All Replies on Need a setup for cutting sheet goods

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View ClimbOn's profile

Need a setup for cutting sheet goods

by ClimbOn
posted 01-02-2013 08:17 PM

36 replies so far

View ajosephg's profile


1880 posts in 3587 days

#1 posted 01-02-2013 08:27 PM

On the rare occasions I need to break down an full sheet of plywood I lay it on 3 or 4 2×4 studs laid on saw horses. Then I clamp an aluminum rip guide to the plywood and cut it with a circular saw. I cut it oversized so I can adjust the final dimensions on the table saw.

I’ve never done it, but I know guys that lay a 4×8 sheet of foam insulation on the floor beneath the plywood to be broken down. This seems to be a better way because you don’t have to deal with lifting the plywood and getting the 2×4’s placed just right so the plywood doesn’t bend, etc.

-- Joe

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 2711 days

#2 posted 01-02-2013 08:50 PM

I personally can’t handle 1/2” or larger sheets on my TS…not the least of my issues is the “off” switch is 6’ away…but I can’t justify a panel cutter either.

do you have the room for a permanent 4×8 table (I did and I use it all the time for layout, assembly, layout, “junk”)? If so then use that for big panel breakdowns (a minimum of 4 1” stickers” to support the cuts with a circ saw set to not cut into the table top). I have short arms and can’t complete a cut across a 4” span so I shut it down and finish from the back side in a “pull operation”.

remember “good side” down for circ saw cuts. and as noted above, cut a bit wide and get your finished dimensions once the panels are managable.

View UKCat's profile


82 posts in 2093 days

#3 posted 01-02-2013 08:51 PM

ClimbOn, if you type in “panel cutting jig” into lumberjocks search you will see a great article by Dadoo. It is made out of 2×2s and is easy to make. I built one yesterday and I think it will come in very handy for cutting sheet goods.

View brtech's profile


1029 posts in 2949 days

#4 posted 01-02-2013 08:54 PM

I use the foam on the floor with a cheapo circular saw. It works great. You set the saw to cut a 1/4” into the foam. You get a decently clean cut on the sheet goods, and its safe, supports the workpiece and the cutoff, and it’s quick and easy to set up.

If I don’t need 1/16” or better accuracy, a decent aluminum straight edge and a Diablo blade on the cir saw does a fine job, otherwise I cut 1/2” oversize and clean up on my TS.

A small hint = cut the foam down an inch or two on length + width. That let’s you clamp the edge guide much easier than if the foam goes up right to the edge of the work.

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3674 days

#5 posted 01-02-2013 08:56 PM

This is a good way to do it. Not cheap but nowhere near
the price you’d pay for Festool. Works well and expandable:

EZ tracksaw boxing day special

View mdawson2's profile


35 posts in 1998 days

#6 posted 01-02-2013 09:01 PM

I don’t have the space for a permanent table so I needed something portable and easy to set up. I found a guy on Youtube that has some pretty nice designs for a workbench, a cross cut jig for it, and some other items. He builds houses so it travels from job site to job site. His videos have enough detail in them that you may not even have to purchase the plans. He uses Festool but the designs can work with any tools, may just need some slight modification.

View MrRon's profile


4795 posts in 3269 days

#7 posted 01-02-2013 09:03 PM

I think most everyone uses one of the methods noted in the other replies. 4×8 sheets are much too heavy and awkward to man handle on a table saw. I always cut panels down to manageable sizes before going to the table saw for the finish cut.

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3611 days

#8 posted 01-02-2013 09:10 PM

I agree that without a large table benchsaw with big,deep rip capacity preferably with a sliding table, then the answer is to cut it on tressles or a bench overhang with clamps using a circular saw to get to size.Watch out this is not easily done single handed especially working with big eight by four or even ten foot by four etc,but that is the best way.Measure out from your circular saw to find the edge of the blade to the edge of the saw and use a piece of straight material as a temporary fence.This can result in very accurate cutting. Have safe fun. Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View DrDirt's profile


4424 posts in 3768 days

#9 posted 01-02-2013 09:13 PM

+1 foam on the floor. Never have to worry about the offcut drooping, or buggering a corner, and you only have to lift the “light” pieces you have cut.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4151 days

#10 posted 01-02-2013 09:18 PM

I’m a Festool guy, but I’ll second Loren’s suggestion that you look a the EZ track system, or just take some masonite and your circular saw, build your own track system, and clean up the edge with a router.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View pintodeluxe's profile


