sitting here thinking of things that I was taught when I first started woodworking took me to plywood. We all seem to use a lot of it when we first start out. So here are some of my thoughts and tips for those who are new to using ply for their projects.
1) It’s important to recognize which face is the best face. Sometimes this is difficult to decide depending on the sheet you pick. In this instance you need to decide which is the one you want facing out and mark it clearly so you don’t spend time deciding over and over. Other times it’s very easy to decide.
2) Once you know the best face you can decide how you plan to cut it.
2A) If you are using a circular saw—- put the best face down.
2B) if you are going to use a table saw – put the best face up.
The difference is in the way the blade turns. On a table saw the blade exits the board going down therefore any chipping, in theory, will be on the bad face.
With a circular saw the blade exits on the up cut – therefore the chips will occur on the top of the board.
3) Mask the cut line with tape. Tape can keep the fibers of the veneer from chipping. I use the blue painters tape, but a cheaper alternative is the clear packing tape.
3A) make sure the tape is securely on the board. If not, there is a potential that the tape can get pulled off and into the blade making quite a mess.
4) Instead of tape, you can score the ply with either a knife or there are special scoring sets that you can buy. I find a good utility knife will do the job.
4a) you can also score the ply with the saw blade itself. Set the blade just barely over the top of the throat plate. Just barely. You want to take off just a smidge of the veneer. The issue I find with this is that you are having to run the board through the saw twice, which creates twice the room for error.
5) a full sheet of ply can be heavy—- get help or cut it down to more manageable sizes before doing your final sizing.
6) Thin 1/4” ply can become a missile very quickly. This is because it’s very flexible and if you are not careful to keep it flat on the table the saw blade can pick it up and toss it back at you. I generally set my blade a little higher on the thinner ply than I would normally. I am actually more inclined to cut 1/4” down to smaller sizes with a jig saw before final cutting on the table, I’m more likely to have better control.
Well that’s all I can think of off the top of my head. I’m sure others will have more tips, and they are welcome to post them here.
Thanks for reading.
-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine