Own a circular saw and want to extend the capabilities? You need a circular saw rip fence!
Whether buy one, or build one, they are an amazing tool that helps you make straight cuts with a circular saw. In fact it also helps you make consistent cuts as it can be as a template to make ripping or cross cuts on wood, plywood, drywall, melamine and many other wood and construction materials. In this project we’re going to teach you how to make a rip fence for your circular saw! If you want to skip the work you can always buy one instead!
- 1 Building A Circular Saw Rip Fence – Tools & Materials Needed To
- 2 How to Build a Circular Saw Rip Fence
- 2.1 Step 1 – Measuring your circular saw
- 2.2 Step 2 – Marking fence
- 2.3 Step 3 – Drill and tap first hole
- 2.4 Step 4 – Square the flat bar, drill and tap second hole
- 2.5 Step 5 – Assemble fence and test
- 2.6 Step 7 – Test your new circular saw rip fence!
- 3 Circular Saw Rip Fence Tricks
Building A Circular Saw Rip Fence – Tools & Materials Needed To
Materials You Will Need
We wanted this DIY project to be simple so we found materials you can just purchase right off the store shelf for very low cost.
We purchased a Simpson bracket that is normally used for deck and floor construction, but it’s super rigid and has the perfect profile for a rip fence with no cutting or modification! We used the Simpson ML26Z which is a 2×6″ angle bracket.
You’ll want to measure the small opening in your saws plate to be sure you have the right size. All of our saws fit a 1/8″ by 1/2″ flat bar perfectly. This flat bar in your hardware store is often in a metal section. It’s usually in 3′ lengths, but you may be able buy it by the foot or you may be able to have the cut it there if you don’t have a way to trim it down in case you want to. We chose to leave our flat bar full length at 3′ so we can do wide rips with our fence.
Flat Head Cap Screws
We used 6/32″ flat head cap screws for our fence, but we’d recommend a slightly larger screw as the tap will be a little bigger, screws easier to handle and stronger. You’ll want a flat head cap screw if you want to recess the head so it doesn’t draw on the bottom of the fence. There’s a lot of ways to do this, but that’s what we did and it works great! Be sure the screws are at least 3/4″ long and we recommend using a self tapping variety as it makes the threading a little more forgiving.
We made our own wing nuts using washers we bent in a vise with a hammer and tapped our own holes, but if you want to make this quick grab some at your hardware store that fit your screws. Be sure they fit before you leave the store!
If you’d like to integrate a way to store your circular saw rip fence then buy or make a small hook that can be installed to hang your fence on your tool bench or in your work trailer!
Tools You Will Need
Being a DIY project we’re going to need a few tools to build our rip fence the right way. You will of course have your own tool set and may need to improvise or you may have an even better way to building this if you have some cool tools! Here’s what we used
Cordless Drill with Low Speed
We grabbed our favorite cordless drill for this task, but as long as your drill has a low speed it will work good. One thing to watch out for is a drill with a lot of torque that is hard to control. As you’ll see we need to be gentle so we don’t break things.
Drill Tap Set
This is a super special set of drill bits that do amazing things all in one tool. Usually they come in a set and can be fragile if there is too much torque during the thread cutting stage as you’ll see in the video.
Clamp or Work Holding
Use what you have here to help you stabilize your work. We’re using a screw down work holding clamp and a welding clamp. What’s important is the clamp be able to firmly grip the two pieces while not impeding your ability to drill your holes.
You’ll want a small, lightweight square of some kind to help align things and keep them square during the construction process. We’re using an aluminum speed square, but most any square with a fence will work!
Fine Point Permanent Marker
This is super helpful for marking the measurements on the rip fence rod after it’s built.
We used this tool which has a pointed tip like a pen but the tip vibrates and is able to make marks on things like metal. This helped us create small, permanent, marks on the rip fence rod so we can quickly set the fence to common widths to save time.
How to Build a Circular Saw Rip Fence
The process of building the rip fence for our circular saw is pretty simple, but there are a few key steps that we want to pay close attention to so that our fence is very accurate later and will last a long time.
Step 1 – Measuring your circular saw
There is one key measurement we need to get and that is the distance of the keyway from the front of the plate on the saw. Having this measurement will help us ensure our rip fence is properly positioned on the flat bar so that at the same time you place your saw on your material your fence is also on the materials. Any other way would be awkward.
Using a tap pull a measurement from the top of the fence to the beginning of the slot. We’ll use this to set up the position of our flat bar on the fence.
Step 2 – Marking fence
Now we can transfer this measurement to our fence. Get confident with the orientation of the fence so you know which way is which. We chose to use a wood block to hold up the bracket off the workbench making it easy to work with. Next mark the distance you measured in Step 1 from the top of the bracket. Now you can use a square to continue this mark over as a guide for where the flat bar will align. We use an X on the side where the flat bar will go so we don’t accidentally place it on the wrong side.
