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Thread: Breaking Down Plywood

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
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    Vancouver Island, Courtenay/Comox Valley, British Columbia
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    Breaking Down Plywood

    I'm starting to break down big sheets of plywood, and I have a couple of questions.

    I understand that I pretty much have to use a CS to get pieces down to manageable sizes. (Can't put full sheets on a "contractor's TS).

    My questions are how do you approach it? I mean I can't reach across 4' of it or 8' of it for that matter. I'm wondering if there's an easy way (that I haven't figured out). Am I destined to get on my table or the floor and creep along on my knees?

    2nd question is do you ever find that you get any kickback from the CS? Does the ply ever bind back around the blade? I have seen CS's with riving knives, but not often.......

    thanks all, and good morning!
    AKA Young Grasshopper Woodworker
    AKA The Rookie

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    somewhere east of Queen Creek, AZ - South East of Phoenix
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    Cynthia, I have 4 4x4's a coupla feet long I put them under the sheet on both side of where I am gonna make the cut then I have a long straight edge 104" long that I clamp to the sheet as a guide. Yes You can get kickbacks but usually that if you don't properly support the sheet you are cutting and it gets pinched by the weight of the pieces
    "There’s a lot of work being done today that doesn’t have any soul in it. The technique may be the utmost perfection, yet it is lifeless. It doesn’t have a soul. I hope my furniture has a soul to it." - Sam Maloof
    The Pessimist complains about the wind; The Optimist expects it to change;The Realist adjusts the sails.~ William Arthur Ward

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    Central NY State
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    I have 2 shop made jigs I use. One is 4' long, the other is 8.
    I'll post a photo later, which is better than an explanation. The saw rides along a fence, and maintains a straight and safe cut. I also have a 3'x 6' sacrificial table made of 2 x 2s, and I lay the 4 x 8 on it, and cut into the table itself. No dropping off, and it is quite safe.

    Yes, you can get kickback with a CS.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Yorktown, Virginia
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    Cynthia,
    I rarely work in sheet goods, but when I do I go to the borg and buy a sheet of 2" thick foam insulation board. Put it on the floor and the plywood on top. Set your blade to extend 1/4" beyond the ply thickness and cut away. I discard the foam board when I am finished. Never experienced any binding because the foam supports both pieces. Just one way for you to consider.
    Last edited by Ted Calver; 01-23-2011 at 05:24 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Rochester Hills, MI
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    940
    I do most of my work alone. I've made quite a few display counters, cabinets, work tables, etc. out of plywood/particle board. When I have to cut a 4x8 down, I usually set up a couple saw horses. I have a couple old door slabs that I saved. I lay the door across the saw horses and it gives me a good working height table. I'll lay the 4x8 on top and then set up for what I need to cut. I have a nice aluminum straight edge cutting guide I bought at the BORG. It's two 49" pieces that bolt together so you can use it as a 4 footer or an eight footer. I clamp the cutting guide in place and then set my CS blade just deep enough to get through the material. It's an old scrap door so I don't care if it gets cut. Then I go ahead and make my cut. Because the piece is completely supported, I don't usually have any kickback or binding issues. It works well for me.

    In the past before I used an old door, I'd just screw two or three 2x4's to the top of a sawhorse. I'd use the same procedure and just let the blade cut through the stock and slightly into the 2x's. They're cheap and it really doesn't matter much. It allows the piece to be fully supported and it won't bind up as easily.

    Good luck!

    John
    "The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten"

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Decatur, Alabama
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    I normally put down 4 2x4 to support each piece and just put a knee on the plywood while I'm making the 8' cut. The 4' I can reach across, but you could do the same thing there.

  7. #7
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    No, not all of SoCal is Los Angeles!
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    I use rigid foam insulation. Mr. Hardboard-Scrap is playing the part of a piece of sheetgoods in the picture. Set your saw to clear the material being cut by 1/2" or so. Be sure the piece you are cutting is supported so that it remains supported including the piece you are cutting off.

    You do not cut in the area between the faomboards. You cut into the foamboard. I have been using these pieces for 5 years and when they finally get shredded I will pick up a couple more. I prefer a few pieces of 2' x 4' foam as opposed to larger pieces. This allows me positioning flexibility as usually I have a shop made guide clamped to the material and need to have an open area for the clamp clearance.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails foamboard-sheetgoods-001.jpg   GCS-cheap-in-use-1.jpg  
    Last edited by glenn bradley; 01-23-2011 at 05:40 PM.
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    - Arthur C. Clarke

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Reno NV
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    13,361
    Cynthia,

    I've been breaking down some sheets lately and here's how I've been doing it.

    First, I made a little frame out of 2x3's and screwed it down to some sawhorses to provide a stable platform
    Click image for larger version. 

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    I made a 'flipper upper' to help get the plywood on the table. Basically, I put the far end of the piece of ply into the hook on the end. That allows me to put a sheet of ply up on the table just by twisting it from one end. Way easier than lifting.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    For some cuts, I use my saw on a track. You can make something that works pretty much the same using a shop made jig.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    If I'm doing a bunch of cuts the same width, I use the "ripmaster 3000". It's just a little jig I whipped up that lets me adjust the width of the cut. Makes quick work of cutting strips the same width.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  9. #9
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    Thanks so much guys. This has been so helpful!
    AKA Young Grasshopper Woodworker
    AKA The Rookie

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Tellico Plains, Tennessee
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    4,352
    Quote Originally Posted by Cynthia White View Post
    I'm starting to break down big sheets of plywood, and I have a couple of questions.

    I understand that I pretty much have to use a CS to get pieces down to manageable sizes. (Can't put full sheets on a "contractor's TS).

    My questions are how do you approach it? I mean I can't reach across 4' of it or 8' of it for that matter. I'm wondering if there's an easy way (that I haven't figured out). Am I destined to get on my table or the floor and creep along on my knees?

    2nd question is do you ever find that you get any kickback from the CS? Does the ply ever bind back around the blade? I have seen CS's with riving knives, but not often.......

    thanks all, and good morning!
    Cynthia,
    If you don't need it in 8' lengths, most BORG's have a panel saw and will cut the sheets to length for you... usually 1 cut is free, the others are about $0.50 each... at least here in East TN. You might do some figuring on what sizes you'll be needing and have it cut before you leave the store, then the smaller pieces are easier to handle.... I know anymore that my shoulders are getting too old and stiff to handle 4x8 ft sheets of ply.. just another thought.
    Chuck
    Tellico Plains, TN
    https://www.etsy.com/shop/TellicoTurnings
    My parents taught me to respect my elders, but it's getting harder and harder to find any.
    If you go looking for trouble, it will usually find you.

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