Flush Cut Power Saws [Use an Oscillating Multi-Tool?]
Article Last Updated: Monday, August 13th 2018
Whether you need to trim some excess off of your dowels or simply are trying to align your tenon and mortise, before too long, any woodworker looking to improve to a level of mastery will need to make a flush cut. Unfortunately, flush cuts come in one of two varieties: precarious or tedious. The tedious flush cuts are made by hand tools, though they are easy to control and precise. The precarious flush cuts come by way of a flush cutting power saw.
One of the first things to get out of the way is that an actual flush cut power saw is a bit of a misnomer. That is not to say that there is no such thing as a flush cut power saw, but it is more akin to a modified circular saw than anything else. While this can work well enough when a rough cut is acceptable, it becomes a bit more problematic when you need a high level of precision for finer detail work.
Types of Flush Cuts
Really, there are only a couple types of flush cut--though the flush cut can be used for a variety of purposes. Still, the most common reason to need a flush cut--especially in woodworking--is to remove excess wood from a through tenon or a dowel. In this instance, ensuring that the cut leaves a smooth edge without also scarring the project can be tricky.
Another type of flush cut involves cutting a curve or edge into a larger workpiece. While this is still considered a flush cut, it is far different than the previous version and will require significantly different tools and techniques. For this type of cut, a router will generally be your go-to tool if you do not use hand tools.
The techniques most appropriate for a flush cut will depend heavily on what tool you use to make the flush cut. For instance, if you are using a hand saw, one of the better techniques to ensure a good flush cut is by placing multiple strips of tape on the saw blade to provide an appropriate level of clearance and prevent the thinner saw blade of the flush cut hand saw from binding in the wood.
When it comes to power tools--whether using a flush cut power saw or some other type of tool like an oscillating multi-tool, the principle is the same but the execution is different. Since you cannot adhere tape to the power tool’s blade without present serious risk, you instead place your spacer on the workpiece. Here, you will want a spacer that is roughly the thickness of business card. Be sure to keep an eye on the spacer, for if it begins to tear, the wood will soon follow, and you need to stop cutting.
Which Flush Cut Power Saw Should You Use?
While there technically exists a flush cut circular saw, it is often more hassle than it is worth to use. First, you will essentially have to purchase an exceedingly specialized saw that is little more than a modified worm-drive circular saw. Second, it is more difficult to control than some of the other power saws available.
Instead of using a flush cut power saw, we actually recommend that you use an oscillating multi-tool with a flush cut blade attached to it. This actually provides a wide variety of benefits. For one, the oscillating multi-tool, as its name implies, offers far more versatility in terms of the jobs that it can accomplish. With a quick switch of the attachment, the oscillating multi-tool can go from cutting to trimming to buffing in a matter of minutes.
Another benefit of the oscillating multi-tool--and the one with which we are concerned here--is is the fact that it offers some of the most precise cuts available. While it may not necessarily cut exceedingly quickly, the fact that it is often significantly less powerful than larger circular saws works to its advantage by making it more stable and easier to control.
Top Flush Cut Power Saws
Our Quality Ratings
Best Overall Option
Great for Door Jambs and Undercuts
Gino Development 01-0820
Lower Quality but Good Price
Should you use a Hand Saw?
Obviously, before the introduction of more compact power saws, a hand saw was the only way to go for flush cuts. However, these days there is a legitimate debate about whether to use a hand saw or a power saw for flush cuts. In fairness, this question comes down to two factors: the project and your skill.
If you are still learning the craft of woodworking, you may be better off going with a hand saw specifically because you are far less likely to make a mistake using a hand saw that you are a power saw. On top of that, using a hand saw well is considered one of the pillars of any skilled woodworker.
From the project perspective, this consideration will hinge more on whether the cut will be exposed or not. If it is on an exposed section of the project, a hand saw is more precise and easier to control. If the cut section will be covered, there is little to no reason not to use a flush cut power saw.