5705 posts in 2839 days

#11 posted 01-02-2013 09:24 PM

I use Joe’s method for breaking down plywood sheets. If I need to make a rip cut, I use a shop made jig made from a 10’ long mdf 1×6 and some 1/4” plywood. For crosscuts I use an Emmerson clamp and guide.
Then off to the tablesaw, where an outfeed table is critical.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Vincent Nocito's profile

Vincent Nocito

485 posts in 3390 days

#12 posted 01-02-2013 09:25 PM

I usually use the 2×4 under the plywood approach. For crosscutting, I use a 50” straightedge clamp and a circular saw with a cutting plywood blade. For rip cuts, I have an 8 foot striaghtedge clamp which I want to replace. I am considering the Kreg® Rip-Cut Circular Saw Guide KMA 2675 (available from Rockler stock #47494). It retails for about $35 and will rip from 1/8” to 24”.

View Cole Tallerman's profile

Cole Tallerman

392 posts in 2211 days

#13 posted 01-02-2013 11:00 PM

The new grizzly track saw!

Comes with the saw with a riving knife and the track

View sixstring's profile


296 posts in 2269 days

#14 posted 01-02-2013 11:30 PM

If I dont break it down using the circular saw and straightedge method…. I have the guys at the lumber yard cut them down or in half or whatever I need. They get this done either for free or about $2 a cut depending… Generally though, it’s so I can fit the material in my truck for transport.

-- JC Garcia, Concord, CA : "It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission..."

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3674 days

#15 posted 01-02-2013 11:38 PM

I either cut it down on a 3/4” thick MDF panel on the floor (or foam) with a straight edge, or I have the folks at the lumberyard cut it down to some degree to pieces that I can manage on the table saw later on.

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

View Chris Moellering's profile

Chris Moellering

227 posts in 2674 days

#16 posted 01-02-2013 11:49 PM

I generally throw some 2×4’s on the floor and to it that way. Wrestling full-size stuff, especially over a portable table saw is pushing one’s luck I think.

I have found my 4’ level and a few spring clamps give a great straight edge for cutting. Don’t have a great solution for cuts over 4’ yet.

-- Grace & peace, Chris+

View Chris Moellering's profile

Chris Moellering

227 posts in 2674 days

#17 posted 01-02-2013 11:51 PM

Been thinking about making one of these

-- Grace & peace, Chris+

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 2711 days

#18 posted 01-03-2013 12:46 AM

just a point…as some of our bodies get older, that getting up and down gets harder (I designed our latest house to ensure we could survive on the first floor and added a large pantry to ensure most of my stuff could be accessed without getting on my knees).

I’m sure somebody has devised a plan for a hinged table that would allow for roll-out when needed, roll-in against a wall when not. I already have a design in mind if I ever needed one.

View cutworm's profile


1075 posts in 2819 days

#19 posted 01-03-2013 12:50 AM

Some really good ideas here. I’ve been looking at the Kreg Rip Cut but that would be 35 bucks toward the EZ track system. Man that thing looks nice. the 2×2 grid, foam panels – all great ideas. I’ve been letting a sheet hang over the edge of the bench and just fall. Thanks to all.

-- Steve - "Never Give Up"

View ptweedy's profile


75 posts in 3419 days

#20 posted 01-03-2013 01:17 AM

I dont agree that cutting on the floor on foam is the easy way to cut down sheets of material. I have tried foam and found it was easy to store but a pain to crawl around on the sheets or cement floor setting up the guide and then making the first cut. The foam is not very easy to transport to a job site and sooner or latter you will forget to set the depth of the cut and you will be trying to cut concrete. I have been using a lattice work made of 3/4 plywood that sits on a couple of sawhorses that are shorter then normal. A cutting guide is clamped to the sheet on the line and the cut is made. The lattice work breaks down to 4 4”x 84” runs and 4 4”x48” cross pieces that interlock with cut notchs in the runs. I have been using the lattice work set up for at least 20 years its great very sturdy but is slow to set up. It is very easy to transport broken down. I recently saw a picture of a job site in japan, the carpenters were breaking down quite a few sheets of material. They were using a grid made up of 3’x3’ pieces of waferboard hinged together and set in the shape of a v. They were using 4 of the v’s and had notchs for 2×4s running the length of the sheets. hand holes were also in evidence so it could be moved and set up quickly. draw a line down your material if you are going to use a simple 1×4 as a guide for the edge of your saw. cut a block that spaces the guide to the line so that you dont have to keep measuring each time you want to cut. It is much easyier to lift a panel on to the v’s then the lattice work which trys to slide off the horses when you push aganist it. Get a plastic panel lifter at home depot or even 2 in case you have help sometimes. good luck phil

