Jigs 6: Circular Saw Guide

In the good ole days before the time of fancy power miter and cut off saws, when framing a house, we would use nothing but our trusty old circular saw—Skilsaw, we called them—for cutting and ripping our lumber. We used plywood, so I'm not that old. This was also the time before pre-cut studs came onto the market. In order to cut our studs quickly and accurately, we would make ourselves a jig or circular saw guide.

Photo of circular skil saw with guide strip, guard wedge and stop block.Here is a picture of a circular saw guide I made up quickly for those of you who don't have a cut off saw or radial arm saw.

Basically it would consist of a 2x10 floor joist with 2x4's nailed along one side as a circular saw fence and a short 2x4 block opposite on the right hand end. Spanning the 2x4 and block was a piece of 3/8" or 1/2" plywood with a strip nailed to the left side of it to act as a guide for the circular saw base plate. We wedged the circular saw blade guard up, not a healthy thing to do, but safe as long as the circular saw was left on the circular saw guide. About a foot or so to the left of the circular saw guide we notched the circular saw guide fence about a foot in length to enable us to grab the stock and move it easily. This circular saw guide was designed to cut to length 2" stock (1 1/2") and under. We mainly used the circular saw guide for cutting the studs and cripples and duplicate more cuttings, such as window studs and header studs.

Making Your Circular Saw Guide

Start with a 2x10 or smaller, depending on the width you will be cutting, and nail the 2x4 on the top edge of the 2x10, flush with the bottom. Make sure if you are cutting 8' studs, use a 10' 2x10. Leave a little extra on the right hand side for cutting short pieces. The plywood is about 1 1/2" wider than the base of the circular saw to allow for a guide strip to be fastened on the left side of it. Place a screw through the guide, plywood and into the fence. A 2x4 the same width is nailed to the opposite side of the 2x10. Keep in mind here that the 2x4 stock you are cutting will slide under the plywood guide easily, so make sure that there is a clearance of at least 1/4". I allowed 1 3/4" from the top of the 2x10 to the top of the 2x4. Best to notch the 2x4 fence for the plywood to set down 1/4". For the block on the front side, just rip it down to 3 1/4" and nail it flush to the bottom of the 2x10. When the guide plywood is square with the fence, screw it down to the block as well as to the right hand side.

Wedge the circular saw guard up as shown and set the depth of cut to just scratch the surface of the 2x10. Cut through the 2x4 block and fence.

Photo of circular skil saw with jig.This picture shows the left side of the plywood with the guide strip fastened. Notice how the circular saw will sit on the outside of the 2x10 (at the front) so the stock piece to be cut can slide under the plywood easily.

Photo of circular skil saw stop block partially nailed onto bench.Here is shown a stop block rather than using nails. Notice the bottom of the block is undercut with a 45 degree to allow sawdust to not interfere with the end of the piece to be cut. Clean this out regularly.

Set this circular saw guide up on a couple of sawhorses and away you go.


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