How to Cut a 2×4 with a Circular Saw


Circular saw and 2x4 on woodshop work bench large

Many people need to know how to cut 2×4’s with a circular saw and don’t know how. I’ve cut many 2×4’s in my day, so I want to show you how to use a circular saw to cut a 2×4. It is really easy, so don’t worry!

How to cut a 2×4 with a circular saw:

  1. Mark your cutline  on the 2×4.
  2. Unplug your circular saw.
  3. Set the blade angle and depth properly.
  4. Properly support the 2×4 to not bind the blade.
  5. Take proper safety precautions.
  6. Plug the saw back in.
  7. Pull the trigger, follow your cutline, and don’t go too fast.

There’s a few different ways to accomplish these steps, so let’s dive into some detail about actually using your circular saw.

What Type of Cut on a 2×4 with a Circular Saw

The first step to cutting a 2×4 with your circular saw is knowing what type of cut that you want to make. You can cross cut, miter cut, rip cut, bevel cut, compound miter cut, plunge cut, dado cut, and groove cut your 2×4.

If this seems overwhelming, don’t worry because it’s not. It’s actually really simple, and I’ll walk you through each type of cut below.

Also, don’t worry too much about what blade to use. Most will cut a 2×4 just fine. Some blades just give either a smoother or a rougher cut.

Supporting Your 2×4 For Cutting With a Circular Saw

Before getting into cutting, I just want to give you a few safety tips. Supporting your 2×4 properly before you make your cut is very important. This will help you make a good cut and keep you safe.

If your working on a table and you just need to cut off a little bit from your 2×4, then dangle the short side of your 2×4 off of the side of the table.

If you need to cut your 2×4 in half, make sure your 2×4 is clamped down to your table, because it’ll want to move when you make your cut.

If you’re wondering how to use a circular saw without a table, then you have a few options. Sawhorses are usually a good option if you are on the go. You can set them up really quickly and they’re really sturdy.

Make sure to put them both on the long side of the 2×4 when you cut. If you put a sawhorse on each side of your cutline, bad things will happen. When you finish your cut, not only will your wood bind your saw blade and kickback, each side of your 2×4’s will collapse down in the middle and you might end up cutting yourself, and that would suck.

If you don’t have access to a table or sawhorses, you’re still in luck. Mother earth is always available! You can either use something stable to prop up the long side of the 2×4 with, or you can use your foot! This isn’t recommended, but sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

How to Cross Cut a 2×4 with a Circular Saw

The most common type up cut with a circular saw is probably the cross cut. A cross cut is simply cutting across the grain of the 2×4. Let’s say that you need a 2×4 that is 60 inches long. This would be a cross cut. Take one end of your tape measure and put it on the end of your 2×4. Pull your tape measure along the wood until you are a little past 60 inches and make 2 marks on the wood.

Now, take something with a straight edge and draw a line across your 2 marks so you have a complete cutline. I like to use either a combination square or a rafter square for this. As the old saying goes, measure twice and cut once! This will help you to avoid wasting your lumber. Wood is expensive and no one likes wasting money.

So you have your 2×4 with your cutline drawn and now it’s time to cut, right? Wrong. Before cutting the 2×4, you need to make sure that your circular saw is set up correctly.

You basically want to make sure that your circular saw is cutting at the right angle and the blade is going all the way through the wood. Unplug your saw and adjust your saw’s bevel and depth settings by loosening the levers or knobs. Make the change, and tighten everything back down.

This may vary depending on your project and your circular saws manufacturers, so make sure to have a good plan for your project and keep your manual.

In general, a good rule of thumb is that you want to make sure that the blade depth is going through your 2×4 by about a quarter of an inch. Having it go too far through could result in you cutting something that you don’t want to.

Now that you know where to cut and your 2×4 is properly supported, plug your circular saw back in.

Make one final check to make sure that the wood is going to be the only thing that gets cut. This includes making sure that your electrical cord (If your saw plugs in and doesn’t have a battery) is out of the way, and won’t move into harm’s way during the cut. Proper safety precautions are always recommended (Safety glasses, hearing protection, respirator/dust collector).

Pull the trigger and slowly push the saw through the 2×4. After making a few cross cuts with your circular saw, you won’t think twice about how to cut 2×4’s. It will just be natural.

How to Miter Cut a 2×4 with a Circular Saw

A miter cut is just a fancy way of saying cutting on an angle. If you need to miter cut your 2×4, then the process is pretty simple as well. You just figure out what angle you need to cut, mark your cutline, and cut along the angled line.

It might be a little more difficult than cross cutting the 2×4 because the saw might want to drift at the start of the cut. This is normal because your not going straight at the 2×4 with your circular saw.

How to Rip Cut a 2×4 with a Circular Saw

A rip cut is when you cut along the grain, which is kind of tricky with a circular saw. Ripping a 2×4 is the same process as most other cuts with your circular saw but longer. Just draw your cutline and follow it as you cut.

The challenge with using a circular saw to rip you 2×4 is that the lumber isn’t too wide, so your saw might wobble and move on an angle. This results in your cut not being perfect. It’s also a little tricky supporting your 2×4 properly.

