Does anyone on this forum effectively use hand tools on plywood (say, 3/4″ baltic burch) – and make it look good? I invariably end up going to my table saw for sizing plywood. The reason I ask is because I’m considering upgrading my saw to a bigger one. I’d love to get rid of it entirely, but I build with plywood regularly. In fact, I have several projects waiting on me that are all dependent on plywood (in the plans). This is a hobby for me – these are for my wife, father, bonus room – etc.
I suppose in a perfect world I would just use real wood. That just isn’t a reality to me, mostly because of the cost. I can get my hands on plenty of small sized wood. I have tons of maple, walnut, beech, cherry – but all under 24″ in length. On projects requiring longer boards, I either end up with pine or plywood.
I use plywood as well as “real” wood. Paul uses plywood in the back of his hanging tool cabinet, I believe. I don’t have a table saw, but will use a circular saw and a clamp guide for anything over 4′. Otherwise I use a hand saw and plane to square up the edges. I’ve used a hand saw for long pieces of plywood as well, though, and it’s not that tough. With a sharp saw and smaller/narrower set I had no problem cutting a 4×6 down to a 3’6″x4’6″ piece. I’m only 5’7″ and 150 lbs. so I’m no bruiser. I’ve planed the surface of the plywood as well, but had a really fine set on it and then went through the finishing process with fine sandpaper after each coat of shellac.
If you have a lot of projects to do, though, with larger pieces, I don’t think there is anything wrong with a table saw. Maybe someone else will have a different take and explain it better than I, but I’m no expert, just a hobbyist like yourself.
I guess I have not seen that video yet. I also didn’t know you could plane plywood. I use my planes daily. Thanks for the input.
My biggest issue was tear out with my hand saws. The set on my rip saw is minimal but the teeth are large. I may try to obtain a finer toothed saw for this purpose.
I have a “cutting table” that I made from 2×2 and 2×4 plus a cheap set of fold-up legs from Home Depot. I don’t use ply much, but sometimes do and need to break down a sheet. I put the ply on the table and then use a circular saw on a track. There are some tracks out there that are a base that goes on your saw and then the track. Between the two, you get a zero-clearance cut. I bought this one years ago ( http://www.eurekazone.com/Circular-saw-guide-rail-p/ezts108.htm ). At the time, it was expensive, but not this expensive! I find it works well. The clamps on the underside of the track are effective and adjustable. The cutting table is sacrificial, i.e., the blade is set to cut into the table some minimal amount, just enough to be certain you are clearing your ply. The cutting table fully supports the ply during the cut, so you aren’t trying to manhandle a big sheet around a spinning blade, and makes sure that the work is supported and doesn’t pinch the blade. The proprietor tries to say it is super safe, but in my opinion it’s still a saw and a kickback is still always possible. Also, some of his gadgets in some ways defeat the blade cover, and that’s a risk, too. I’ve gotten good results with it and, when I don’t need to cut ply, the table folds up, the track divides in two and goes on the wood rack, and the saw goes on the shelf. The cutting table also is used for finishing, assembly, etc. It’s handy. Oh, I’ll sometimes need to make cuts in other than ply, and that works with the track, too, but you are limited in depth vs. a table saw (and you lose a little depth from the saw base that you must add).
To prevent tear-out on plywood I apply the same technique as on real wood: knife lines. Works pretty well with hand saws. I use hard point hand saws, because I’m afraid that the hardship of the glue will dull the “good” hand saws (which can be resharpened) very fast. To even out the saw marks I use sand paper, but no plane – for the same reason.
The set on the saws had been reduced with a metal working vice – and luckily no tooth broke out and they still saw straight.
PS: There’s nothing wrong with fine pine – imho. 🙂
Veni, vidi, serravi.
agree with what ecky H says, always use knifewalls, I actually create two knifewalls on ply and cut through the centre with the saw kerf then plane the edge down to the line, usually with a jack plane, then break the arris edges so it won’t break out all the way around. Where I am pine is much cheaper than plywood!
@ed, I really like your suggestion and have even considered this in the past. I know that Kreg has a universal fit track that is under $100. I could gamble on that and see if it works. I had also been mulling over a collapse-able outfeed table as well.
@btyreman – pine is much cheaper than plywood. The plywood I’m referring to is about $50/sheet. The projects that I’m working on kind of require it though. I’m building a TV cabinet for my step mother – it is low and wide and I need the structural rigidity of plywood – and also the stability of it not moving. This particular project is also going to have small sliding barn doors on it and will likely be overloaded with her stuff.
