Circular saws are often the workhorse of most tool kits, portable and versatile they’re suitable for a range of jobs. One of the only problems can be achieving precise, straight cuts. Cutting a perfectly straight line free hand takes a great deal of skill and more importantly time.
Circular saw guides are exactly what you need to make straight, repeatable cuts when you’re ripping paneling or wooden sheets. While they’re simple, there’s a big difference in quality if you know what to look for. They can do more than just provide you with a straight edge.
Here’s a quick roundup of the best corded and cordless circular saws:
- Top pick – E. Emerson Tool Co. C50 50-Inch All-In-One
- Top Premium Pick – Festool FS-1400 Guide Rail
- Top Value Pick – Kreg KMA2685 Circular Saw Guide
- Kreg KMA2700 Circular Saw Track
- Makita 194368-5 55-Inch Guide Rail
Our Top Picks for Best Circular Saw Guide 2020
Take advantage of our knowledge as we look into some of the best circular saw guides. Then give you the information you need to make an informed decision when choosing the best circular saw guide.
Top pick – E. Emerson Tool Co. C50 50-Inch All-In-One
This circular saw guide rail is excellent, but the main reason that it tops our list is the included clamp. These heavy-duty nylon jaws lock down on the workpiece with a lever, saving you from positioning and twisting up your C-clamps.
It’s billed as an “extra-wide” guide which isn’t strictly the truth, at least when you compare it to most other guides. However it’s wide enough to avoid distorting under normal use. It holds fast to the surface and maintains a straight edge ensuring cuts remain true.
There’s not a lot to dislike on this guide. The main problem is that sooner or later the nylon clamp will fail, unlike using separate c-clamps. It doesn’t pull itself square either, so it’s not as much faster as it could be.
Overall, this is the perfect home DIY saw track, but it might not be enough for true professionals.
- Clamps down by itself
- Usable along the full length
- Durable aluminum construction
- All-in-one circular saw guide
- Doesn’t square itself
- Nylon clamps are a potential failure point
Top Premium Pick – Festool FS-1400 Guide Rail
Festool is the high-end brand that most woodworkers fantasize about. Their tools are a cut above the competition for the most part, and their circular saw guide rail certainly fits that description… provided you have a Festool saw.
The FS-1400 is a 55” circular saw guide rail system, machined from high-grade aluminum giving a perfect straight edge and widened far enough to be almost impossible to bend. This allows you to make straight cuts time and time again. The anti slip guide strips are a nice touch, even if it’s not “self clamping” as it claims.
And, apart from that one minor marketing bit, there’s not much wrong with it. It is very expensive, however, but the price may be worth it for professionals.
If you’re looking for the best of the best in your guide, this is right up there.
- Very high quality
- Thick to prevent bending
- Great rubber
- Connects to other rails for more length
- Claims to be self-clamping but you need clamps
- Expensive for a saw guide
Top Value Pick – Kreg KMA2685 Circular Saw Guide
Need something a little bit smaller? The KMA2685 spans up to 24” and does it well. It’s a good pick for those who want to save some money and are only planning on doing smaller jobs.
It does everything well, and the included saw fitting is great. Since it’s smaller it’s also less likely to bend or warp over time and it’s very portable.
The main problem is that it’s not enough to cut full lengths of plywood. It also doesn’t join with other rails, it’s a stand-alone and you’re limited in cutting capacity.
Still, for those who need a smaller, cheaper circular saw guide it does an excellent job.
- Holds down very well
- Very hard to warp side-to-side
- Good build quality
- Included saw fixture
- Only 24” wide
- Cannot be lengthened with other guides
If a shorter guide will work for your needs, why not see if you can save some money by taking a look?
Other Circular Saw Guides Worthy of Consideration
Kreg KMA2700 Circular Saw Track
For those looking to get the most from their dollar, the Kreg KMA2700 circular saw track is an excellent addition to the workshop. It’s easy-to-use and made stiff to prevent side-to-side warping to maintain straight cuts. Like most good circular saw guides it’s made to cut at least 48”.
This extremely versatile circular say guide is capable of making all of the types of cuts you’re likely to want to make using circular saws. Ideal for rip cuts, crosscut, and angled cuts, provided your circular saws have bevel adjustment.
