How to Properly Measure and Cut Plywood

What You'll Need
Circular saw
Tape measure
Metal square
C clamps

Plywood is an excellent material to use on any number of DIY tasks. Because it doesn’t shrink or warp easily, it’s very versatile for shelving and many other things. However, as anyone who worked with it knows, plywood has to be measured and cut very carefully.

Step 1 - Measuring

To measure plywood, you need to lay it flat on the ground. Measure the length first on the long edge of the plywood and mark with a pencil. Then mark the same length on the other side. Use a metal square along the edge to make a straight line from your marks. Connect the marks with a yardstick.

If you need to cut more from this, follow the same procedure. You should always do your measuring on the back side of the plywood, which is the unfinished side.

Step 2 - Preparing To Cut

You plywood needs to be face down for cutting. This isn’t just because you’ve made your markings on the back side. The front of the plywood has a better finish, as it’s meant to be the outside, on view. Additionally, as plywood is made of many layers of wood pressed together, as the teeth of the circular saw come up, they splinter the thin layers easily and quickly.

The ideal way to cut plywood is with a table saw, but most people don’t own that piece of equipment. You can, however, do very well with a circular saw. You do need to raise the plywood off the floor. Do this by using 2 inch by 4 inch boards. Set your circular saw to cut to a depth of ¼ inch deeper than your plywood.

To ensure a straight cut, line up another piece of plywood with your cutting line and hold in place with a pair of C clamps that have been firmly tightened. This will act as a guide for you saw.

Step 3 - Sawing

Where possible, once you start on your cut you should keep going all the way across. Only stop for emergencies. This will help you achieve the smoothest cut and edge on the wood. It’s particularly important to keep going as you approach the edge to avoid the wood splintering too much.

What you’ll discover is that you won’t be able to restart your cut properly in the middle of the plywood, and you’ll end up with at least one section that is uneven. You’ll need to sand this down later.

Step 4 - Table Saw

If you’re lucky enough to own a table saw, then the actual cutting of plywood will go much faster and much more easily. When you’re cutting a full 4 feet by 8 feet sheet of plywood, though, you will need help.

To cut plywood properly with a circular saw, one person need to be at the back, feeding the wood through, with the other person at the other end, receiving it and pulling it clear. You should only hold the plywood by the corners to avoid the blade.