Circular saw for sheet goods?

Hello folks. I’m looking for recommendations for a circular saw for breaking down sheet goods. I’d use some kind of guide, maybe a homemade one. (Actual track saws are outside my budget.) Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Corded, because they seem more powerful for the money. And I’m not working up in rafters or at a job site.

  • Blade-right. I think? Normally I’d like blade-left so I can see the cut as it happens, but with a guide that’s less important. The track saws i’ve seen are blade-right, and some guides have the saw riding on top of a piece of masonite or something, so blade-right allows the guide to support more of the saw’s weight. Your thoughts?

I don’t know what else. I can imagine an adjustable shoe so it stays parallel to the blade would be good. Low run-out, durable bearings, etc.? I don’t know shit about circular saws.

I’d appreciate any input. Thanks!

I know you said you’d make your own guide for a circular saw, but you would not be sorry with a track saw. I bit the bullet several years ago and even though I don’t use it a lot, it is so nice to set down the rail on a mark and cut. I’ve had several people oggle it when I’ve used it.

I have this Makita:


I know people love their track saws, but they are pricey.

Also, I’m not really sure why they would be better than a circ on a good guide, like the Kreg or Bora guides. You wouldn’t get the plunge capability, but I don’t really know why I would need that. People say the track saws are more accurate, etc., but I don’t know why that would be. The Kreg system has a sled that the saw mounts in, that is adjustable every which way, and fits tightly on an aluminum track. Seems pretty close to a track saw to me. Or am I wrong?

Track saws typically have a thinner kerf, blades designed for a finer finish on the cut, and on the guide they have an edge strip that helps prevent tear out. Also, it’s not that accuracy is better on a track saw (altho they’re definitely designed from the get-go for the track, and thus almost guaranteed square to it), but that it’s much easier to setup a cut since the track edge IS the cut line. I have both and definitely prefer the track saw over messing with setting up the circular saw for long cuts

For years (from the 1970’s) I used a Porter Cable 4.5 inch worm gear saw for breaking down sheet goods - then my Unisaw for final panel cutting. The saw is no longer made:

But I still us mine from time to time - mostly for cutting Plexiglas - with a special blade that PC made for that purpose - and is still available.

I made my own straight edge saw guides - that like modern track saws - precluded the need for measuring. Just lay the lower edge along the cut line and run the shoe of the saw along the upper straight edge. My rails were made out of masonite and maple. You glue maple straight edge to a slightly oversized piece of masonite - then use the saw run along the maple edge to trim the masonite.
to size.

I thought this setup was good until I bought my Festool TS55. Its rail stays put (in many - but not all instances) better than my masonite one - without the need for clamping. Its anti-splinter edge strip does a decent job (again in many - but not all cases) - without resorting to taping or pre-scoring the cut line ahead of the through cut. All said - I don’t regret buying a track saw - and to do it over might be looking at a Makita cordless or Mafell. BTW -I like the cut quality with the Festool - just find the TS55 underpowered.


I didn’t know that about track saw blades, though you can buy thin-kerf blades for ordinary circular saws too, even ones mean to leave a very smooth cut.

The homemade guide I have in mind also has an edge that is the cut line (so no measuring; you just plop the guide down on the cut line and cut.) This Old House guy Tom Silva shows you how to make one here. It literally takes 30 seconds to make.

And the super-fancy guides from Kreg and Bora have zero clearance guides too. Have you tried them?

The rails I made - predate the This Old House Show - by maybe 7 or 8 years - but they way I made them is about the same. Its simplicity itself to let the saw do the cutting of the “cut lines”

I still have them - one is 10 foot long - and the other is 5 foot long. The maple 1x4 that I used for the guide rail (top) part provise some added stiffness compared to Tom Silva’s Luan

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Thanks for that. That’s an interesting PC saw. I wonder what 4.5" blade availability is like. I was thinking of a regular 7 1/4" just because there seem to be lots of blades available, and because I might need to cut the ocassional 2x.

The homemade guide you describe is what I was planning to make, though I didn’t describe it. It’s the one in the video I posted above.

Cordless? I was hoping not to start a new battery line (I have m12 and corded toools.) I can see how cordless would be good for these long cuts, but I was hoping to save some money (so Mafell’s are out. On some of them, I think they moved the decimal point over by accident.)


