How to Rip Plywood With a Circular Saw?

Last Updated On September 20, 2023

To rip plywood with a circular saw, first measure and mark the desired cut line, then align the blade with the mark and slowly push the saw through the plywood. Use a straightedge as a guide for a cleaner cut.

Now, let’s dive into the details. Ripping plywood is a common task when working on woodworking projects. Whether you’re building furniture or constructing cabinets, having the skill to rip plywood accurately is crucial. Using a circular saw is a popular method for this task due to its versatility and ease of use.

We will guide you step by step on how to rip plywood with a circular saw, ensuring you achieve precise and clean cuts every time. So let’s get started and explore the techniques and tips that will make this process a breeze.

Introduction To Ripping Plywood With A Circular Saw

Choosing The Right Circular Saw For The Job

When it comes to ripping plywood, one of the most essential tools you’ll need is a circular saw. With its sharp blade and portable design, a circular saw allows you to make precise cuts effortlessly. However, it’s crucial to choose the right circular saw for the job to ensure optimal performance.

Here are some key points to consider:

Motor power: Opt for a circular saw with a motor power suitable for cutting through plywood. Look for a saw with at least 15 amps or more for smooth and efficient cutting.

Blade size: The blade size of a circular saw determines the maximum depth of cut it can make. For ripping plywood, choose a saw with a blade size of 7 1/4 inches, which is the most common size and provides the necessary depth for plywood cuts.

Blade quality: Invest in a high-quality blade specifically designed for plywood to achieve clean and accurate cuts. Look for a blade with a high tooth count (40 to 60 teeth) for smoother finishes.

Bevel capacity: Consider a circular saw with a good bevel capacity, which enables you to make angled cuts. This can be advantageous when you need to make bevel edges or join plywood pieces at different angles.

Safety features: Prioritize circular saws that come with safety features such as blade guards, electric brakes, and anti-kickback mechanisms. These features enhance user safety and minimize the risk of accidents.

Corded or cordless: Decide whether you prefer a corded or cordless circular saw. While corded saws provide continuous power, cordless saws offer greater mobility. For ripping plywood, a corded saw is recommended as it provides consistent power throughout the cut.

Understanding The Importance Of Safety Precautions

Working with power tools always requires prioritizing safety to prevent accidents and injuries. Ripping plywood with a circular saw can be hazardous if the proper safety precautions are not followed. Here are some essential safety measures to keep in mind:

  • Protective gear: Always wear appropriate safety gear, including safety goggles, ear protection, and a dust mask, to shield yourself from flying debris and reduce the risk of injury.
  • Clamping the plywood: Prior to cutting, secure the plywood firmly in place using clamps or a workbench. This ensures stability and prevents the wood from moving or binding during the cut.
  • Check the saw condition: Inspect the circular saw for any damage or loose parts before starting. Ensure that the blade is sharp and properly tightened. Avoid using a saw with a faulty safety guard or trigger mechanism.
  • Power off before blade changes: When switching blades or making adjustments, ensure that the saw is powered off and unplugged. Never attempt to change the blade while the saw is still running or connected to a power source.
  • Measure and mark: Accurately measure and mark the cutting line on the plywood before making the cut. This helps guide the saw accurately and reduces the chances of mistakes.
  • Slow and steady cutting: Maintain a steady pace when cutting plywood. Avoid rushing the cut, as it can lead to errors and increase the chances of accidents. Allow the saw to do the work, exerting minimal force on the wood.

Remember, safety should always be your top priority when using a circular saw or any other power tool. By selecting the right saw and following essential safety precautions, you can rip plywood with a circular saw efficiently and securely.

Setting Up Your Workstation

Setting up your workstation properly is crucial when it comes to ripping plywood with a circular saw. By following these key points, you can ensure stability and proper support for the plywood, making your task easier and safer.

