Need a setup for cutting sheet goods

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Forum topic by ClimbOn posted 01-02-2013 08:17 PM 7155 views 3 times favorited 36 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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10 posts in 2816 days

01-02-2013 08:17 PM

So I’m in the process (a rather slow process) of setting up my new garage for my shop. While building cabinets, work benches, shelving, etc, I find myself constantly whittling down large sheets of plywood…and not doing it accurately or efficiently. I’ve got a table saw and circular saw, but have yet to put together any outfeed tables, saw horses, or the like in anticipation for advice ongoing it right the first time. I’m on a sensible budget, so no Festool product recommendations ;)

I’d appreciate any thoughts on process and products that I need to cut down 4’x4’ sheets (i typically get the big box store to cur it in half for me) and get accurate square cuts efficiently. I’m an engineer but a beginner carpenter, so I apologize if I’m missing the basics.


36 replies so far

View ajosephg's profile


1880 posts in 3735 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 2858 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 2241 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


1049 posts in 3096 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


10477 posts in 3822 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 2146 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


5137 posts in 3417 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 3759 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


4492 posts in 3916 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 4299 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


5783 posts in 2987 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 3538 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 2359 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 2417 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


8541 posts in 3822 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.

showing 1 through 15 of 36 replies

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