How to Cut Plywood

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Plywood is a versatile wood product used extensively in shelving and cabinet construction because it resists warping and shrinking. Made from many layers of very thin wood pressed together in alternating directions, plywood easily withstands fluctuations in humidity and temperature. To cut plywood, follow some easy guidelines that will protect it from splintering.

  • Turn your plywood sheet face down when cutting with a circular saw. The face of the plywood is the side with the better finish, made for use on the exterior of your project. Because a circular saw's blade cuts upwards, the thin sheeting on top splinters easily.

  • Place 2-inch by 4-inch boards under your plywood to raise it off the floor. Your circular saw will cut slightly into the boards but it will protect your floor. Set the depth of your saw to extend ¼ inch deeper than the thickness of the plywood.

  • Use another piece of plywood as a guide to keep your circular saw straight if you need help cutting. By placing another piece of plywood on top and securing with C-clamps, you can use the edge as a guide for long, straight cuts.

  • Keep cutting once you start. Unless there is an emergency, keep the cut going to achieve a smooth edge. Trying to restart a cut in the middle of a piece of plywood will leave uneven marks on the edge that will require extra filing and sanding.

  • Recruit an assistant when cutting plywood on a table saw. Unless you are very familiar with a table saw, just use a circular saw. One person should stand at each end of the saw and hold the plywood sheet by its outer corners only.

Tips & Warnings

  • Power saws, no matter how many safety features they have installed, are very dangerous. Always follow the manufacturer's safety instructions explicitly and don't remove the safety features, such as plastic guards.
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