Introduction: Get More From Your Circular Saw

Picture of Get More From Your Circular Saw

I wanted to get more from my circular saw. I developed and made this portable saw guide based on some 3/4 inch plywood and two very straight pieces of 1 inch angle iron. It can make both crosscuts and rip cuts, if one of the angle iron rails is moved away from the other.

This saw guide requires a half-sheet square of 3/4 inch plywood (4 feet x 4 feet).

Step 1: View From the Front

Picture of View From the Front

The blade guard has been tied in the retracted position with a piece of wire. You see a slightly tapered piece of 1 x 2 holding the switch trigger in the "on" position. This is not necessary, or even desirable, for crosscuts; but it is necessary for rip cuts.

I added a strut to keep the weight of the saw motor from causing the base to flex. I described this in another Instructable titled "Too Much Flex in a Circular Saw Base."

Step 2: The First Step

Picture of The First Step

The first step is to begin cutting 3 inches from one of the machine cut edges of your plywood. This piece will be 3 inches wide and 4 feet long. Cut as straight as possible, even though you may be guiding the saw freehand. Once you have this piece cut, you can mark the factory edge and use it as a saw guide for cutting another just like it. Glue these one on top of the other to make the front fence for the saw guide. Keep the edges aligned and square as shown in the photo. Glue and clamp the fence to the saw guide table.

Cut another piece from the plywood that is almost 3 inches wide and 4 feet long. You want the remaining large piece to be 3 feet by 4 feet because the steel angle iron rails are 3 feet long. You will use this last narrow piece to make the rear support for the angle iron rails. Cut two pieces from it about 12 inches long each. Glue them together. I also glued two short pieces from this together to make a block 3 x 3 about 10 inches long. I fastened this block below the saw guide table so I could mount the saw guide on my Black & Decker Workmate as well as on saw horses.

Step 3: Drill Holes for the Rails

Picture of Drill Holes for the Rails

Purchase two 1 inch angle iron pieces 3 feet long each. Sort through those available to find two that are not bowed in any way, but are very straight.

Here is one of two screwheads holding the angle iron rails in place. They are 1/4 x 20 inch bevel head screws. In the photo you can see a bit of the support for the rear ends of the angle iron rails. Do not glue the rear support to the saw guide table. It will remain adjustable for assuring square cuts from the saw guide. Two similar screws anchor the rails at the front, too. Carefully mark holes to drill for the 1/4 inch screws. Drill the holes as straight up and down as possible.

Step 4: Tee Nuts

Picture of Tee Nuts

The nuts that receive the 1/4 inch screws are Tee nuts. They can be recessed so the surface remains flush and on the same plane. This keeps them out of the way of several things. That will be very necessary on the rear support for the angle iron rails. The Tee nuts will be buried below the support, but above the surface of the table. This is so the rails can be anchored to the rear support, but the rear support still has a little lateral movement to assure a square cut.

Step 5: Two More Holes for Rip Cuts

Picture of Two More Holes for Rip Cuts

You will need to make another hole in the front fence and one in the rear support so one of the angle iron rails can be moved out away from the other and be anchored. This becomes the rip cut position for the rails.

I also made four 1/4 inch spacers from Masonite. They go above the rail supports and below the rails. They provide just a little more clearance for sawing 2 inch stock. Longer screws for mounting the rails are necessary when these spacers are in use.

Step 6: Adjustment for the Rails

Picture of Adjustment for the Rails

This is the photo of the rear support holding the angle iron rails in place. Notice the two Tee nuts for screws. They come up from the bottom of the saw guide's table. The holes in the table are elongated so the rear support can be moved side to side 1/8 to 1/4 inch. This is for fine adjustment to insure that the rails are square to the fence and the cut will be square. Notice also that the Tee nuts and screws are well out of the way of the blade's path.

About the time I first made this saw guide a friend was making a butler's table for his wife. He used solid black walnut. He had only a Shopsmith table saw for his saw. Rightly so, he was concerned about getting the top of his butler's table square. I told him about my saw guide. The guide's table was more than large enough for his table top. We held our breath and made the cuts. Then he measured diagonally between opposite corners to check for square. The difference between the two measurements was less than 1/16 of an inch. He was satisfied. I was pleased.

Step 7: Measure to Avoid Blade Heeling

Picture of Measure to Avoid Blade Heeling

The saw has some movement in the rails and is not automatically aligned. Measure the distance between the leading edge of the blade and the fence when ripping. Make it the same for the trailing edge of the blade. The markings on the rulers are a little easier to see with the eye than with the camera.

