Tips and Jigs Part 1: Circular Saw Straight-Cutting Jig




About: I am a Product Development Engineer for an OEM of Food Production Equipment in Riverside, MO. I have previously ran the 3D Prototyping Laboratory for the National Institute for Aviation Research and still ...

For many of us, the cost of a table saw is too much just to be able to make long straight cuts in sheet lumber. If you buy a smaller table saw, you are actually creating a very dangerous situation as these are not meant to cut large pieces of lumber. What about space. A table saw is a space hog, especially when not in use.

SOLUTION? BUILD A JIG! A circular saw is a very common tool for home owners. You can buy battery powered versions that come in kits or go for a nice corded one. This should take you about an hour if you have all the supplies.

This instructable is a follow-on to a concept presented by

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Step 1: Getting Started: Supplies and Information

Items you need:
Circular saw (1)
Hand Drill (1)
Countersink (1)
#10 Drill Bit (1)
Countersunk 10-24 sheet metal screws (15)
10-24 nuts (15)
lockwashers (15)
Sheetrock screws
4x8 1/4" Hardboard
1"x1"x1/8" Aluminum Angle (Length as desired)

Step 2: Get Out the Saw! Cut the New Base.

I used a scrap piece of 1/4" hardboard, but if you don't have any, use your circular saw to cut a square a few inches longer than the aluminum base of your saw and a few inches wider than your saw's overall width.

Step 3: Holes Are a Good Thing!

**Caution: you may want to remove the aluminum base from the saw to make it easier to handle.**

Drill holes in the aluminum base of your saw.
I drilled 4 holes, 1 in each corner of the base.
Lay your aluminum base and mark the holes on your cut piece of hardboard. Make sure the smooth side of the hardboard is facing down.
Drill your holes to match.

OPTION 2: (Preferred)
Clamp your hardboard to your aluminum base and mate-drill the parts together. Make sure the smooth side of the hardboard is facing down.

Again, I drilled 4 holes, 1 in each corner.

Using your countersink bit, countersink each of the holes such that the 10-24 screws will set flush in the holes. You need to countersink the underside of the panel.

Step 4: Mounting the Saw for the Cut

Mount your circular saw to the hardboard panel. You'll notice that you need to release the height mechanism and set the depth for "0."

Clamp the assembly to a structure such as a workbench so that there is nothing beneath the saw blade.

Once you have the assembly clamped in position and verified that you have clearance beneath your saw, turn on your saw and cut through your hardboard until your saw reaches it's maximum depth. This creates a slot for you blade to pass through.
I would recommend using the widest kerf blade you own to make the cut and removing some extra material around the blade with a chisel or a rasp to create a clearance. You do not want to have your blade rubbing against the hardboard when you are making your long cuts.

Step 5: Make the Guide for the Saw

I took 2 pieces of scrap poplar and cut them to the length of my already cut panel. I used my router to trim away some material for the guide, but you can also just use a shim to create the offset. I opted for the router because it was set up and I thought would give me better result.
I used some other scrap to get my fence gauged right. I make the cut such that I created a shelf in the wood that was as deep as the thickness of my aluminum angle.

Step 6: Mount the Guide

The key to this step is being "square." Ultimately what is important in this step is to ensure that the guide and the saw blade are as close to being parallel as possible. I mounted my saw on the panel and then proceeded to take measurements.

Lower your blade through the precut slot as far as it will allow.

Use a scale to create marks as equal distances from the blade at the front and at the rear. Mark a line between the marks to act as an alignment for the guide.

When you are ready, apply glue to the bottom of the guide and to the top of the panel and clamp in place.

Step 7: Mount the Aluminum Angle on Hardboard

If you are making 4 foot long guide, cut your aluminum angle to 4 feet.

Take one end of your sheet of 1/4" hardboad and clamp the aluminum angle so that your panel with guide is fully resting on the large panel. To help ensure straightness of the angle while you mate-drill the angle to the panel, clamp a level or another straight, long piece of material to the side of the angle. This will aid in keeping it straight.

With the aluminum in place, drill holes evenly spaced along the length of the aluminum angle at approximately every 6 inches. This frequency will prevent your aluminum from flexing during use.

Step 8: Set Up for the First Cut

Place your circular saw with the sled attached on the newly mounted aluminum angle.

Lower the saw until the blade is at the correct depth.

Start the saw and make the cut along the hardboard.
This cut represents the inside cut edge of the jig, thus, anytime you make a cut using the jig, line the edge of your jig up with the lines marked on your sheets.

Now you can run the saw, still attached to the sled on the opposite side to cut the jig away from the rest of the hardboard.

Step 9: Cut AWAY!!! Tips and Lessons

Now, you can use the jig to cut large sheets of lumber without the pain of "trying" to maintain a straight cut.

I use 1.5" c-clamps to hold my jig to the lumber. It's very quick. Sometimes, if those clamps are being used, I can get away with spring clamps.

I drilled a hole in both pieces of the jig so I could hang them on the wall.

If you want a longer jig, use a longer piece of angle and mount it lengthwise on the hardboard. Then you will have a sled for both. I have a 2 ft, 4 ft and 8 ft jig.

SAFETY!!! This sled was built in a manner that disables the built-in guard. I recommend cutting a notch in the back of the sled around the blade so that the guard will still work.

