Introduction: How to Cut a Straight Line Using a Skill Saw or Jig Saw

Picture of How to Cut a Straight Line Using a Skill Saw or Jig Saw

This instructable will teach you how you can cut straight lines using an electric skill saw, circular saw or jig saw. This is very handy when cutting long boards like a piece of ply wood. The ideal thing to use would be a table saw, but like me, some people can't afford one.

Step 1: What You Will Need

Picture of What You Will Need

The things you will need to do this are: - a pencil - to mark your cut line. - a square- to assist in making a straight pencil mark. - a straight piece of wood- this is to act as your saws guide so it should be free of big bumps or warping. - 2 clamps- these need to be able to tighten as they will hold your guide. If they move your cut won't be straight. - a measuring tape- to set your guide in the proper place. -of course you'll need a saw and a board you want to cut.

Step 2: Measure Your Blade to Shoe Distance

Picture of Measure Your Blade to Shoe Distance

Measure the distance from your blade to to edge of your saws shoe. The shoe is the bottom piece of metal that rests on you wood when cutting. measure the shorter side of your saw for a smaller more manageable measurement. Look at the photo above to see what this measurement should look like looks like.

Step 3: Put the Guide Onto Your Lumber

Picture of Put the Guide Onto Your Lumber

Draw the line onto your board where you would like to make your cut. This line really only needs to be on the first and last 6 inches of your wood but I like it all the way across as a visual guide. Put your guide onto the wood your going to cut and get your clamps ready. Measure from your pencil line the same distance you measured on your saw and make a pencil mark. Do this to both sides then clamp your guide onto these marks. Measure again and adjust till its as perfect as you want. I like to get my saw ready as if I'm going to start the cut and make sure the blade lines up with my line when the saws she edge is against the guide.

Step 4: Cut Your Wood

Picture of Cut Your Wood

Now start your cut. While cutting keep the saws shoe against your guide and you will have a nice straight cut. Cut slow and steady don't force the saw forward. Wear the proper safety equipment and blah blah blah.


mbecks (author)2016-07-18

You shouldn't have to pay to upload images here. I know I've never had to.

Nikiniku (author)mbecks2016-07-19

I deleted my third posting after finding that my "breakthrough" method was not as good as I thought it was. However, I'll keep trying, so your comments give me hope. It's just that when I tried to upload my photos, I saw some comments to the effect that illustrations could not be uploaded without some kind of paid membership. Thanks to you, the next time I see those words, I'll check further.

mbecks (author)2016-06-08

Glad you enjoyed it hope it works well for you. It's a little tougher to keep strait with a jig saw but still very doable

Aimitis (author)2016-06-07

Thanks for the guide. It was well done and easy to follow even for a novice like me. I am just getting started, and trying to space my purchases. This was the first link when I searched how to cut a straight line with a jig saw since I didn't want to have to buy a circular saw yet as well.

mbecks (author)2016-05-30

Your welcome. Made wood working way easier for me

Gusgonnet (author)2016-04-24

nice, thank you!

TDolce (author)2016-03-17

Ok,....I'm missing something. I'm sure I will be criticized for such a dumb question. How are you making the pencil line at the beginning stage? If both long edges of a 5 ft. board are crooked already,..what am I using to make sure my measurement line is straight? In other words,....I need to cut 4 " off the long end of one side of the board. If I measure up 4" from along the edge of the board to make my pencil marks and subsequent line (connecting the dots) it will end up being as crooked as the edge that I'm using as my guide. That's what is throwing me.

mbecks (author)TDolce2016-03-18

All you missing is the use of a square edge as seen in the very first image of this instructable. Use that to get your strait line instead of measuring from the crooked ends of your board. If all 4 edges of your board are crooked then use this instructable methods to make a strait edge on your board. Does that make sense?

mbecks (author)mbecks2016-03-18

The very first image of step one shows the square tool.

dimtick (author)2013-10-01

the way that you're cutting with the circular saw, you'll get an uneven cut. you've got the narrow part of the saw guide supported while the wide part is on the waste side. when you start the cut, the saw will be flat but as you got and the waste wood sags, the saw will lean and you wont get a square cut.
what I do is lay several 2x4's perpindicular to the cut line and lay the plywood on that. set the saw depth to be just a little deeper than the plywood and then cut. I also use some guides that i made rather than a board. the guides work well because the edge of the guide is the cut line so you place the guide on the save side of the plywood and align the edge with the line. that way the blade thickness will be to the waste side. the guides are really easy to make and i'm pretty sure there are instructables for some.
also always lay the plywood with the good side face down. all the tear out and rough edge will be on the top. I also recommend getting a plywood circular saw blade. has a lot more teeth and makes a much cleaner cut. well worth the 20 bucks and 10 minutes it takes to swap blades.