  • Selecting a suitable work surface:
  • Choose a level and sturdy work surface that can adequately support the size of your plywood.
  • Consider using sawhorses or a workbench to create an elevated surface for better accessibility and comfort.
  • Avoid unstable or uneven surfaces that can compromise your safety and the accuracy of your cuts.
  • Ensuring stability and proper support:
  • Place your plywood on the work surface with the side you intend to cut facing up.
  • Use clamps to secure the plywood to the work surface, preventing any movement during the cutting process.
  • Ensure that the clamps are positioned in areas that won’t obstruct the path of the circular saw blade.
  • Making necessary adjustments:
  • Adjust the cutting depth of your circular saw based on the thickness of the plywood. This will help you achieve clean, accurate cuts without going too deep or too shallow.
  • Set the angle of the saw’s base plate if you need to make bevel cuts. Refer to your circular saw’s manual for instructions on adjusting the angle.
  • Taking safety precautions:
  • Always wear safety goggles and ear protection to protect your eyes and ears from potential hazards.
  • Double-check that the circular saw’s blade is properly installed and tightened before starting any cutting.
  • Remove any loose clothing, jewelry, or accessories that may pose a risk of getting caught in the saw’s blade.

By setting up your workstation in the right way, you are enhancing both the efficiency and safety of your plywood ripping process. Remember, taking the time to prepare your work area will result in clean, precise cuts and a more enjoyable woodworking experience.

Preparing The Circular Saw

Before you start ripping plywood with a circular saw, it’s crucial to ensure that your tool is properly prepared. This includes installing a sharp and appropriate blade as well as adjusting the cutting depth for accurate ripping. Let’s explore these steps in detail:

Installing A Sharp And Appropriate Blade:

  • Choose a blade specifically designed for ripping plywood, with a high tooth count and a thin kerf for smooth and efficient cuts.
  • Ensure that the blade is sharp and in good condition before installation, as a dull blade can cause rough edges and kickbacks.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to securely attach the blade to your circular saw, making sure it is centered and aligned properly.

Adjusting The Cutting Depth For Accurate Ripping:

  • Use the depth adjustment feature on your circular saw to set the cutting depth just deep enough to penetrate through the plywood material.
  • Place the plywood on a stable work surface and adjust the saw’s cutting depth so that the blade extends about 1/4 inch below the bottom surface of the plywood.
  • Test the cutting depth on a scrap piece of plywood before starting your project to ensure that it produces clean and straight cuts.

By taking the time to prepare your circular saw properly, you’ll ensure that it operates at its best and delivers accurate results. Installing a sharp and appropriate blade and adjusting the cutting depth will set you up for success when ripping plywood with your circular saw.

So, let’s move on to the next step and start ripping!

Measuring And Marking The Plywood

When it comes to ripping plywood with a circular saw, accurate measurements and markings are crucial for achieving precise cuts. Follow these steps to make sure you measure and mark the plywood correctly before cutting:

  • Determining the desired width of the ripped pieces:
  • Before you start measuring and marking the plywood, it’s important to determine the desired width of the ripped pieces. This will depend on your project requirements and the specific dimensions you need.
  • Consider the purpose of the ripped pieces and carefully calculate the dimensions to avoid wastage or any potential issues later on.
  • Using a measuring tape and pencil to mark the plywood:
  • Grab your measuring tape and place it along the edge of the plywood sheet, ensuring it is straight and aligned.
  • Measure and mark the desired width of the first ripped piece on one side of the plywood sheet. Make a light pencil mark to indicate the cutting line.
  • Repeat this process along the length of the plywood sheet, marking the desired width for each ripped piece. Take your time to ensure accuracy in your measurements and markings.
  • Ensuring precise measurements:
  • Double-check your measurements after marking the first cut to ensure consistency throughout the plywood sheet.
  • Measure from the same reference point each time to maintain accuracy and avoid any discrepancies in the ripped pieces’ width.
  • Use a straightedge or a long straight board to connect the marks for each cut, creating a clear and straight line to guide your circular saw.
  • Safety precautions:
  • Remember to wear appropriate safety gear, such as protective glasses and gloves, before proceeding to cut the plywood.
  • Take your time and make sure the surroundings are clear of any obstacles or hazards that could interfere with the cutting process.
  • Position the plywood securely on a stable surface or use clamps to keep it in place to prevent accidental movements during cutting.

