If you are building something or making repairs, chances are pretty big that plywood is going to be involved. Depending on what you are doing, chances are also that you will need to cut it. In those cases, one of the best options to consider is the jigsaw.
In this article, we will talk about how to use a jigsaw to cut plywood. We’ll cover everything you need to know, and we will especially make sure that the process you learn today will help you accomplish the task without the sheet of plywood splintering.
Is a Jigsaw the Best Tool for Cutting Plywood?
The reason why this question is important to answer is not necessarily because a jigsaw is not a good tool or the right type of saw to use for cutting plywood, but because plywood is known to splinter whenever it is cut. Generally speaking, if you have the right blade and operate the saw at the right speed, the jigsaw is as good a tool as any other to use for this task.
That said, to be fair, a jigsaw is more likely to cause splintering when sawing plywood because of the reciprocating movement of the blade, that rapid up and down motion. For this reason, many people recommend using a circular saw instead. They do so because with that type of saw, the blade only moves in one direction.
If the blade only moves in one direction, such as with a table saw, a handheld circular saw, or a miter saw, splinters are less likely to occur, and if they do, they won’t be too severe. However, if a jigsaw is the only type of saw you have at your disposal, you can absolutely use it to cut plywood, but you need to be very careful and you need to follow the steps outlined below.
How to Cut Plywood with a Jigsaw
Keep in mind that this is not exactly going to be a step-by-step kind of guide (although that will be an element present), but more of a guide focusing on how to prevent splintering from occurring when sawing plywood with a jigsaw.
Use the Right Jigsaw Blade
One of the most important things to do before you try cutting plywood is to equip your jigsaw with the appropriate blade. In case you didn’t know, there are many types of blades that jigsaws can handle, but there is only one type of blade that should be used for cutting plywood if you want a clean surface after cutting.
Any expert carpenter who knows a thing or two will recommend that a reverse tooth blade be used for this purpose. This type of blade may still cause minimal splintering, but it’s your best bet for cutting plywood nonetheless. The other thing to keep in mind here is that your jigsaw blade should have a large tooth count when it comes to cutting plywood. Anything over 20 teeth per inch being fine, and the more teeth per inch your blade has the better.
Ensure That Your Blade Is Sharp
The type of blade and the amount of teeth it has per inch is not the only important thing to consider here. The simple fact of the matter here is that if you use a blade that is in any way dull or worn down, you will see that plywood splinter like you never thought possible.
A dull jigsaw blade, even with lots of small teeth is going to turn that plywood back into the shreds that were used to glue it together in the first place. When attempting to cut plywood with a jigsaw, it’s preferable to use a brand-new blade right out of the package.
Keep the Cutting Speed Moderate
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when attempting to cut a piece of plywood with a jigsaw is to assume that maximum speed produces the best results. It is a fair assumption because in many cases, saws do need to move at super high speeds to make fine and clean cuts, but it is not an assumption that holds true for this case.
That said, you also don’t want to have your jigsaw moving too slow. A medium speed, somewhere between high and low is best. If you go too slow, the plywood will shred due to not having enough speed (the teeth will stick into the plywood and rip it apart), but if you go too fast, you’ll end up losing control and making a mess of things.
As you might have gathered by now, having a jigsaw with a variable speed dial or lever is going to come in handy, if not just downright necessary.
Three Important Things to Avoid Splintering
For the best results when attempting to cut plywood with a jigsaw, follow the next three steps in the order as laid out here:
- Equip your saw with a splinter guard: Before you start cutting or even measuring, a good idea is to attach a splinter guard to your jigsaw. These are cheap and used specifically for this purpose, to prevent tear-out and splintering.
- Score the cut beforehand: Something that will help prevent splinters here is to score the plywood using something like a utility knife. If you are using a blade with downward-facing teeth, score the underside of the board, and vice versa.
- Use a piece of masking tape: Get yourself some transparent masking take and cover the score mark. The tape will keep the plywood in place, and even if it does splinter a little bit, it will prevent larger splinters from occurring.
Power the Saw Up and Make the Cut
If you followed and applied all the steps outlined above,aAll you have to do now is make the cut just like you would when cutting any other piece of wood with a jigsaw. Put on your safety gear, make sure that the plywood is supported on both sides, turn on your jigsaw to medium speed, and move the saw through the plywood.
Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks
Lastly, let’s go over a few general tips for you to follow to produce the best result when cutting plywood with a jigsaw:
- Never use an old or dull blade, as this is a sure-fire way to cause splintering.
- Always make sure that the blade you are using has at least 20 teeth per inch.
- Always wear the appropriate safety gear such as safety goggles, earplugs, and a mask.
- Always tie back long hair and never wear loose-fitting clothing.
- If possible, angle the blade forward for a more aggressive cut.
- Make sure to lubricate the jigsaw before use as this will allow for smoother blade action.
- Don’t apply too much forward pressure as this can result in broken teeth or even a snapped blade.
There you have it people, everything you need to know about using a jigsaw to cut plywood without turning it into shreds.
If you follow the steps and tips as outlined here today, you should not have any problems completing this task.