A circular saw is not the most common tool for ripping a 2x4.
However, it is definitely possible to rip a 2x4 with a circular saw by following a few simple steps.
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Video Instructions for Ripping the 2x4 with a Circular Saw
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Things You Need
- Circular Saw with rip fence
- 2x4 lumber
- Sacrificial sheet (plywood, MDF or similar)
- 2 quick grip clamps
Step-by-Step Guide to Ripping a 2x4 with a Circular Saw
In this section, I'll show you how to use a circular saw for ripping a 2x4 in a step-by-step manner.
The first step is to set the 2x4 firmly in place. What you need is a sacrificial sheet of plywood or MDF that you can put under the 2x4.
Place the sacrificial sheet on your work table and place the 2x4 on top.
Now you need to clamp the 2x4 on your work table at the one end of the 2x4 and at the middle of the 2x4.
You need two clamps for this job.
Quick grip clamps are excellent for this purpose.
Now that the 2x4 is clamped in position, you need to prepare the circular saw for cutting.
Next, set the blade height on the circular saw.
The blade height needs to be set such that it should touch the sacrificial sheet under it.
This means a height of slightly more than 1.5".
What you want is the blade to be deep enough to make a through cut (in the 2x4) while also slightly grazing the sacrificial sheet.
Set the circular saw on the 2x4 and check the blade height visually to set it.
Once you are done setting the blade height, lock the blade in place on the circular saw.
Next, you need to set the ripping width. This depends on the width you need.
The most common requirement is to make a 2x2 from 2x4, so I'll talk about that.
To get a 2x2 from the 2x4, you need to set the width of ripping at the exact midpoint of the 2x4.
measure the mid-point of the 2x4 using a tape and mark it on the 2x4 using a pencil or pen.
Make sure the line is marked at the end of the 2x4, at the point from which you'll start the ripping.
If you need another size and not a 2x2, then adjust the ripping width accordingly, the rest of the process remains the same.
Next, you need to set the rip fence such that the blade of the circular saw sits just outside the line you marked on the 2x4.
The blade should be placed outside the line.
Depending on the thickness (kerf) of your blade, you will experience some kerf loss.
Kerf loss is the wood that is lost during the cutting and that increases with an increase in blade thickness.
So you need the kerf of the blade to be just outside the line so that you get a correctly sized 2x2 piece even after the kerf loss.
Note that the other piece would be a bit less than a 2x2.
Lock the rip fence in place, and now you're ready to do the ripping.
If your circular saw didn't come with a rip fence, make a straight edge instead and use that to guide your saw.
With the 2x4 firmly clamped on the table and the rip fence pressing against the side of the 2x4, turn on the circular saw and move it along the 2x4.
Now, make sure that the rip fence stays pressed firmly against the 2x4.
The rip fence pressing against the 2x4 is what determines the accuracy of this cut.
Now, as you cut along the 2x4 you'll reach a point where the saw is about to meet the clamp.
At this point, you need to turn off the circular saw and remove the clamp in the middle of the 2x4, and re-clamp it at the end from which you started ripping the 2x4.
Note that you should only turn the circular saw off, and you shouldn't pull it out of the 2x4.
If you pull the circular saw out, it might be too difficult to put it back again to resume the ripping.
Once the 2x4 is firmly clamped at both ends, continue the ripping until you reach the other end of the 2x4.
At this point, you need to repeat what you did earlier and turn off the circular saw.
Take off the clamp at the end that's blocking your circular saw and clamp it at the middle of the 2x4.
Once this is done, resume the ripping until you complete ripping the 2x4.
So with that, you have completed ripping a 2x4 successfully with a circular saw.
Now, a circular saw is not the most ideal tool for ripping a 2x4 and should be done only if you don't have a table saw.
Tips to Improve Accuracy While Ripping
To improve accuracy while ripping the 2x4, these tips will help:
- Choose the right circular saw blade:
- Typically ripping blades have fewer teeth (10 to 30) and are designed to cut through a large amount of material quickly along the grain of the wood.
- The best blade for ripping wood (or 2x4) using a circular saw would be a high-quality thin kerf blade like this-Thin Kerf Rip Blade.
- There are specific blades for some types of lumber. For e.g., it's ideal to use a blade designed to rip pressure-treated lumber if you are ripping pressure-treated wood. Like this one- Circular Saw Blade for Pressure Treated and Wet Lumber
- Use a circular saw guide: If you have a guide like the Kreg circular saw track, it could be much simpler to rip wood or rip sheets.
- Use a sharp blade: To ensure a clean cut without splintering, either sharpen your blade or use a new blade.
- Clamping: Use good clamps that have a strong grip and are easy to operate with one hand. Quick grip clamps like these are ideal- Quick-Grip Clamps.
Safety Tips while Ripping
- Use hearing protection: Consistent exposure to the sound from a circular saw can cause permanent damage to your ears. Use good quality ones like these- Hearing Protector.
- Use a dust mask: The dust from lumber can damage your lungs, especially if its treated lumber. Use a dust mask like this one for the safety of your lungs-Respirator Mask for Woodworking.
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