4.5 inch blades are not as ubiquitous as 7-1/4 ones.

The blade that I have currently mounted is a Forrest

But here’s a list of other blades that will fit:

SHOP-TEK 80332

The Rockwell-Porter Cable ones - come from my original purchase list and date back to the 1970’s - so some may stll be available as SBD Porter-Cable blades but some may be discontinued.

The one that I use for Plexiglas - seems to have been discontinued:

but the 12122 is:


I wouldn’t use 1/4" lauan for the rail either. I was thinking of using something like MDF or even aluminum channel for the rail, because I don’t trust any solid wood to stay straight here in ultra-dry Denver, or even to be straight coming from the yard.

MDF was not so popular in the 1970’s - otherwise I might have used it. I probably ran the maple through the jointer - and my rails are coated with shellac - but wood (even close grained varieties) do undergo movement. The other side of the coin is that if you are just using the track and saw to break down sheet goods - the final true-square cutting gets done on your table saw.


(sigh) I don’t have a table saw, nor do I have space for one. A circular saw with guide is going to have to be it for a while.

Harbor freight track quick clamp saw guide


Thanks, but I think I have the guide covered. I am looking for guidance on the saw.

Are you already invested in a cordless battery system? I do like cordless circular saws for sheet goods compared to the corded version. Especially for longer pieces where the cord can get in the way or become caught causing some inaccuracy in the cut. A good cordless circular saw should not have any issues from a power standpoint either for that type of cutting.

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GML makes a good point.

For years with my Porter Cable saw I’d drape the cord/extension cord over my shoulder to avoid it snagging. No vacuum hose with that saw - so less to contend with - and I’d mostly use it setup on the front lawn or driveway so debris may have been less of a issue.

Fast Forward to today - with my track saw I use what Festool calls a deflector - sometimes in pairs :

They are mildly effective - now cost $24 each (outrageous for what they are) - but I guess the $18 each I paid for them in 2014 now looks like a bargain.

Some other things to look at if you do decide on a cordless saw - are:
Cost - buying into a new battery platform will be costly
Blade size (6.5 inch is rather common - but smaller trim saws might be and advantage if you only plan to use it for sheet goods
Vacuum/Dust Collector compatibility

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Thanks GML. I have some M12 tools. The M12 circ gets mixed reviews, and the 5 3/8" blade seems a little limiting. I’d prefer a 6 1/2" blade in case I ever need to cut 2x at an angle. So I checked out some 18-v tools. Makita makes a nice 18 v blade-left 6 1/2", but it’s pricier than I wanted, especially since I’d have to get batteries and a charger too.

Yeah, I thought about the cord too. But I guess poor people have to deal with cords! People seem to like that lightweight DeWalt 575 corded circular saw. Blade right, but I guess I could cope. People do!


Thanks again. I’ve used bricks or some other heavy things to keep cords away from my feet, and to leave slack so I can, for instance, move my sander across a board smoothly without getting hung up. I thought about hanging the cords over my shoulder like you do, but I wondered if I might wring my neck somehow in a freak accident.

I didn’t think about dust control. Saws make coarse dust that falls to the ground quickly, and not a lot of it. But that’s a good thought. Both the Makita and the DeWalt have these weird dust ejection ports in the guard, but Makita has these adapters that fit. I think DeWalt doesn’t. :-/

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Got ya on the price. However, there are some good deals on cordless circular saws. If you can wait until black Friday / cyber Monday I’m sure there will be more.

For example, a 7.25" Milwaukee M18 Brushless with a 5.0ah battery is $179 at home depot -

Personally, I would get a 7.25" saw over a 6.5" saw. Better cutting capacity and more blade choices.

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Brushless motors seem to have made the step-up to 7-1/4 more practical. Years ago - my crews wanted cordless saws for roof cut-outs - things like skylight-window installs. We were into Makita 18V LXT tools - but ended up buying a Dewalt 36V 7-1/4 inch saw - because - at the time it was the only cordless saw we could find with enough power to get the work done. It was our only Dewalt tool. Today there are lots more choices including saws like this Makita that works with their track.

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