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I'm cutting dimensional lumber with a circular saw (a cheap 7.25" Ryobi I got at HD). I can't seem to ensure that the cut is vertical. Meaning, with the piece lying lengthwise while cutting, the cut should ideally be in a perfectly vertical plane, but turns out to be at least a few degrees off.

Is it typically hard to get this cut angle correct? I made sure that the bevel adjustment lever is set correctly, and the blade doesn't feel loose. I'm not sure whether it's because the saw is cheap or it's often hard to get right.

  • How close to the edge of the piece are you cutting? If you're only trimming of an inch or less, it can be easy to accidentally tilt the saw. If not making a small cut, are you supporting both sides of the cut? – JPhi1618 Dec 15 '15 at 20:04
  • No, I wasn't supporting both sides of the cut. I'll try that next in addition to some of the other suggestions. – user1071847 Dec 16 '15 at 14:11
  • I have the ryobi hand circular saw as well. I've used it for years, but it's often off a bit - correct using triangle often. I use a chop saw when I need to be exact. – ssaltman Dec 16 '15 at 20:13
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Despite what you might believe, those adjustment levers on most tools are not calibrated very well. Even on my table saw I regularly use a simple plastic 90-degree triangle to ensure my blade is aligned to the table. This is part of owning any tool and it's worth a few moments to verify everything is set up properly. A more expensive tool will simply buy you more time between calibrations but all tools should be checked with regular use.

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The issue may be a combination of flex in the saw blade and your technique. Modern framing blades in particular are very thin, and they tend to track with the wood grain. A cut path that weaves enhances this effect.

Try a stiffer blade, and make sure to keep your cut as straight as possible.

  • I was using a 40 tooth "finishing" blade. I'll try a 24-tooth blade next. – user1071847 Dec 16 '15 at 14:12
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You have to expect a certain amount of deviation when using low-cost tools. So some adjusting will be necessary. First check the plate to the blade angle (with the saws angle set to 90 degrees) with a square. The best way to execute a cut (rip or cross) is to make several passes, increasing the depth of each pass. I've found that if my saw blade is set at its' deepest cut and I'm hurrying it by pushing hard, the blade will deflect and run untrue.

  • Re checking the angle with a square, I did do that. It's not the easiest thing, insofar as there's not much distance along the blade (so a not-tiny angular deviation shows up but is very hard to see). Re the several passes idea, I'll try that. This is cross-cutting 1.5", so maybe that would make a difference. – user1071847 Dec 15 '15 at 20:44
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    @user1071847 Stick the blade out as far as it goes. Check for square to the plate, lock that adjustment. Then lower the blade to just a bit more than what you are cutting. – Ecnerwal Dec 15 '15 at 22:39
  • That's a great idea (extending the blade, checking for square, then retracting). – user1071847 Dec 16 '15 at 14:11
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Usually, there is a hard stop at 90 degrees. Make sure its against that stop. If you can't adjust it to square, I would return it.

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You're probably not doing anything wrong. Circular saws are used a lot for framing but those cuts don't need to be super precise. Someone who's very practiced with a circular saw might be able to make precise cuts but if you're not, it won't be easy.

With a miter saw or radial arm saw, it is easy. With a hand saw, it's pretty easy if you mark the cut nicely and follow your mark. With a circular saw, it's easy with a cutting guide. You can buy cutting guides for ripping sheets with a circular saw, but I don't know of any that will really help make cross cuts of small pieces nice and square. But, you could make one - there are lots of them out there, such as this one

enter image description here

which I found at this link.

  • The pieces I've cut so far don't have to be square on the end, but soon I'm going to be cutting quite a few that do need to be square. I did realize that making a jig might make my life a lot easier. Though my wife reminded me this morning that a family friend has a ton of tools, so perhaps I'll borrow a chop/mitre saw from him. – user1071847 Dec 16 '15 at 14:13

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