Black & Decker BD200MTB 2.5-Amp Variable-Speed Oscillating Multi-Tool - Product Review
Black & Decker is a fairly large and fairly well-known brand that has slowly, but surely, absorbed some of the biggest brand names in power tool and hand tool manufacturing under their corporate umbrella. The reason Black & Decker has been able to accomplish this comes down to target audience and niche markets. Specifically, Black & Decker power tools were designed specifically for the casual homeowner and occasional DIYer in mind.
Since acquiring the numerous brands now under their umbrella, the actual Black & Decker brand has not shifted their focus. As such, we have to mention that this oscillating multi-tool is not intended to be used for professional jobs or even regular hobbyist or enthusiast work. Instead, this oscillating multi-tool is better suited for occasional use--closer to a handful of times a month.
You can see this at the outset as the Black & Decker BD200MTB comes a bit underpowered when compared to most of its competition--even those that are also part of the Black & Decker corporate structure--with only 2.5 amp. While this will not limit what the Black & Decker BD200MTB can cut, it will definitely limit how quickly it can cut and how well it can cut denser materials.
That said, beyond the total power, this oscillating multi-tool checks most of the boxes for what you want in an oscillating multi-tool. Its opms range from 10000 to 20000 and can be quickly and easily adjusted with the turn of a dial that features 6 different speed settings. On top of that, the Black & Decker BD200MTB features a tool-free attachment release as well as an ergonomic grip.
PORTER-CABLE PC3013 Oscillating Flush Cut Blade - Product Review
If you go the route that we suggest and opt to use an incredibly precise and easy to control oscillating multi-tool, you still need the proper blade to make a masterful flush cut or else you are left in the same boat in which you started. Considering Dremel all but has the oscillating multi-tool market cornered, it can actually be a bit difficult to find other manufacturers that still make this kind of flush cut blade.
Made of high-speed steel, the Porter-Cable PC3013 is specially made to withstand the rapid and repeated cutting action that an oscillating multi-tool will put it through. Moreover, this material was designed to stand up to virtually any material you might commonly want to cut including wood, drywall, and even most kinds of metal used in construction or as accents to woodworking projects. Though, you will need to be careful with your technique.
That is because the Porter-Cable PC3013 is not designed to cut quickly--despite how fast the oscillating multi-tool may vibrate. Instead, using this blade may well be a bit of a test of patience--though it is by no means slower than actually using a handsaw. Though the blade is 4”, the actual cutting depth is limited to 1 ½”--which is still more than many other attachments for the same purpose.
In terms of the actual cut you can make, this blade offers a 270-degree cutting surface, so it can fit into virtually any space and cut at almost any angle. Even better, this blade was designed to have a tool-less changing feature for a wide variety of oscillating multi-tools--especially those brands which are under the Stanley Black & Decker corporate umbrella which includes Porter-Cable, DeWalt, and Craftsman Tools.
Flush Cut Power Saws: Conclusion
If you are looking to make flush cuts that simply level and trim off the excess fat of a project, you can use a hand saw or a flush cut power saw. If you opt for the latter of these 2 approaches, we recommend that you use an oscillating multi-tool with a high-speed steel flush cutting blade. This will provide the precision necessary to make the flush cut without also scarring the project.
In terms of the blade, the Porter-Cable PC3013 is an excellent option. It is 4” with a 1 ½” cutting depth and is made of high-speed steel that can cut through metal, drywall, and, of course, wood. For the oscillating multi-tool, the Black & Decker can serve well-enough if you do not need to make flush cuts all that often. However, if you make numerous flush cuts with your projects, we would recommend upgrading to a Bosch or perhaps a Dremel.
- 1 Types of Flush Cuts
- 2 Which Flush Cut Power Saw Should You Use?
- 3 Top Flush Cut Power Saws
- 4 Should you use a Hand Saw?
- 5 Black & Decker BD200MTB 2.5-Amp Variable-Speed Oscillating Multi-Tool - Product Review
- 6 PORTER-CABLE PC3013 Oscillating Flush Cut Blade - Product Review
- 7 Flush Cut Power Saws: Conclusion