Breaking Down Sheet Goods with Hand Saws

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by thebenchroom posted 01-09-2012 06:23 PM 8423 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View thebenchroom's profile


47 posts in 3030 days

01-09-2012 06:23 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Wondering what you all think the best saw to use to break down 3/4 ply, other than a table saw. Ryoba Saw, or another hand saw? I hate tablesaws personally, but if power is the “only way” would a high quality circular saw be the best choice?

-- [email protected]

18 replies so far

View jmos's profile


916 posts in 2883 days

#1 posted 01-09-2012 06:48 PM

I use a circular saw and an edge guide. I can’t get a full sheet into my basement shop, so I have to cut every sheet down in my driveway. I lay out 2×4’s underneath to support both sides of the cut. I just break down to rough dimensions so I can handle the pieces more safely on my table saw.

A track saw (Festool, Dewalt or Makita) is also a good option, but costs more. Or you could get a panel saw, if you have the room and the money.

-- John

View Viking's profile


881 posts in 3708 days

#2 posted 01-09-2012 06:49 PM

Here is how I do it;

You also will want to buy / build a straight cutting guide to keep your circular saw going straight down your cut line.

I have also seen others place a 4’ x 8’ sheet of the thick (about 2-3”) insulating foam sheets on the floor and cut plywood sheet with circular saw on top of the foam sheet.

Good Luck!

-- Rick Gustafson - Lost Creek Ranch - Colorado County, Texas

View rodman40's profile


166 posts in 2840 days

#3 posted 01-12-2012 02:02 PM

Thanks, I’m going to build one of these for myself.

-- Rodman

View helluvawreck's profile


32086 posts in 3380 days

#4 posted 01-12-2012 02:22 PM

I have a small shop so I break up plywood quite a lot outside on saw horses. I then bring the parts inside and cut them again on the TS to make them accurate, However, if you use a good strait edge to guide your circular saw carefully you can cut quite accurately and not use the TS. You can even refine this some what more by leaving a small amount for the router to trim again using the strait edge as a guide along with a ball bearing bit or just an edge guide for the router and a strait bit. your strait edges could be just a good strait piece of would with c clamps to clamp them onto the plywood.


-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4641 days

#5 posted 01-12-2012 02:36 PM

I use Japanese saws.
Here’s a video of a device that I use when cutting sheet goods with a kataba.
I bought mine many years ago from Lee Valley, but they no longer carry this model.
They are still made by the Topman Company of Japan.

Japanese Saw Guide


-- 温故知新

View canadianchips's profile


2627 posts in 3510 days

#6 posted 01-12-2012 03:02 PM

Viking has the right idea. You can make straight cuts IF the plywood is supported while cutting it, nothing worse than trying to balance a sheet while making the last 6 inch cut (DANGEROUS TOO)

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View mtenterprises's profile


933 posts in 3206 days

#7 posted 01-12-2012 03:37 PM

I like the above idea.
But years ago I built my own panel saw. Great item for cutting sheet goods in a small shop. Today you can get them for under $1000 on ebay. Hope that link is correct I had to hand type it in I couldn’t copy and paste.

-- See pictures on Flickr -[email protected]/ And visit my Facebook page -

View devann's profile


2250 posts in 3206 days

#8 posted 01-12-2012 10:33 PM

I find that a model 77 Skilsaw works pretty well. Use a straight edge if you have difficulty cutting a straight line.

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

View brtech's profile


1066 posts in 3436 days

#9 posted 01-12-2012 11:30 PM

I use the foam board on the floor with a cutting guide and a circ saw. I find it a heck of a lot easier to cut when the whole sheet is supported, even the offcut, rather than working out how to support it up in the air.

I use a regular 1” thick blue foamboard. All you need to do is make sure your blade height is only cutting 1/4” or so into the foam. That’s an easy adjustment. It’s cheap, safe, easy and effective. About the only “trick” I have is to cut off a couple inches on length and width of the board so the clamps from my straight edge can be placed.

View Sylvain's profile


881 posts in 3013 days

#10 posted 01-12-2012 11:57 PM

View Woodknack's profile


12913 posts in 2893 days

#11 posted 01-13-2012 05:39 AM

I use a Porter Cable circular saw and just lay sheetstock flat on 2×4s. Somewhere I have long straightedge although sometimes I just freehand cut (with a line) and true it up on the tablesaw.

I use Japanese saws.

My hat’s off to you sir. I wouldn’t even begin breaking down sheets with a handsaw.

-- Rick M,

View thebenchroom's profile


47 posts in 3030 days

#12 posted 01-15-2012 03:18 AM

Thanks for the advice and tips from everyone…[email protected], man I’m sold on that tip! Thank You

-- [email protected]

View Sylvain's profile


881 posts in 3013 days

#13 posted 01-15-2012 02:00 PM

I should have looked at the video pointed to by Hobomonk before making any comment.

For those of us living in Europe, this Japanese saw guide is available in Germany :

They ship to USA but it is expensive unles you buy multiple item to diminish the cost by item.

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 3465 days

#14 posted 01-15-2012 02:24 PM

A circular saw is a good way to break down sheet goods. It is messy and god-awful noisy, but it does work. For the handtool user, it is a much less expensive way to deal with a large volume of sheet goods without going out and buying a tablesaw. For smaller jobs with sheet goods, use your handsaws. I just finished a shelving project under my basement stairway that I used OSB on. I had the 4’x8’ sheets cut in half for ease of movement and transportation and cut everything else in the shop with my panel saw. Worked out great. No noise, no mess, and never a safety concern.

-- Mike

View BobAtl's profile


49 posts in 3206 days

#15 posted 01-15-2012 02:38 PM

One warning about having sheet goods cut at the big boxes where you buy them: Last time I did that, their panel saw was off enough to be a significant problem. So you might want to ask them when they checked/adjusted the saw for squareness before letting them cut. Also, check the lower track where they rest the panel to make sure there’s no trash to affect the position of the panel in it, which would also affect accuracy. And make sure you check them before working with them at home.

-- Bob, Atlanta

showing 1 through 15 of 18 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics