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How to Rip Narrow Boards with a Circular Saw – Beginner’s Guide

Last Updated on September 13, 2021 by Derek Backman

Do you own a circular saw? If yes, then you must be aware of the benefits offered. A circular saw is a portable power tool designed for woodworkers to make precise, straight cuts. It is equipped with a powerful motor and a solid spinning blade to handle various woodworking projects. A circular saw is considered the primary substitute for woodworkers or DIYers who don’t own a table saw at their workshop.

In this article, we’re addressing those woodworkers who’ve been planning to rip narrow boards with a circular saw—wondering, how? So, what’s the problem with using a circular saw for ripping narrow boards?

When you’re using the C clamps to hold the board, they get in the way of your saw’s motor, and as a result, it gets difficult to cut straight precisely. Ultimately, using a guide or C clamp does not create a secure environment for woodworkers to work effortlessly. Thereby, circular saws are not favored for ripping narrow boards. But don’t worry, we’re here with a better and proven solution to get rid of this problem.

However, DIYers can quickly get it done with the help of a table saw. Hold the table saw in a rest position and move the board towards the table saw’s blade. But, we understand you many people don’t feel the need to invest in multiple saws. We just have a circular saw and a long narrow wooden board. So, let’s begin the project.

Safety and Preventive Measures to Consider

Circular Saw Safety

Whenever you’re using a power tool, there’s always a risk of getting involved in a life-changing accident. Therefore, it is highly recommended to use all safety measures and appropriate gears before using any machinery or power tool. By doing this, you’ll protect not only yourself, your circular saw but also the surroundings nearby you.

  • Know the basics to operate the circular saw – If you’re a beginner who’s using a circular saw for the first time, then we strictly recommend not to inaugurate it by ripping a narrow board. We recommend you go through the user manual while using your circular saw for the first time. You may also visit different web pages to know the usage of circular saws. So, it’s helpful to spend some time with your tool before attempting complex projects.
  • Use all safety equipment and appropriate gear – When using a circular saw or any other saw, wearing safety equipment is always a healthy practice. This equipment includes hand gloves, goggles, nose masks, covered shoes, and face shields. All these kinds of stuff will protect you from damages and accidents. Even if you’re working on a small project, ensure you’re adequately shielded by necessary equipment.
  • Inspect the condition of your saw – We don’t want our readers to face trouble during the ripping process. It’s better to inspect and analyze the circular saw before using it. Check whether the components of the saw are secure, tight, and in the proper condition. For corded circular saws, make sure the power cord is not worn out or exposed. An improper circular saw with loose parts is extremely dangerous for the users. 
  • Keep the workspace isolated – Only you, your circular saw, wooden board, and other required items are allowed to settle in the workspace. Make sure there is no crowd or children nearby the workspace. If you need someone’s help, allow them to enter the workspace only after wearing all the safety equipment. It’s better to take charge and finish the ripping process without anyone’s help, as flying wooden chunks may trouble the observer.

Step-by-step Instructions on How to Rip Narrow Boards With a Circular saw:

Instructions to rip narrow boards

At this point, we expect that all of you are regular users of the circular saw and have used the tool many times for different projects. As we’ve discussed earlier, a basic understanding of using a circular saw is required before ripping narrow boards. Here’s an easy guide on how to rip narrow boards with a circular saw that you could follow to make accurate cuts.

Gather the tools that you might need:

While ripping narrow boards, you might need some tools or items to assist you throughout the ripping process. You may require a pencil for marking the cutting line, a measuring tape for precise measurements, a couple of G clamps for holding the wood piece, a larger piece of the wooden board, a stand, and a square for drawing the line. You need to assemble all these items before beginning the process. Now, you’re all set to craft your wooden board.

Design a Perfect Platform to Begin:

The right platform is required to work comfortably and accurately. Here, you’ll be needing a long piece of wood or a regular slab of wood. Make sure whatever platform you’re using must be more significant and straight in design. If the platform height does not convince you, you may add more slabs as per your requirement. You’ve to ensure that the slab or wooden piece must be longer and thicker than the size of the board you’re planning to rip. Also, keep the height of the slab more than the wooden board. 

Place the Circular Saw Sole to the Platform with the Clamps:

We’re moving ahead step-by-step. Hopefully, you’ve assembled all the items mentioned above. In this step, we’ll require clamps, which will help us attach the circular saw sole with the platform. Use the clamps to tighten the sole to the platform at two points. If the fitting is not proper, use some wood chunks on the sole to make it tight. 

Mark Down the Ripping line With a Pencil:

To make the first cut with your circular saw, you need to mark the ripping line with the help of a regular pencil. You can use a measuring tape to get accurate and precise results. Also, predetermine the sequence of cuts you’re planning to make. As once you begin cutting, it would be unsafe if you decide what to do next. 

Let’s Do a Trial and Check your Circular Saw:

We’ll perform all the experiments here. We’ll make sure whether your circular saw is working perfectly. By making a few sample cuts on a sacrificial wooden board, you should check whether the saw blade is sharp enough or not. 

Figure out the front side of the circular saw. Usually, the side from where we push the saw inward is the front. Now, place a non-useful wooden board near the saw blade to make a reference cut. Note the thickness of the cut obtained. If it is not up to the mark, then change the front side of the saw accordingly.

Keep the Circular Saw Blade parallel to the platform:

Let’s keep your equipment safe. We request you to keep the circular saw blade parallel to the platform. If you fail to match parallelism, then you may end up twisting your circular saw blade. Besides this, you may even damage your workpiece and slow down the performance of the motor. But don’t worry; we’ve got a trick to check whether the saw blade is parallel to the platform or not.

All you need is another sacrificial wooden board. Carefully move the wooden board towards the saw blade from the front side to make the first reference cut. Now, turn over the wooden board to make another reference cut on the other face. Switch the blade guard away. Now, slowly move the same wooden board towards the saw blade but from the backside.

You’re supposed to make an observation here. If the reference cuts lie at the same line and point, you are doing good, and the blade is parallel. If not, then you’ve to readjust the blade by adjusting the clamp. 

Height of the Blade Needs to be Adjusted:

We’re getting closer to begin the final ripping step, but you need to make some adjustments before. As you’re going to rip the workpiece over the designed platform, it’s crucial to adjust the height of the blade. We’ve again got a trick to check the situation. Keep the saw blade on the platform, and slide a thin paper under it. You can easily adjust the height of the blade using this technique. Make sure the paper is passing smoothly under the blade. 

Adjust the saw and sole parallel to each other:

If the saw’s body is not parallel to its sole, then readjust them and make it parallel. Also, make sure whether the blade is perpendicular to the platform or not. After doing this, you’re all set to attempt the final step.

Finally, Start Ripping the Workpiece:

We’ve made all the adjustments, and the saw is ready to rip the narrow board. Plug in the cable, put on all the safety gear, push the trigger, lock it down, and start making cuts you planned. Go slow and be careful while ripping the board. 

Here’s an easy guide to get a better idea about ripping smaller wood pieces:

Final Words

Circular saws are popular among woodworkers and DIYers. People have been using this tool for many years, and it’s a versatile tool that’s useful for different projects. However, using circular saws for ripping narrow boards still confuse many people as it’s a little complicated. But, not anymore. In this guide, we’ve discussed how to rip narrow boards with a circular saw in few easy steps. And we hope that this article helped solve your queries.

About Derek Backman

Hello there, I'm Derek Backman, a full-time woodworker living in Miami, FL. I love to share guides and tips with others in my free time. I'm very passionate about sharing my experience with everyone on TheSawingYard. Thank you.