Woodworking Tips
Woodworking Tips Index
Cutting Plywood Down to Size – Final Cuts  
After making the preliminary rough cuts (for more on this see last week's tip), the next step is to trim each piece to final size. This usually calls for a series of cuts — not just one.

FACTORY EDGE – One reason is the “factory edge” of the plywood. You can usually count on this edge to be straight and true. But it often gets dented or nicked. So I usually trim just a bit of the edge off.

To do this, adjust the rip fence on the table saw to make an extra-wide cut, as you can see in Figure 1. Then, after readjusting the fence, run the “just-cut” edge against it to rip the piece to final width.

One thing that’s different here is the blade on the table saw cuts on the downstroke. So the “good” side of the plywood faces up. Even so, it’s still a good idea to make a shallow pass first, then follow it up with a full-depth cut, as shown in the detail in Figure 1.  

WIDE PIECES – There’s another situation that often comes up when cutting pieces to final size — crosscutting a wide piece. The problem is that a wide piece extends too far out in front of the table saw at the beginning of a cut. This means that the bar of the miter gauge isn’t fully supported in the slot in the saw table. As a result, you can’t get an accurate cut.

SLIDING PLATFORM –The solution is a large sliding platform that provides extra support for the workpiece (Figure 2). The platform consists of three parts. A plywood base carries the workpiece through the blade. The base is guided by a hardwood runner that slides in the miter slot of the table saw. As you make a cut, a fence keeps the workpiece square to the blade.  

FLUSH TRIM – But sometimes a workpiece is too wide even for the sliding platform. That’s when a hand-held router and a flush trim bit come in handy. The idea here is to first clamp a straightedge to the workpiece so it aligns with the layout line, as illustrated in Figure 3. When you run the bearing of the flush trim bit against the straightedge, the bit cuts a clean, crisp edge.

Have a nice weekend,

Bryan Nelson
Online Editor, ShopNotes

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