MohsenS6 (author)dimtick2015-12-08

Thank you, I appreciate if you can provide more explanation maybe with pictures related to the guides issue.

bo88y (author)dimtick2015-06-14

I also like to get the material closer to the ground when making long cuts, as shown in your picture. Sometimes I use some low benches I made that are about knee-high. I find that being above the work puts me in a position of better control of the saw.

mbecks (author)2013-10-01

Thanks for the comments. It brings up a question though, why do so many people search for an instructable on something they already know how to do

selana (author)mbecks2015-10-15

well, I didn't

bo88y (author)mbecks2015-06-14

Why do people swap notes on technique? Another guy might have a better way of doing things, or a refinement on the known way of doing things. And some techniques work better in certain circumstances then others, so it's good to know several ways of doing things.

Nathan guitar (author)2015-09-21

it dosent work on big projects because if your support peace is a little bit worped the cut wont be straight. be extrealmly careful to make sure that the wood is perfict not out

quinault (author)2015-03-26

tough for jigsaw as I tried

triziggy (author)quinault2015-07-09

jigsaws aren't really made for these kind of cuts.

mbecks (author)2015-03-28

yea a bit harder for sure but I found I cut a straiter line doing this then I did free hand.

the batman (author)2013-09-22

Really usefull

mbecks (author)the batman2013-12-20

holy crap batman has instructables. I tip my hat to you.

dimtick (author)2013-10-03

sorry if i came across negatively
your way of cutting is fine.
just one thing. always always always cut with the wide part of the circular saw base on the save side. instead of measuring from the blade to the outside (the 1 3/8") , measure from the blade to the inside face of the plate (+/- 3 1/2"). use that measurement to set your fence board. the blade thickness (1/8") will be to the waste side of the cut so your measurement will stay accurate.
much safer and much cleaner cut.

mbecks (author)2013-09-22

My grandpa taught it to me, he uses metal guides and all the great stuff an old man has, and it opens a new world of wood working.

paqrat (author)2013-09-21

I have not yet tried this but it looks like something I, a fledgling woodworker, could use.

mbecks (author)2013-09-21

Haha I'm not safety supervised, poeple will do what they want.

mbecks (author)2013-09-17

Good advice all around. Mind mapper make a instructable for your template so I can copy it.

wilwrk4tls (author)mbecks2013-09-20

I have an instructable for a jig-I'll try and post a link to it when i get to my computer or figure out how to from my phone

Mindmapper1 (author)2013-09-17

I made a template that is exactly the right width from the outside of the teeth to the edge of the fence to save measuring everytime, far more accurate.

wilwrk4tls (author)Mindmapper12013-09-20

I have an instructable on making a jig like you're describing, and if you cut the edge that follows the line after it's attached to the straight edge (guide), it's extremely accurate-just put the cut edge on the line you're cutting and that's exactly where the saw should cut if it's held against the guide.

tim_n (author)Mindmapper12013-09-18

I'd like to see that, just a stick with a line on it? Would probably have saved me hours on the last project if I'd thought about it. I spent ages lining everything up!

Mindmapper1 (author)tim_n2013-09-18

Just a piece of plastic cut to the right with, marked up what it is for, keep it with the saw and yes it saves loads of time

Eh Lie Us! (author)2013-09-20

"...and blah blah blah."
Laugh out loud!

puddnheadwilson (author)2013-09-20

Nice Instructable! One thing I've found helpful with using a jigsaw is to find a metal rule (or simply a straight strip of metal) that's as wide as the distance from the edge of the shoe to the blade. (I found a metal ruler that happened to be the right width for my jigsaw.) I then use the ruler to measure the distance from the cut line to the fence. I also recommend a metal fence for accuracy.

mbecks (author)2013-09-20

There is no pink to nails though not sure we're that came from

mbecks (author)2013-09-20

Haha I was wondering if anyone would see that. Don't do as I.