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    27 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Wow. This is another procedure that will save me from repeating the cutting deviations I have made repeatedly. I didn't really want to buy another commercial jig. Thanks very much.


    3 years ago

    Pkranger 88,

    Thanks for the instructable. It's definitely a better setup than the usual DIY circ saw guides you see IMO.

    A few questions though.

    First, is the full sheet of hardboard necessary? Could I not just leave enough material on the opposite side of the saw from the rail onto which I can clamp the jig to the lumber to be cut? Or am I missing something?

    Could I use pegboard instead of hardboard. It's the same material, just perforated. I just happen to have some on hand so I hoped I could use it instead.

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks for your comment!
    The full sheet isn't necessary, nor did I leave it. I cut the hardboard a couple inches past the guide so that I clamp it. Good Luck!

    wood doctor

    3 years ago

    if common sense is used wisely, and i mean wisely these space savers work quit well.


    3 years ago


    Thank you very much for your tutorial. I was breaking my head looking for someting srtaight in my garage. I dind't check the squaring in all sides edges in a MDF table which I had bought. Then, after some rip cuts, I had seen error about 1 or 2 mm in a long way rip about 275 cms. (I have another style of jig). I bought a new aluminum piece about 3 mts long (for using it as straight ruler), and then, I could see the error, when I approached the edge of aluminum (very straight) with the cutted border of the MDF jig that I had made. Both of edges were not flush. I see your jig very interesting, and practice. I have made too something like your jigs (inspired in a web's woodworking tutorial) where you drill and screw the shoe base of circular saw, on a board (plywood, etc, mine MDF) with a frame with two little paralell planks (the same measure each other). Then you slide all setup through the edge of cutting piece. It is more to get little strips paralell to the edges. But your Jig with aluminum guide like me cause I see it likely more accurate . Congratulations and follow with your inventions! :). A big greeting From Córdoba Argentina


    4 years ago on Introduction

    It appears from some comments that some readers do not realize that the guide shown in step 5 has a groove that captures the upstanding leg of the aluminum angle so that the saw cannot move left or right. The picture is out of focus and it is not obvious. I have made cuts with a straight edge clamped to the wood and pressing the saw base plate against the guide, but on long cuts the saw has wondered away from the guide. This design prevents that and is very simple. Also, an aluminum angle is not necessary, any straight and rigid piece of wood or metal that is available should work. Just make the sure saw guides on the inside and outside edges. Great design!!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Really comprehensive & useful advice. Specially, thanks for images. Will try to spread the words with our site


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Wow - what you did isn't very different, fundamentally, from the standard "screw a straight board to a piece of plywood and cut the rest off" kind of guide - but the WAY you did it makes it almost like a track saw. Awesome. The devil is often in the details, and I think you nailed it. Thanks.


    7 years ago on Step 9

    Is there a reason you do not just use the edge of the saw plate against the guide, thereby not needing to make the plate for the bottom of the saw?

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    When you push against the guide, you're putting lateral force on the blade and on longer cuts, tend to twist you're saw. This gives you a stress free cut every time.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Hmmm. I have always felt safer with a table saw, and mine cost no more than most decent circular saws. Does take up some space, but it suits my needs better.

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I also have a table saw and they are very useful, but more expensive. And, in reality, more dangerous.
    I have seen the less expensive table saws but you will never get as straight of an edge out of a smaller table saw.
    I have a Delta Unisaw, and am retrofitting it with an extension table. But if you're going to be cutting full panels, this is hard to beat.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Wow, this is a lot of work for nothing. Something wrong with just clamping your angle to your piece of wood being cut and running your saw's existing edge against that?

    2 replies

    It's not just cutting straight. When working with very high quality plywood, or paneling or any kind of material with a laminated surface e.g. whiteboard, having a zero-clearance shoe will prevent chipping of surface of the workpiece along the line of the cut. Quality of the cut, not speed are the goals here.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Saw blade's have a nasty habit of twisting the saw away from the direction of cut. Slight corrections are required that result in a slightly jagged edge. When using a "free" guide, you must create constant pressure on the jig or the saw will drift away. Keeping constant pressure on long cuts is fatiguing and leads to twisting the saw counterclockwise. This jig prevents all this. By creating a "rail" for the guide's groove to follow, there is no correction necessary. You can create higher quality cuts both in accuracy and cleanliness by using jigs like this. This jig is specifically designed to take the frustration out of longer cuts in plywood. Shorter cuts would not necessarily benefit from this jig. The concept is similar to the crosscut jigs used in lumber warehouses to crosscut sheet lumber. A lot of work for nothing? NO. On the contrary, excellent cuts for 2 hours of your time. I just finished building a solid oak framed workbench and all the sheet lumber was cut with this jig. And the cuts were beautiful. No one would have been able to create such square and straight cuts using just a straicht edge. I guarantee it.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Great idea to enlarge the base. The motor was the cause not to cut a thick board correctly by using a small circular saw with a blade of 147 mm in diameter. thanks a lot.


    9 years ago on Introduction


    I really enjoied your instructable. Congratulations.



    10 years ago on Introduction

    Really liked your instructable. I would be very interested in seeing a table saw base as you suggested. Keep up the good work.