Easily rip narrow strips with a circular saw

Boring discussion

Ask any seasoned power tools using woodworker about ripping thin strips from a board anywhere less than 5 inches in width and they will shudder. The trouble is that the typical guides don't work, because the G clamps get in the way of the motor or the sole of the circular saw. Even if they didn't, most times the guide cannot be clamped to the board being ripped making this operation a most scary and difficult one. This is when the average woodworker wishes that he/she had a table saw.

But what if we could hold the table saw static and slide the wood through the blade... I can already hear you say reverse mounted circular saw... But no... Why not clamp the circular saw on a platform onto the table and have the blade spin  underneath the sole, then we can pass the board we wish to cut underneath the sole. I use a platform of pine which is 1 and a half inch high and 5 feet long and might graduate to an aluminium square or MS square profile.

This method is quite fidgety, and makes sense when ripping a large number of strips of the same size. 

Steps to setup

  1. Carefully choose a platform:
    image of a thick pine boardThe platform is a slab of wood (Or multiple slabs, depending on the height you need) which is long and straight. The longer the better. Since the circular saw is going to be on this slab, make sure the slab is higher than the board you are ripping.

  2. Loosely clamp the circular saw sole to the platform: Clamping will be at 2 points and you will need to place some bits of wood on the sole so that the clamp can hold the sole properly.
  3. Adjust the circular saw to width:
    First, locate the front. The front will be the side you normally push the saw in. From the from slowly and carefully feed a sacrificial piece of wood into the blade. This will give you a reference cut. Measure the thickness obtained and move the front of the saw correspondingly until the correct thickness is obtained.

  4. Adjust for parallel:
    Now the circular saw body needs to be rotated so that the blade is perfectly parallel to the face of the platform. If this is not done, then the entire blade will warp while at work. The strain will affect the motor, throw the shaft out of alignment, ruin your wood and could even cause the saw blade to shatter. So do this carefully.
    Again take a sacrificial piece and feed it gently into the blade from the front of the saw. Now turning the piece over, so the reference side and hence the cut is toward the same side feed the sacrificial wood into the blade from the '"back" of the saw.

    The reference cut from the front will be on the underside at this point (you will need to CAREFULLY move the blade guard out of the way). This will give you a second reference cut. Check that these 2 cuts meet at exactly the same points. If they don't, loosen the clamp at the back of the saw and adjust correspondingly. The blade is parallel when the 2 reference cuts line up perfectly. 
  5. Adjust for height: Drop the blade of the circular saw, all the way down to the table. Obviously, because the board being ripped is on the surface of the table. I adjust the height by sliding a paper under the blade and making sure it just passes.
  6. Adjust of parallel again: Sometimes the body of the saw is at a slight angle to the sole, at others the body wobbles in reference to the sole. Sight along the table and make sure the blade is absolutely perpendicular to the table. If either of these 2 problems mentioned above is happening, shove a wedge under the saw body, between the motor casing and the sole. This will affect the height. I have not yet found an alternative to this wedge and am open to suggestion.
  7. Let 'er Rip: Wear your safety glasses, air filters and ear protectors, press the trigger, lock the trigger and begin slowly feeding the board through the blade. Remember not to push your finger in past the sole of the circular saw.

Using this method, I have been able to rip 3/4 inch boards with ease.

The next thing to do is build a sled for crosscutting.



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