By following these steps and taking the time to carefully measure and mark your plywood sheet, you’ll be well-prepared to make accurate and clean cuts with your circular saw. Remember, precision is key to achieving the desired results in your woodworking projects.

Securing The Plywood

Positioning Clamps And Guides For Stability

To ensure a clean and accurate cut when ripping plywood with a circular saw, it is crucial to secure the plywood firmly in place. By positioning clamps and guides, you can increase stability and minimize the risk of the plywood shifting during the cutting process.

Here are a few key points to keep in mind:

  • Use clamps to hold the plywood in place: Secure the plywood to a workbench or another sturdy surface using clamps. This will prevent it from moving around and guarantee a more precise cut.
  • Attach a guide for straight cuts: To achieve straight and even cuts, you can attach a straightedge guide to the plywood. This guide will serve as a reference point for your circular saw, ensuring a straight and accurate cut along the length of the plywood.
  • Consider using a saw guide system: Saw guide systems, specifically designed for circular saws, can provide even greater stability and accuracy. These systems typically feature clamps and guides that securely hold the plywood and guide the saw in a straight line, resulting in clean and precise cuts.

Preventing Tear-Out By Using Sacrificial Boards

One common issue when cutting plywood with a circular saw is tear-out, which occurs when the saw blade splinters the wood along the cut line, leaving a rough and jagged edge. To minimize tear-out and achieve a cleaner cut, you can use sacrificial boards.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Position the sacrificial board: Before making your cut, position a sacrificial board underneath the plywood, lining it up with the intended cut line. The sacrificial board will absorb the splintering and prevent it from occurring on the actual plywood, resulting in a cleaner edge.
  • Choose the right type of sacrificial board: It’s important to use a sacrificial board made of a similar material and thickness as the plywood you are cutting. This will ensure that the sacrificial board absorbs the splintering effectively and provides the best possible protection for your plywood.
  • Replace sacrificial boards as needed: Over time, sacrificial boards can wear out or become damaged from repeated cuts. It’s crucial to replace them when necessary to maintain their effectiveness in preventing tear-out and maintaining clean cuts.

By securing the plywood with clamps and guides and using sacrificial boards to prevent tear-out, you can ensure a smooth and precise ripping process with your circular saw. Remember to always prioritize safety and take necessary precautions when working with power tools.

Happy ripping!

Making The Initial Cut

Aligning The Circular Saw With The Marked Line

Before making the initial cut on your plywood, it is crucial to ensure that your circular saw is aligned with the marked line accurately. Proper alignment guarantees a precise and clean cut. Here’s how you can align your circular saw properly:

  • Place the plywood on a stable and flat work surface, ensuring it doesn’t wobble or move while cutting.
  • Measure the desired width of the plywood and mark it with a pencil or a chalk line. This step is essential to guide your saw throughout the cutting process.
  • Adjust the cutting depth of your circular saw to slightly deeper than the thickness of the plywood. This adjustment prevents splintering on the bottom side of the plywood.
  • Position the saw’s base plate flat on the plywood, with the blade aligned with your marked line.
  • Ensure that the front edge of the saw’s base plate is parallel to the line by double-checking the alignment from both ends.
  • Hold the saw firmly with both hands, maintaining a balanced grip for stability during the cutting process.

Remember, taking the time to align your circular saw properly before making the initial cut will help you achieve a precise and clean rip every time.

Starting The Cut With A Slow And Steady Motion

Once you have aligned the circular saw with the marked line, it’s time to make the initial cut. Starting the cut with slow and steady motion is crucial for maintaining control and achieving a smooth cut. Follow these steps to start the cut effectively:

  • Position yourself comfortably behind the saw, ensuring a firm grip.
  • Place the front edge of the saw’s base plate on the plywood, right at the edge of the marked line.
  • Activate the saw and let the blade reach maximum speed before beginning the cut.
  • With your eyes focused ahead and your body balanced, slowly push the saw forward into the plywood with gentle pressure.
  • Keep the saw moving steadily along the marked line, letting the blade do the work. Avoid rushing or forcing the saw through the plywood, as it can lead to uneven cuts or kickbacks.
  • Maintain a steady pace and a firm grip throughout the cut, keeping your body in a comfortable position.

