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Body Mechanics: Using a Circular Saw

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Often considered just a rough carpentry tool, a circular saw also works well in a woodshop for breaking down sheet goods and crosscutting boards to length. Follow these guidelines to get good results.

Get set…

Pick up the saw with your right hand, and the fingers should naturally position themselves: index finger on the trigger, other fingers around the handle. For a saw with a trigger release, your thumb should fall on or near it [photo inset below]. Grip the knob with your left hand. If there is no knob and you are not guiding the saw along a straightedge, place your left hand along the left side of the footplate to steady the saw. With the front of the footplate on the workpiece, align the the notch in the footplate with the cutline. Make sure the blade is clear of the workpiece.

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…Cut

Press the trigger release, if there is one, and squeeze the trigger. Look ahead of the saw to the cutline as you push the saw forward. If you begin to drift off the line, stop, release the trigger, and reposition the saw where you were last on track. Then resume the cut. Trying to twist the saw back to the line while the saw is running can cause the blade to bind and kick back.

For cuts longer than your two-handed reach, release your left hand and extend your right arm. If you need to, crawl forward or walk alongside the cut. 

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When to not let your guard down

Bevel and plunge cuts require retracting the blade guard before beginning the cut. Otherwise the guard hangs up on the workpiece. Operate the blade-guard lever with your left hand or thumb.

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