How to Cut Plywood with a Jigsaw Without Splintering

Plywood splintered when cut with jigsaw.

If cutting straight lines on plywood is already difficult for newbie woodworkers, cutting circles and curves can be doubly challenging for them. Nevertheless, if they have a suitable jigsaw, they could cut curves and circles on plywood with ease. But is it really possible to cut plywood without splintering using a jigsaw? 

Well, of course, you can, but if you don’t know the techniques for cutting plywood using a jigsaw, you would more likely splinter the plywood edges. Expert woodworkers have a way around this splintering problem, and they got enough wisdom to share with beginners regarding cutting plywood without splintering.

Is the Jigsaw the Most Appropriate Tool for Cutting Plywood?

Plywood may tend to splinter if you cut across its grain. So, it will help if you are very careful when making a crosscut on it. There are cutting tools engineered for cutting plywood sheets, and a jigsaw may not be the most appropriate cutting tool for creating a crosscut on plywood. Yet, a jigsaw is also a good tool for cutting plywood. If you equip your jigsaw with the appropriate blade for cutting plywood, you can indeed get it by cutting plywood without splintering. 

Nevertheless, you will more likely splinter the plywood when cutting plywood using a jigsaw because the jigsaw blade has a reciprocating movement. This reciprocating movement—characterized by an up and down motion—is tailor-made for splintering plywood. 

However, power saws that only move in one direction will likely not splinter plywood. But if you insist on using a jigsaw to cut plywood because it’s the only cutting tool you got at your disposal, you can minimize or lessen plywood splintering if you know some apropos techniques for reducing splintering.

Why Does Plywood Splinter During Cutting?

As mentioned above, a jigsaw exhibits a reciprocating blade movement. As such, it will more likely splinter the plywood. But there are four succinct reasons, aside from the reciprocating blade movement of the jigsaw, that contribute to plywood splintering, and here are these four reasons:

  • Cutting using an inappropriate blade.
  • Too low or high cutting speed.
  • Becoming impatient and rushing through the cutting process.
  • Blade teeth issues.

The abovementioned reasons are technical reasons why plywood would likely splinter when you cut through it. Nevertheless, these reasons would not tell you whether the jigsaw is inappropriate to use on plywood.

Common Mistakes You Need to Avoid When Cutting Plywood

When cutting plywood using a jigsaw, it will help if you know the tips and tricks of doing it without splintering the plywood. Moreover, it will also be helpful to know the common mistakes committed by newbies when cutting plywood using a jigsaw. Below is a rundown of the tips and tricks and the common mistakes you need to avoid when cutting plywood using a jigsaw:

  1. Don’t use a dull or old jigsaw blade, for you are more likely to splinter the plywood if you do so.
  2. Use a blade that is appropriate for cutting plywood, at least something with 20 TPI. 
  3. Follow the safety protocols and wear safety gear.
  4. Tie back your long hair and refrain from using loose-fitting clothes.
  5. Apply only appropriate pressure on the jigsaw to avoid breaking the teeth of the jigsaw blade. 
  6. Don’t forget to lubricate the jigsaw before using it.

Techniques You Should Employ When Cutting Plywood Using the Jigsaw

Aside from the tips and mistakes you should avoid when cutting plywood using a jigsaw, it will likewise help if you are cognizant of the following techniques. These techniques will help you minimize splintering when cutting plywood:

Use an Appropriate Jigsaw Blade

Jigsaw blades cut various materials ranging from plywood and plexiglass to metals. There are also myriads of jigsaw blades; some are meant for cutting metals, while some are for cutting plexiglass, plywood, or other materials. So, when cutting plywood, it will be best to zero in on the right jigsaw blade, something perfect for cutting plywood. 

The ability to choose the right jigsaw blade for a particular cutting task distinguishes the experts from beginners. Experts would readily suggest using a reverse-toothed jigsaw blade when cutting plywood because this will create minimal splintering. 

Moreover, your jigsaw blade should have a higher tooth count, something with 20 TPI or more. Remember that the more teeth a jigsaw blade has, the more refined it will cut.

Use a Splinter Guard

The splinter guard is usually mounted in the saw and fits tightly against the blade. This tool ensures that you can cut your material splinter-free. You must use a splinter guard, especially if you are a newbie in woodworking. It is not that difficult to use, and even a beginner can readily use it. 

You can also use it to remove wicker quickly. Moreover, if you don’t prefer manual systems, it will be best to utilize a splinter guard. It will also help you so much when cutting plywood using a jigsaw.

Use Masking Tape

Another alternative way to prevent splintering of plywood when using a jigsaw is the use of masking tape. The masking tape can keep the edges of plywood from splintering. It holds the fibers, preventing the blade from cracking the edges. 

Moreover, if you use masking tape, you can quickly identify the cut line as you cut. After cutting, you can soon do away with the masking tape. 

Perfect Speed Level for Quality Cuts

One mistake you may commit when cutting plywood using a jigsaw is trying to cut the plywood using the maximum speed of the jigsaw. It is, however, a mistake to assume that the faster the jigsaw blade’s speed, the better the cut would be. Contrariwise, you don’t want the jigsaw to be moving slowly. So, it will help if you strike a balance when it comes to cutting speed. 

Go for the medium speed. If you go very slow, the jigsaw blade may shred the plywood because of lack of speed. The blade teeth will get snagged in the plywood, ripping it apart. 

Go for the medium speed. If you go very slow, the jigsaw blade may shred the plywood because of lack of speed. The blade teeth will get snagged in the plywood, ripping it apart. 

However, if you get too fast, you may be unable to control the cutting process and eventually mess up the cut. For this reason, it will be best to go for a jigsaw with a variable speed feature so that you can adjust the speed accordingly. 

Score The Cut

Expert woodworkers—wary of splintering plywood when using a jigsaw—would usually score the cut to ensure that the jigsaw blade will not splinter the edges. They would usually use a utility knife for this purpose. 

For example, if you use a jigsaw blade that has downward-facing teeth, you can score the board’s underside. You should score the board manually. Moreover, you will need a tool with a sharp edge, preferably a knife, to score the cut line offside. You can trace the cut line with a knife, make a narrow and deep cut through the board, but the cut should not be too deep. 

If you have an upward-toothed blade, you need to engrave the top surface. Similarly-, if you use a downward-toothed jigsaw blade, you need to score the downside of the board. Once done scoring the board, you can begin cutting the plywood and expect not to splinter the edges.


Conclusion

Cutting plywood without splintering is a skill that you need to learn as a woodworker. Whether you are using a crosscut saw or a jigsaw, you need to ensure that you minimize the splintering of the plywood. Without splinters, you won’t need much sanding or cleaning of the plywood edges afterward, saving you some precious time and effort.  

Nevertheless, when using a jigsaw, you are more likely to splinter plywood because of the characteristic movement of the jigsaw blade. However, you can minimize splintering if you know the abovementioned tips and follow them religiously. Besides, the abovementioned tips will come in handy and help you raise the quality of your cuts on plywood a notch higher.

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