Saw guide is the great equalizer

I wanted to call this blog, “My favorite jig ever,” cuz it is, but Google doesn’t like vague titles so I called it out by name. Anyway, here’s why this jig sits at the pinnacle of Mt. Awesome.

Woodworking can be an intimidating hobby, and one of the big hurdles is the tablesaw. It takes some cash and space to have one, and a lot of know-how to operate it safely.

OK, so imagine being able to do most everything a tablesaw can do with the circ saw you probably already own and a simple guide made from two pieces of MDF or plywood? Believe it. This shop helper is known by all sorts of names, but I just call it a saw guide.

Here’s the deal. If you want to do better than a rough cut along a pencil or chalk line, you can always just clamp down some sort of straight edge to guide your circular saw. That works OK, but it requires some fussy measuring and alignment to offset the fence each time so the blade ends up right on your layout marks. This saw guide solves all that and more.

You just screw or nail a low fence to a thin base, and then run the saw along that fence to trim the edge of the base. Magic! Now the base will show you exactly where the saw will cut every time you use the guide. What’s more, that zero-clearance edge stops chips and splinters from lifting upward and leaves a clean edge on your workpiece.

Make the guide from 2×4-ft. pieces of MDF, which are easy to find at the home center and easy to transport home. That will create a 4-ft. guide, long enough to handle almost everything you’ll throw at it.

So you just plunk the saw guide down on your pencil marks, and the saw makes a perfect cut right there. If you are careful with your measuring and marking, and you have a circular saw with a halfway flat base that won’t rock much, you can get cuts as good as a tablesaw can make, in any direction, on any type of wood. Everyone needs this jig!

Here’s how to make a saw guide:

First you need to measure from the blade to the edge of the base on your circular saw. You’ll need to cut the base of the saw guide wide enough so that the saw will trim off a little bit.
Thin 1/4 in. MDF works awesome for the base. You’ll notice I like to use rigid foam insulation to support plywood cuts. You can just cut right into it.
Make the fence from 3/4 in. MDF. Cut a strip at least 7 in. wide, and be sure you cut it from one edge of your sheet of MDF so you have the factory edge still there, which is going to be the straight reference edge of your fence.
Use fat 3/4-in.-long screws to attach the base to the fence from below. Be sure to countersink the clearance holes in the base so the screws sit a little below the surface.
Last, use your saw to trim the base to its final size. Now the base will show exactly where the saw will cut–every time!



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