How to Cut Plywood with a Circular Saw

How to Cut Plywood with a Circular Saw

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There are multiple ways to cut plywood. You can use a table saw, handsaw, jigsaw, or circular saw among other tools.

In this article, we will take a closer look at using one of those, a circular saw, to get the task done. We’ll look at why it’s one of the best tools for the job as well as at the step-by-step process you can follow to cut plywood with this tool.

Let’s start with the basics, though.

Is a Circular Saw the Best Tool for Cutting Plywood?

Whether a circular saw is the best tool for cutting plywood or not depends on your exact situation. However, it is safe to say that circular saws are the most commonly used tools for getting the job done. That’s primary because they don’t have to be used on a table and because they are very versatile.

That said, you have to make sure you are using a plywood blade that has plenty of teeth to prevent tearing to cut. It is also important to use a cutting sled for stability, and a guide to help you cut accurately.

A thing that also makes circular saws ideal for this job is their portability. As long as you have an outlet to plug into or a cordless version, you can use your circular saw anywhere. That’s a welcome feature particularly in cases where you have to cut plywood at outdoor jobsites.

It’s also worth noting that circular saws are also very lightweight. On average they only weigh about eight pounds, making them easy to carry. This is important for people who plan on using the tool a lot, they don’t have to worry about lugging around and using a tool that weighs fifteen pounds or more.

Circular Saw

How to Cut Plywood with a Circular Saw

With the basics out of the way, let’s take a look at the exact step-by-step process.

Step 1: Set up a Cutting Station

The most convenient part of using a circular saw is that you aren’t stuck using it in one place. A circular saw can be used where you feel most comfortable. You can use a workbench to set the plywood on if you have one handy.

If you don’t have a workbench, you can take a few pieces of scrap wood and set them up as a makeshift workbench. Use the scrap wood as a mount for your plywood, placing blocks on both ends and where you will be cutting.

If you feel most comfortable, a circular saw can be used on the ground. This ensure that you have all the support you need to keep you and the wood safe. If you choose to cut on the ground, place a 2-inch sheet of foam board underneath your wood so your blade doesn’t hit the ground while you are working.

Using the ground will lower the risk of the saw giving kickback from the board not being properly supported.

Step 2: Setting Up Your Saw

Make sure you install the proper blade before you turn on your saw. You need to use a plywood blade because they are equipped with several teeth to prevent the plywood from tearing. You can purchase a plywood blade at your local hardware store for about twenty dollars.

Attach the cutting sled to the saw using the set of screws that came with it. Always check to see if the sled is set straight and square before you start cutting. Using the sled will help you keep straight lines and sharp edges.

Set the depth of the blade to about 1/4-inch, or just slightly over the thickness of the board you are cutting. Doing so will allow you to cut all the way through your board in one pass.

Plywood Circular Saw Blade

Step 3: Prepare the Plywood

Before you start cutting your plywood, it will be a huge help to mark your board where you plan on making cuts. You can do this with a pen, pencil, or painter’s tape.

The painter’s tape acts as a splinter guard and gives you a straight guideline to follow.

Step 4: Don Your Safety Gear

You must always take safety precautions when using power tools to prevent an injury. If you want to try to use a circular saw in a tank top, shorts, and flip flops, you should give that a second thought. It is important to make sure you are completely covered, pants and a jacket, to maintain your safety and to protect yourself from splinters.

There is always a possibility of dropping something while you are working on a project that involves heavy materials and equipment. Wearing steel-toed boots is the best way to prevent a broken foot if that happens.

If you don’t own a pair of steel-toed boots, wear the thickest tennis shoes you can find in your closet. They may not completely protect you from a possible broken foot, but they will at least soften the blow a little bit.

Eye protection is an absolute must. This will protect your eyes in the case a splinter comes flying at you. If a splinter would get in your eye, it could cause serious damage, possibly loss of vision. Wear goggles that completely cover your eyes and sit very close to or on your skin to prevent any debris flying in.

Additionally, earmuffs are necessary because power tools are loud. If you are working in your garage or basement, it is even more critical to protect your ears as the sound will echo and cause more damage to your hearing.

It will also be beneficial to wear a face mask, preferably a mask with a filter. There will be a lot of dust and wood flakes flying around that you do not want to breathe in. Wearing a mask will protect your lungs and allow you to breathe easy while you work.

Finally, before continuing, you will also want to check my guide to circular saw safety.

Step 5: Rip the Plywood to Desired Width

Using the guide, select the desired width for your plywood. The rip-cut is used when you will be cutting with the grain of the wood. Ripping takes out small splinters of wood as you cut.

Before you start cutting, double check with a tape measurer that the blade is the correct distance to create the right size of cut. Align the saw with the edge of the guide and cut from one side of the wood to the other side following a straight line.

 

Step 6: Cross-Cut Plywood to Desired Length

A cross-cut is when you are cutting across the grain of the wood. This type of cut shears the wood to keep the edges clean. It is beneficial to use painter’s tape when cross-cutting, because the tape will help contain some of the splinters that will come from the wood.

Before selecting the length with the guide, flip your plywood upside down. The side you plan on having as the outside of your finished piece should be facing the ground because when cross-cutting the length, most of the tearing will happen on the top, not the bottom of the wood.

After you have flipped your board, use the guide to select the proper length you want to cut. Use the sled attached to the saw to line up with the edge of the guide and begin cutting. Follow the guide in a straight line.

Cutting Plywood with a Circular Saw

Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks

Always support the board where you are cutting. If the board would bend while you are cutting, it can cause serious damage to the board. It can also cause kickback, resulting in a serious injury for you.

If you are using a workbench, always clamp the board onto a solid edge. This will keep the wood sturdy and prevent it from moving and messing up your cut.

Do not use the circular saw on too high of a speed. Slow and steady cuts will prevent unnecessary splintering in the wood.

Summary

There are multiple ways to cut plywood, such as a table saw, handsaw and jigsaw, but the most common is the circular saw. This tool is preferred because it is portable, lightweight, and easy to use.

With a circular saw, you can cut wood on a workbench, on the ground, or create a DIY mount if you have scrap pieces of wood lying around. Whichever method you choose, it is important to make sure you support the wood where you are cutting, use the correct plywood cutting blade, and follow safety precautions to avoid injury.