Control is all-important when using any power saw. Avoid freehand cuts. Whenever possible, use the saw’s guides; otherwise make a wooden guide or jig.
Always use a sharp blade; a dull one cuts slowly, puts stress on the saw’s motor, and increases the danger of accidents. Tighten all nuts, bolts, and screws regularly, and clean away accumulated sawdust.
Never depend on a built-in gauge to set an angle; use it for a rough setting, then cut pieces of scrap wood to fund the exact setting.
A portable circular saw cuts up-ward. The teeth of the blade can splinter wood as they emerge; for a neat cut, mark cutting lines on the back of a piece and clamp the piece facedown. Use a square to check that the guide plate is square with the blade; check that the blade doesn’t wobble.
For a crosscutting guide, nail or clamp a straight piece of wood parallel to the cutting line on the part to be saved. To make a long guide for rip-ping (sawing a board lengthwise), cut strips 8 inches and 15 inches wide from plywood, particle board, or hard-board. Cut the narrow strip first to include a factory-cut edge; nail or glue it atop the wide strip, with the freshly cut edges flush. Then, using the factory-cut edge as a guide, saw the lower piece to exact width.
To use the finished guide, align its single-thickness edge with the cutting line and guide the saw along the factory-cut edge of the narrow strip.
A saber saw cuts only on the upward stroke. Never force the saw to go faster than it can easily cut. Choose the right blade for the job: the narrower the blade, the tighter the curve it can make; the closer the teeth, the finger and slower the cut.
You can seldom use a guide when cutting curves. Clamp the work good side down and make sure that the blade has clearance underneath; you may have to reposition the work several times. Stand directly over the work with eyes focused on the line just ahead of the blade.
A table saw cuts downward; position the work face up. Raise the blade so that only two teeth protrude above the surface of the wood. Always feed the wood against the rotation of the blade so that the teeth are coming toward you. Have a helper support the weight of a large piece that overhangs the table. Use the saw’s ripping fence when cutting along the wood grain; use the miter gauge when crosscutting. Never use both at the same time.
When cutting narrow or thin stock, use featherboards; push the stock through with a push stick. To make a featherboard, rip 10-inch slots ¼ inch apart in the end of a 1 x 6; then cut the slotted end at a 60-degree angle. Clamp a featherboard to the saw table or to the ripping fence, with the mitered end holding the wood.
If you must hold a piece of wood up-right as you pass it over the blade, bolt a wide extension board to the fence or to the guide for support. For greatest precision, as when cutting a tenon on the end of a piece, design a jig into which the piece will fit and pass the entire assembly over the blade.
A radial-arm saw also cuts downward. It is potentially the most dangerous tool in any shop. Before you turn it on, double-check all of its adjustments; make sure that the tension knob on the side of the arm is tight enough so that vibration won’t cause the saw to “walk” toward you.
When crosscutting, hold the work firmly against the fence and pull the saw across it: to cut several pieces the same length, clamp a block of wood to the fence as a jig. Use a featherboard when ripping; have a helper guide the wood after it passes the blade.