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Tool Use Tips – Circular Saws and Power Drills

Tips on Using Circular Saws and Power Drills

On many occasions, I have seen homeowners use circular saws. In almost every instance, the homeowners were placing themselves in danger. Here are some common problems and ways to avoid injuries:

Cut on the "right" side - Many homeowners cut on the wrong side of the cut line. Here is what I mean. Look at the bottom of most circular saws. They have a wide platen or base plate. The saw blade is not centered in this plate. The widest part of the plate should always rest on the piece of wood which will NOT fall to the ground when the cut is complete. Failure to do this will cause the blade to bind as the cut gets to the end.

Click here to watch a video on circular saw tips.


Dropping the blade "into" wood - This is absolutely one of the most dangerous things you can do. Let's say you want to cut a rectangle or square out of the center of a piece of plywood. You can do it with a circular saw, but it is crazy. You have to retract the ..... Forget it, I'm not going to tell you how to do it. Use a drill and a jigsaw or a reciprocating saw.

Blades - sharp blades produce the best cuts. There are different blades for different purposes. Fine cuts require fine tooth blades. Rough cutting 2x4's will ruin a fine tooth blade. Carbide tipped blades are the only way to go!

Minimizing Chipping - How do you minimize chips when cutting down a door or cutting across the grain of a piece of wood? Well, I draw the cut line with a fine pencil. Then I use a metal straightedge and a sharp razor knife to score the pencil line. I may cut into the wood two or three times with the razor knife. I then make sure the saw blade stays on the 'outfall' (waste piece of wood) side of the line! Cut slowly and continually blow the dust out of the way. If you take your time, you will not produce chips. A belt sander can be used to dress up the edge.

Cutting Circles - Do you make a saw whine and scream when using it? If you are trying to cut a straight line, this noise means you are straying from the line. The blade rubs and screams as it cuts a "circle". To cut the straightest lines, make sure the blade depth is always set for the deepest cut. The blade acts as its own straight-edge in this position. It will tell you by its sound if you are cutting straight.

Did you know you can cut intentional circles with a circular saw? Absolutely! The trick is to set the saw blade depth for just 1/16th inch deeper than the material you are cutting. You will be shocked at how tight a radius you can cut! Try this on a 1/2 inch sheet of plywood if you don't believe me.

Power Drills

Drills are much easier to use than saws. However, you can ruin drill bits and burn up drills if you don't follow some of these tips.

Bits - The smaller the bit diameter, the greater chance you have of snapping it in two. Watch yourself when drilling with any bit smaller than 1/8th inch.

Countersinking - Want to countersink a screw head? They make special, nifty bits just for this purpose. Don't try to do it with two regular drill bits, one larger than the other. When you drill the big hole, it will almost always be too deep or too shallow.

Deep Holes - When drilling a deep hole you must withdraw the bit every inch of depth or so. Why? If you don't, the bit can become jammed by wood shavings still in the hole. This can be a real problem when drilling into masonry with a roto-hammer drill or a regular masonry bit. If too much stress builds up, you can snap the bit and/or put undo stress on the drill.

Drilling Metal - Drilling metal requires sharp drill bits. It also requires much slower speeds. If you are drilling through steel greater than 1/8th inch, I suggest that you squirt oil onto the tip of the drill bit. This will lubricate the cutting tip of the bit and help to keep it cool. If you are drilling a large diameter hole, you may have to drill successively larger holes. You are dreaming if you think you can use a 5/8 inch bit from the start!

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