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I will be building some cabinet boxes and my table saw has a short span in the fence so I can't cut to final dimensions on it.

I've made some cuts before using a saw board guide and a circular saw, but I'm not really sure if that will be precise enough. Even more when I think that I will have to repeat the same cut many, many times.

Can it be done with a circular saw? I thought about buying a Makita Track Saw SP6000 (we don't get Festool in Brazil), but it is expensive and I don't know if the result would be much better apart from being faster.

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8 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

If you're making many similar cuts, it's often worth it to build a jig. Jigs will allow you to make many repeatable cuts, quickly and easily.

There are also loads of guides, slides, and jigs available off the shelf (or online anyway).

Also, don't forget to use the proper blade. You probably wouldn't want to make furniture with a 24 tooth blade, unless you don't care much about the cut quality. If you're cutting plywood or veneers, you'll want to use at least an 60 tooth blade.

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Whether you use a table saw or a circular saw, precision isn't based on the tool but on how you control the tool.

With a circular saw, as long as your measurements are precise, you can get precision, if you can control the saw well. To that end, a track saw is a GREAT help. It can ensure your long cuts on lines are perfect (if your line is perfect, of course).

So yes - you can do it. Just remember, measure thrice, cut once.

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That is good and all, but in cabinet making I rarely see people dialing in every measure when they have to repeat cuts. Normally they measure the first piece, set the fence, stop or whatever, check that it is fine and then just repeat the same cut over and over, without measuring again. My trouble is with that repeatability. If I say all my cross cuts will be 90 cm, can a circular saw (with some jig maybe) cut 20 pieces with the same exact size? –  Luiz Borges Sep 19 '13 at 13:56
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Then use a jig, as Tester pointed out. I answered the question in the context of the track saw you mentioned. If you use a jig, though, then you don't need the track saw. The jig takes its place. –  The Evil Greebo Sep 19 '13 at 14:29
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I have seen were people make their own oversized table saw by mounting a circular saw to the bottom of a piece of plywood. Personally I would use a piece of melamine for easy sliding. Put the plywood on some horses. Add a 2x4 frame to stop wrapping. Zip tie the trigger and use a powerstrip for power switch. Clamp or screw down a straight edge for a fence.

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I've seen this before, assuming that was very careful on checking squareness and parallelism of the blade and fence it might work okay. But a little bit scary if a kickback occurs. –  Luiz Borges Sep 21 '13 at 11:07
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Yes, a circular saw can be as accurate as a table/track saw. The only disadvantage is that it might be more time consuming to set it up for an accurate cut.

A guide/jig is crucial. You can easily build one, or buy one.

Hand-held circular saws also often come with coarser blades, so you might want to buy an aftermarket blade with more teeth, to prevent chipping on the bottom.

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You want a panel saw:

enter image description here

Some are dedicated saws designed for the rig itself. Others are the rig that you can attach your own saw to.

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I have lots of experience making precision-cuts on sheet-goods with crappy tools, and tools which seem inadequate to others. It has always been impossible for me to hand-guide my trusty old SkilSaw - other than for rough carpentry work to anything below + or - 1/16".

Yes! You can use a circular saw for high-precision work, but I have found the fancy jigs AND REQUIRED saws (Festool and all) much too expensive for me.

For a good straight line, you can [usually] use the factory-edge of a sheet of plywood as an effective straightedge. Caution: You cannot always trust the factory edge to be straight, so you'd better check it to be true, or capable of straightening up the edge by hand!!. If you measure off the blade and set your marks carefully, you can clamp (or screw through both pieces if you can afford to have little holes in the Work) the guide-board to the piece being cut and slide the edge of the saw base along the straightedge.

One caveat is that the saw blade and the saw base must be in excellent alignment; if a problem, you can add an auxiliary fence to the saw-base out of wood and sand or plane it to perfect alignment.

Something better I have found, and certainly faster - if your project involves identical parts to be cut - is carefully making full-sized patterns out of 3/4 ply or MDF and then rough-cut the pieces to be produced oversize. I cut all the pattern edges with a straightedge and router. Then screw or clamp the pattern to the work and use a router with a pattern-cutting bit and trim off all of the waste around the whole piece. Once the Pattern is good, this method is VERY FAST. Good Luck!

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Twin Portable Table Saws

Sounds like you have a portable tablesaw. If you like your particular model, buy a second one, then clamp or bolt them together side by side for big stock. Leave them separate to have two setups available at the same time (e.g. two different blades or two cuts), or leave the second one set up as a router table. The two table saws do not need to be same make/model for this, and the second one could be bought used with a burnt out motor or cracked base.

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Table Saw Sled

For an undersized single tablesaw method, the panels can be cut to their approx final size, then cut to final size using a large home-made sled that tracks in the two miter-gauge slots of the tablesaw's table, or that tracks along the outer sides of the tablesaw's table.

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