All of my handsaws are ones I’ve picked up on ebay and restored. I cringed at the thought of using them on plywood. My only “disposable” saw blade would be on my tablesaw.
@dfsixstring1968 you mentioned clean ply cuts as being a priority, so look for reviews of each system. Some are just going to give you a straight cut, but the cut itself will be whatever comes off your circular saw, which in general isn’t great. The EurekaZone system includes a base that goes onto your saw and provides a zero clearance throat. I’ve had excellent results with it. I don’t know if the Kregg does that. You know, I think EZ sells the base separately ( http://www.eurekazone.com/product-p/ezusb.htm ) The base has a removable plate. You can see three of them off to the right in the photo at the link. These provide the zero clearance throat. Notice that one of them is flat and the other(s) have a bump. The plate(s) with a bump are for using on their track. The bump makes up for the thickness of the track and reaches down to the work piece. The flat plate is used when the saw is *not* on the track. The first time you use the plate, you do a plunge cut through it to get a zero clearance opening. So, the idea would be to use the EZ base to get the zero clearance, but build your own track. See the fence/jig half way down this page: https://www.woodmagazine.com/woodworking-tips/techniques/sawing-solutions/circular-saw . If you later decide you want to buy the EZ track too, then you can.
Again, I must warn: Most of these systems defeat the blade guard at least to some extent and sometimes to a great deal. It’s a serious safety issue that you must think through. Here are two photos of my saw with the EZ base on it. One has the zero clearance flat plate installed and the other does not. You can see how the base at least lets the blade guard come down, but the zero clearance plate keeps the guard from fully covering the blade. When the saw is on the track, it is even worse because the full extent of the blade below the track is exposed. That comment may not make sense now because you’re thinking the blade would be in the wood, but there are track-saw configurations of the EZ system that provide a bridge and, in that configuration, you can have the saw up in the air, not in the work, with the blade exposed. See, http://toolsko.eu/en/eureka-zone/
I meant to say: If I’m not cutting down a big sheet, I generally cut ply with my hand saw or tenon saw, knifing as others said. I just use my regular saws and can sharpen them if needed. For planing, since the plies alternate in direction, there can be some level of breakout at corners unless you think to come back from the other direction or put on a chamfer first.
A note on hand tools and ply: I have used my # 4,spokeshave and router on plywood. I do however make sure the blades are in top sharpness due to the glues and the constant crossgrain changes as you deepen the cut. As far as using hand saws, the only way to be sure of the clean cut result is to do a deep score of the top and bottom of the piece being cut.
About the use of cut off saw to cut veneered ply- The cheapest and most effective thing I found was a tip from WoodSmith to stick a piece of 1/4″ thick hardboard to the bottom of the saw with double stick tape. The very carefully lower the blade through the hardboard and you have an instant 0-clearance insert that stops the tear out on the upswing of the blade. As far as table saw use, again use a 0-clearance insert to cut the ply with. If you want to be sure of clean cuts, prescore the bottom of the piece being cut before running it through the saw.
@eckyh – There’s pine and there’s pine! In my part of the world pine is usually that weed species Radiata Pine (or Monterey Pine). But if you ask really, really nicely and pay a (fair) bit more – the timber man might give you hoop pine (Araucaria) – which is a much, much better option! 🙂
I don’t think anyone has mentioned that you will need a cross-cut sharpened hand saw NOT the rip saw that you mention for cutting plywood.
When cutting ply you will be cutting with the grain and across the grain over the different layers (and glue). An saw with large rip pattern teeth will not do this well. Its simply not suited to the task without slicing teeth. Plywood skews modern handsaw requirements heavily towards crosscut toothing. You will note that crosscut panel saws with crosscut teeth or very fine rip pattern teeth dominate big-box store shelves these days. With the availability of electric saws to ripcut timber, most new hand saws are used to cross cut timber or cut ply, and sold by the makers with tooth patterns best suited for this purpose (i.e. crosscut or fine rip).
If you are not doing large amounts of ply, you probably dont need to upgrade your table saw. Just get a long resharpenable crosscut panel saw. For cutting ply I use either a crosscut panel saw or a handheld circular skil saw depending on quantity. Both work equally well.
spot on byron, I forgot to mention that I use a disposable hardpoint japanese crosscut ryobi saw, it’s ideal because it’s quite a fine fleam tooth pattern, they are great for cutting plywood gives a very clean cut, I would never normally recommend the throw away type blades but for this purpose they are great.
- This reply was modified 4 years, 10 months ago by btyreman.
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