How to Handle Large Sheets of Plywood on the Tablesaw?

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Forum topic by MikeInGA posted 05-06-2012 11:58 PM 71774 views 1 time favorited 45 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 3185 days

05-06-2012 11:58 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I’m new to woodworking so i haven’t quite worked out a solution for myself just yet; I was wondering what your method is for handling large sheets of plywood on the tablesaw. My saw has a rip capacity of only about 32” so in some cases, i’m having to cut “on the wrong side of the blade”. That isn’t such a horrible thing i guess but the real issue is that i’m having a tough time feeding the plywood and keeping it tight against the fence at the same time. Even with some infeed / outfeed rollers, its still pretty difficult to really get an accurate cut. short of getting a buddy to come by to help, i’m not sure what i could do differently.


45 replies so far

View RussellAP's profile


3105 posts in 3260 days

#1 posted 05-07-2012 12:02 AM

Before someone comes in and fillets you, let me say welcome to LJ.

We try to discourage our friends from cutting large sheets of plywood on a TS in hopes that they might keep their fingers and hands so they can continue woodworking, or at least updating LJ.

It’s best to use a circular saw for sheets of plywood too large for your TS. A couple of clamps and a straight iron can be a great guide for the saw on long cuts.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View enurdat1's profile


100 posts in 3220 days

#2 posted 05-07-2012 12:07 AM

Welcome Mike. I 2nd Russell’s thoughts. Using a circular saw is so much safer and easier. I use a couple of saw horses with 4 2×4”S between them to support everything. Quick set up and easy cutting.

-- It is what it is...

View interpim's profile


1170 posts in 4432 days

#3 posted 05-07-2012 12:10 AM

I purchased a straight edge clamp from Harbor Freight a few weeks back for this exact purpose… ran me $20, and it has given me excellent results cutting sheet goods with a circular saw. Handling full sheets on the TS is asking for trouble.

-- San Diego, CA

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 4042 days

#4 posted 05-07-2012 12:11 AM

I have my TS set up at the garage door facing in. My workbench is right behind it and serves as my outfeed table. I back the pickup into the driveway, set up a couple of roller stands, set my rip fence. I can slide the sheets out of the truck, across the roller stands, and across the saw pretty easily.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View ShipWreck's profile


557 posts in 4726 days

#5 posted 05-07-2012 12:46 AM

Mike…. do it with a circular saw. There are a million different type of straight edges out there that cut just as straight as a table saw. It’s a 100 times safer.

View a1Jim's profile


118153 posts in 4551 days

#6 posted 05-07-2012 12:51 AM

Some saws you can rip and cross cut full sheets of ply but it sounds like your saw is not large enough to handle full sheets of ply but if cut it down to manageable sizes you can then use a table saw sled and or out feed table.


View Arlin Eastman's profile

Arlin Eastman

4544 posts in 3535 days

#7 posted 05-07-2012 12:55 AM

Mike Welcome to LJs

I work from a chair and use a circular saw with a straight edge to keep it straight. There is alittle off set from the blade to the straight edge and you can measure that out and Wha La it is done.


PS – You can clamp the straight edge down on the same piece of plywood

-- It is always the right time, to do the right thing.

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 4897 days

#8 posted 05-07-2012 12:57 AM

Cutting you sheet goods on the table saw is insane and never safe in any way what so ever and never cut without a splitter installed on the table saw. If your cutting panels for cabinets cut them a little oversize then use a home made panel sled to get them exactly square. If you have the money get the FesTool TS 55 for about $550.00 new and the track guide for $285 they will do as good or better then a table saw plus its portable and you can cut long panels. I can’t afford one right now but as soon as I can I will get one. In the mean time I would do as interpim did get a straight edge clamp.

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 4897 days

#9 posted 05-07-2012 12:57 AM


View a1Jim's profile


118153 posts in 4551 days

#10 posted 05-07-2012 01:11 AM

I’ve ripped full sheets of ply by myself on my table saw for years, and they haven’t taken me away yet. LOL
As far as a track saw is concerned many folks prefer them but you can use a straight edge (just a straight board) will do the job of a guide for your circular saw with out a large outlay of cash. There’s nothing wrong with track saws but unless you cutting large sheets of ply everyday I would spend my money elsewhere if you are just putting you shop together there are many tools that are higher priorities IMO.


View DaleM's profile


958 posts in 4357 days

#11 posted 05-07-2012 01:28 AM

I have to disagree completely with the comment above that cutting sheet goods on a tablesaw is insane and never safe. I do it at work all the time, but, and this is a big but, when cutting down full sheets we always use two people to do it safely. Since you already said that isn’t an option for you other than getting a buddy to come by just for that purpose every time, then I would recommend using the straight edge and circular saw for cutting larger pieces (the way I do it at home) and use the tablesaw for smaller pieces.

-- Dale Manning, Carthage, NY

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3944 days

#12 posted 05-07-2012 02:21 AM

I never cut anything on my table saw wider than 30”. Preferably 24” or less.
Like almost everyone else here, I prefer a circular saw with a straight edge.

I am planning to build a sort of rack to let me use the circular saw like a track saw. I think that will be the best.

Anyway, welcome to LJ and be safe.

View Viking's profile


882 posts in 4169 days

#13 posted 05-07-2012 02:43 AM


Here is how I do it safely.

Good luck.

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

View PurpLev's profile


8642 posts in 4622 days

#14 posted 05-07-2012 02:45 AM

while it can be done safely on the TS, I always always always go the easy way out and always cut sheet goods by myself on the floor (well, on some 3/4” MDF sheets as backerboards) with a straight edge and a circular saw and most of the time get a finished cut on the first cut – no need to trim or clean up on the TS later.

safer, easier (weight and control) and gets me precise cuts without the need for 2nd operation.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3971 days

#15 posted 05-07-2012 03:07 AM

I also am in the circular saw with a guide or a tracksaw camp.

On the other hand, it is too vague of a question because it depends. When you say tablesaw, it could mean anything from the little $79 disasters from the big box store all the way up to the monster European style sliding table. Given a big table with lots of support in all directions, stock management/feed and extra helping hands, it is no different than cutting a 2×4. On a contractor saw with an outfeed table, it is problematic and takes care and experience. On a little cheapie 30lb “hobby” saw, it is outright dangerous and a good way to hurt yourself badly.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

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