The Right Way to Cut Thin Plywood (Solution)

Plywood is a great alternative for making cabins and boxes if you can’t afford wood. But plywood can be tricky, as it acts slightly differently than lumber. For instance, when you cut thin plywood, one of the layers might tear if not done properly. So in this article, we will teach you how to do that and avoid any damage to it. Here is the right way to cut thin plywood without breaks or tears.

To cut thin plywood correctly, you need to use a table saw with a blade that has a high teeth count. The more the teeth on the saw blade, the better it will cut plywood. You can also tape down both sides of the thin plywood with masking tape as that will prevent it from tearing or breaking. This will allow for cleaner cuts that do not waste your plywood.

Plywood is basically thin sheets of wood stuck together. They are stuck together using adhesive and applying a lot of pressure and weight on the layers to stick them very closely. Depending on the quality of the plywood you can make furniture out of it, or use it for construction purposes.

The Best Way to Cut Thin Plywood

So there are a few ways you can cut plywood, each method has its sets of issues. But the best way to cut thin plywood would be by using a high tooth count blade on a table saw. You can use a circular saw as well if you don’t own a table saw. But you still need to use the same blade for it, a blade with a lot more teeth than a usual saw blade. Though that alone might not be enough to give you the best results.

Here are some things you can try which will help you in making sure you get the cleanest cuts on your thin plywood.

Tips and Tricks for Clean Cuts on Thin Plywood

  • Use masking tape: Apply masking tape on the front and the back of the thin plywood where you need to cut it. The masking tape ensures that the outer layer of the veneer does not tear or break when the blade of the saw cuts through the plywood.
  • Ensure Saw is at Maximum Speed: Before moving the thin plywood through the saw to cut it, ensure that the blades are moving at maximum speed. You don’t want to push the plywood through the saw when the blade is picking up the pace but at full speed instead. This gives the blade great precision as well as allows for cleaner cuts and no tears.
  • Push with consistent speed: While pushing the thin plywood through the saw, use consistent speed and motion. Don’t rush it and go through the board slowly and in a steady motion.
  • Apply a Pilot Cut Using Utility Cutter: One more way to avoid tearing is to cut the top layer and veneer of the plywood using a utility cutter. Once you carve it with the cutter you can easily cut through that area where you have carved without any tears in the plywood.

Another thing you can do is to make sure the good side (the side with the hardwood veneer) is facing away from the blade and not towards it. In the case of a table saw that would be upwards and in the case of a circular saw it would mean facing downwards. If you follow all the tips and use a high tooth count blade with your table saw or circular saw, you will be able to cut your thin plywood without problems and issues at all.

How to Cut Thin Plywood With Jigsaw

A jigsaw is a multipurpose tool that is designed to cut many types of wood. This is because there is a variety of blades available in the market that you can attach to it. In the case of plywood, you would want to use a blade that has its teeth facing upwards. You will also need a blade with a high tooth count for the jigsaw as well. This way there is no tearing or breaking in the plywood sheet that you are working on.

Mark the cut you have to make on the thin plywood using a pencil. You can also use a utility knife to carve the line. Once you do that, just start the jigsaw, wait for it to be at maximum speed then slowly and steadily move the jigsaw forward. Keep the pushing consistent and the movement steady, if you push too hard or fast it will start to tear at the plywood instead.

Although plywood may be thin, it has glue between the layers of wooden sheets that secures it. Cutting through it requires some patience and extra tooth on the blade of your saw. In this case, it’s the jigsaw blade, there are actually blades for the jigsaw that are designed to cut through materials like plywood. This blade from BOSCH is one of the best in the market when it comes to making straight cuts in plywood.

How to Cut Thin Plywood With a Utility Knife

While most people use a utility knife just to carve and mark the plywood, you can actually cut it as well if the board is thin enough. It is not a difficult process, just requires precision and a little elbow grease. The starting process will be similar to how you use a jigsaw or other tools.

Firstly, you need to mark the line that you need to cut through with either a pencil or the utility knife itself. You need to do this by using a ruler to assist with making a straight and accurate cut. Once you do this, keep at it a few times. Apply pressure each time you make a pass with the utility knife through the line that you have carved.

Once you make enough passes through the thin plywood board, it will start to give in and cut apart. It will take quite a few tries and it is rather difficult to make straight and accurate cuts without a ruler or such a tool for assistance. But it also allows for a tear-free and clean cut. Though you will need a heavy-duty utility knife for this job, one that is good enough to carve wood with one pass. 

How to Judge the Quality of a Plywood Board

As we briefly discussed in the introductory section, plywood comes in different qualities. Depending on its quality, you can use it either for furniture or for construction. Quality plywood is used for furniture making, while the lower quality one is only good for construction purposes. The decent-quality plywood comes with a hardwood veneer top layer and core.

But a veneer hardwood top layer and core does not always mean that the layers of the wood inside are good too. The sheets inside the wood may not be quality wood. It can even be that the different layers of the plywood are from different trees and lumbers. This can be troublesome as some of these might be wood which is not suitable for heavy-duty work.

Though plywood is durable enough, knowing the quality beforehand can help you decide for what work it can be used. This is why some plywood sheets are cheaper than others because the quality can vary, even if both have veneer hardwood tops and softwood cores. PBC or MDF is not a good option for heavy-duty work like furniture or construction either. They are good for cabinets or boxes, but not for heavy things.


Can you cut any kind of plywood with a table saw and circular saw?

Yes, you can use both of these for cutting any kind of plywood regardless of the core of the material. Just follow the instructions above to make sure that the cuts come out clean and that there is no splintering or tearing.

Can you use any other kind of tape for making the cuts clean and avoiding splintering on the top layer?

Masking tape is the preferred method as it is not too tightly adhered that it cant be removed. Plus paper cuts easily with a saw while there are chances that plastic tape might stick and even impede the cutting of the thin plywood board.

Should you mark the thin plywood board with a utility knife before cutting it?

It is not necessary, but doing so does give you the advantage of not having splinters while the top layer is being cut. This is because you have already cut into it with a utility knife, so the blade will just be passing through it instead of cutting it or splintering it.

What is better? Table saw, jigsaw, or circular saw?

Either one of them is a good option for cutting thin plywood. It all depends on whether you have a tool available at your disposal or not. Table saws are more powerful and do a better job with straight cuts mostly. Meanwhile, a circular saw allows you mobility and a jigsaw can give you the option to cut in different directions.

Final Thoughts

Knowing your plywood is the first step to being able to cut it better. If you know the kind of plywood you are working on, you can take measures to ensure that it does not splinter, tear, or break. Whether it is thin plywood or thick, both of them have their fair share of issues. But if you follow the steps we have provided above, you will not have any troubles whatsoever when cutting thin plywood.

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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