Cutting an angle with a circular saw is extremely easy when you know how. Getting a clean, angled finish on any piece of wood only requires you to make a few small preparations, and then you can cut. So, how to cut an angle with a circular saw?
When you understand the principle, it’s just like making a straight cut but you have to do a simple mathematical sum before you can cut.
Other saws such as the miter saw can also perform this job cleanly, but sometimes you find yourself without access to the correct tools and need to improvise.
Learning different ways to use your tools will make your work more efficient and save time (which in turn saves money).
How To Cut An Angle With A Circular Saw?
Follow this guide below to get the right angle, depth, and blade set up for the best-angled finishes. We will look at two different cutting angles – 45 degrees and 60 degrees.
Both techniques are effectively the same, but you will find small sections dedicated to both of them in this article.
Collecting Your Equipment
Setting up properly before you work is the first step to completing jobs successfully. You need the following equipment as well as an understanding of how to use them all.
If you do not know how to operate or use something that is on this list, make sure you practice and play around with it before attempting to start a job.
- Circular saw with tilting baseplate
- A board to cut
- A sawhorse or workbench
- Pen / pencil
- Something to act as a guide, such as a guide block or set square
- Appropriate safety equipment, such as goggles and a dust mask
For the sake of this article, we will refer to a wooden board and a set square (sometimes called a triangle).
Remember that you can’t do much without your fingers and eyes. Protecting these are of utmost importance to you when you are making cuts with circular saws (or any power tool) as a slip can lead to you being a finger down.
Goggles are important in case of a chip or knot hitting the blade of your saw and firing out in your direction. Although this is unlikely, you don’t want to take chances.
Dust masks are also useful with circular saw jobs as there will be sawdust thrown up in the air. Protect your lungs and you will be glad you did in the future.
Other safety equipment such as heavy gloves can be worn, but make sure that you do not have baggy or loose sleeves hanging down towards the blade.
These can be a real hazard of getting caught in the mechanism when working with a circular saw, even if it has an appropriate blade guard.
Setting Up for Your Cut
When you have all your safety gear on, you can begin to set up. Place your board onto the sawhorse or workbench (whichever one you’re using).
If you want, you can set up a clamp to keep the board in place, but it is less important for this kind of cut as we will be holding the board with a set square.
If you do choose to use a clamp, make sure that it is tightened properly and far away from where the blade will be spinning.
Before you plug the saw in, mark your cut with a pen or pencil mark. Using a pencil is preferable as we will also be using a set square to keep the cut straight and won’t need a thick guideline to follow.
Put your set square the appropriate distance from the pencil mark. If you’re not sure what this distance is, it is equal to the distance between the blade and edge of the shoe that will run against our guide. We will hold the set square in place, so you don’t need to worry about any more clamps.
Now that your guideline is drawn and you have your guide, you can set your circular saw.
How Do I Set the Saw Blade?
Make sure that the saw is still unplugged. No power should be flowing to the blade at all during the next 2 sections. Plugging in your saw before it is necessary to do so opens the possibility of it turning on when your hands are near the blade. Safety first, always!
Almost all modern circular saws have til-table saw blades, usually held in place by a tilt handle. When we loosen the handle, we can simply tilt the blade over to our desired angle.
We will cover the necessary angles for a 45-degree cut and a 60 degree cut in detail, but the rule of thumb is that your desired angle should be the size of the angle (in degrees) taken away from 90.
If you have a particularly old circular saw, it may not have a tilt lever attached and the blade may only be able to sit at a 90-degree angle. If this is the case, you need to invest in getting a circular saw or use a different tool altogether (such as a miter saw).
A regular circular saw cut is 90 degrees. When we want to change the angle, we have to adjust from the default angle and “take away” the difference. This is explained in more detail later on in the article.
How Deep Do I Set the Cut?
Again, make sure that the saw has no power flowing to it. Your hands will be directly handling the blade and you should not touch it at all.
For the best cuts, we want our circular saw blade to extend past the board by at least a quarter of an inch (¼”). This will give us a clean finish where the blades do not end up causing damage to the board instead of cutting it clearly.
Too deep and the teeth will pull against the board from extending too far – this will lead to an untidy finish as well as unnecessary splintering and chipping.
