How to Cut 2x4s with a Circular Saw

How to Cut 2x4s with a Circular Saw

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When it comes to the lumber you need to build virtually anything and everything, the 2×4 is always going to have its uses. These boards are used for roofing, flooring, building walls, frames, sheds, and so much more. These strong pieces of wood are very versatile in nature.

That said, they don’t always come cut to the size that you need, which means that you need to cut them yourself. When it comes to cutting 2x4s, one of the best tools to use is the circular saw. With that, let’s cover everything you need to know about cutting this type of boards with a circular saw.

Is Circular Saw the Best Tool for Cutting 2x4s?

If you are wondering what the best tool for cutting 2x4s is, then yes, the circular saw is definitely the best choice to consider. That large and circular blade moves at extremely high speeds, thus making quick work out of virtually anything you put in front of it. What is also worth noting is that circular saws can be outfitted with a variety of blade types, some of which are best for softwood, some for hardwood, and some for engineered wood too.

Due to the size, shape, and fast-moving nature of the circular saw, it is best used for making crosscuts (widthwise). You can make a cross-cut through a 2×4 using a circular saw in one second or less. That said, a circular saw can also be used to make rip cuts (lengthwise) through 2x4s, although this is admittedly a bit harder than doing crosscuts. A large table saw might be better for this task, especially if you need to cut a lot of 2x4s.

On that same note, if you don’t have a circular saw on hand, using a miter saw is always a good option, and yes, the aforementioned table saw as well. However, let’s keep in mind that miter saws are not overly portable, and they require you to lay the wood onto the integrated worktable to cut it. Table saws also require you to place the workpiece onto the integrated table, and unless you get a benchtop model (which is not ideal for large stock), it’s not going to be very portable either.

Circular saws are small, lightweight, and portable, yet large and powerful enough to handle 2x4s with ease, and as you will find out further below, unlike most other saws, they can handle multiple 2x4s at once.

Circular Saw

How to Cut a 2×4 with a Circular Saw

Now that you know that the circular saw is generally the best tool for cutting 2x4s, whether for rip cuts or crosscuts, let’s figure out how to actually do it.

Step 1: Inspect the Saw

The first thing that you should do no matter the task at hand is to inspect your circular saw to see that it is in working condition. Make sure that the lower blade guard, the wiring, and the blade are all in good condition. The blade guard is crucial for your safety, and having a sharp blade that is not damaged or warped is also crucial to being able to make a straight cut.

Step 2: Set the Blade Depth

In order to cut 2x4s, you need to set the blade at the proper depth. When cutting a 2×4, you want to have the longer side resting on a bench or table (the side that is 4 inches), so your blade only needs to make a cut 2inches deep.

As a rule of thumb, to ensure that the blade is set deep enough to make the cut, but also so that it does not protrude out too far past the workpiece, you want to set the blade at 1/4-inch deeper than the cut being made. Therefore, for this purpose, set the circular saw blade to a bit less than 2-1/4 inches since 2x4s are usually worked down to a slightly smaller dimensions.

Step 3: Support the Wood

Seeing as a circular saw does not have its own table, you need to support the wood. Therefore, place the wood on a sawhorse or workbench. You want the part that is being cut off to protrude past the surface (so you don’t cut into the bench, sawhorse, or table). On the other side of the 2×4, the side that is not being cut, you need to support it.

Now, many people are going to tell you that you want to clamp it down for maximum safety. Yes, this is an option, although you can always just use your free hand to hold it down as well. Just make sure to apply plenty of pressure if you are holding the 2×4 down manually.

Step 4: Measure, Mark, & Make the Cut

Now, take your ruler and measure the amount that needs to be cut off. You may also want to use a T-square to make sure that you are cutting a perfect 90-degree angle. We assume you aren’t cutting an angle here so that T-square will come in handy.

Once you have used a pencil to mark the line, you can then make your cut.

First, start up the circular saw and get it up to full speed, then pass it through the wood in one steady motion.

You have now cut a 2×4 with a circular saw.

Cutting 2x4 with a Circular Saw

Can You Use a Circular Saw to Cut Multiple 2x4s at Once?

Yes, you can cut multiple 2x4s at once using a circular saw. However, keep in mind that they need to be beside each other, not on top of each other. Just like you put a single 2×4 on a table or bench, do so with multiple 2x4s.

Simply place them so they are all perfectly lined up, thus allowing you to make multiple cuts with one straight motion.

When doing this, it is hard to hold down all of the 2x4s manually, so clamping down the individual boards to the table or bench is strongly recommended. If all of your marks are perfectly lined up, you can start the saw, get it up to full speed, and pass it through all of the 2x4s with a single sweep.

Can You Use a Circular Saw to Do Miter and Bevel Cuts on 2x4s?

Miter cuts and bevel cuts are doable with a circular saw, although they are not the same type of cut. A miter cut is simply an angled crosscut. Instead of doing a 90-degree cut, you might be doing a 45-degree cut. For this, you don’t have to adjust the blade itself. Just make your mark using a pencil and the appropriate measuring tools to make sure that you achieve the right angle. Then, make the angled miter cut just like you would a normal crosscut.

For a bevel cut, you do have to adjust the angle of the blade. If you need a 45-degree bevel, adjust the saw blade to a 45-degree angle, then make the cut as you otherwise would.

Safety When Cutting 2x4s with a Circular Saw

Below are a few safety tips you should keep in mind when working on this task:

  • Always use proper safety equipment, which includes safety goggles, a mask, and ear protection
  • Make sure to check that your saw is in working order before you start
  • Make sure that you hold the saw properly
  • Always use the proper blade depth for the cut in question
  • Only use blades that are sharp and in good condition
  • Never try to cut more than your arms can reach
  • Always keep live electrical cords out of the way

To learn more about the security precautions to take, read this article.

Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks

Lastly, here are some more tips to make your job easier:

  • Using the right blade for the job at hand is key; you don’t use the same blade for softwood as for hardwood, for example
  • If you are a beginner, using clamps as opposed to manually holding the piece down is recommended
  • When doing miter and bevel cuts, always use the appropriate measuring tools to make sure that you get the angle right
  • Always make sure the blade is running at full speed before making a cut

Summary

As you can see, a circular saw is a very versatile tool for cutting 2x4s. You can make rip cuts, crosscuts, bevel cuts, and miter cuts.

As long as you follow the tips outlined above, you shouldn’t have any issues.