3 Tips To Cut Wood Paneling Without Splintering

As beautiful and innovative as the concept of wood paneling is, it is not without its flaws. One of the problems in working with paneling is that it splinters easily while cutting. This could lead to pieces of paneling being discarded, or some rather odd-looking trim work done on paneled walls, in an attempt to hide the mistakes made during the cutting.

Cutting wood paneling without splintering could sound like a herculean task for persons who have never tried it before or have had little luck in their attempts. No need to fret! This post will give you the necessary tips and tricks that would make your work come out as though it was done by a professional. Let’s get started.

Three Tips To Avoid Splintering

Splintering usually occurs on one side and it is often caused by the choice of blade among other factors. Splintering leaves the wood vulnerable to further splintering and moisture damage. A splintered wood is unattractive, and it could also be a little dangerous due to the sharpness of the splinters.

Below are some tips to avoid splintering while cutting wood paneling.

Tip one: Making Use of the Right Technique

Making use of the right technique while cutting wood paneling could mean the difference between a good and bad cut. It is also important to understand that in a finished paneling, splintering usually happens only on one side which happens to be the backside of the wood.

Here are some tricks that could be applied when cutting wood paneling:

  • When making cuts with a circular saw, to prevent splintering, make sure that the face of the paneling is placed down. Because a circular saw cuts in an upward motion or direction, the face of the paneling will come out neat and clean. In the case of a table saw, the teeth rotate in a downward motion.  Therefore, the cut should be made with the face of the paneling up. This way, a nice cut is created up.
  • Most times when you cut along the grain, there is no problem. Splintering mostly occurs when a cut is made across the grain. Therefore, position the saw to cut along the grain.
  • Before cutting paneling, use masking tape on the length of where you are about to cut. Although some people claim this technique does not work, in combination with other technique it is considered to be a best practice.
  • Use a fine-tooth blade for your cuts. Although a 20 tooth blade will cut wood paneling faster, it will not make a fine and clean cut like a 60 tooth blade will do.
  • Before cutting the wood paneling with a saw, you can score along the line of the place you wish to cut with a knife or razor. Scoring can be done by noting where you wish to cut, holding the area firmly with a straight edge or ruler, and scoring deeply along the line of cut. Scoring helps the fiber in the wood to cut easily when it is later sawed.
  • When cutting paneling with a table saw or circular saw, to prevent splintering on both sides, first make a shallow cut with the saw. The shallow cut made cuts through the top layer of fiber so that when the second cut is made the chances of splintering are reduced.

Applying one or multiple of the above techniques is sure to help you achieve cleaner and nicer cuts.

Tip Two: The Sharpness of the Tool

The sharper the edge of your knives, or the tooth of the saw, the neater the cut it will give. For precision cutting as required in the cutting of paneling, the sharpness of the blade or tooth is really important.

Blunt knife edges weaken the compactness of the wood fiber while cutting. So also the firm core that allows the thin flexible wood panel to retain its integrity becomes lax when you use a blunt tool to work. This is what makes it so necessary to keep your tools razor-sharp at all points of cutting wood paneling.

Find out how ofter to sharpen your knives or How to sharpen your knives razor sharp

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Asides from dull blades, rusting along the edges of the blade is also an indication of splintering. The essence of a neat sharp blade cannot be overemphasized in getting the best result.

Tip Three: Working on a Smooth Surfaced Workbench

Aside from the poor choice of tools, the wood moisture, and other common errors that bring about splintering, some errors can be avoided. These simple errors that people often overlook could end up ruining their wood paneling with splinters. One of these errors is your work surface. Attempting cutting wood paneling on a surface that is not smooth will cause minor tremors while cutting. Especially when you run the utility knife or circular saw along with those bumps or depressions.

To avoid splintering, you must ensure that your workbench is smooth and polished. Since the thickness of wood paneling requires carefulness during cutting, fissures on the workbench will cause irreversible damage to the wood even before you attempt bending and breaking off.

In the absence of a palatable work surface, most floor finishing in homes now offers these uniform surfaces that will allow efficient cutting. Though the floor (as a work surface) may not allow some power tools such as the circular saw, it remains unmatched in its smoothness and the avoidance of splintering.

Using The Right Tools to Cut Wood Paneling

Different tools are used to cut wood paneling. With the right tools at disposal and an accurate understanding of how they work, cutting paneling will be a walk in the park.

Precision tools are more suitable for cutting paneling. Examples of these tools are; Circular saw, Table saw, Jigsaw, Sabre saw, utility knife, etc. All these tools are best for cutting wood paneling. However, they are not made to cut in the same manner or fashion.

A wide variety of all these tools exists in different forms and models. However, to obtain the best result when cutting, the Dewalt 7 ¼ inch Circular saw with electric brake is highly recommended. It is a light saw weighing only 8.8lb. Because of the lightness of the weight, it is easy to use and maneuver and can be held for a long time without feeling tired.

The Circular Saw has a 15amp motor that allows you to work without worrying about exerting too much physical strength. The best part is that once you are done sawing your paneling, you do not need to always switch off the saw manually. The electric brake stops the blade once the trigger is released.

Using A Table Saw Vs. Using a Circular Saw Vs. Jig Saw to Cut Wood Paneling

Although all these tools perform the same function, however, there are differences in their mode of operation and the type of cut they produce. Let us examine them closely.

Table Saw

The Table saw is a great tool for ripping (lengthwise cuts made on the surface of the wood). Table saws are stationed in a position with the blades rotating in the downward position. Paneling is cut when the operator pushes the wood into the blade rotating at a high speed. The table saw has its blade rotating in the downward direction. Therefore, the cut to be made should be done on the face side of the paneling.

Circular Saw

Circular Saws are best suited for projects that involve continuous cutting. Because of their sturdiness, they are common on the worksite and in-home workshops.

Unlike a table saw, the blade of a circular saw cuts with an upward tooth motion. To prevent splintering on the finished surface of the paneling, the cut is made from the backside. In some cases, it is possible to remove the blade of the circular saw and turn it such that the blade faces downward. If this process is followed, there will be a need to turn the panel face down before cutting.

 Circular saws also come with paneling blades that are more suitable for cutting paneling. In the absence of one, a regular fine-tooth wood blade may be used with the appropriate technique.

Circular saws are perfect for making straight-line cuts. They cannot be trusted to cut on curved edges because this is a major weakness of the saw.


A Jigsaw is a type of saw which has a singular tooth blade. When in use the blade is seen to move in a forward and backward motion against the material to be cut. A Jigsaw can cut different types of materials other than wood. They could include wood, metals, plastics, and even ceramic tiles.

The unique feature of the Jigsaw is that it can cut intricate parts of a project such as curves, shapes, letters, etc. Unlike the Circular saw, the Jigsaw makes detailed cuts around sockets, outlets, etc.

The blade on the Jigsaw cuts in the downward direction. Therefore cuts are made on the right face side of the paneling to prevent splintering.

How to Cut Paneling Already On the Wall?

To cut into a paneling that is already up on the wall requires a little technicality. Same as how to cut an uninstalled wood paneling, plan out the size you wish to cut by taking the appropriate measurements and markings. Next, drill a hole on the markings before you begin to cut out with the appropriate saw or cutting tool.

Another method that can be used is to score and snap the wood after marking out the proper measurements.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, achieving a clean and chip-free cut is 100% attainable. As explained all that is required is the right technique and a good working understanding of the tools to be used. If all these things are put in place, you are on your way to working like a pro.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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