Ah, plywood, the building material that can practically do anything. From exterior wall sheathing to roofing and floors, even to furniture, plywood has your back. With such a versatile product, should you be using a specific saw blade when cutting it?
To reduce chip-out and keep your plywood from splitting, it is best to use an 80-tooth blade to get the job done. This type of blade is specifically designed for sheet goods and has small teeth that help keep chip-out at bay and give you a nice smooth cut.
Plywood is fantastic when it comes to all its different capabilities, but it is a sensitive material. Due to its sensitivity, you can not start cutting on it all willy nilly without a care in the world for the blade you are using or the rate you are cutting it at.
Continue reading to understand what plywood is, the best blade for the job, and other helpful tips to get cleaner cuts when working with this material.
How Does Plywood Cut?
Before we look at the best table saw blade for plywood, it is important to understand how this type of wood differs from other types of wood. Anyways, if you are living and breathing, you have seen plywood at one point or another.
You know what it looks like, but do you know what it is made of and how it cuts? It may come as a surprise that plywood is actually an engineered wood product for some of you.
Using the right blade for plywood is the most important aspect of getting a clean-cut and ensuring that you do not have to start your project over from the very beginning. Ideally, use an 80-tooth blade to cut through the multiple plies for a smooth, even cut.
Yes, it is important to recognize that plywood is not naturally occurring. However, it is made from natural materials. Ply is made from three or more ‘plies’ of wood, glued together to form a big, flat sheet.
The plies are glued together and pressed until they hold no more secrets, and then they are released and are ready to venture out into the great wide open.
Plywood is made from either softwood, hardwood, and sometimes, both. It can be made from ash, maple, oak, mahogany, and douglas fir, pine, redwood, and cedar.
When it comes to wood, the possibilities for making this piece of material are essentially endless.
Because plywood is manufactured, it is considered softwood and more difficult to cut than other hardwoods. This means that if you do not have the right blade, you will get a very haphazard cut splintered and full of chip out.
What is the Best Blade for Cutting Plywood?
Your blade is the essential player for getting a clean and smooth cut from your plywood. Although plywood can be made from hardwood, even the hardest plywoods are considered “soft” on the wood density scale.
Because of this, you have to be uber conscientious of the blade you use when cutting. What this means for you is grabbing a blade that has a high count of teeth. Really, the higher, the better.
What is going to be best for your cut is to grab an 80-tooth cross-cutting table saw blade. This is a good choice because an 80-tooth blade (due to its high amount of blades) is going to take teeny tiny bites from your plywood rather than rip big chucks from it like a 24-tooth or 30-tooth blade would do.
When you have a blade with a low count of teeth cutting on soft wood, you will end up with a ton of tear-out and a less than pleasing aesthetic for your cuts.
If you do not have an 80-tooth blade already in your shop but have a 60-tooth, this will also work well for plywood. They are both designed to provide an ultra-smooth cut across the grain without chipping or tearing out.
An 80-tooth blade offers a “Triple Chip Grind” specially designed for plywood, chipboard, and melamine. It is made for these types of woods and can’t cut cross solid wood very well.
Think of it as having one job that it does very well. Each blade (the 60-tooth and the 80-tooth) is designed to tango with woods that are quick to splinter, tear-out, and chip. The high number of teeth keeps your wood’s needs in mind without ripping your projects to shreds.
Plywood is a sturdy material, but it is sensitive, and thus, it requires a bit more care when it comes to handling it. Be sure to use either of these blades when cutting (preferably an 80-tooth), and work is done right the first time.
Other Ways to Improve Your Plywood Cuts
Not only will you want to pay attention to the blade that you are using to cut your plywood, but you can also consider putting these steps into action to improve your plywood cuts:
- Raise Your Blade
- Zero Clearance Insert
- Tape It Up
- Give Your Plywood Outside Support
- Don’t Leave Your Post
Let’s take a closer look.
Raise Your Blade
Although your blade needs to be fed slower, this does not mean that the blade should also sit low on the table when cutting.
If you raise your blade slightly, it will help keep the pressure on your plywood’s top face, which prevents the teeth from slicing and dicing haphazardly.
Support is your best friend when it comes to plywood, but really clean cuts in general. Raise the blade just a few inches, and your blade will be cutting through plywood like butter.
Zero Clearance Insert
Speaking of support, even more than raising your blade a bit, a zero clearance insert is going to give your plywood all the backup it needs.
This little device inserts right into your table saw and will match the blade’s size that you are using to cut. It helps to eliminate any sort of instability near the blade when cutting, which can cause quite a bit of tear-out.
Your plywood will have no wiggle room to give, and you’ll thus have a nice clean cut.
Tape It Up
So you’ve been able to manage the big tear-outs on all your projects, but you still see little tiny fiber tear-outs along the edges. This may be no big deal overall, but for the perfectionist, you may as well start over.
Try placing a line of blue painter’s tape along the edge you plan to cut to stop this annoying pattern. This should help keep those itty bitty fibers down and likely give you a good clean line without starting from scratch.
Give Your Plywood Outside Support
Your plywood needs support at the blade, but it also needs a bit more, especially when dealing with entire sheets.
No, you don’t need to find your area’s best therapist. Just make sure that when you feed your plywood into the table saw, it has enough support at the outfeed itself.
You can do this by purchasing a roller and placing it in line with the saw kerf holds at the end of the sheet. This will keep your sheet from bending and will give it more consistent pressure.
Don’t Leave Your Post
Your fence post that is. When you are feeding that big chunk of plywood into the saw, be sure to keep it firmly against the fence.
You don’t want your sheet straying from this as it will result in a cut that isn’t straight and one that may be full of tear-out.
Keep your hands firmly pressed on the furthest from the blade and press against it towards the cutline that reaches the outfeed. Keep the pressure, and your results will be just dandy.