Introduction: Saw Small Pieces Safely With a Workmate

Picture of Saw Small Pieces Safely With a Workmate

I needed some 3 inch squares cut from 1/4 inch plywood. I had access to a Black & Decker Workmate and a circular handsaw, but not to a table saw or a radial arm saw. Cutting small pieces like that can be dangerous with a circular saw because it is difficult to secure the wood and things can get out of control very soon. I used my Workmate both to secure the wood and to guide the saw safely.

Step 1: Get a True Edge

Picture of Get a True Edge

This is some scrap 1/4 inch plywood. Neither of the two edges visible is straight and true. I used my tri-square to mark a straight line so I can trim the plywood for a true edge. See this Instructable to make this tri-square 

Step 2: How Much to Offset

Picture of How Much to Offset

I needed to measure the distance from the edge of the saw blade to the edge of the saw's shoe or base. It is 1 1/2 inches. That does not include the thickness of the blade, which is a factor in some cuts, but not in others. 

Step 3: Position in the Workmate

Picture of Position in the Workmate

My piece of plywood is narrow enough that it fits between the two screw assemblies that pull the jaws of the Workmate together. The construction of the Workmate limits the width of material that can be sawn this way, but I am interested in sawing small pieces safely, so the method fits what I need.

I have positioned and clamped the piece of plywood in the Workmate so a little more than 1 1/2 inch extends above the Workmate surface.

Step 4: Saw

Picture of Saw

The top surface of the Workmate jaws are very straight and true. I rested the edge of the saw's base on the top surface of the Workmate while holding the base as near to exactly vertical as possible. Pull the saw's trigger switch and trim the edge of the plywood. Checking with a straightedge showed the plywood now has a straight and true edge.

Step 5: Rip a Three Inch Wide Strip

Picture of Rip a Three Inch Wide Strip

I needed only four squares 3 inches on a side. I measured inward from my new true edge 3 inches plus 1 1/2 inch for the distance between the blade edge and the saw blade. I added 1/16 inch for the thickness of the blade. I made a line at 3 inches and another at 4 9/16 inches. I used this second line to align the piece of plywood in the Workmate. This second line is even with the top of the Workmate's jaws.

You can see the saw's kerf. I wanted the blade to cut just below the line so I have exactly 3 inches remaining on the piece I am ripping. The line is visible and the kerf is positioned correctly so that exactly 3 inches remains.

Step 6: Trim for 3 Inch Squares

Picture of Trim for 3 Inch Squares

Once I had ripped a piece 3 inches wide, I needed to cut from it to make 3 inch squares. I positioned the 3 inch wide piece vertically between the jaws of the Workmate so that 4 9/16 inch extends above the top surface of the Workmate's jaws. I used a square to insure that the piece is at exactly 90 degrees to the top of the Workmate's jaws. I sawed as shown in step 4. 

I had my squares fairly quickly and I never had to feel that anything about the process was precarious and dangerous. Using a Workmate this way to make safe and accurate cuts would be ideal where the worksite is away from a table saw and you do not want to risk a precariously balanced saw setup to make a cut.


Yaka07 (author)2016-02-20

Wow i had been struggle with cutting small peices, your guid has made a real difference

Phil B (author)Yaka072016-02-20

Thanks. I am glad it has been useful to someone else, too.

nyx702 (author)2013-01-21

Ah interesting! Very useful tip. I hadn't thought about running the saw along the top like that.

Phil B (author)nyx7022013-01-21

Thank you. It is something I needed to do for one specific job, but really will not do often. Still, it is a handy thing when needed.

rimar2000 (author)2012-06-01

Good work as always, Phil.

Phil B (author)rimar20002012-06-01

Thank you, Osvaldo.

bfk (author)2012-06-01

The term I use for creative ideas like this comes from my military days "Field Expedience" Excellent use of what you have to get what you need. Kudos, Phil.

Phil B (author)bfk2012-06-01

Thank you much.

pfred2 (author)2012-05-30

That is an awfully big router you have there Phil!

Phil B (author)pfred22012-05-30

When the saw is tipped up like that it does look like a router.

pfred2 (author)Phil B2012-05-31

In a way a circular saw tipped on its side is a router. One with a big slotting bit in it!

Phil B (author)pfred22012-05-31


coolbeansbaby68 (author)2012-05-31

Nice Job Phil

Phil B (author)coolbeansbaby682012-05-31

Thank you, James. Anyone who has ever tried to cut something small with a circular saw while trying both to hold it and keep fingers out of the way can appreciate this. Thank you for looking.

coolbeansbaby68 (author)Phil B2012-05-31

I'm getting ready to build a cabin on my property and the only tool i hate to use is a table saw . So i use saw horses and my circular saw with the slide in guide quite a bit .

Phil B (author)coolbeansbaby682012-05-31

That would work. I had a homemade table saw once. It was a plywood table with a circular saw hung underneath. My Instructable on it is linked in the right panel with this Instructable. I liked it and enjoyed using it, but my wife made me get rid of it when I got a radial arm saw 40 years ago. I am thinking about making another, but space to keep it is limited. It is probably good I no longer have the original one I made. The blade size was 7 inches, and those are very hard to find now. Everything is 7 1/4 inches.

Something must be wrong with the counter on this Instructable. It was at 228 views. Then phred2 commented and it went up to 229. You have viewed and commented twice, but it is still stuck at 229.

coolbeansbaby68 (author)Phil B2012-05-31

you have to clear your cookies ... Go to tools and the top of your browser

Phil B (author)coolbeansbaby682012-05-31

Thank you. I cleared the cookies and restarted the computer. The problem is still there. I have had this problem on three different browsers and four different computers since Monday..

Ninzerbean (author)2012-05-29

It looks like you could mount that circular saw upside down and it would be a table saw. No?

Phil B (author)Ninzerbean2012-05-29

Yes, I did an Instructable on that once. See this link. But, this time I needed to saw a little before my workshop is set up again. (We are in the process of moving.) I no longer have the saw in the Instructable linked above. I wish I did still have it. Thank you for looking and for commenting.

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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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