Power Tools 101: Circular Saws.

by Chris Gardner

The circular saw is perfect when portability is crucial. At home, provided it you use it safely, it makes an ideal first power saw, as it can do both rip cuts and cross cuts, and will continue to find uses in woodworking and DIY applications.

 

Power Tools 101: Circular Saws.

 


Size and Blades.
The standard blade size for a corded circular saw is 7 1/4”, though there’s at least one 9 5/8” model. Cordless saws are generally smaller, and come in 5 3/8” and 6 1/2”. The choice is up to you- but make sure your hardware store carries blades in your size.
    There are several kinds of blades for cutting wood- ripping, plywood, combination blades, as well as blades for masonry and metal.

Motors and Power. There are two basic models of circular saws: helical drive- with the motor parallel to the blade, and worm drive- with the motor perpendicular and behind the blade. Helical drive models are by far the most popular, but the slower speeds of a worm drive means more torque. This feature is useful on contractor-grade tools, but doesn’t justify to price for the average homeowner or occasional user.
    Look for a circular saw that draws 13 to 15 amps and has at least 1 horsepower. Cordless models should require at least 18 volts. Check for a heavy duty cord that at least 8 feet, and use heavy duty extension cord that’s no longer than necessary.

worm drive
  
helical drive

Beveling. If a particular saw can’t bevel to at least 45°, don’t buy it. There’s one for the same price that can. Check the bevel gauge and the ease of setting and accuracy at 0°. Look for bevel adjustment via a lever rather than a bolt or screw, with an easy-to-read scale.

Cutting Depth. For maximum safety, a circular saw blade should only extend 1/8” below the material. Check the depth adjustment for accuracy, ease of location, and ease of operation. Again, an easy open lever is preferred, and a depth scale (usually altered to include the extra 1/8-1/4”. Look at the blade guard: does it move easily in light of the depth of cut?

Feel and weight.
If you don’t feel you can safely operate the saw with one hand, look for another one. Look for a reasonable weight, and soft but no-slip handle. Is the power switch in convenient location? Can you operate the saw without hitting any adjustment levers.

Cutting Straight.
Look for a saw with a good sight to viewing the cutline from above – both the pencil line and the saw’s kerf.
 Unless you have a freakish ability to cut perfectly straight with a circular saw (if you do, don’t tell your friends or co-workers, cause you’ll be doing it all day long), it’s important to use a straightedge or fence to guarantee the best quality of cut. For short cuts into dimensional lumber, a speedsquare is choice The factory edge of a piece of 3/4” plywood or MDF clamp on does well. There are clamp on straightedges available, and as well as fence and carriage systems. These are a great investment if there’s no table saw in your future.


Circular saws are a terrific investment for portable projects- like building a tree house or deck- and will still find uses in your home- breaking down large sheet goods (plywood, MDF, hardboard), cutting through drywall and studs,  or laying a subfloor. As always, safety is key, so always were safety glasses, ear protection, and gloves (dust mask recommended). Except for the most rudimentary of tasks, a blade upgrade is highly recommended, but even then, $125 USD will really get you cutting.

 

[Images from northerntool.com;  amazon.com; waterfordhire.com]

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Make a Paper Towel Dispenser for Your Workspace or Craftroom.

by Chris Gardner

I've eliminated wasteful use of paper towels in nearly every aspect of my life- except in a few instances when working on projects...if anyone has a better way to clean up oil-based stains or epoxy spills, please let me know.

So, one the rare occassions that they're necessary, they might as well look sharp and be available, so I built this paper towel dispenser. I used wood from my scrap bin, so it didn't cost me anything, but it could definately be built for under $12.

Make a Paper Towel Dispenser for Your Workspace or Craftroom.

Materials
    1/2” plywood (2’x4’ is more than enough)
    3/16” hardboard 6”x14”
    1” dowel, at least 27” in length
    Wood glue
    Several bar clamps
    8 3/4” screws
    1” Spade bit
    Jigsaw or bandsaw
    Electric drill
    Sandpaper or electric sander
    Table saw or circular saw (optional)
    Dado blade or router and 1/2” strait bit (optional)
   
1. Cut, or have cut, your plywood to the following sizes. Save excess to make dividers, if desired. I used a scrap piece of white oak, which is a total mystery to me, because oak doesn’t particularly suit my tastes, and I have no idea how it ended up in my sheetgoods storage.

    6x22” (x2)
    4 1/2 x 6” (x4)
    1/2 x 14” (x2)


2. Optional steps:
A. If you have the capability and the desire, run a 1/2” rabbet, 1/4” deep, on the short sides of the face pieces, those 3 1/2” x 14”. If you’d like to make divider shelves, cut a 1/2” dado at equal intervals for the joint (mine were 5 and 4” from the ends). 
B. If you want to recess the hardboard shelf, cut a 3/16” groove (two passes with the table saw (well, a pass and a half-kerf pass) 3 1/2” down on the back of all the face pieces. You’ll then make the hardboard 6” x 13 1/2” to compensate.

3. To make the dowel brackets, drill a 1” hole with it’s center 1 1/4” from the top.  Mark cut lines on the outside edge to the top edge of the bracket.  Use a jigsaw or bandsaw (or even a handsaw) to cut along the lines.


4. Assembly. Glue the four dowel brackets to the inside of the long pieces (see photo). Attach with (2) 3/4” screws. Attach the shelf 3 1/2” from the top, and glue on the face pieces. Insert any dividers, glue, clamp, and allow to dry.

5. Cut the 1” dowel to (2) 13” lengths.

6. Sand the edges to a fine grit, and stain as you please. Be sure to stain the dowels as well.

7. Add the paper towel rolls (which you’ll use sparingly) and fill the top caddy.

8. To hang from the wall, use some heavy duty picture hangers or a cleat system for portability.

 

**Note: My amiga built a similar project, from which I was inspired. She said she built it a few years ago with plans from a magazine, but no longer has the information. If anyone has a reference, please let me know so I can cite it. Cheers.
 

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Power Tools 101: The Cordless Drill/Driver

by Chris Gardner

No matter which sort of DIY projects are your forte, eventually you’ll need to drill a hole in them and screw them to something else. Enter the Cordless Drill/Driver, the telltale trophy of the true Do-It-Yourselfer, and most people’s entrance into the world of power tools.

Power Tools 101: The Cordless Drill/Driver

    When looking to purchase your first drill, or when updating or augmenting an old standby, the number one rule is to buy what you need, or what you think you might need...

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Power Tools 101: The Right Tool for the Job.

by Chris Gardner

Types of Power Tools. Some say there are two basic groups of power tools: professional and homeowner. It’s more helpful to think of power tools in four categories: light use, DIY, contractor, and high-end. Of course, there’s plenty of overlap, and no particular manufacturer makes tools in only one category.

 

Power Tools 101: The Right Tool for the Job.

 

    • Light use tools are those designed for light-duty, occasional use around the home: assembling furniture, hanging blinds or artwork, minor...

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