klee27x (author)2013-09-18

You'd be very lucky to get this to work with a jigsaw. I have had 2 Bosch, made-in-Switzerland jigsaws. Neither cut straight to the shoe. When I tried using a rip fence, the results were horrible, no matter the feed rate. When the blade is forced against it's natural inclination, the unsupported free end of the blade starts to twist and bend until your blade is not only going off line, but it's also cutting at an angle. My cheap bandsaw will cut along a fence no problem, even with the fence off by several degrees. So I think it's partly due to the single point of support on the jigsaw blade. Now, if the shoe angle were adjustable, this might work.

m.hutchinson (author)klee27x2013-09-20

Agreed, jigsaw blades are not very good for straight line fence ripping. One thing I found that helped, but did NOT eliminate the blade heat warp was an extremely light but sticky silicone spray I used to have. Could rip 5x the distance before the heat started warping the blade. So, I'd respray before it happened. If you are going for those rip lengths, a circular saw would be preferred.

klee27x (author)klee27x2013-09-18

...Might work, but I doubt it. Because the end is free, a jigsaw has to be sorta "driven" when cutting anything with significant thickness. Any slight bend of the blade, whether caused by feed alignment or even just a knot in the wood, has to be corrected for, or it just gets worse. In other words, when your cut line starts going left, you have to angle the saw to the right, but you simultaneiously need to allow the saw to move laterally to the left to straighten the blade.

GonzoDuke (author)2013-09-17

Skill is a brand, it's a circular saw.

m.hutchinson (author)GonzoDuke2013-09-20

The brand name is actually Skil, But Skil Saws are genericized trademarks for circular saws, like Kleenex tissues. And Kleenex don't cut through plywood very well, at least not fresh out of the box... :)

Miro_B (author)2013-09-19

Step 3:nice shoes on picture, ... for safety work

snoopindaweb (author)2013-09-19

Thank You looks definitely worth the bit of effort..

snoopindaweb (author)2013-09-19

Pink toenails..? Yuk-Yuk.

chuckyd (author)2013-09-19

You should actually measure from the teeth, not the blade.

marshall p (author)2013-09-19

Try one of these out you will be really impressed -- good for ripping eight foot sheets very accurately and the saw can't jump out of the track very easily .,240,45313&p=41707

papagun (author)2013-09-19

While this works for this particular saw and blade combination, it will not work for ALL Jig saws. Jig saw blades do not always follow the base plate like circ saws do.

That being said, try this (It's what most carpenters that I know use when they use a fence at all): Attach a piece of 1/4" or 1/8" plywood to the bottom of the fence with glue and fasteners. Cut 'That'. Now you have a gauged fence that shows EXACTLY where the blade will cut. Measure your work piece in two places, one at either end of the propose cut. Place the cut edge of the plywood base of the gauged fence of those marks. Clamp or screw the gauged fence to the work piece and cut.

esoolo (author)papagun2013-09-19

When you try to use a jigsaw against a single fence like this, one side of the sawblade will rub more against the material, so this one side heats up and causes the sawblade to curve. The process is self-amplifying because the more the blade is bent away from the fence, the harder you presses it back against the fence, and the more the fence-side of the blade heats up.

To cut straight with a jigsaw, the guide needs to have two fences to keep the loads on the saw symmetrical. I have made a sawing guide with two fences and used it successfully for straight cuts into 12mm birch plywood.

When cutting more dense materials, like 16mm melamine-coated chipboard, the blade still starts to go awry at some point. When that happens, the saw has to be backed off and let to cool down completely before continuing the cut.

klee27x (author)esoolo2013-09-19

Can you explain what difference having 2 fences makes? Do you leave a slight gap so the jigsaw can move around a little between the two fences?

glorybe (author)2013-09-19

I can help you a bit. First get a metal straight edge instead of wood. Wood changes shape with the weather and temperature. Next you need a board that is only as wide as the offset of the blade from the saws edge. Lay that board against the pencil line. Then put your guide board in place and lock it down and then remove the narrow board. When you start the saw the blade should not touch the wood. On some saws the blade will move sideways a bit when it starts spinning. You want to start the cut with the blade at full speed. The skill type saw is actually safer than cutting large sheets on a table saw. Keep both hands on the saw handles and you can not cut your hands or arms. Safety glasses, a dust mask as well as a heavy bid apron can save you some suffering. Many skilled workers have had to dig carbide teeth out of their wounds. Better safe that sorry.

mbecks (author)2013-09-19

Thanks for all the feed back and extra info. It's always helpful

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm batman
More by mbecks:Tire Make OverTeam Based co-op Billiards GameHomemade Super Hero Christmas Ornament
Add instructable to: