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Woodworking without a Tablesaw
Most folks think they need a tablesaw to produce simple, yet high-quality furniture projects. That said, the investment required to purchase a portable or full-blown cabinet saw can be a major impediment to anyone hoping to build their first table or bookcase. The good news is, you don’t need a tablesaw to get started building furniture. You can make precise, square cuts with a conventional circular saw when coupled with an accurate cutting guide. For even more information on this technique, be sure to catch our video on How to Build a Workbench. A very similar cutting guide is highlighted in episode one.
This style of cutting guide has a fence against which the side of the saw base rides. The edge of the guide is representative of exactly where the saw blade will cut. To make it even easier to use, I added a lip on the bottom of the guide. The lip is squared against the cutting edge of the guide and allows you to but the guide up to your workpiece and slide it right over to your cut line. It really couldn’t be easier to use. Here’s how to make a simple circular saw cutting guide:
The base of the guide is made from a piece of 1/2-in. thick plywood or MDF (as seen here), a 3/4-in. wide piece of hardwood which will act as the fence against which the saw will travel, and a scrap of hardwood for the lip. Screws and glue hold the entire assembly together.
Begin by measuring the offset of your circular saw’s blade from the edge of the saw’s base plate. In my case, it was about 5-1/8-in.
Now make tick marks on either end of your plywood or MDF board that are a bit further in than that 5-1/8-in. number (this measurement will vary slightly between saw models). In my case, I made my tick marks at the 5-1/2-in. mark.
Use a long straightedge to connect these two points.
Next, apply a bit of glue on your fence material, line it up against the line you drew earlier, and drill/screw on one end of the fence.
Work your way down the fence, holding it to the line, and drilling/screwing in more fasteners. I used five screws on my cutting guide.
Now with your cutting guide clamped down firmly onto a work surface, cut off the extra material on the cutting guide. Remember how you marked in further than that 5-1/8-in number? This is why. By having material to cut off, you’ll ensure that your saw blade will always be perfectly aligned with the edge of the cutting guide, allowing you to line the guide right up to whatever mark you wish to cut along on a workpiece.
Apply some glue to the lip material and screw one end of it onto the underside of your cutting guide’s base.
Set a square against the edge of the guide base along which the saw blade will travel and square the lip material up to it. Complete the attachment of the lip with a few more screws.
Put it to Use
In the photo below, you can see this saw guide in action. Notice how the side of the saw blade runs right along the cut line on your workpiece. I've highlighted the waste piece being cut off in red for clarity. With a guide like this, you can easily cut accurate squares and rectangles--the foundation of basic woodworking. To get the best possible cuts, be sure to mount your saw with a high-quality blade and always check to be sure that the blade is perfectly square to the saw base. To do this, simply loosen the nut that allows the base to swivel for angled cuts and place a square besie the blade. Now just angle the base until it meets the square and tighten the nut.