How to Cut Plywood With a Circular Saw
Here's how to cut construction and finish grade plywood with a circular saw without leaving rough, splintered edges.
The Family Handyman DIY expert, Spike Carlsen, will show you how to cut construction grade plywood and finish grade plywood with a circular saw.
Select the Right Blade
There are plywood specific blades, but we like a traditional, sharp, 24-tooth carbide blade. If you don’t have one in your saw, change it out with one of these. With this blade you can successfully make all of the cuts you need.
Set the Saw Blade to the Right Depth
If you set the blade too deep you’ll be dragging a lot of extra blade through the plywood, and if you set it too shallow you risk not cutting all the way through. Set the blade so it goes one-quarter inch through the bottom of the plywood. This will give you a nice, crisp cut.
Support the Plywood as You Cut
A full sheet of plywood is 4’x8’ and can get difficult to support. There are many ways to support the plywood when you cut it, sawhorses, other pieces of wood or at the edge of a table. It’s important to support the whole piece of plywood when you’re cutting. If you’re using another table, you’ll want to clamp the sheet down so it doesn’t move while you’re cutting it. We like to cut plywood on the floor using a piece of extruded foam as a backing board. It makes a nice, solid surface to make the cuts. If storing the foam board is a problem, you can cut it in half and fasten it together with duct tape, which acts like a hinge. With this method, you can crawl right across the board and the excess doesn’t snap off when you finish the cut.
Face the Plywood the Right Way
If you’re cutting veneer-faced plywood, always cut with the good side down. This way the sawblade will push the veneer back into the board, rather than punching and busting it up. If you need two good sides, score the cut line with a utility knife. Make sure the cut goes all the way through the veneer. It may take a couple of passes with the knife. Using painter’s tape through the cut line is also a good way to avoid splinters when cutting. Make sure to press it down firmly.
You can use your finger as a guide when cutting along the edge of a piece of plywood. Line the blade up with the cut line and set your thumb and forefinger along the outside edge of the circular saw, pinching the saw’s shoe and running parallel with the outside edge of the plywood. This makes an easy guide for your circular saw.