Plywood sheet goods are essential in any home improvement project involving wood. But due to their layered structure, they’re often prone to tear-out. If you plan on doing any kind of construction or carpentry, you will eventually have to cut some plywood. Plywood can be unwieldy and may be challenging to cut, especially if you don’t have the right tools. You can cut plywood with a circular saw or a table saw with ease, as long as you remember a few basic rules. Make sure you have a sharp blade in your saw and take precautions to keep the sheet stable. Let’s check how we can cut plywood cut to size
How to Cut Plywood With a Table Saw
For the cleanest cut and to reduce chip-out, set the blade height as high as it will go and lay the good edge face-up. As you feed the plywood into the table saw, keep even and steady pressure on the fence and have someone catch the board at the other end. When they catch the board, they should not be putting any pressure on the board, which could prevent a straight cut.
How to Cut Plywood With a Circular Saw
A circular saw, or skill saw, is a common tool used to cut plywood. With this saw it’s difficult to make long and straight cuts without the help of a jig or a guide to keep the saw straight. But simply clamping a board along the length of the plywood to use as a guide for your saw can remedy this.
To reduce edge tear-out (chip-out) always start with a sharp blade and set the blade depth as deep as it can go. Keep in mind that the topside of the plywood will have more splinters and a rough edge, so make sure your finished edge is facing down.
If you’re struggling to get a clean edge, use blue painters tape on top of your cut line before cutting. This should help keep splinters in place while you’re cutting.
Cutting Plywood With a Handsaw
While this isn’t the most accurate or quickest technique to cut plywood, if you just have to make a few cuts, it works great! Always start with a sharp saw blade. A miter hand saw has a stiffer blade and will help if you’re making smaller cuts.
For longer cuts that need to be straight, consider using a stiff board as a jig to guide your saw blade. Simply clamp the board along your cut line. For straighter cuts, only cut on the push motion of the saw and don’t cut on the pull motion. This helps you slow down and be more intentional with each saw cut. With larger hand saws, use the first few inches of the saw blade closest to the handle where it’s stiffer and less likely to bend while you’re cutting.
How to Cut Plywood With a Jigsaw
If you want to cut plywood into a circle or intricate pattern, a jigsaw will be your best bet. Jigsaws can also make straight cuts, but it’s more difficult.
Always make sure the jigsaw’s cord has enough length to reach where you’re cutting. Before cutting, select a jigsaw blade with 20 teeth per inch with in-line teeth, rather than opposed teeth. Make sure to lock angle or depth adjustment knobs before you start cutting.
Tips to keep in mind while cutting a plywood
Keep an elevation: For obtaining a great cut with your plywood is to give it a little bit of elevation. Rather than laying it completely flat, sawhorses are perfect for this, but items like other pieces of wood are the perfect substitution to raise the plywood up. This is a great way to ensure that you get a clean-cut, while also preventing any damage to the saw you’re using.
Adjust the blade: Make sure the blade is at the correct height for the cut. A good rule-of-thumb: the blade height should be set to a tooth above the depth of the wood that is being cut. After the cut, wait until the blade comes to a complete stop before leaning over to pick up the wood.
Choose the right blade: A regular, stock-standard blade that comes with your circular saw is most times not going to be the perfect one for working with plywood. Carbide tip blades work brilliantly with plywood sheets. These blades have a much higher teeth count and that helps give you a smoother cut, which is highly sought after in this situation. Teeth are smaller on these carbide tip blades too, which take little bites from the wood and reduce your chances of having a chipped rough-looking sheet.
Use a Miter Gauge: Do not use a fence when making a crosscut. The wood will bind between the fence and the blade. Instead, use a miter gauge for crosscutting. Attach a sacrificial fence to the miter gauge to help keep the board even during the cut.
Zero-clearance: The best thing you can do to get clean cuts in plywood is to use a zero-clearance insert. This closes the gap around the blade in the throat plate or shoe. On a table saw, you can buy an aftermarket insert blank, or you can easily make one yourself. For the circular saw, attach a thin piece of luan or compressed hardboard to the shoe of your saw, then lower the blade to cut a zero-clearance slot.
Support the Board and Make the Cut: Use a roller stand to support the board as you move through the cut. Set the roller stand so it’s just below the level of the wood. Make sure the roller stand is in the proper position to actually support the board as it separates. After the cut, wait until the blade comes to a complete stop before leaning over to pick up the wood.
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