How to Cut Plywood Without a Saw

How to Cut Plywood Without a Saw

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Whether you are working on a floor, a roof, you are building walls, making cabinets, building a skateboard ramp, or anything in between, one of the materials that you are definitely going to come across is plywood.

Of course, if you have a good old circular saw or table saw, cutting plywood is made easy, but with that said, what happens when you don’t have a saw? What are you going to do? Let’s get to it and talk about the best ways to cut plywood without a saw.

Can (and Should You) Cut Plywood Without a Saw?

The simple fact here is that if you need your plywood cut, and you don’t have a saw, it’s not really a question of whether or not you should, but whether or not you can, and the answer here is yes, it is possible to cut plywood without a saw.

That being said, of course, a power saw is going to make life much easier. A power saw is going to make quick work of plywood, and even a handheld saw isn’t too bad either. That said, keep in mind that plywood can be difficult to saw. This is because the serrated blades of saws tend to rip out shards of the plywood as the blade passes through. The cross-grain pattern which plywood features can cause a whole lot of tear-out, burring, and shredding when serrated teeth are involved.

So, although any and all of the methods of cutting plywood without a saw listed below are much slower and more painstaking, most of them do avoid this problem of tear-out due to serrated teeth. So, the bottom line is that if you have the right tools for the job, you can absolutely cut plywood without a saw, as long as you do it right.

4 Best Ways to Cut Plywood Without a Saw

Let’s get right to it and talk about the best ways to cut plywood up without a saw. Yes, there are actually many different methods. And sure, some of them are going to surprise you. While some of these methods might seem really out there and downright weird, the fact of the matter is that they do work.

1. Using a Utility Knife

Cutting Plywood with a Utility Knife One of the most common ways of cutting plywood without a saw is by using a utility knife. All you have to do here is to mark the line which you need to cut with a marking utensil such as chalk (do so on both sides of the plywood).

Now, just take your utility knife, and yes, make sure that it is an extremely sharp knife because a dull knife will get you nowhere, and start cutting along the line. Once you get to the center of the material, flip the board around and start working from the other side.

In terms of the cutting technique, some people choose to just keep cutting straight lines and making them deeper and deeper as they go, some people will use the knife to chip the wood away, and others will make a V-cut. It really depends on what works best for you.

2. Using a Drill

Cutting Plywood with a Drill Another easy method for cutting plywood without a saw is by using a small drill bit and your power drill. Simply mark the line that you need to cut, and then, using a very small drill bit, start drilling holes along the line. Make sure that the holes are spaced as closely together as humanly possible.

Once you have enough holes along the line from one end to another, the plywood board should just snap in half, when you apply a bit of pressure to it.

Yeah, there’s going to be a lot of cleaning and sanding to do at the end of this, but it does work, and quite well too.

3. Using an Axe or Machete

Cutting Plywood with an Axe Sure, machetes are usually used to chop down bushes, and axes are used to chop down whole trees, but with that being said, both are used to cut types of wood, and yes, plywood is a type of wood.

What you need to make sure here is that whether using an axe or a machete, it needs to be really sharp, super sharp. If you plan on using this method, it’s best to sharpen the axe or machete directly prior to starting.

Once again, use chalk or a different marking utensil to mark the line that you need to cut. Now take your axe or machete and start chopping away. Make sure that you do a V-cut, which means that you attack the line from a 45-degree angle from the left and then from the right. You need to alternate from the left and the right to create that V, or else you’re not going to get very far.

You may choose to work only from one side or from both sides. One word of advice is to not drop all the way through as you might cause damage to the plywood. Instead, only chop it so far until the wood becomes thin enough that you can snap it by hand.

4. Using a Chisel and Mallet

Cutting Plywood with a Chisel The other method that we want to cover for cutting plywood without a saw is the mallet and chisel method. This is perhaps one of the easiest methods, although it will take the most time. All you need to do here is to get a really sharp chisel, place it along the line that you marked on the plywood and then get to hammering.

You will need to apply a whole lot of downward force with a chisel and a hammer, so it’s a good idea to clamp the plywood in place so it doesn’t move around. Yeah, you’re going to need some muscles for this one.

Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks

Let’s finish things off by providing you with some useful tips on the matter, just to help make your life a little bit easier:

  • If you are not using a saw, avoid anything serrated, because you will shred the plywood.
  • Always wear goggles when doing anything of this sort. You need to protect your eyes.
  • Whenever cutting wood without a saw, particularly when impacts are involved, such as from an axe, chisel, or machete, make sure to secure the plywood in place so it does not move.


There you have it people, the four best ways to cut plywood without any sort of saw.

No, none of these methods is particularly easy or fast, but any will do in a pinch.