How to Build a Circular Saw RIP Fence

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Sometimes the simplest things work best. A rip fence for a circular saw is no exception. Few or no moving parts and ease of use are desirable features for this important but unglamorous woodshop workhorse. There may be fancy models on the market, but all you really need are some commonly available materials and tools, some common sense and a willingness to do a little preparation at the outset.

Things You'll Need

  • 3 8-foot 1x6-inch pine boards 2 Squeeze-adjustable bar clamps Spar urethane Paint brushes No. 6 1-1/4" drywall screws Screw driver
  • Go to the lumber yard or home improvement supply store and pick through the 8-foot 1x6-inch pine boards. Find the "select" boards rather than #2. These will be more uniform.

  • Settle on three boards that are the truest overall and that have the straightest edges. Do this by resting the far end of the board on the floor and sighting down along the edge. (You really only need one board but since each is relatively inexpensive it will pay to have spares.)

  • Go to the tools section and pick out two squeezable bar clamps with padded jaws, and then to the hardware fastener section and get some No. 6 1-1/4-inch drywall screws.

  • Go to the paint and stain section of the store and find a can of spar urethane. This is different from the regular polyurethane in that it is water resistant. You'll only need a small can for this project. Choose a couple of brushes for the urethane.

  • Coat the boards with spar urethane, especially the ends of the boards. The end grain tends to soak up moisture that can cause the board to warp and cup. The urethane seals the wood from moisture and makes it more resistant to warping. Allow the urethane to dry according to directions on the label.

  • Apply second and third coats of urethane with adequate drying times in between. When the last coat is dry, store two of the boards as spares in a dry place such as on a wood rack or anywhere where they can remain as straight and true as possible.

  • Take the board you're not storing away and measure in 6 inches from each end. Make a mark in the center of the wide dimension. Now measure 4 feet from the end and make a similar mark in the center of the wide dimension.

  • Drive a 6 x 1-1/4" drywall screw about half way through the board at each of these three marks you've made. Your rip fence is now ready to use.

  • Give your rip fence a test run. To use your rip fence---say to rip a sheet of plywood for example---measure and mark for your cut, lay the fence board on the material, and either clamp it in tightly in place at each end with the squeezable bar clamps or screw the fence to the material with the three screws you've installed. Once you're certain the fence is the proper distance from your cut line and is firmly fixed to the material you're cutting, you're ready to make the cut.

Tips & Warnings

  • You might want to get a few inexpensive brushes that you can dispose of rather than get involved with cleaning the oil-based spar urethane. If you find that your rip fence board is going out of true a bit over time, you can straighten up the edge by taking off just a thin amount on a table saw, using the table saw's own rip fence. Don't forget to reapply spar urethane to all the fresh wood edges. If you're ripping material such as plywood that won't be exposed as a finished surface, you can use the spare rip fence boards to screw down and achieve a longer rip fence. For most jobs, an 8-foot rip fence will be all you need. If you do have longer spans to cut, use exactly the same procedures to make fences with longer boards. Keep in mind, though, that the longer the board the more likely it will be out of true or become that way over time.
  • Using power equipment always requires attention to safety, first and foremost. Before running your circular saw, make certain that the material you're cutting is properly secured and that there's adequate clearance for the blade along the whole cut. Hand-held circular saws can bind in a cut and kick back. Be sure to have a firm grip and watch for any signs of binding. Having a helper to hold the piece in a safe location or inserting shims into the kerf to prevent binding can help.

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