View runswithscissors's profile


2767 posts in 2051 days

#21 posted 01-03-2013 02:52 AM

A panel saw has the advantage that the material doesn’t have to be laid flat. I don’t think I have any space in my shop to do that. Fortunately, my carport is adjacent, and I use if for cutting down panels. But all the panel saws I’ve seen are pretty expensive, even the rare ones I see on CL. They don’t look that complicated. Does anyone know if there are plans for making your own? I can see the difficulty is the sliding carriage for the saw. And of course it needs to be able to rip (horizontal cut on a panel saw) as well as cross cut.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View Sailor's profile


543 posts in 3291 days

#22 posted 01-03-2013 03:02 AM

I use this cool little table that I set n top of my saw horses. Not only do I use it for cutting plywood but many many other ways to. Currently there are cabinet doors all over it being painted.

-- Dothan, Alabama Check out my woodworking blog! Also my Youtube Channel's Facebook page

View RonInOhio's profile


721 posts in 2890 days

#23 posted 01-04-2013 02:44 AM

The saw horses and clamp idea along with a straight edge guide make a lot of sense. But there are a few other ways that may be better.

I saw a few panel cutting jigs I think in Shopnotes . One attaches vertically to a wall on an angle so maneurving sheets onto this would be easier than lifting a sheet up on saw horses. Made out of 2×4s and folds away for storage, pretty simple to build. If I find a link to it I will post it.

View WoodChuck84's profile


56 posts in 2898 days

#24 posted 01-04-2013 03:08 AM

It’s probably not the best option, but I have a table that I made out of an old pallet. When I need to cut a large piece I just make sure the cut line lines up between two of the slats and set the circ saw to the appropriate depth. Obviously, with sheet goods a large pallet is preferrable, but if it overhangs I can always use a saw horse or dead man roller to support it.

BTW- the table also allows me to clamp a piece down virtually anywhere.

-- Hello, my name is Jarrod and I am a woodaholic.

View LeeinEdmonton's profile


254 posts in 3607 days

#25 posted 01-04-2013 03:17 AM

I’m a little amazed. The easiest way to cut sheet goods is to have someone else do it. I buy my sheet goods from a supplier who has a panel saw. He will give me 5 free cuts so I go there with a cutting diagram. I have a full sized sedan with fold down rear seats & have always been able to haul the cut sheet goods without need of a pickup truck or roof racks. Can’t imagine cluttering up my garage/shop with a panel saw or specialized equipment to do such a job.


-- Lee

View pmayer's profile


1028 posts in 3091 days

#26 posted 01-04-2013 03:31 AM

I use one of these:

I made a 4 footer and an 8 footer. These work great, and cost almost nothing to make. The two best aspects are: 1) put the jig right on your cut line. No more measuring away the width of your saw base, and 2) zero clearance on one side makes for chip free cuts on plywood.

-- PaulMayer,

View ClimbOn's profile


10 posts in 2668 days

#27 posted 01-05-2013 05:16 AM

Thanks to all for all the suggestions and advice. I truly appreciate the time and energy taken to share with me what has and hasn’t worked for you!

Some of these ideas I have used, some I have read about. The track saws intrigue my, like the EZ Track, but I’m leery of the expense and/or durability of the plastic components.

I like the table on sawhorses and have used the foam board on both the floor and table. The challenge I still face with these is how to make the cut. Same with making the jigs for long cuts…how do I make a jig for long straight cuts without a way to make long straight cuts? Do I have to buy an 8’ straight edge clamp? Am I over thinking this, can I rely on factory edges or lengths of 1x poplar at the big box store? How about the edge on some sort of cheap extruded aluminum?

Then if I ever get that figured out, what’s the steps to get it down to size? How big is small enough to safely man handle it on my table saw (For now a BT3000)? Do I need infeed/outfeed tables?

Like I said, I’m an engineer so I must be over think this.


View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3674 days

#28 posted 01-05-2013 07:53 AM

You’re not overthinking it. As an engineer you understand
tolerances. Getting straight edges is an understated issue
in casework. Establishing a straight reference edge is
easier said than done. Track saw setups do a pretty
good job of it without too much expense. The hobbiest
of course can afford to take his or her time and to
make errors in stock preparation that would be
real problems in a production workflow.

View Milo's profile


869 posts in 3345 days

#29 posted 01-05-2013 09:05 AM

For myself, I do what Lee and Purple suggest, I buy from someone that can cut it down to manageble (sp?) size.