Step 8: Locking Down the Saw for a Rip Cut

Picture of Locking Down the Saw for a Rip Cut

I needed some way to hold the saw firmly in place while ripping. I drilled two holes at the back of the saw base and two holes at the front. Then I cut pieces of 1 x 2 and drilled them for dowels so the dowels would fit into the holes I had drilled in the saw base. One piece was made to fit the front of the saw base and one the rear. The face of the 1 x 2 rested against the vertical edge of the angle iron rail. A very small C clamp applied pressure to hold the 1 x 2 in place against the angle iron, which held the saw down, too. I would have included a photo, but the original pieces have been lost in two household moves.

Step 9: Something to Make Life Easier

Picture of Something to Make Life Easier

A friend cut a square of 3/16 inch steel plate for me. I had access to his oxy-acetylene cutting torch at the time and made an opening for the blade. I drilled some holes in the steel plate to correspond with existing holes in the saw base. The holes were countersunk on the bottom of the plate for bevel head screws.

A plate like this allows changing from a rip cut to a crosscut without moving one of the angle iron rails to its other location.

By clamping pieces of wood to function as straightedges or fences to the work surface of the guide table and placing them at any desired angle, it is possible to cut accurate mitered corners with this saw guide. Such straightedges would need to be almost 3 feet long. Their front ends could be placed against the fence to make them more firm.

Whether using the steel plate to mount the saw or just using the saw's own base on the angle iron rails, the saw moves more smoothly if I put just a little used motor oil on the rails.

Take a look at the two other photos to see the saw mounted on the plate in both the rip and crosscut positions.

Step 10: So, What Will It Do?

Picture of So, What Will It Do?

With this circular saw and saw guide I made two nightstands for our bedroom. The plan was to use a painted finish, so I was able to use wood I found on someone's curb waiting for the garbage truck. The moulded edges were done with moulding head cutter mounted on another machine. We have used these nightstands almost 30 years now.

Step 11: Bonus

Picture of Bonus

I drilled holes near the end of each angle iron rail to match the holes I drilled in the saw base as mentioned in Step 8. I can remove the angle iron rails from the saw guide table and attach them with bevel head screws to the saw base. I can use C clamps to attach a straight edge guide for ripping panels greater than 24 inches. Measure from the front and back edges of the blade to make sure the guide is parallel to the blade.


joelsprayberry (author)2016-09-20

great idea.

nvan pamelen (author)2015-09-09

romekjagoda (author)2015-08-10

Fantastic instructions and idea. Last saturday I have used my circular saw to build a similar, yet far simplier and less elaborate design (less capable too) by screwing the saw up from the bottom of a work bench (the type with 'jaws' opening and closing horizontally to create a space between them --> the blade goes through the space). For some very simple, repeated one size cutting it will do.

Garry3D made it! (author)2015-02-16


I am currently building a wood fence, so i need 90 pieces of 1m long wood.

You just save my life !!! :)



Phil B (author)Garry3D2015-02-16

That looks like it works! Did you have a stop set to make uniform length easy? I was involved in a similar project once. We had to build a wheel chair ramp and this arrangement made cutting the "floor" pieces to length much easier. Thanks for your comment.

fernando.nagy.96 (author)2015-02-06

Could you send me a copy of the Sketchup design of the Table Saw from a circular saw. Thanks.

Phil B (author)fernando.nagy.962015-02-06

A SketchUp drawing does not exist, and I am not that capable with SketchUp.

sparus (author)2014-10-20

this should be the simplest but the most useful tip on instructables.. great work!

Phil B (author)sparus2014-10-20

Thank you. I like practical things people can use without a lot of special tools or materials.

Phil B, I have tried your idea with some small modifications and it works great. I have design it on sketchup so if anyone needs the file I could send it to him. Good Work! Steli

Hi Stelios. Could you send me a copy of the Sketchup design of the Table Saw. Thank you. Luis.

Hi Stelios. Could you send me a copy of the Sketchup design of the Table Saw from a circular saw. Thanks. Paul.

Geia sou. Could you send the plans to me also. Thanks

Geia sou Stelio
I'm intrested in your sketchup file could you please send it to me ?

I also am interested to your instructable "The Smallest Workshop in the World". Are there any plans for this?

Thank you for your time

Hey Steli

Can you send me the sketchup model. I want to build it.


Hello Steliart, I am intrrested in you sketchup file could you please send it to me? Thanks for your help

Steli - I'm interested in your sketchup for this project. This jig will save my butt on many upcoming projects! Thanks, Gordon (

No problem, on its way

I'm definitely interested in the sketchup file you've created.  That would save me tons of time and frustration. 


Thanks again!

I will email the file, you may also be interested to my new instructable "The Smallest Workshop in the World"


Thank you for telling me. I am glad it is useful to you. All of us probably make some modifications, depending on what we have for tools and materials.

flowbea77 (author)2013-11-26

Excellent idea and exactly what I was planning to do. This is cool i am making my own how did you keep the saw on thow.

pepecarp (author)2012-04-10

My circular saw is CS718-AE. I am reading your "Get More on your circular saw". I cannot see a slot on the base. Please reply as I am converting my circular saw into table saw.