Where this guide stands out is with a starting block for your saw. The starting block lets you safely get the saw going, which is desirable for any circular saw that has a soft start and needs to get up to speed. Use it to ramp up before you cut across. There can be a touch of play in the sled, but can be worked around as long as you’re careful.
The anti slip guide strips ensure that the guide doesn’t slide around on the work piece while you’re making a cut and generally this seems to work well. However if you to be certain of making accurate cuts you’re better off clamping it down.
All-in-all? It’s a great guide for the money, but it may take a bit of tinkering to get things perfect.
- Starting block for saw
- Allows for cuts along the full length
- Good non-skid pads
- Solid construction
- Needs clamps
- May need tinkering to perfect
It’s a solid choice for the home craftsman who needs a little bit more out of their guide.
Makita 194368-5 55-Inch Guide Rail
Makita makes great tools, and if you’re looking for a guide to fit one of their circular saws then this is what you’re looking for. It’s a well-made guide rail, which can be lengthened with additional guides to create a long, smooth cut.
There’s also a handy router plate that you can purchase. Overall, it’s a great pick if you have Makita tools or a way to adapt the track to your current tools.
The downsides? It seems to have trouble staying true when attached to another guide. It’s also a bit pricey when compared to other options.
It’s a solid rail and a great choice for those who use Makita tools. Just be aware that it doesn’t offer any special advantages for those who don’t.
- Good overall build quality
- Ready built to adapt Makita tools
- Thick aluminum to prevent warping
- Great length for cutting plywood
- Doesn’t always run true when multiple guides are used
- Rather pricey
Think it needs a place in your workshop? Have a look!
What to Look for When Choosing the Best Circular Saw Guide
Circular saw guide rails come in a few different configurations, but there are really only a few things you need to keep an eye on to ensure yours is workable. The following should all be looked at before you make a final choice.
Any guide that you use should be of the appropriate length for your workpieces. For smaller lumber, think 2×6 or 2×8 for decks, 24” is a fine size. It’s easier to store and use than longer rails.
For large cuts, remember that standard plywood is 48” by 96”, or 4×8 feet. Most mid-sized rails are 55” long, which works well for cutting sheets.
Larger variants exist, all the way up to monster 118” guides, but most people will do best with a 24” or 55” variation. If you need more, you’ll also find that many of these guides can be extended by adding another rail directly to the end.
Material matters here, circular saw guide rails have to be able to take some abuse. Aluminum is the most common guide material and it works very well. It’s both lightweight and relatively durable.
Almost all commercially available guide rails are made of aluminum these days. Some homemade guide rails consist of wood, which is tough enough for occasional use but lacks the longevity of metal.
Theoretically, you can find steel guide rails if you dig deep enough. Steel should offer more precision since it’s less likely to bend than aluminum, ensuring a perfectly straight edge. They’ll also weigh a lot more so you’re better off with a wide aluminum guide if you’re worried about warped metal ruining your straight cut.
Connecting pins should be steel, however. Brass or aluminum don’t make the cut and can bend under heavy use, which renders the guide useless.
On a job site, the portability of your circular saw guide rail makes a big difference. Weight and length are what you should look for here. It’s much easier to transport multiple shorter guides to assemble on the workpiece than a single larger one.
Wider guides are often better for cutting as they are stiffer and are more likely to maintain a straight edge. However they can add unnecessary weight which will hold you back when you need to remain mobile.
The grip underneath your guide can make a big difference. While some, like our favorite, will lock in place easily, others may require clamps to keep them in one spot.
Gripping material can either be sheet rubber or foam rubber. The latter will clamp down to the workpiece better once you’ve deployed the C-clamps, but may tear easier over time. Both will work fine for most people, the extra performance edge is quite small compared to not having any grip at all.
The main advantage of a circular saw guide is the laser-straight cuts, but most have a splinter shield of some sort.
A splinter shield will keep the top of the workpiece cleaner after the cut is made. A good one will leave you with less finish work in applications where that may be necessary, but it’s not a requirement for rough lumber work.
A circular saw guide can be your best friend in the shop or the field. The ability to make perfectly squared cuts isn’t one you should underestimate after all. When it comes down to it, all of the reviewed guides are perfectly usable but you should find the best circular saw guide for you.
So, which one is going to help you make the cut?