A table saw is the perfect tool for making precise cuts on a table saw.
Although many other tools can cut plywood, no other tool comes close in terms of accuracy, finish, and versatility compared to the table saw.
In this guide, I'll show you how to easily and accurately cut plywood sheets on the table saw.
Things You'll Need
- Table Saw
- Marking knife (or a pencil)
- Speed Square
- Measuring Tape
Step-by-Step Guide to Cutting Plywood on a Table Saw
The first step to cutting plywood is determining the final size you need.
If you are starting with a full sheet of plywood (8'x4'), then it might be difficult to cut it directly on the table saw.
A full sheet of three-quarter-inch plywood weighs nearly 61 pounds and the 8-foot length makes it more difficult.
In that case, you need to first use a circular saw to cut it down to a manageable size and then bring it to the table saw for cutting.
I show in detail how to do that here- ripping plywood sheets using a circular saw.
Now, you need to determine what size to bring it down to.
That size depends on the size of your table saw bed, whether you have an outfeed table, and the final size you need.
Once the plywood sheet is cut down into a manageable size, you are ready to cut it on the table saw.
What table saw blade should you use for cutting plywood?
Use an 80-tooth table saw blade for the perfect finish when cutting across the grain.
The top layer of the plywood has a grain pattern.
A regular all-purpose blade with around 50 teeth can also get the job done but if you want a good finish consider changing the saw blade to an 80-teeth one.
Begin by lifting and placing the sheet on the table.
Use your work table as the out feed table.
If you don't have an outfeed table, you will need another person to hold the plywood sheet as it comes out the other end.
Next, you need to mark the ripping width you need.
Using tape and a pencil, mark the width you need on the plywood.
Mark on both ends of the plywood sheet.
Now use a level or a ruler to connect both marks and form a line for cutting.
Next you need to set the rip fence.
Set the ripping width by measuring from the blade of the table saw to the rip fence.
Although most table saws have built in rulers, they can be inaccurate often.
Make sure to measure from the outside of the blade to account for the kerf (thickness of blade) loss.
Align the cut line with the blade using the rip fence of the table saw.
Lock the rip fence in place after setting the correct ripping width.
Keep in mind that if the table is too small for your purpose, you can remove the fence and support larger sheets but the accuracy of the cut will be affected.
Its best to make that first large cut on the circular saw and use the table saw for the final accurate cut.
Your primary concern should be pressing the edge of the panel against the table saw's rip fence.
Make sure the riving knife is installed, and if not, install it before cutting.
Never cut on a table saw without a riving knife, as it can result in serious kickback.
Place the sheet on the edge of the table, making sure the sides are supported.
Bring the plywood edge close to the blade and adjust the blade height using the plywood thickness as a reference.
The blade should be raised so its peak is 1/8" to 3/8" higher than the plywood sheet.
Next, turn on the saw and let it reach full speed.
Align the factory edge with the rip fence and remember to apply pressure towards the fence and downwards with the other hand.
If you are ripping a very large sheet you'll also need to lift the sheet a bit on your end due to the sag.
Feed slowly, watching the fence, not the blade.
Any gap between the plywood sheet and the fence can cause inaccuracy in the cut.
Make sure you have some kind of outfeed table on the other end.
If you don't use an outfeed table and let the other end sag down, the part of the sheet you're cutting will get lifted up.
Continue feeding the wood carefully until the entire sheet is fully cut.
Tips for Safety while Cutting Plywood on a Table Saw
- Remove or tighten loose garment items such as long sleeves, jackets, neckties, and so on.
- When using a table saw, You should not use gloves. In addition, remove any rings, bracelets, or other clothing that might become entangled in the table saw or material.
- When running the table saw, use industrial-grade eye and ear protection.
- When changing saw blades, ensure sure the blade arbour nut is properly secured.
- Never lift the saw blade above the material being cut by more than 1/4th inches.
- Never remove small fragments from the saw until the blade has completely stopped moving.
- Never stay right behind or too close to the running blade to avoid injury in case of kickback. Kickback is extremely dangerous and must be prevented at all costs.
- Make sure the saw teeth are facing in the right direction of rotation. (Clockwise direction in case of table saw).
- Make sure the off cut is always on side without the fence so it will not pinch and shoot back at you.
Tips for Accuracy while Cutting Plywood on a Table Saw
- Miter fence of the table saw can help create perfectly square cuts as its parallel to the blade as well as perpendicular. This is a much better alternative than using hands to push the wood.
- Rip fence always stay parallel to the balde and hence will always yield straight edges.
- Use a sharp blade with an appropriate number of teeth. More teeth on the saw blade means better cut but takes longer to cut and large teeth means quick but rough cuts.
Frequently Asked Question (FAQ)
How do you keep plywood from chipping when cutting?
Adding a strip of masking tape to both the top and bottom of the sheet, directly over the cut line will also prevent chipping and splinters on plywood. Always use an appropriate blade for plywood, and be sure that it is sharp. Make sure good face of your plywood facing upwards as the table saw cuts clockwise and will create splinter on the face it exits.
Can you crosscut plywood on a table saw?
With the right kind of blade it is possible to cross cut plywood on a table saw. Use an 80 TPI plywood blade, one designed for cross cuts.