Phil B (author)pepecarp2012-04-10

I am not sure what you are asking. Could you include a photo? I discovered your saw is made by Black & Decker, but I have no idea what it looks like. I can find no pictures of it. If you wish to make a table saw from your hand circular saw you might wish to check this Instructable on doing just that.

pepecarp (author)Phil B2012-04-11

I am referring to the blade opening on the ("get more from your circular saw") 3 by 4 feet table. I cannot see any blade opening. Thank you very much.

Phil B (author)pepecarp2012-04-11

Are you talking about a blade opening in the plywood where the blade might extend through the plywood? The angle iron rails carry the saw above the plywood much like the arm on a radial arm saw carries the motor carriage and blade above the table. The blade is above the plywood, except for about 1/16 to 1/8 inch where the tips of the blade cut into the plywood surface to make certain the cut in the lumber is complete. This does not function like a table saw where the blade extends through the table and the work moves over the table. Rather, it is like a radial arm saw where the work is stationary and the motor with the blade move on a carrier from above to make the cut. Let me know if you still have a question.

notools1234 (author)2012-02-04

Couldn't you just route two thin pices of wood to have that same shape instead of using angle iron?

Phil B (author)notools12342012-02-05

Perhaps, depending on the wood, its strength, and its dimensions. Steel will always be stronger than wood and can be much thinner so as not to reduce effective blade cutting depth. This saw weighs 15 pounds. If the wood is not quite strong enough the pieces of wood will deflect.

kleinjahr (author)2011-05-29

Nice build. Sort of like a panel saw.

Phil B (author)kleinjahr2011-05-29

Yes, so long as the panel is not more than about 3 feet wide. I have most often used it as a quick cut-off saw when my radial arm saw was set up for some precise cuts and I did not want to change that set up. Thanks for looking and for commenting.

gentry (author)2009-01-07

So what does it do exactly?

Phil B (author)gentry2009-01-07

I never imagined anyone would ask this question. A circular saw is powerful and cuts wood much faster than a carpenter's handsaw. Some skill and practice is required to cut accurately with a circular saw. This saw guide is a quick and easy way to achieve a great deal of precision with a common circular saw that many would think impossible and that approaches the accuracy of a table saw, given some patience. These things are especially important for the home woodworker who dreams of owning a table saw, but cannot afford one.

gentry (author)Phil B2009-01-07

Ah, I get it. I use a circular saw all the time, but I just follow my snapped chalk line or written pencil line and it comes out pretty straight. (It took quite a while for me to be able to make straight and/or square cuts.) I have the world's worst table saw (actually, the saw itself is kind of OK, and I have a good Freud Diablo blade on it, it's just the world's worst fence -- the handle is a rusty old 6" screw and the whole thing sticks and jams when you try to move it) and I use that when I need something more precise than a handheld circular saw. I got the table saw for half price because it was the hardware store's floor demo and was missing the handle for the fence, so it was something like $100, and it's just one of those tabletop contractor table saws, not a nice big woodworking one, but I can generally make what I want with it. So on your rig, you must have to adjust the saw depth so that it doesn't cut the plywood base? I didn't quite get how that worked from the pictures, but I'll re-read it. Maybe a video of it in action would make it clearer to me. It was already clear how to put it together, I just didn't know how you would use it. Thanks!

pfred2 (author)gentry2010-12-16

I never liked the fence on my grandfather's tablesaw much so I made a new one:


The secret of how it works:

Build pic:

It cuts materials perfectly straight:
(made from a full sheet of 3/4 plywood)

I'm just not seeing anyone chalk lining those cuts.

Phil B (author)gentry2009-01-07

I do not do video. There really is not too much of a problem with the blade cutting into the plywood. The motor of the saw can go only so close to the saw's baseplate because the motor housing will press against the upper edge of the angle iron rail. The bigger problem is getting as much cutting depth as desired. Using the square steel plate I described for mounting the saw keeps the motor housing out of the way of the angle iron rail. If you are using a square steel plate, you can raise the rails a bit more off of the saw table and have a little more cutting depth for 2 inch stock, etc.

No problem, enjoy!

bo88y (author)2010-11-14

Even if you're not a carpenter, it can be worth spending some extra cash on a better saw. Those old B&Ds gave a lot of people access to saws they might not have otherwise bought, but a good Porter Cable, while still noisy, doesn't make the shrill shriek that the old B&Ds make, a shriek I find so unpleasant by comparison that I've found myself using a handsaw instead, just to avoid the noise. The P-C is also a lot more stable and balanced, and doesn't dance around on top of what you're trying to cut while you're trying to guide it. This can make a big difference regarding the ease with which you can make a straight cut, expecially on sheet goods, which this jig seems to have been designed for. And never underestimate the utility of a couple of c-clamps and a metal straight edge to clamp a fence right to the piece being cut, another practice that's made easier with a more stable saw. (Though support the sheet well-- if the sheet sags, the saw foot can slip under the guide, and oops!)

