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An ad from Simpson Strong Tie for various materials has a brief shot of a guy cutting a post with a circular /"skil" saw. Note: that's his arm / hand in bottom center holding the saw by brute strength and creating the "level" cut by pure eye/skill.

It looks no more accurate or professional than what i'd do [and have done] in a pinch with no time to spare. I'd like a more reliable higher quality result but without additional specialized equipment most preferably. Any tips?

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2 Answers 2

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Draw a perpendicular line on 3 sides. (Edit to reflect comments: if you prefer a level cut, use a level to draw 4 lines around the post. In practice, the difference between level and perpendicular will be negligible. A level cut could be helpful if you're putting a level board on top of the post.)

Figure out the offset from blade to edge of your circular saw shoe. (Pick a side -- it isn't critical, though I'd opt for the longer of the two.)

Clamp a longish (width of post plus 20") piece of straight wood, parallel to your line and offset down by the number you measured.

Check that your circular saw blade is deep enough (1/2 the post plus a bit) and 90 degrees to the shoe.

Cut.

Repeat on the other side. If the post is 6x6 and you've got a normal saw, cut two more times, then pull out the reciprocating saw.

Don't forget eye and breathing protection as well as being safely positioned while cutting.

I've occasionally thought about building a fancy 4 sided jig with threaded rod that acted as a collar, but I'd have to be doing hundreds of these in a row to justify the jig.

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  • makes total sense. i should do similar for ANY circular saw cuts including vertical standard. They are as ragged as can be otherwise Commented May 12, 2023 at 22:10
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    UV on this answer: make a fence (board) to guide the saw, use a level to correctly place the fence. Commented May 12, 2023 at 22:20
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    The problem with using a level to set the fence is the possibility that if the post is out of plumb, you'd get a non-square top. In a perfectly plumb world, I agree completely. Commented May 12, 2023 at 22:27
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    A counter argument is that i'd actually like to have the top of the post be level anyways even if that means cutting off an additional 1/8 inch on one side/corner Commented May 12, 2023 at 22:49
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    If you mark a level line on a non-plumb post, you're going to need to adjust your circular saw to be just the correct amount off square for each side cut to match the non-square-to-the-post lines, or you'll get a wonky non-flat cut.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented May 13, 2023 at 2:29
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I'd like a more reliable higher quality result but without additional specialized equipment

Buy a post, set it up, mark near the top, cut off, examine cut, mark a bit lower, repeat.

You've probably heard the term "practice makes perfect" but like many people, you may never have applied it. Burn through a few posts and you'll be a lot better at cutting them off with the equipment you have.

You might also want to check that your saw is correctly adjusted to cut square to the plate.

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  • This particular exercise is one that does not improve for me on its own to an acceptable point. I'll likely be taking the fences suggestions. Your approach is what I used at the conceptual level for concrete work - to hone in on effective approaches. Commented May 13, 2023 at 5:44
  • It doesn't work "on a conceptual level" - it's actually physically doing the thing, repeatedly, that builds the skills and muscle memory that make it work. How many cuts did you actually make before deciding that it doesn't improve? Visualization/mental rehearsal can help some tasks, but it's no replacement for actual practice.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented May 13, 2023 at 16:23

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