How To Cut Plywood On a Table Saw


It has recently occurred to me that I do all my work by myself.  That makes me a Do-it-aloner, not a DIYer.  What is the difference, you ask?  My definition of a do-it-yourselfer is a person who builds, modifies, or repairs things without the direct aid of experts or professionals, but perhaps with the aid of others.  A do-it-aloner works alone.  All alone.  Is this a problem?  Not usually, but sometimes, such as cutting an awkward piece of plywood, it is a big problem.

Cutting Plywood Is Very Difficult To Do Alone

How to figure out how much plywood to buy

My project required enough plywood to cover a wall as I was cutting planks for shiplap.  To order enough required a bit of math.

Measure the dimensions of your wall.  For instance, my wall was 24 feet wide and 7.5 feet tall.  To get the square footage of the wall, multiply those two numbers together; 24 X 7.5 = 180.  Plywood is 4 X 8 or 32 square feet.  To determine the number of pieces you need, divide the square footage of the wall, by the square footage of the panel.  180 divided by 32 is 5.6.  So I purchased 6 pieces of plywood.

Have the plywood delivered 

Do not try to squeeze a piece of plywood into your SUV.  It will not fit and will damage your car in the process.  Here is a great hint. If you open a Lowe’s American Express Business Card, (affiliate) you can get your purchases delivered for $20 instead of the regular $60.  You also get 5% off every purchase.


Getting the plywood on the table saw

Handling a full-size sheet of plywood can be problematic.  (see the update, below)  I found that I could maneuver a piece onto the saw, but it quickly wanted to twist, turn and fall off!  It is possible to do this if you stabilize the sheet throughout the cut. 

In order to do this stabilization, and hold the sheet steady, I built myself a couple of helpers, one to catch the plywood after it went through the saw, and another to hold the plywood on the left side and keep it level.  Without this support, I wouldn’t have been able to maintain a steady rate of speed as the piece went through the saw. 

I made the catch table from a couple of saw horses with an old door on top.  Nothing fancy, but just the right height!  Then I scrounged around and found a couple of chairs that worked to hold up the plywood on the left side of the saw

 Great, I had two helpers!  Like I said, nothing fancy!  Make sure you have the best side up because, if there is going to be chipping, it will most likely occur on the bottom, not the top.

Update:  So many people have advised me to get better helpers!  Something more stable than chairs I have “scrounged up.”  

 Use a roller stand to support the board as it moves through the cut. Position the roller bracket so that it is just below the level of the plywood. Make sure the roller bracket is in the proper position to actually support the board as it is pulled apart. After cutting, wait until the blade comes to a complete stop before leaning over to pick up the wood.


Start cutting

I was really careful cutting the plywood.  My kids were counting my fingers at this point when they came to visit.  Every time!  I set the fence on the saw at 5 and 7/8 inches so that I would get 8 equal pieces.  

With such a large piece, it was difficult to put equal pressure on the end and the left side of the piece.  So don’t rush. Turn on the saw.  Yikes.  Lots of noise.  I pushed it through slowly, making sure the edge of the plywood was always tight against the fence.  Amazingly, that first piece was perfect!  Phew!  Each cut got easier after that as the plywood got smaller and lighter. 


Feel terrifically proud!  Good job!


After using the table saw I still have all 10 fingers!



After I wrote this article, I heard from a licensed contractor, my brother.  Apparently, the professionals consider it an absolute no-no to cut a full-size piece of plywood on a table saw, as it is too dangerous.  Yikes!  Cut it in half first!    


As always, take care.  You can do it!



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