Too shallow and you will have an incomplete cut where some sections may not be cut all the way through – this will require you to use the saw again, increasing the chances of mistakes and possibly destroying the wood you are working on.
Retract the blade guards and place the circular saw so that is in line with the edge of the board. Loosen the depth adjusting lever and lower the blade to the appropriate depth.
Then tighten the lever again and you will be ready to make the cut. Before making the cut, double-check that you have around ¼ of an inch of clearance space below the board.
How Do I Start a Cut?
Depending on the angle of the cut you need, you will have to adjust the angle of the blade. If you have used a miter saw before, this is effectively the same technique with fewer steps.
There is a simple mathematical sum we have to carry out to get the correct saw angle. Our default setting for a circular saw is 90 degrees, so we need to adjust this so that it fits the new angle. Together, the angle of the saw and the wood should be 90 degrees.
To write it out mathematically:
90 – the angle of the cut = angle of the saw
These things are easier with examples, so let’s start with a 45-degree angle cut.
Making a 45-degree Cut
Loosen your tilt lever. Tilt the blade so that it sits at 45 degrees right. This takes the angle of the saw from 90 degrees to 45, which is perfect for this cut.
As your corner needs to be at 45 degrees, we set our saw to 45 degrees as well and this will give us our desired finish.
Making a 60-degree Cut
Loosen your tilt lever. Tilt the blade so that it sits at 30 degrees right. This takes the angle of the saw from 90 degrees to 60, which is perfect for this cut.
As your corner needs to be at 60 degrees, we set our saw to 30 degrees and this will give us our desired finish.
Now that we have set up the angle, we need to make the actual cut.
Making the Cut
Now that we have set up the blade and our board is prepared, you can begin to make the cut. Ensure that your tilt lever is tightened, otherwise, the blade will move and this will simply ruin the piece of wood.
Line your blade up with the pencil mark that you made earlier. The shoe should fit cleanly onto the board, so you can also line up your set square.
It is important to put pressure on the set square as this is your guide. If your set square moves while you are cutting, it is likely that the saw will do too.
Making the actual cut requires a clean, consistent approach. When making the initial cut, follow the pencil line and keep the shoe of the saw flat and tight against the board. Remember to apply pressure to your set square. Additionally, some pressure on the saw both downwards and in the direction of the set square will stop any wobble.
Try to slide the saw through the board as smoothly as possible. Keeping tight to the set square will keep the blade on the correct path, so you simply have to push through at a steady pace and without stopping the blade.
An unsteady approach to the cut can lead to uneven finishes or having to stop and start. Steady approaches save on materials and resources! Your wallet will thank you in the future.
If you were to go off track, this will potentially ruin the job or at very least require you to stop and assess the damage. Taking the time to cleanly feed the saw through the wood and using the guide or set square for support is key to getting a clean finish.
Starting and stopping doesn’t necessarily decrease the quality of the cut, but matching two different cuts together creates unnecessary challenges.
For a professional finish, you want to avoid the small inaccuracies we can get from cutting the same line twice. Proper preparation includes making sure that you can make the whole cut in one clean push, so make sure that power cords and your sawhorse or workbench allow you enough space.
If you have followed all these steps, you will have made a clean, professional angled cut with your circular saw. Let the cut off piece drop and use sandpaper to tidy up the finish if you need.
Making an angled cut is easier with other kinds of the saw, but if you need to use a circular saw it is still a relatively easy task.
Make sure that you have the correct type of circular saw (including a tilt lever) and prepare properly for the best finishes. Depending on the type of wood, you may also need to change the blade that is in your circular saw to improve the quality.
Remember that getting an angled cut needs a small amount of maths. The circular saw usually cuts at 90 degrees, but you can change this by setting the saw by following this equation:
90 – the angle that you want on the wood = the angle to set you saw to
When you add the angle of cut you need to the angle your saw is set to, it should always equal 90 degrees.
If it doesn’t, you’ve made a mistake in your math somewhere and will end up with a different angle! Math skills are necessary to a woodworker, so this shouldn’t be too difficult. If you do struggle, however, getting a calculator to double-check your angles might be a good idea.
Now that you know how to make a curved cut with a circular saw, do you have any questions?