People like to act like you need a garage full of tools to do any projects that transform your home–but you don’t. Even the best woodworkers started with what they have.
You don’t need 14 different types of saws–you can cut pretty much any kind of wood and do almost any project with just a jigsaw OR a circular saw. Here’s how you can cut a straight line with a jigsaw or circular saw.
It’s so easy, you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it before.
- What’s a jigsaw and what does it do?
- What’s a circular saw and what does it do?
- Why you need a jig to make straight cuts
- What is a woodworking jig?
- How to Set Up a Jig for Straight Cuts
- How to cut multiple boards the same length
- Woodworking jig for angled cuts
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What’s a Jigsaw and What Does It Do?
If you don’t already have one of these tools, you might not know exactly what I’m talking about.
Jigsaws look like this:
Jigsaws are the most lightweight saw. You can easily carry this thing around–it’s not heavy and it’s not difficult to operate.
Jigsaws are also incredibly versatile, because they can be used to make straight cuts, angled cuts, or even curves. You can’t cut curves out of wood with anything other than a jigsaw.
What’s a Circular Saw and What Does it Do?
Circular saws look like this:
Circular saws have much larger blades than jigsaws, and are… shockingly… in the shape of a circle.
They are also easy to transport or carry around, and are just a little bigger than jigsaws. They can make straight cuts and angled cuts, but they can’t cut curves.
Having a circular saw makes it easier to make straight cuts, in my opinion. My circular saw is probably my favorite tool of all.
Is it better to use a bigger saw to cut a straight line?
Not really. Miter saws are commonly used for simple, straight cuts–but they’re typically more expensive than jigsaws and circular saws. They also take up more room than many other types of saws and are less versatile.
You can also use a table saw, but that takes up even more space and is significantly more costly than a miter saw.
If you already have a jigsaw OR a circular saw, you can make most beginner to medium woodworking projects happen.
Freehanding vs. Making a Jig for Perfectly Straight Cuts
EVEN THOUGH these power saws are meant to make smooth cuts–using them freehand is extremely difficult. Well, actually, it’s super easy to actually cut. It’s not super easy to make perfectly level, straight cuts.
With both a jigsaw and a circular saw, you’re physically pushing the tool on your wood. The likelihood that you, ya know, BREATHE, and your line ends up being crooked or wobbly is just about 100%.
Trust me. I tried.
Thankfully, the solution to PERFECTLY cut a straight line with a jigsaw or circular saw is extremely simple–you just make a free jig with some scrap wood and about 60 seconds.
What the heck is a woodworking jig?
In general, a woodworking jig is a set-up that allows you to easily cut or drill wood perfectly.
And jig is a fun word. And you can pretend it’s a technical term. 🙂
The woodworking jig I am about to show you to cut straight lines is totally DIY out of whatever you have laying around the house. But “jigs” are also tools–like a Kreg Jig, which is used for pocket holes.
Okay, now I’ll shut up and we’ll get to actually making the jig for your circular saw and jigsaw.
Supplies You Need for your Straight Jig
I know this supply list might look long–but don’t get overwhelmed. I’ve included some very optional items that I didn’t have for the first few years of DIYing. The rest of the items are very basic.
- Jig saw and/or circular saw: A circular saw with a laser is even better–this is the exact one I have and LOVE
- Two of any kind of clamp: Like wood clamps or bar clamps–just make sure they open wide enough to fit a few layers of wood–I personally prefer bar clamps
- Piece of scrap wood: Ideally long and thin
- Tape Measure
- Level: (optional, but can be used to make sure your scrap wood is straight)
- Speed square (optional, but does make the process easier)
- A place to cut and clamp wood: You can use any table or a sawhorse. I use two of these lightweight sawhorses and love them!
Now, if you’re like me, you have about a thousand random pieces of wood in your garage. The most ideal scrap piece is going to be very thin (so you can clamp it on top of your wood) and longer than the wood you are cutting.
If you’d rather just buy tools that set up a jig for you, here’s what you need:
However, this jig is completely free. If you’re on any kind of budget, I wouldn’t waste your money on a saw guide.
How to Set Up a Jig to Make Straight Cuts
This jig is simply a guide for your saw to lean against as it makes the cut. It will take a few minutes to make sure it’s placed correctly, but your payoff is a perfectly square cut.
Even though this is EXTREMELY easy to do, it’s a little confusing to describe. Feel free to comment your questions below or message me on Instagram.
Step 1: Mark Your Cut
If you don’t have a speed square–I didn’t start with one, either. Here’s a picture of me using JUST a tape measure to mark the spot.
Then, I clamp my wood to my sawhorse.
Make sure that your clamp isn’t too close to your cut line–you’ll need space for your saw to move down the line.
Step 2: Look at the Foot of Your Saw
Whether you are using a jigsaw or a circular saw, it has a foot on the bottom. This is where the actual saw sits on the wood as you cut.
With your tape measure, measure the distance from the edge of your saw foot to the actual blade.
Mine is exactly 1.5 inches.
This measurement is how far your scrap wood needs to be placed away from your cut line.
Step 3: Measure and Clamp Your Jig
Now, place your long, thin piece of scrap wood that distance (for me, 1.5 inches) away from your cut line.
I make SURE the line is even from top to bottom with my measuring tape. Before I start cutting I also sit my circular saw in the spot to make sure the blade hits my cut line PERFECTLY.
You know how they say “measure twice, cut once”? It’s one of those annoying sayings that is 1,000% accurate. I used to rush through these things and I always regretted it.
Now, clamp your scrap wood down.
Then do one last double-triple check that your scrap wood is the correct distance from the cut line. Sometimes as you clamp, the wood will shift juuust enough to piss you off. 😉
Don’t be surprised if you have to keep wiggling your wood back and forth in certain spots–that’s just how it goes. Take the 15 seconds to do it right, it’s worth it.
Step 4: Make Your Cut
Once your “jig” is all set up, you just need to place the edge of the foot against the scrap wood, turn your saw on, and BAM.
Your actually cut will probably take less than 30 seconds, and your wood will be cut PERFECTLY straight and square. It’s a beautiful thing.
Setting Up a Woodworking Jig for Angled Cuts
Now, what if you’re making an angled cut?
When you adjust your jig saw or circular saw to an angle, the foot stays the same, but the distance between the edge and the blade will change.
You’re going to use the exact same steps–but watch where your blade actually hits the wood.
If it’s your first time making an angle cut, do a test cut on a scrap piece of wood.
How do I cut multiple boards the same length?
With a lot of projects, you’ll need to cut the edges of your board so that a few pieces of wood are exactly the same length.
This is what I did for my rectangle shelf and desktop.
To do this, start by pushing your boards together and making them perfectly even on just one side. You’ll probably find that the other side is a little off–even if you bought the same length from the store. THAT is the side you’re going to cut.
Once your boards are pushed together and perfectly even on one end, use a bar clamp to tighten your boards together.
You’ll need a bar clamp wide enough to fit all of your boards.
At this point, you’ll follow the same steps listed above to cut a straight line with a jigsaw or circular saw.
It’s foolproof and it’s magic.
Questions about How to Cut a Straight Line with a Jigsaw/Circular Saw
Now, what questions do you have about cutting straight lines with your jigsaw or circular saw? What questions do you have about using your saw?
Comment below, join the Facebook group, or message me on IG. I love to hear from you!