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    How to Tame Tearout with a Circular Saw

    Wood is an amazing material, widely available in all sorts of colors, with beautiful grain patterns. It cuts easily with small machines and tools—products that are accessible to the home craftsman—and its strength-to-weight ratio rivals high-tech materials. But it is organic, and therefore comes with some strings attached.

    One is movement, and there is no stopping it. The other is tearout. A budding hobbyist soon encounters splintered edges and pockmarked surfaces, damage that grows more obvious when finish is applied. It happens with almost every tool in the shop. The good news is that it can be stopped, in most cases easily.

    Tearout: Caused by unsupported wood fibers
    Tearout happens when wood is cut and its plant fibers aren’t held firmly in place. When a saw applies pressure across unsupported fibers, you can run into tearout near the bottom or back edge of the cut, since the last few fibers have nothing behind them and would much rather splinter away than be sliced through.

    To avoid this when cutting with a circular saw, try using a shopmade cutting guide. It keeps a handheld circular saw on a straight line. The MDF base helps support the fibers on the top surface, where the blade exits the cut.


    Get straight, square edges without splinters

    Images: Steve Scott. Drawings: Bob La Point

    Excerpt from Christiana’s March/April 2010 (FWW #211) article “How woodworkers tame tearout”.