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How to Cut 2 x 4 with a Circular Saw

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Cutting a 2 x 4 with a circular saw may seem easy enough, but what do you do without a  table, or on a job site with only a sawhorse? Maybe you need to make a straight edge cut or rip some 2 x 4’s into 2 x 2’s. Today we are going to talk about how to cut a 2 x 4 with a circular saw. 

2x4 planks

How do I cut a 2 x 4 with a circular saw?

  1. Select your cutting method
  2. Set your 2 x 4 across the sawhorses
  3. Clampdown the 2 x 4 using c clamps, or bar clamps
  4. Measure the cut twice
  5. Mark the cut with your speed square
  6. Set the blade depth to cut just below the 2 x 4. 
  7. Place the broad edge of the bottom part of the circular saw on the left side of the line. 
  8. Take it slow, and cut carefully

These steps are relatively straightforward. However, there are several different situations that you can run into, such as not having a table or guide. Sometimes you need to cut all of the boards the exact same length.  It may seem complicated at the moment, but by the time you finish reading this, you will see how easy it is.

How to Cut a 2 x 4 With a Circular Saw

carpenter working on a plank

There are several methods available to be able to cut a 2 x 4 with a circular saw depending on the equipment that you have handy.

For the workbench, you can place the 2×4 on edge with the side that you want to cut overhanging. Set your circular saw blade to the correct depth to slice through the 2 x 4.  

Clamping the 2×4 to the workbench or sawhorse will provide stability and prevent the 2 x 4 from spinning or launching off of the workbench. 

If you set the circular saw at the maximum depth, you can easily cut through a 2×4 even at a 45-degree angle. 

When you make the cut, use a speed square to butt the saw blade up against.  This helps ensure that your cuts are straight.

If you don’t have a sawhorse or workbench, you can place the 2 x 4 on the edge of something where the blade will not touch anything below the 2 x 4.  Any staging item will work as long as it is off the ground. 

How to Rip a 2 x 4 Lengthwise with a Circular Saw

The first step is to measure the halfway point on the 2×4. A 2×4 is not 4 inches wide; it is only three and a half inches wide and one and a half inches thick.

You can reference actual sizes of lumber after drying and treatment here.  You are going to need the right combination square to draw your line down the middle of the 2 x 4. 

Clamp the 2 x 4 to where you can support the board and still have enough room underneath the board for the saw blade.  Place a minimum of two clamps on the board to hold the board down.

You will have to move the braces during the cut. Use wooden saw horses for this job, or place a few sheets of plywood under the 2 x 4 because the circular saw will cut through the bottom of the 2 x 4. 

Set your combination square to one and three-quarters of an inch. Draw the line straight down the middle of the 2 x4 and cut slowly. One trick is to use a circular saw that has a laser sight attached to it to help you make the cut. 

Here are some helpful tips: 

  • Measure twice; cut once
  • Take it slow and steady
  • Break the cut into three different sections
  • Use something to help guide the saw blade on the line. Some useful tools are the laser guide or speed square. 

Here is an instructional video that shows you step by step.

How to cut 2 x 4’s to the Same Length 

There are a few different methods for cutting 2 x 4’s the same length. The simplest way to take the edge off the ends of your 2×4 and butt them up against a flat level surface.

Then measure them all across at the same time (Remember measure twice). Use a level or a square to draw the cutting line across all of the 2 x 4’s at the same time; Then cut them one at a time.

If you have some extra material to work with, such as some spare pieces of plywood, you can make a jig that will cut at the same length every time. There are different size jigs, and you would just have to create the size that works for you.

If you want the jig to cut three 2 x 4’s at the same time, then the width in the jig needs to be (1.5* 3) + 1/8 inch. The 1/8 of an inch gives you some leeway for the saw blade.   You would just need to make adjustments for your workspace. 

You are going to create a system of rails using 2 x 4’s and plywood. This will generally only work for smaller lengths, 2-3 feet for example. 

Measure your 2×4 and screw them into the plywood with the edge at the same point on the plywood all the way down. Say 1-¼ inch from the side. You can then cut the 2×4’s to the length that you want them to be cut to.  This is your stop line for your cuts.

Take another piece of plywood and measure it between the two 2×4’s to sit on top of the other plywood, creating a raised bed on the inside of your jig. Glue the top piece of plywood to the bottom portion of plywood or screw it down. 

Take a piece of 2×3 and place it in between the ends of the other two guide rails and rip through the top part of the top section of plywood, creating a small incision as a guideline. 

Remove the piece that you just placed in between the two long pieces of 2 x 4’s. Now that your jig is set up, place your 2×4’s in the jig and use the guides to cut the 2×4’s to length.  

How to Use a Circular Saw Without a Table

closeup of a electric circular saw

The easiest way to use a circular saw without a table is to place two pieces of scrap board on your saw horses and then place your 2×4’s on top of the scrap wood. Then clamp it down, measure and cut the pieces of wood.  

You could also use a track (like this one ) to place on the circular saw to guide the saw across the plywood, or 2×4 you are trying to cut.  The track is better used for longer pieces of wood, such as plywood, or even making rip cuts in 2 x 4’s. 

You could also make a guide, by taking a piece of plywood and attaching it to a smaller flatter board. You want to place the piece of plywood on top of the larger board and use it as a guide. Creating a zero-clearance edge will allow you to make perpendicular cuts up to the length that you made the guide for. 

Here is an excellent video that shows you how to make a guide. 

10 Tips for Using a Circular Saw Safely

Using a circular saw can be a little intimidating if you are just starting out in woodworking. You want to make sure that you are safe using the saw.

A lot of circular saw accidents happen in the U. S. annually. You can see the statistics for yourself on the OSHA website.  We care about your safety, so here are ten safety tips for using your circular saw. 

  1. Use safety gear
  2. Never make adjustments to the saw when the Battery is connected or the saw is plugged in. 
  3. Turn the saw off after every cut
  4. Wear safety goggles
  5. Wear thick clothing such as jeans
  6. Use a respirator to protect your lungs
  7. Take your time and cut slow
  8. Always use sharp blades
  9. Keep your fingers behind the edge at all times
  10. Don’t use the saw in a manner that it was not designed for.

Final thoughts 

Woodworking is a fun hobby, as well as a great profession. Sitting back and getting to enjoy the dog house or chicken coop that you built last summer gives you a great sense of accomplishment. Learning the essential skills that you need to make the correct cuts and save time is an everyday process. You learn something new with every project. 

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