Wood Cutting 101: How To Make Straight Cuts

Cutting a straight piece of wood might seem like a tough task, especially when considering the heavy machinery involved. But the truth of the matter is it doesn’t differ all that much from tracing straight lines using the edge of a ruler as a guide. In fact, that same process is essentially what you’ll be doing when trying to make straight cuts with a circular saw or jigsaw, with the help of a few tools.

What You Need:

You will need a circular saw, a carpenter’s pencil or a regular pencil, a tape measure, a speed square, some wood clamps, a pair of safety glasses, and a straight piece of wood.

Making A Straight Cut With A Circular Saw Or Jigsaw

The next thing you need is a solid surface to actually make the cut. Let’s say you’re trying to make a cut of some length here, 2” by 2’, so how are you going to make sure that your circular saw or jigsaw will actually stay straight the entire time for two feet of cutting?

The first thing you need to do is measure the cut on each side of the board. Take your speed square, a tool used for measuring on wood, and put marks at 2” on either side of the board with your carpenter’s pencil.

Now you have to take a good hard look at your circular saw. Carefully take off the guard at the bottom and measure the distance from the edge of the shoe to the blade itself. It should be anywhere from 1 to 2 inches. This is important because we have to add that distance to the marks on the sides of the board. This takes the discrepancy between the edge of the circular saw and its blade into account.

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So take your speed square and add that distance to the marks you already created. There should be marks at 2 inches and at 3-4 inches, depending on how large your circular saw is.

Good job! You have the groundwork laid out and you’re almost ready to cut.

Here’s where the clamps come into play. Take your already straight piece of wood and lay it across the board you want to cut so it lines up with the second marks you just created. When it’s perfect, go ahead and clamp that piece down to the board so it doesn’t move when you’re cutting.

Because we’ve set the job up so well, actually cutting the wood is arguably the easiest (and most fulfilling) part of the process. The shoe of the circular saw is going to ride the piece of wood that you just clamped down to your board. Because the piece is securely fastened, and because all of the measurements line up, it’s going to provide you with an extremely straight cut.

Now all you have to do is turn on the saw and get to cuttin’!

Now, every cut might not need to be two feet long. In fact, if you’re just trying to make a small cut with a circular saw all you have to do is follow the same process just scale it down.

This tutorial can also be used for a jigsaw since it has a shoe similar to the circular saw.

But what if you have a hand saw? Cutting a straight edge with a hand saw requires a few extra steps, but the same perfect results can be achieved.

Making A Straight Cut With A Handsaw

Do your measurements just like before, except you won’t have to add any additional length to the marks since your handsaw doesn’t have a shoe. Now, on one end of the marks, lay your straight piece of wood down on the board, and clamp it in place.

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The trick with the handsaw is that you need to stop it from going off course on the other side as well, so another piece of wood needs to be laid down and clamped on the other side of the marks as well.

Lay your saw against the first piece of wood, then line up the second piece so it hugs the other side of the saw. The space between the two pieces should be miniscule. You really should barely be able to see between them since the width of the hand saw itself is so tiny.

You want to leave just enough room for your saw to operate between them though.  Now that both pieces are clamped down, it’s time to start cutting

If you’re in the market for hand saws, circular saws, or jigsaws, look no further than the lists we’ve made outlining the top products in each category. We know wood cutting, and our selection of products will help you finish your next job in a snap!

Need more woodcutting advice? Check out our article on the top available miter saws you can buy.