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A jigsaw is a perfect tool for cutting into plywood straight, curved, and even at an angle if the material is thick enough.
While no one is denying the usefulness of a jigsaw in these situations, there is a lot of debate as to how to cut plywood with a jigsaw as efficiently as possible.
Most times these debates can be blown out of proportion. But there’s no debate about this: the process of working with plywood is quite simple in terms of the rules you have to follow and what accessories you need alongside you jigsaw.
In this article you’ll learn all there is to know about how to cut plywood with a jigsaw starting with the blades you need, what cuts you can make, and how to guide your jigsaw to get smooth edges every time, regardless of how small or big the cutting material is.
Know Your Blade
Before you start working with plywood you should familiarize yourself with the different blade types that can be used. The tooth orientation on jigsaw blades is either upwards or downwards and this impacts the smoothness of the edges.
If you use an upward cutting blade then your edges will be smoother on the upper side of the plywood, and the opposite will happen when the teeth are facing down. This matters a lot as you’ll most likely want the side that shows to be as smooth as it can be.
Another factor to consider is the blade’s TPI (teeth per inch) rating. Most jigsaw blades are rated at 10 to 20 TPI. The more teeth the blade has, the smoother the edges will turn out, but the slower the cutting process will be. Keep in mind that when you want to do angled and curved cuts, high TPI ratings are recommended.
Draw the Cut Line
The first thing you want to do is draw your shape or cut line. If you already have a piece of plywood you can do this on your workbench with a pencil and a ruler. You might want to have a jig and a compass if you plan on cutting curves and circles.
Adjust the Speed
A lot of jigsaws have a feature called an orbital setting. This adjusts the wobble of the blade during the sawing process. When you’re working with plywood, you want to stay away from aggressive orbital settings and anything that causes a lot of vibrations.
Depending on the TPI rating of your jigsaw blade, you will either be able to go slow or fast through the plywood. That being said, you should always go at a slow pace when cutting plywood regardless if you’re making straight cuts or curved cuts. This reduces the amount of tearing the blade can make on the edges.
Add a Fence
Because the tip of the jigsaw blade is not fixed it will wobble, and there’s nothing you can do but minimize the impact of this. There’s also no guide for your saw other than the small shoe which, needless to say, isn’t much. It’s always recommended that you use something similar to a fence when you’re cutting with a jigsaw.
You can do this by using a thick piece of wood and clamping it to your cutting material. You can also use a jig when cutting circles. No matter how confident you are in your ability to apply steady pressure with your right and left hand, it’s a good idea to use a jig anyway. It lets you stay more focused on the cut line instead of worrying about whether you’re raising the saw or rotating the plywood too fast.
Making the First Incision
There are two important things to consider when making the first cut. For cutting inwards into plywood, it’s always better to bring the blade to the cut line before powering up the jigsaw. This eliminates the chance of you sliding the blade to either side and missing the cut line entirely.
When you’re cutting towards the edge or making cutout pieces, you might need another tool to get you started. What most woodworkers use is a power drill to make a hole big enough for your blade to go through. Just remember to make the hole on the inside of the shape if you’re cutting a hole and on the outside if you’re making a cutout.
Cutting into plywood with a jigsaw is a very easy task. The jigsaw was made for softwood projects and six decades later it is still a most commonly used tool by amateur and professional woodworkers.
As long as you equip your jigsaw with a high TPI blade and you have a makeshift fence on hand, some clamps, a jig, and a small drill, there’s literally nothing you can’t carve into or out of plywood.