Avoiding Tearout and Wood Splintering

Whenever you’re working with plywood, you have to be careful about avoiding tearout and wood splintering. In general, plywood is both easy to work with and affordable, but this is one of the drawbacks. Because plywood isn’t solid wood, you can end up with some very unattractive, jagged edges after cutting through its thin veneers.

Tearout occurs in plywood when you cut across the grain. When cutting this way, the fibers are not supported by those next to them. This means every time they’re hit by a saw, they start to flex, pushing them out of the way and ruining your ability to make a nice, clean cut. This means that if you’re going to avoid tearout and splintering, you need to adjust how well the fibers are supported or how intense of an impact you make to the fibers.

There are ways to do both of these things. Here’s some information from a lumber yard in Houston.

Always work with the right blade

Whether you’re cutting with a circular saw or a table saw, you’re going to want a fine-tooth blade that is designed for cutting plywood. This generally means more teeth per inch. You should be able to find plywood-specific blades for relatively low costat most home centers. On a table saw, you’ll want a high-quality combination blade that has at least 40 teeth. Make sure you’re cutting the wood so the blade enters the wood on the show face. With a circular saw, you want the good side down. With a table saw, meanwhile, you want the good side up.

Use a zero-clearance insert

You should do your very best to surround the bit or the blade with a zero-clearance surface. This creates a very small amount of open area around the blade to support the fibers that surround the area being cut.

Start by scoring the cut line

You can also make matters a little easier on yourself by scoring the cut line before you begin sawing the wood. Tearout looks so ragged because both the top and bottom veneers will snap unpredictably when they get hit by the saw. If you’ve already scored those fibers first, the way those veneers snap will be more predictable. You’re essentially scripting their behavior.

Just use a straight edge and a sharp blade, or, if the cut is close to an edge, you can also use a marking gauge. You’ll only be able to score one side of the kerf, so just make sure you have the good side sitting at the correct side of the blade.

Use tape

Another way to support the wood fibers around the cut is to put painter’s tape over the cut line. This will help prevent tearout because it will keep the fibers from going in all different directions. It’s worth the extra minutes and material if you know you’re going to be able to avoid tearout.

For more tips about how you can avoid tearout when working with your plywood, contact Houston Hardwoods Inc. or visit our lumber yard in Houston.