If you're like most woodworkers, cutting plywood sheets is one of the most dreaded jobs.
Due to it’s size it can be dangerous to cut on an average table saw.
There are specialized tools, such as panel saws or track saws that can be safely used,
but are often too expensive and are designed specifically for cutting sheet goods.
Many big box stores such as Home Depot or Lowe's will cut the sheet goods, but don't
count on the cuts being clean or accurate.
For many years, I have used the Festool tracksaw cutting system.
It works great but it's not an option for many woodworkers due to its cost.
Today I'm going to show you how to build a sheet goods cutting system that can be made
from plywood scraps and give you a similar quality and accuracy of a tracksaw.
The cutting system is built from 3/4 inch plywood, which is used for the fence and Edge
The fence is attached to the edge guide by six, 1 - 5/8 inch wood screws.
The edge guide is made from two glued pieces of 3/4 inch plywood.
A 1/4 inch piece of plywood is used as an zero clearance plate which will be mounted
to the circular saw’s sole plate.
All of the parts can be made from plywood scraps.
The dimensions I used are shown, but they can be change to suit your needs.
To ensure the overall accuracy of the cutting system, I recommend that at least one edge
of the fence and edge guide remain the factory cut edge.
Mark these edges because we’ll need to refer back to these when we begin to build the system.
Let's get started by making the edge guide.
The two pieces are cut to the same dimensions as previously shown.
Next we will glue the two pieces together.
It is important to note that when gluing the pieces together leave one of the factory cut
edges proud by approximately 1/16 of an inch..
This edge will be the referencing edge when it gets assembled to the fence.
Next let's make the zero clearance plate.
This plate will help eliminate cross grain chip out.
For this video I'll be making a zero clearance plate for the DeWalt 20 volt cordless circular
saw, but any circular saw can be used.
To get started, place the saw on top of the 1/4 inch plywood sheet and mark the outline
of the sole plate.
Next cut to or inside of the pencil marks.
The zero clearance plate should have a slightly smaller footprint when compared to the saw’s
This will ensure that the soulplate, not the zero clearance plate, will ride against the
fence when making a cut.
Next the hole locations will be marked, which will allow the zero clearance plate to be
mounted to the saw’s sole plate.
Sole plates will differ between manufacturers, but for my case, I was able to use one existing
A second hole location had to be drilled on my saw’s sole plate.
Two mounting hole locations should be enough for mounting the zero clearance plate.
With the holes marked, each hole location is drilled.
Each hole has a different diameter due to the different sized screws which are used
to secure the zero clearance plate to the saw’s sole plate.
Both holes will need to be countersunk, which allows the head of the screw to be flush with
the bottom of the zero clearance plate.
With the plate installed it's time to cut the zero clearance slot into the plate.
For this step, I recommend clamping the sole plate to a sturdy surface.
This step will allow the blade to be safely plunged into the plate.
The last step is to lightly sand the edges and around the blade slot.
The plate is waxed with several coats of paste wax, which will give it a smooth surface.
The next step is to install the fence to the edge guide.
Since this step is critical to the accuracy of the cutting system, we first must ensure
that the fence is 90 degrees to the edge guide.
For this step, we will use an uncut sheet of plywood that must to be square on all corners.
This can be checked by first measuring the diagonal length from each corner and ensuring
each measurement is the same.
The second step is measuring the width of the sheet at each end and verifying each measurement
With these quick steps, we know that the sheet can be used as an accurate reference.
In order to have the fence properly aligned, we will first measure and mark from the shortest
side on each edge of the board.
I use a measurement of 24 inches.
With both marks made, take the fence and place the factory cut edge to the pencils marks.
Take your time and make sure the board is right on the marks.
With the fence in place, clamp both sides so that it will stay in place.
Next take the edge guide and place the factory edge against the edge of the board.
Make sure it is snug and clamp it to the fence.
Drill the six hole locations for the 1 - 5/8 inch wood screws.
Install the wood screws and make sure they are countersunk to the fence.
With the assembly completed, we will cut the saw kerf groove into the edge guide.
Set the depth of cut so that one tooth of the the blade is below the cut.
Next, make the cut on a scrap piece of plywood, since we are only cutting to create a groove
in the edge guide.
Place the cutting system on the board being cut, so that the saw blade groove on the edge
guide lines up to the pencil mark.
To verify that the fence is align to both pencil marks, use a ruler to make sure that
the measurements from each side are the same.
If the measurements are different, then make sure that the edge guide is tight to the edge
of the board being cut.
Once the cutting system has been verified to be accurate, then you don't have to verify
your measurement for future cuts.
Place a clamp at each end of the fence to ensure that it doesn’t move while making
Now ready to make our first cut.
With the cut completed we will verify the accuracy of the cut.
Taking the measurements from both ends of the board, we see that they are equal.
This proves that the cutting system is cutting correctly.
Next let's compare the quality of the cut to the track saw.
For this comparison, I'll be using my Festool TS55 track saw.
The track is aligned to the pencil marks, clamped in place, and the cut is made.
Now let's compare the quality of both cuts.
we’ll look at the cut made by our cutting system.
There seems to be some chip out on the edges.
I believe that this is caused by two factors.
One, the plywood that was cut is a low cost, shop grade variety, which has a very thin
Second, the blade on my saw has a very thin kerf, which is more prone to vibration when
compared to a wider kerf blade.
Now let's look at the cut quality of the track saw.
As you can see there appears to be some chip out as well.
In all fairness my track saw all has an older blade and the track’s anti splinter guard
is a bit wore.
With a sharp blade and a new anti splinter guard, the quality of the cut would be improved.
In conclusion this cutting system cheap to make and cut quality is acceptable.
If you're on a tight budget,this cutting system may be the best solution to accurately and
safely cut sheet goods.
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