy and safety, they work best paired with a guiding system to prevent unwanted movement as you push the spinning saw blade through lumber.
While most associate circular saws with trim carpentry using portable saw tables, you need not be limited to that narrow application if lacking a dedicated saw stand.
With a few jigs or accessories, circular saws can handle many tasks a table saw otherwise covers:
- Breaking down sheet goods
- Rip cuts
- Cutting dado grooves
In this guide, we’ll outline circular saw techniques for delivering clean, straight cuts without a guiding table surface.
Mounting Your Circular Saw Under a Straight Edge Guide
The simplest approach for converting a handheld circular saw into a temporary table saw is mounting it underneath a straight edge lumber guide. This transforms portable saws into a lightweight track saw systems.
Circular Saw Guide Options:
|24″ aluminum saw guide + adjustable width tray
|EMPIRE True Cut
|Metal guide rails in 24″ – 72″ lengths
|Makita 55″ Guide Rail
|Aluminum guide perfectly fits makita saws
|Wooden Straight Edge
|Affordable and disposable plywood guide
These allow for converting standard circular saws into homemade track saws. Guides ride along the cut line while preventing circular saw base plate drift.
Benefits of straight edge mounted circular saws:
- Cut sheet goods and solid wood just like a table saw
- Portable guide rail saw systems require less space than bulky table saws
- Break down full sheets too large for a contractor table saw capacity
Next, we’ll detail key techniques for getting straight, accurate cuts from straight edge-mounted circular saws.
How to Use a Circular Saw with an Edge Guide Track Saw Setup
Follow these best practices when rigging up a circular saw to an edge guide for table saw-like cutting:
Select Your Materials
- Choose straight, rigid edge lumber – e.g. 1x wood boards or aluminum rails
- Length should exceed your longest cut needs
- Width 3-4 inches accommodates most saw shoe depths
Mount Your Saw
- Use edge guide attachments – Companies like Eurekazone sell mounts specific to popular saws
- Or improvise with clamps – Bar clamps, spring clamps, etc. work as generic mounts
- Check blade runs centered under guide edge before tightening
Set Cut Depth
- Don’t cut through the guide! Set depth about 1/8” above guide thickness
- Prevent blade pinch risk – adjust cut depth, don’t just rely on blade guard
Secure Your Work
- Use additional clamps when possible – Attach workpiece to a steady surface
- Prevents movement, tear out especially on finish cuts
Make Practice Cuts on Scrap
- Dial-in technique on waste material first
- Check cut accuracy before committing to final cuts
- Ensure saw travels smoothly along the entire guide length
Once set up properly, you can break down full sheets, rip to width, and crosscut just like using a traditional table saw.
Cutting Dado Grooves Without a Table Saw
Another table saw task circular saws handle with aplomb is cutting dado grooves to receive shelving and other inset elements.
- Circular saw
- Straight edge guide
- Dado cutting blade
- Mark the width of desired dados on workpieces
- Set circular saw cut depth to groove depth
- Make a series of adjacent cuts removing waste
- Clean out the remaining material with a chisel and file
- Test fit dado receiving piece – adjust as needed for a snug fit
It may lack a table saw’s finessed grooving precision, but circular saws cut perfectly serviceable dados helping tackle projects.
Ensure Square Cuts Without a Mitre Saw
Circular saws naturally want to follow the spin of the blade. This means freehand cuts often end up beveled unless you compensate.
Thankfully, ensuring square cuts only requires carefully aligning your saw twice before cutting:
- Set saw edge parallel with the board edge
- Verify blade also runs parallel with opposite board face
- Maintain edge alignment throughout entire cutting motion
Additionally, clamping a speed square to the workpiece serves as a 90-degree corner to reference against for keeping cuts square.
Key Circular Saw Techniques When Not Using a Table
Learning to handle circular saws without a guiding table expands possibilities but demands developing core control skills.
Master basics like:
- Trigger control – no twisting or torquing
- Use the control hand to prevent tipping
- Smoothly guide saw without forcing speed
- Let the blade work through the cut without rushing
- Ensure blade runs tangent to turns when not cutting straight
Practice on inexpensive lumber first before moving on to finish cuts. Don’t grip the saw tightly – let the edge guide rail take kinetic energy allowing you to simply guide it.
Work on consistency before speed. Accuracy matters most!
Recommended Circular Saw Types for Table-Less Use
Prefer corded models – Avoid limited runtimes slowing workflow. Opt for:
- 15 amp motor
- 5000+ RPM spindle speed
- 24 tooth carbide blade
Just under $100, the Skilsaw SPT67M8-01 ranks among the best circular saws suited for makeshift track saw duty.
Top cordless models like the Milwaukee Fuel also work pending sufficient charged battery reserves on hand.
Budget at least $150+ for long-lasting cordless circular saws able to make dozens of cuts per charge.
The absence of a guiding table need not relegate circular saws solely to rough duty.
Equipped with straight edge mounted guides, portable circular saws take on the table saw tasks:
- Breaking down sheet stock
- Ripping long boards
- Cross-cutting short workpieces
- Cutting dados and grooves
Paired with technique practice and jigs, circular saws adapt well beyond trim work delivering clean cuts in light framing, shelving, and other applications.
While trading some precision for transportability, track saw-mounted circular saws operate in tight spaces where bulky contractor table saws simply don’t fit.
Spend time mastering control and consistency for quality cuts rivaling stationary table saws. You may find circular saws handle 90% of needs – saving major investment in stand-alone table saws.
Let us know if you have any other questions about using circular saws without guides!