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Cutting plywood, or any other large sheet material like MDF, with a circular saw can be tricky. The sheet is heavy and can be hard to handle. But with a little planning and the right techniques, you can cut sheet goods safely and with great results.

Choose the Best Blade
Choose the Best Blade Image The first step is to choose the correct blade. Your circular saw most likely came with a “stock” blade designed to make fast, rough cuts in construction lumber, not splinter-free cuts in plywood. The number one thing you can do to improve the quality of your saw’s cut is to upgrade its blade.

For smoother, cleaner cuts, install a new blade that is specifically designed for cutting plywood. Thankfully, you can pick up a carbide-tipped plywood-cutting blade for less than $20 at your local hardware store or home improvement center. Just look for a label that says “plywood” or “finished cuts.” Once your new blade has been installed, you’ll be making clean, chip-free cuts!

Support Your Workpiece Header
Support Your Workpiece Using Circular Saw Before you can begin cutting, you need to make sure that your sheet is well-supported. This will prevent the piece you are cutting, as well as the remaining part of the sheet, from slipping or falling. It will also help you to maintain better control of the cut.

When you’re using a circular saw, a sheet of 2"-thick rigid foam insulation (available in home centers) provides great support. Lay the foam on the ground or a sturdy work surface, and then place your sheet on top of it. The foam supports your sheet, giving you two free hands to control your saw. As you cut, let the saw blade cut into (but not through) the foam.

Put Your Best Face Downward Header
Put Your Best Face Downward The way you set up for a circular saw cut will also affect the end result. When a circular saw cuts, the leading edge of the blade spins upward into the material. This means that the blade enters the workpiece on the bottom face of the material, and it exits on the top face. It's on this face, where the blade exits, that tearout can occur. So, when you cut with a circular saw, lay your plywood so that the best-looking face, or the face that will show the most on your final project, is facing down. That way, any tearout that does occur will be on the less-desirable or less-visible face.

Making the Cut HDR
Making the Cut Using Circular Saw Now you’re ready for the best part…cutting! Here’s where saw control, along with body and hand position, are important.

When it's time to cut, be sure to turn on your saw and let the blade get to full speed before it makes contact with your material. Then, keep in mind that a blade with a lot of teeth—such as a plywood-cutting blade—cuts more slowly. Give the blade time to cut, and don't “force” the saw forward. Just push it at a pace that the blade can keep up with. Guide the saw with your dominant hand, and keep your eye on where the saw is going to get the straightest cut. Make sure to control your saw throughout the entire cut. With the workpiece well supported, it won’t bind or pinch, allowing you to concentrate on the saw.

For even better control, check out the Kreg Rip-Cut™. Maintaining a straight cut is easy with the Rip-Cut™ guide rail and arm following the edge of your workpiece as you guide the saw forward. The Rip-Cut™ also ensures accurate cutting—without having to measure or try to follow a cut line—thanks to its built-in measuring scale.

Cut with Confidence
Cutting plywood, or any other large sheet, by yourself can be tricky. But with proper support, the right blade, and a few simple tips, you can make accurate, clean cuts every time. If you’re looking for more tips, check out this video. For help selecting plywood, we recommend checking out this previous edition of Kreg Plus: Tips for Picking the Right Plywood.

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From Kreg and Woodsmith Magazine
2014 August Home Publishing

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