Woodsmith Tips

The table saw and plywood are certainly two of the most important woodworking innovations of all time. I can’t imagine working without either. The table saw is always my first choice when the task is breaking down full sheets of plywood into accurately sized panels for a project. A few tricks can help you get clean, accurately sized plywood panels.

The first step is to make sure your saw setup is up to snuff. This starts with the right blade. A 60-tooth triple chip or crosscut blade will produce clean cuts with minimal chipping. Installing a zero-clearance insert as shown here, will guarantee even better results.

Next comes outfeed support. When cutting large panels, stable outfeed support covering both sides of the blade is a must. And if necessary, don’t hesitate to add supports to the left side of the saw.

If your saw’s rip capacity won’t let you cut long parts to size using the fence, you can work around this by using a cleat to guide the cut. The cleat is clamped to the underside of the panel and positioned to run along the edge of the saw’s left extension wing. Make sure the edge of the table is parallel to the blade and the cleat is attached squarely.

Whenever possible, I use the rip fence as a guide to crosscut wide panels. Although a half sheet of plywood can be a bit unwieldy, the end of the panel riding against the rip fence will provide a stable guide edge. The trick is to keep the end snug to the fence while feeding the panel.

A simple hold-down will help control large panels of plywood on the table saw. Just clamp a long cleat to the rip fence to trap the panel. You’ll need to push the trapped piece completely through the blade, so position yourself with one hand on each side of the blade to finish the cut.

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