And get a good blade, a Marathon or a Diablo.

You can also get the P-C in a left-handed model.

If you want to save a bundle on power tools, go to for refurbished tools from a bunch of major manufacturers.

Phil B (author)bo88y2010-11-15

Thank you for the link on the reconditioned tools. I have a couple of reconditioned tools and have always found them to be as good as the new version. I see CPO's shipping charges are as low as $6.99 on a Makita 5007N, too.

Since doing this Instructable I added a knob near the front of my B & D saw to help guide it. That made a big improvement. I also got a new 40 tooth carbide blade and it is another big improvement, although it is not a Marathon or a Diablo. My B & D saw was a gift from my in-laws. I have hoped it would wear out, but it has not. Now that my in-laws are no longer living and I could afford a better saw, I am near retirement and have reached a point in life where I seldom use a circular saw.

Thank you for your comment and the information.

honorman (author)2010-11-14

I made one like it out of scrap wood I had, just a little smaller like 30"x 30"
no metal, to cut Vinyl siding for a house, a lot of siding as it was a 2 story with a lot of corners, worked great
tossed it when finished.

bo88y (author)honorman2010-11-14

Job-specific jigs come in handy, especially because you can make them only just as big as you need for the material you're cutting. Years ago when I was doing a lot of siding, we'd make up smaller versions of jigs like this for cutting clapboards out of a 2x8 and scraps of pine, small enough to mount on the safety-rail brackets of pump jacks.

Phil B (author)honorman2010-11-14

I think I have seen photos of something similar to what you made, perhaps in one of the how-to-magazines, like Popular Mechanics; but it has been years. Thank you for your comment.

thenuttybolt (author)2010-05-23

Great instructable. Thank you. Did you ever have a problem with the saw blade trying to pull up the piece being cut ? In normal operation the angle of attack is such that the blade draws the piece being cut against the baseplate. However, here there is a gap between the baseplate/rails and the piece being cut and hence nothing to hold it down unless you are clamping down the work piece?

Phil B (author)thenuttybolt2010-05-24

Yes.  There is a tendency for the saw teeth to lift the piece being cut.  The larger the piece, the less the tendency.  Most of the time I could safely apply downward pressure with my fingertips (or a pusher stick) and that solved the problem.  Slowly feeding the saw into the work (crosscuts) or the work into the saw (ripping) helped, too.  It was more of an annoyance (when it happened) than a real problem.  

ehmbee (author)2009-09-20

Wow, I wish I had seen this before I shelled out 200 bucks for a Eurekazone saw guide, though I'm satisfied with mine. I'd be more satisfied with 200 bucks in my pocket, though.

marcward86 (author)2009-03-03

whoa, i have the same square as you. i got it from an antique tool dealer in dallas.

Phil B (author)marcward862009-03-04

Marc, That square belonged to my father. He bought it about 1960, maybe a little earlier. It is made by Stanley. It is heavily featured in another Instructable I did on Making a Square Square. When it was new, it was not square; but it is now.

João Mamão (author)2009-02-24

Excelent post, congratulations

Phil B (author)João Mamão2009-02-24

Thank you. It is a good and an inexpensive way to expand one's options.

CrouchingFather (author)2009-01-13

If you could make the saw so that it slides on a tract and so you can tilt the table to a better angle so you could just slide the wood in would make it easier. (Think about the saw they use at Homedepot and Lows to cut ply wood!

Phil B (author)CrouchingFather2009-01-13

This is a type of smaller horizontal version of the panel cutting saw or panel saw you know from stores like Home Depot. The wood does slide into this, but not in a size like that accommodated by the commercially produced Home Depot version. You would need something for the tracks, perhaps steel tubing. It would need to be sturdy enough not to flex under use, but then in a vertical position, it would not bear the weight of the saw. You would need a bearing mount that held the saw in place with more than gravity. This arrangement allows ripping any length. The Home Depot saw can if you turn the saw in its mounting plate 90 degrees and crouch down near the floor. This saw allows you to position and hold your work much like one would on the table of a radial arm saw, even a chop saw. The Home Depot version pretty much depends on gravity to hold the work and on the fence along the bottom of the tool. In summary, a lot depends on your objectives for the saw. I wanted something that would do the work a person normally does on a table saw or a radial arm saw. If you want a panel saw, you could design it differently, but, the way I used the steel rails when attached to the saw's own base in combination with an "outrigger" fence (last step) allows this saw to function as a panel saw, too.

About This Instructable




Bio: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying ... More »
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