Best way to cut openings in 3/4" plywood

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Forum topic by MrRon posted 01-23-2013 10:03 PM 7597 views 0 times favorited 34 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3969 posts in 2755 days

01-23-2013 10:03 PM

I am doing a project that requires me to cut 8 openings in 3/4” plywood. The opening sizes are 16”x30” and 14-1/2”x16”, 4 openings of each size. The openings will be covered by cabinet doors. I have 3 ways of accomplishing this. I can use a scroll saw; plunge cut on a table saw and finish the corner cuts by hand; Use a router with a template. I’m inclined toward the router method, but I don’t have a bit long enough, but I can go buy one. If I go with the router, I suspect I will have to make several passes at increasing depths. What do you think is the best way? I’m a bit leary about using a saw as I can easily get off line and ruin the cut. As the sketch shows, the openings are spaced far apart, too far to use solid lumber and I need the grain to run vertical.

34 replies so far

View nwbusa's profile


1017 posts in 1797 days

#1 posted 01-23-2013 10:08 PM

I’d probably use a jig saw and then clean it up with a router pattern bit.

-- John, BC, Canada

View Loren's profile


8399 posts in 3159 days

#2 posted 01-23-2013 10:09 PM

Make hollow templates carefully to make them square and
straight-sided. I like 1/4” hardboard. You could also find
a may to make mitered templates out of thicker stock
which would get you out of filing the inside edges
straight. Mark out the holes and cut them out inside
the lines with a jig saw. Then use your templates and
a top-bearing flush trim bit to clean up the sides.

You could also avoid the templates and just use a
straight edge clamped to the work to trim the edges.
This method might be more appropriate if you want
the edges of the 8 top and bottom holes to come
out perfectly aligned.

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 1998 days

#3 posted 01-23-2013 10:11 PM

Use a template and the router. Depending on your router you wouldn’t want to cut 3/4” deep in one pass. With my 2 HP I go that deep in 3 or 4 passes depending on the material.

When you get the holes cut clean up the corners with a sharp (SHARP) chisel or even a jig saw if you have a good one.

Good luck.

Someone else will probably come along with an easier way to do it, but this is how I’ve done it for years.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View pintodeluxe's profile


4939 posts in 2324 days

#4 posted 01-23-2013 10:17 PM

Well usually face frames are hardwood, so this is a unique problem. Why do you need so much of the cabinet face to be solid, as shown in your picture? I think I would design it with a face frame, which can be easily built with a pocket hole jig.

If you need it to be built as pictured, I would cut the rough openings with a jigsaw. Then come back and pattern rout the openings to final size. If you cut to within 1/16” of your layout line with the jigsaw, you should be able to clean up the cut in one pass with the router. The pattern for the router can be built from scraps. Just make a square or rectangle, and screw it together with pocket hole screws. A bearing guided router bit will ride the pattern for a perfect cut. Leave the corners rounded, or square them up with a chisel.

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

View DS's profile


2156 posts in 1931 days

#5 posted 01-23-2013 10:20 PM

Mr. Ron, for me, historically, I would treat this front panel as a giant face frame.
The Rails and Stiles could be solid wood, or, they could be banded plywood.

You could use dowells or a Kreg jig to make the joints and I’m pretty sure, you will use far less material to accomplish your desired result.

You say you need all vertical grain. I guess I don’t understand why that is.
I suppose it’s possible to veneer the entire front.

Then again, careful skill saw cutting gets the job done in a pinch.

Proof again that there are thousands of ways to “skin a cat”.

Don’t suppose you have a CNC machine—that would be a slick method too. ;-D

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View shipwright's profile


7271 posts in 2309 days

#6 posted 01-23-2013 10:21 PM

Skilsaw (sorry, circular saw) and a guide on the good side of the cut. If you wander you wander into the waste. Second would be a jigsaw but that’s much slower.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View Matt Przybylski's profile

Matt Przybylski

529 posts in 1889 days

#7 posted 01-23-2013 10:21 PM

I would make two templates, one for each size of hole, out of 1/4” hardboard. I’d make the non-hollow portion of the template a bit longer and put a cleat at the end then I can butt it up against e edge of the panel and know that every square will end up being the same distance down the panel. Line it up to some vertical lines to line up the width of the template. Before doing this I’d cut a rough opening with the jig saw and then apply the template, clamp/double sided tape it to the piece and rout the perfectly square portion then go back and chisel out the corners for a perfect square.

-- Matt, Arizona,

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jim C

1468 posts in 2610 days

#8 posted 01-23-2013 11:14 PM

What am I missing here?
A Bosch jigsaw will fly through that, and no corner work is necessary.

-- When I was a boy, I was told "anyone can be President", now I'm beginning to believe it!

View AandCstyle's profile


2620 posts in 1768 days

#9 posted 01-24-2013 12:42 AM

Lay out the piece of plywood with extra width. Cut it into strips on the TS corresponding to the sides of the openings. Crosscut the strips that need to have the openings to correspond with the tops and bottoms of each opening. Glue the strips back together in the correct order and use biscuits or splines to strengthen the joints. Clear as mud?

-- Art

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


1241 posts in 1621 days

#10 posted 01-24-2013 12:47 AM

I’d use a router, templates, and the smallest spiral bit I could find. If you make the templates right, they can be indexed against the top and bottom edges for perfectly straight holes.

The spiral bit will leave a perfect face, the templates support the shear, and the smallest diameter will leave the least corner cleanup. With a small bit, there’s no reason to precut holes. Think “RotoZip”...

View jim C's profile

jim C

1468 posts in 2610 days

#11 posted 01-24-2013 12:51 AM

I disagree with all of it.
In order of your statements:
1. Draw the lines, it only takes a 1/2 hour for that whole piece.
2. I know how to tilt a saw, but drilling a hole take seconds.
3. I can “walk” the saw into every line/corner from the original first cut.
4. No blade drifting with a good, modern, jigsaw (Bosch) and I think you meant perpendicular (not flat)

Please explain the table saw method, as I’m trying to understand how this can be done accurately without seeing the underside, as well as over cutting the square at the bottom.

-- When I was a boy, I was told "anyone can be President", now I'm beginning to believe it!

View RogerInColorado's profile


321 posts in 1465 days

#12 posted 01-24-2013 01:57 AM

I’m in the router with a template, template guide and spiral bit camp. The cut will take a whole lot less cleanup

View runswithscissors's profile


2238 posts in 1536 days

#13 posted 01-24-2013 05:58 AM

I think Art, and a couple others, are on the right track. Make it a face frame in the usual way, but using plywood boards rather than solid. I had a scheme something like yours in mind when I made my workbench. But after I got everything marked out (I think I even had started making some of the cuts), I realized I wasn’t going to have a lot of plywood left, just a lot of holes. So I did ordinary face frame. Your horizontal pieces can simply be made as crosscuts on the plywood, giving you the vertical grain (But I, too, am not sure why that matters to you). Also, you’ll be left with a fair chunk of usable plywood. And biscuits work very well for joining in that kind of structure.

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

View jim C's profile

jim C

1468 posts in 2610 days

#14 posted 01-24-2013 05:38 PM

I thought you might explain the table saw method for those of us without the experience.

-- When I was a boy, I was told "anyone can be President", now I'm beginning to believe it!

View waho6o9's profile


7277 posts in 2088 days

#15 posted 01-24-2013 05:41 PM

Plunge saw like a Festool, or a home made version.

Clean up as needed, easy peasy.

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