I like the jig that Chris showed us, that pretty cool and easy looking to use. Shopnotes also has a panel saw design I’ve considered making on more than one occassion. You might consider that.

Anyone out there made there own panel saw?

-- Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer. It's my way of keeping my mind fresh and clear...

View RonInOhio's profile


721 posts in 2890 days

#30 posted 01-05-2013 06:22 PM

Don’t believe I have seen a jig quite like the one Chris posted above. Seems it would be awkward to slide the jig
along with the saw or am I missing something ? Does the jig get clamped or somehow attached to the saw ?

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3674 days

#31 posted 01-05-2013 06:34 PM

This is the panel saw I built:

I had 3 other panel saws before and a couple of track saws
so I knew what I wanted. It was a lot of work.

I break panels to rough size on the panel saw, edgeband,
then crosscut and rip to final dimension on my small
slider, unless the panel is edgebanded on more than 2
edges in which case some dimension cuts are done prior
to edgebanding. The panel saw’s major advantage
is when dealing with full size sheets and large panels
like large carcase backs. It doesn’t replace the table
saw in my shop, but it does save a lot of sweat.

View coloradotrout's profile


61 posts in 2029 days

#32 posted 01-05-2013 06:44 PM

I use the foam on the floor method, but don’t do if often. I just lay some foam—think I have 3 pieces for easier storage—on the floor, clamp on a straightedge ( I have some aluminum piece I bought years ago (though I think I’d now prefer just a zero clearance homemade jig)), and cut with my circ saw. I really need a better blade, but the cut is far straighter than I can get on a full sheet on my TS. I just cannot handle the size and weight and keep it tight to the fence. I generally get it to size, and then clean up the smaller pieces. When I really need the 1st cut to be good, I spend a little more time and concentration on the setup.

My experience with the stores doing the cutting is not great. If you are ok with a rough cut—and you measure the board yourself, and ensure their cut is where you want, then it’s ok. Otherwise they will just go with their guides and often they are off by an inch or so. But if a rough cut is good enough—then it’s well worth them breaking it down.

View LeeinEdmonton's profile


254 posts in 3607 days

#33 posted 01-05-2013 06:46 PM

I’m in my early 80’s & wrestling a 4×8 sheet of 3/4” plywood is no longer a desirable thing for me to do – hence no car roof racks or PU trucks during winter is a good idea as well. So a cutting plan & the sheet supplier doing the cutting. I should mention that prior to the mistake of aging I did cut all sheet goods in my shop. How ??? I have a AMF RAS of 1957 vintage mounted between 6 Ft. workbenches which allows ripping a 4×8 ft. sheet right down the center. Being of 1957 vintage the RAS is prior to Black & Decker acquisition of their line of tools & gradually turning them into crap. However, a good RAS is so versatile that Iam not distracted by owning a tablesaw & have never bought a tool that is dedicated to a single function as most home workshops are space poor. For example without a tablesaw which is a space hog my shop has a drill press, 14” BS with riser block, thickness planer, wood lathe, jointer, & jigsaw, many on mobile bases thus I can still park my Nissan Maxima sedan in the garage/shop when not working in the shop. I also keep my lawn mower, & snowblower in the garage/shop plus a good size bin for shorts storage which end up as wooden toys for inner-city kids at Xmas.


-- Lee

View Jeppedy's profile


9 posts in 1401 days

#34 posted 08-26-2014 06:30 PM

Here’s the thing… If I have skins sized, oh, say 24×30”, I can’t get the 30” on my saw. Do I build a REALLY big sled? I’m with you on cutting it to tough dimension then clean it up, but that doesn’t work on the 30” finished dimension I need.

And from what I hear, putting 3/4” offcut between the blade and the fence is a recipe for disaster.

I really hope I don’t have to do it all with my circ saw. Thoughts?

-- Jeff, Newbie from Northwest Indiana

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3674 days

#35 posted 08-26-2014 06:50 PM

You can clamp a straight board to the underside of
the work piece and run that against the edge of the
table saw wing. It’s an inverted fence basically.

Also, a sled can be just on one side of the blade
with one runner so you can make a sled for
cutting off wider pieces that’s not super heavy.

View Jeppedy's profile


9 posts in 1401 days

#36 posted 08-26-2014 06:55 PM

Also, a sled can be just on one side of the blade
with one runner so you can make a sled for
cutting off wider pieces that s not super heavy.

Ahhhh, perfect! I have a sled for smaller pieces. Never thought about making a one-sided sled. Thanks! I have a project for tonight now!!

-- Jeff, Newbie from Northwest Indiana

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