Step 3 – Drill and tap first hole
Be sure to take some time to get your work well clamped so that it is aligned, square and secure. Now we’re ready to drill our first hole and tap the threads. What’s the most important for this hole is that the fence position be fairly correct. It does not need to be perfect with this step. If it moves a tiny amount that’s okay. You’ll hardly notice when using the fence later. We’ll make it precise in the next step. We recommend starting at the hole nearest the saw so you have room to help clamp better for the second hole.
Using the drill tap that is the right size for your screw choose slowly drill the hole through the flat bar and into the bracket. As you go be sure to clear ships and cuttings. Keep the hole clean and work at a pace where you can feel the bit doing the work. Pushing hard or going fast will only cause problems, could temper the hole making it hard to drill and will likely snap the drill bit.
Once you feel the bit moving out of the metal be very careful. It’s best to feel the threading happening. You will not be able to simply run the tap right threw the metal unless you chose aluminum….MAYBE. It’s best to take tapping slow. 1/4 rotation at most before backing out and clearing the cut. This will seem slow, but it’s actually very fast. Be sure to feel the tap as it clears the cut on the way out. As you saw in the video it’s here that too much torque will snap the bit. Repeat the forward/reverse process to cut the threads a little at a time. If you take it slow you’ll have some nice threads in no time!
Next you’ll want to drill the countersink for the screw hole. We found that backing out the bit completely, separating the two pieces and just drilling the bracket from the underside worked the best. This way the tap is all the way through the bracket and no longer trying to thread anything. If you try to drill the countersink you may find the bit breaks as it is trying to tap while drilling the counter sink.
Now you have a beautiful countersunk hole to conceal the screw head!
Now you can test your first screw. Run it in slow. If it’s a self tapping screw it’ll help clean up the threads. If its tight simple forward and reverse a few times as you go in to help clear the threads of the debris. Go ahead and leave this screw installed.
Step 4 – Square the flat bar, drill and tap second hole
Here is where precision really starts to matter. Now that we have one hole we have a pivot to work with and help us make sure that more than anything the fence (bracket) is absolutely square to the flat bar. Our was actually off by maybe 1/32″. It’s not the end of the world. A rip fence is about efficiency, labor savings and speeding up work, not high precision!
Using your square against the bracket move the flat bar so that it aligns with the square. If your mark is still perfect you can just darken your mark to help keep it visible. Now work hard to clamp the bar to the bracket and keep the alignment perfect. Try to find a clamp position where you can have the square in contact with the fence while clamping that way it’s easy to check again for square after clamped.
Once you get it right now it’s time to repeat the drill, tap and counter sink process. You’ll need to disconnect the bar and fence to do the countersinking process again.
Step 5 – Assemble fence and test
Now it’s time to assemble the fence and give it a test fit! You can insert both screws and then place the wing nuts on the backside to lock in the screws so they don’t wiggle out.
The things that matter are of course that the bar slides freely through the slot all the way through. You can slide it right up to the plate to see how square you are with the plate. Most slots have a little play in them so there may be a tiny fraction of adjustment within the slot to play with.
Step 6 – Marking common rip dimensions on the flat bar
Using a tape measure set the end of the tape against the blade and pull the fence out to whichever measurement you’d like to be your first mark. In our fast we started at 6″. Lock the fence down and mark the bar with a fine tip marker.
Now you can slide the bar out of the saw and using a square to keep your mark straight use an engraving tool to make a clear line on the bar. If you want to make it even better mark the inches on the bar with the engraver.
Now using a ruler (easier because it’s flat and rigid compared to a tape measure) you can mark the flat bar whoever you’d like. We chose inch increments up to 12″ and then 18″ and 24″ marks. We may add more marks over time depending on how we use the fence
Step 7 – Test your new circular saw rip fence!
Nice work! We’ve got ourselves a very nice rip fence! It’s time to give it a test drive.
Find a piece of material and set your rip fence at a known dimension and give it a rip! Now measure your cut piece and see how well it turned out! It will take a little practice to get it perfect and get comfortable.
We find that keeping the rip fence long make it a little awkward to handle when doing smaller cuts since the excess bar flops out the back of the saw. Maybe the right thing to do is to have several fences?
Since you know how to make them now it should be very easy to have whatever rip fences you want for your circular saw!
Circular Saw Rip Fence Tricks
We actually discovered after building our rip fence that our original design has one major flaw and that is very narrow ripping cuts. As in cuts less than 6 inches. The reason for this is the fence (bracket) hits the plate and at its limit the most narrow cut we can make is 6 inches. What if we wanted to rip less?
How to Reverse Your Circular Saw Rip Fence
Would you believe it there’s an instant answer! Simply reversing the rip fence makes the fence move the opposite direction! Now the depth of the bracket is excluded from your rip dimension and now you can rip as narrow as the width from the blade to the edge of the plate.
If your screw holes are not perfectly inline you will find that flipping your fence upside down will cause your fence to be misaligned. Simply flip your flat bar over and your fence should be perfectly aligned again!