cutting 1/2 plywood - Router Forums
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post #1 of 36 (permalink) Old 10-22-2015, 05:47 PM Thread Starter
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Smile cutting 1/2 plywood


I have a metal shop and I make a product that I need a crate to ship in. I have just recently started making my own crates which has proven to be laborious.

I need to cut rectangles out of 1/2" plywood, actually 15/32 plywood, on a production basis. Time is money. Measuring each cut takes too long so I want to use a template.

Finish on the cut is not important.

A table saw is not an option for me.

A jig saw is not an option because my arms would get too tired. Too much cutting.

A circular saw will work but I would have to start each cut with the saw base not touching the template and I would have to plunge cut on two corners.

I have never used a router and don't own one.

I am assuming the high speed of a router will make cutting through 1/2" plywood easy and my arms won't get tired. Am I right?

Will a router cut through 1/2" ply in one pass? If so, what horsepower should I get?

The finished sheet sizes are 12" x 38", 20" x 39", and 15" x 20".

I will usually buy 5 to 10 4' x 8' sheets and cut them up all at once so there is a lot of cutting. I will be making these crates for years.

Thanks in advance for your help.
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post #2 of 36 (permalink) Old 10-22-2015, 05:51 PM
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Aside from the plunge cut, a panel saw would sound like your best bet. A track saw is a cheaper option, which is what I use to break down sheet goods. But a track saw takes a bit more setup time. A homemade jig for a circular saw (track or not) is another option to consider.

I guess I'd strongly consider all of these before a router. Saws for cuts are faster and make a lot less dust and noise.

Last edited by furboo; 10-22-2015 at 06:08 PM. Reason: missed the need for plunge cuts
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post #3 of 36 (permalink) Old 10-22-2015, 06:14 PM
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What Rob said . I'm liking the track saw , and if that's not a go then building a track for your skill saw.
Can't see a router working for this application at all .
Btw welcome to the forum

I donít always insulate , but when I do .
Ok ,I never insulate
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post #4 of 36 (permalink) Old 10-22-2015, 07:35 PM
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Littlejoe...looks like your circular is your best option...try something like this to guide the saw...

50 In Clamp and Cut Edge Guide

You would first make the short cuts and then the longs...HF makes a shorter one...if you don't like the HF quality other manufacturers make same...

Router is out of the question...jig saw would take too long...jigs would help but would only emulate the off the shelf guides...

Set your sequence so you don't need to plunge...

If you will be doing this for years, invest in a used table saw...

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post #5 of 36 (permalink) Old 10-22-2015, 08:05 PM
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Search You Tube for "circular saw guide".

Easy to make and should work almost as good as a track saw. Make a long one and a shorter one.

1) Place a piece of insulation foam board under your plywood and set you saw so it just barely cuts through the plywood. See pic below.

2) After you determine a cut list, ask the lumber yard to cut each sheet at least once. That will give you a head start on the break down.

3) Stack three sheets together and cut them all at once!

Good luck.
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post #6 of 36 (permalink) Old 10-22-2015, 08:25 PM
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Something like this guide How to Build a Simple Circular Saw Guide for Straighter Cuts is quick, easy and cheap to build. Lay out your rectangle on the sheet of plywood, clamp at either end and cut - as Mike said, you could cut 3 sheets at once. just screw them together so they don't slip as you're cutting. If you consistently cut just the these sizes, make a pattern for each size that you can drop on the sheets of plywood, mark the edges to be cut, clamp the guide and go for it - saves the time needed to measure and mark each time. If it doesn't matter which way the grain runs, layout the patterns to maximize yield from the sheet.
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post #7 of 36 (permalink) Old 10-22-2015, 08:38 PM
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An 8 1/4" DeWalt or Bosch Builders saw will easily cut through 3 OR 4 stacked sheets at one pass.
This isn't furniture, a 24tooth blade is what you need.
All of what the other comments said.
Personally, I'd do the 8' cuts first...just easier to work with 8' x 15+" pieces rather than 4' sections.
You know, this is the perfect job for a radial arm saw. Just sayin'...
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post #8 of 36 (permalink) Old 10-22-2015, 10:14 PM
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Welcome to the forum.

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Enjoy the knowledge of others that can be found within.

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post #9 of 36 (permalink) Old 10-22-2015, 10:28 PM
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Since you say finish is not an isue I don't think you need a straight edge. Cut a pattern out of something hard, thin, and light like masonite for a template. Throw itt on top of the sheet of 1/2" and mark your lines out. Then plunge cut.

However, the description you give of how you plunge cut scares the crap out of me. You should never, and I mean not ever, hold the entire saw above the sheet and then dropit into the cut. The way to plunge cut is to tip the saw forward onto the front edge of the sole plate and then ease it down into the cut. Having the front edge sitting on the sheet gives way more stability and helps the saw blade enter the cut square so that it doesn't bind which can cause a kickback.

Someone I consider a master woodworker once told me that a master woodworker is not someone who never makes mistakes. He is someone who is able to cover them up so that no one can tell.
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post #10 of 36 (permalink) Old 10-22-2015, 11:14 PM
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One advantage of a shop made saw guide is that after you connect the straight piece the saw butss against, you then cut off the overhang. What you're left with is a guide piece you can set on the cut line. In addition, making the guide a foot or so longer than your cut supports the saw from start to finish so you don't have to plunge the saw at all. A clamp on each end to hold everything together during the cut and hold the guide in place and you're set. A sheet of insulating foam just makes it easy to make the cut without having to mess around with saw horses and 2x4s. You can cut on the floor if you wish. Half inch ply is pretty thin stuff, so 3 layers should be a snap.

I also think you should lay out on graph paper the sizes you need so that you get the most from every sheet. You don't need a very high grade of ply for crates, so you can use construction grade stuff with no finished surface. Glue your labels on for shipping purposes. If possible, have the lumber yard cut the piece down so you don't have to handle 4x8 sheets. If you order in bulk, they will probably do the cuts free. Much easier to deal with smaller pieces.
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Last edited by DesertRatTom; 10-22-2015 at 11:17 PM.
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