Using a table saw is much easier for ripping 2×4’s and other lumber, but if you don’t own one, don’t worry. There are awesome guides that you can buy like this one to help keep your circular saw straight. If you don’t have access to a table saw, and don’t want to buy a guide, you can build yourself a little table saw with your circular saw. This might make things easier on yourself. I’d definitely build a little table saw if I needed to rip a lot of 2×4’s.

How to Bevel Cut a 2×4 with a Circular Saw

Making a bevel cut with a circular saw is just like every other cut. The only difference is before you make your cut, you adjust the angle of your base plate. First, unplug your saw. Then loosen your circular saw’s bevel adjustment knob or lever. Each saw manufacturer’s knob or lever is in a different place, but you should be able to find it. Once you have your angle properly set, tighten up the knob or lever that you loosened. Plug your saw back in and mark your 2×4 with your desired cutline. Finally, just pull the trigger and follow your cutline.

How to Compound Miter Cut a 2×4 with a Circular Saw

Making a compound miter cut sounds way harder than it actually is. It’s just a bevel cut and and angle cut at the same time. Don’t let these fancy words scare you!

Adjust your saw’s bevel angle and mark your angled cutline on your 2×4. Compound miter cuts are common in crown molding and other more advanced projects.

Also, sometimes it can get confusing keeping your angles and cuts in order, so make sure you’re making the proper cuts on the proper pieces at the proper angles.

How to Plunge Cut a 2×4 with a Circular Saw

If you need to cut a rectangular hole out of your 2×4, then the plunge cut is the way to go. A plunge cut is when you enter the wood from the top, rather than the side. First, mark your cutlines on your 2×4. Then line up your saw above your first cut line with the front of the saw’s base plate resting on the wood. Pull back your blade guard and make sure the blade is hovering over the wood and not touching it.

Press the trigger and get the saw blade up to speed. Slowly lower the back of the saw down and let the blade sink into the wood. Once your saw is level, move forward along your cutline the same way you would when you rip cut a 2×4. Repeat the process on the other side so you have 2 parallel cutlines.

Also, make sure you start out a little forward on your cutline because you have to account for the rear of the blade.

How to Dado Cut a 2×4 with a Circular Saw

A dado is basically just a little groove or notch that’s cut across the grain of the wood. They’re used for a ton of things, but mostly for joints and shelves. To cut a dado into a 2×4, start by drawing your cutlines.

Optionally, setup guides along both sides to make sure your saw doesn’t travel outside of your cutlines. If you can freehand it, bravo! Now set your desired blade depth and make sure you’re blade isn’t going to cut through your material.

Take the saw and cut on the inside of your cutlines. Now, make a few more passes and remove the material on the inside of the 2 outer cutlines. You can use a chisel to clean up any remaining material that the blade didn’t get.

How to Groove Cut a 2×4 with a Circular Saw

A groove cut is just like the dado cut from above, but instead of cutting across the grain, the circular saw cuts along the grain.

The easiest way is to freehand the cut without the use of guides along the side. Just mark your cut lines and make a bunch of cuts with your circular saw. If your cut needs to be perfect then you’d want to use guides.

Using guides is a little trickier because the 2×4 is only 3.5 inches wide, and you have to get creative on how to clamp down your guides. Adding lumber to the sides of the 2×4 that your trying to cut gives you a wider base.

Clamp your guides to the extra lumber on the sides and make your cuts, just like the dado. Using the guides takes more time to set up, but your cutlines on your 2×4 will probably end up more straight.

Can I Cut Curves With a Circular Saw?

Yes, but make sure your curve is very gradual. If it’s too severe, you won’t be able to turn your saw to make the proper cut. Also,your saw blade could bind and get pinched as well. If your curve is gradual and you end up making the cut, they might be pretty rough. That’s just fun. Just give them a little TLC when you begin sanding.

I like to make things easier by using either a jigsaw or bandsaw to cut curves. I’m able to cut much tighter curves and have a lot more control with these two other saws versus a circular saw.

Circular saws can cut many types of wood, from dimensional lumber to big plywood sheets. This is what makes them a very versatile tool that every craftsman should have. Cutting curves is probably the worst aspect of using a circular saw to cut a 2×4.

Why You May Not Want to Use a Circular Saw

Using a circular saw to cut a 2×4 is totally normal, but there may be reasons why you would want to stay away.

Some people are intimidated by power tools and are even scared to pick them up. That’s totally fine. Being hurt by rotating saw blades or flying debris isn’t too much fun. I have been victim of this myself and can understand where they’re coming from.

If you’re reading this far, I think it’s safe to say that you have or your going to take the plunge (No pun intended, but I find it rather funny), so kudos to you!

As I mentioned before, there are tons of different tools that you can use to cut a 2×4. You could use a hand saw, jig saw, table saw, miter saw (AKA Chop box), etc… I like to use a miter saw/chop box myself, but it all depends on where I’m working and what tools are close by.

The 2×4 Cutting with a Circular Saw Conclusion

Well, hopefully I explained how to cut a 2×4 with a circular saw good enough for you to start feeling confident.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, type away in the section below!

Mark

I've been building things for many years, and I want to share what I've learned to try and help whoever I can. Make sure to checkout the homepage for my most read posts!

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