How to Rip Narrow Boards with a Circular Saw – Step-by-Step Guide

rip narrow boards

Circular saws have many uses but have you ever wondered ‘how to rip narrow boards with a circular saw?’ 

Ripping narrow boards can be a challenging task, but with a proper guide, you can easily do it. 

Lucky for you, this step-by-step guide will help you along the way. 

Quick Summary

In this article, we will discuss the following things:

  • How to rip narrow boards with a circular saw 
  • Safety measures and tips to keep in mind when ripping narrow boards

What Does It Mean To Rip Narrow Boards

A narrow board is any wood flooring where the panels are less or equal to 5 inches in width. 

Narrow boards are often cut with a table saw due to their small width. However, the task can easily be achieved with a circular saw as well. 

Why Are People Apprehensive of Using A Circular Saw

Traditionally, people are used to ripping narrow boards with a table saw since they are more steady. 

However, it is easy to cut a narrow piece of wood with a circular saw. 

You are only required to follow the proper procedure and the results will speak for themselves. 

Rip Narrow Boards With A Circular Saw

Tool’s You’ll Need

You do not need a lot of woodworking tools to rip narrow boards. 

Here are the most important items that you will need:

  • Circular saw with a rip fence
  • Measuring tape
  • Sacrificial piece of wood
  • A pair of quick grip clamps
  • Safety glasses 
  • A narrow piece of board
  • Sound reducing earphones
  • A speed square

What Kind of Circular Saw To Use 

There are many circular saws that one can choose from. However, ideally, you would choose a saw that you can attach a rip fence to. 

A rip fence is a tool that acts as a cutting guide for when you are cutting pieces of wood. 

This fence is usually parallel to the blade’s cut and aligns as a reference cut for the user.

circular saw

How To Attach A Rip Fence To A Circular Saw

Attaching a rip fence to a circular saw is fairly easy. 

Here’s the simplest way to do it:

  1. Make sure your saw is off and locate the fence slots in the front of the shoe. 
  1. Insert the long end of the fence through both slots and use the nut to tighten them.
  1. Adjust the fence width according to your need and make sure it’s attached right.

It’s as simple as that. The most important part is to make sure the saw is powered off and the nuts tightly hold the fence in place.

Step 1: Prep The Platform and Your Gear

To start ripping your narrow board, start by prepping the platform and your gear. Take many pieces of wood or slabs, the longer the better, to give height and stability to your platform or table. They should be thicker than the narrow board you are going to rip. 

Step 2: Align and Steady The Chosen Platform

Having a steady platform table is a very important part of the process. Adjust the slabs or pieces of wood accordingly. Since the circular saw will be clamped onto these slabs, they need to be higher in height. 

align steady platform

Step 3: Clamp The Circular Saw onto Platform

Beginners usually need to use clamps with their circular saw for more stability. Although experienced craftsmen go without it, we recommend that you use them. 

Set the clamps in place on the slabs or the workspace platform under it. 


Step 4: Adjust the Saw Width With Reference Cuts

Use the sacrificial piece of wood to feed into the saw. Cut right through the wood in a straight line and check if it is the width you desire. If it is not then readjust the saw and try again. 

This step will make it easy for you to get a hang of the process as well as adjust the saw blade. 

You can also use this as an opportunity to test the rip fence and see if it’s parallel to the blade. 

Step 5: Position The Blade

The blade needs to be parallel to the face of the platform or table so adjust it carefully. If the saw blade isn’t adjusted properly it may shatter or warp during the cutting process. 

Run the wood through the blade to get your first reference cut. Run it again from the back of the blade to get your second reference cut. You may have to remove the blade guard to do this. 

Step 6: Adjust The Height of The Blade

Position the blade above another sacrificial piece of wood that is the same height as the narrow board. This will help determine how you will make the cut. 

You can use a piece of paper to check the height. If the paper slips just under the blade then its height is well adjusted. Your blade will now fully cut through the narrow board.  

Step 7: Rip The Narrow Boards

Just as you did with the sacrificial boards, take the narrow board and position it in front of the circular saw to rip them. Press the trigger and lock it to start the saw. Carefully feed the narrow board into the saw and rip through it into two strips. 

Ripping the narrow board is not difficult if you have made the necessary adjustments to your platform and circular saw.  

rip narrow boards

Tips and Tricks To Do The Perfect Job

There are many tips and tricks when it comes to ripping narrow boards with a circular saw. Using a circular saw you can achieve accurate cuts and precise lines. 

Here are some tips on how to best use a circular saw to rip narrow boards yourself:

Adjust the Clamp Right

Adjusting the clamp is one of the most important parts of the process to cut narrow boards. If your clamp is well adjusted it counts as added safety measures. 

Pro tip: Make sure the platform, board, or base that it is clamped to is sturdy and heavy. 

Pay Attention To The Saw’s Parts

One of the most important things is to make sure the blade is sharp and positioned well. You must make sure the straight edge of the rip fence aligns with the cut line. The edge of the blade should be just above the board. 

Knowing your tools leads to better work on projects. You need to know that circular saws take the board from under the saw sole. Make sure the two fall in line before you cut. 

Use the Right Board

Using the right board is essential to woodworking. You need to use the right lumber for the narrow boards and make sure that you use accurate measurements. 

This is why you need to properly check your board and measure it with tape.  

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Cutting narrow boards with a circular saw certainly brings up its fair share of confusion. Check out these FAQs to relate to other craftsmen with the same queries as you!

How does a sacrificial sheet come in handy? 

A sacrificial sheet can come in handy as it protects the workspace from the saw’s blade. You can use it to make a few practice cuts to check the alignment and height of the blade. It can also tell you how to check a sharp blade. 

Why is ripping a narrow board with a circular saw different from ripping it with a table saw?

When ripping narrow boards with a circular saw, the boards go under the sole of the saw. As compared to table saws where they go over the sole. 

Hence, you have to make adjustments during cutting with the tool, keeping in mind where its sole is. 

What safety measures can we take when attempting such projects?

Woodworking a cutting is a job that can have its risks. There are many safety measures involved. For your own convenience, you can wear a dust mask and safety glasses. Some people also prefer to wear earmuffs or sound-canceling headphones. 

The Takeaway

Conclusively, cutting narrow boards with a circular saw is easy if you follow the correct method. 

It is always preferred that you take on such a project keeping in mind safety precautions as well. 

This brings us to the end of this article. If you feel there is anything further you would like to know, leave a comment below. 

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