By starting the cut with a slow and steady motion, you’ll have better control over the circular saw, resulting in smoother rips and reducing the risk of accidents.

Remember, safety is paramount when working with power tools like circular saws. Always wear appropriate protective gear and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for safe usage.

Ripping The Plywood

When it comes to woodworking projects, ripping plywood with a circular saw is a crucial skill to have. Whether you’re building furniture or tackling a renovation project, knowing how to rip plywood accurately can save you time and frustration. In this section, we will explore the key points to keep in mind when ripping plywood with a circular saw.

Applying Consistent Pressure While Cutting

  • Apply even and steady pressure throughout the entire cut to ensure a smooth and clean rip.
  • Avoid pushing or pulling the saw too quickly, as it can lead to uneven cuts and splintering.
  • Maintain a firm grip on the saw and guide it along the marked line.
  • Remember to keep your body positioned to the side of the saw, away from the cutting area, for safety purposes.

Maintaining Control And Following The Marked Line

  • Prior to making the cut, use a straightedge or a chalk line to mark the desired cut line on the plywood.
  • Align the saw’s blade with the marked line before starting the cut.
  • Keep your focus on following the line and maintain control of the saw’s movement.
  • If necessary, make multiple passes with the saw, gradually deepening the cut, rather than trying to make the full rip in one go.

Remember, practice makes perfect when it comes to ripping plywood with a circular saw. Take your time and make sure to follow these key points to achieve precise and clean cuts. With practice, you’ll develop the necessary skills to confidently handle any woodworking project that involves ripping plywood.

Troubleshooting And Common Mistakes

Even with the best techniques, there are still potential issues that may arise when ripping plywood with a circular saw. In this section, we will address some common mistakes and provide solutions to help you achieve clean and accurate cuts.

Addressing Potential Issues Related To Blade Binding

Blade binding can occur when the circular saw blade gets wedged or stuck in the wood, resulting in a halted or uneven cut. Here are a few tips to address and prevent blade binding:

  • Check the blade: Ensure that the blade is sharp, clean, and appropriate for cutting plywood. Dull or damaged blades can cause the wood to bind.
  • Blade depth: Adjust the blade depth so that it extends slightly below the plywood’s thickness. This can prevent the blade from cutting too deep and causing binding.
  • Cut in stages: For thicker plywood, make multiple passes rather than trying to cut through the entire thickness in one go. This reduces the strain on the blade and minimizes the chances of binding.

Fixing Inaccurate Cuts And Adjusting Techniques

Incorrect cutting techniques can lead to inaccurate cuts, resulting in wasted material and an undesired final product. Here are some common mistakes to watch out for and adjustments you can make:

  • Uneven pressure: Apply consistent and even pressure on the saw as you guide it through the plywood. This helps maintain a straight cut and prevents the blade from deviating off course.
  • Proper alignment: Ensure that the saw’s base plate is aligned parallel to the plywood edges before making your cut. Misalignment can cause the blade to veer off and result in an inaccurate cut.
  • Straight edge guide: Consider using a straight edge guide or clamp a straight board along the cut line to help guide the circular saw smoothly. This provides stability and promotes straight cuts.

By troubleshooting potential issues such as blade binding and making adjustments to your cutting techniques, you can achieve clean and accurate cuts when ripping plywood with a circular saw. Remember to use a sharp blade, adjust the blade depth appropriately, and maintain even pressure and proper alignment throughout the cutting process.

These tips will help you avoid common mistakes and ensure a successful plywood ripping experience.

Finishing Touches

Sanding The Ripped Edges For A Smooth Finish

When it comes to ripping plywood with a circular saw, achieving a smooth finish is essential to ensure professional-looking results. After making the rip cuts, it’s time to focus on sanding the edges to remove any roughness and splinters. Follow these steps to get that flawless finish:

  • Start with a medium-grit sandpaper: Begin by using a medium-grit sandpaper, such as 80 or 100 grit, to smooth out the rough edges. This will help to level any uneven surfaces and remove larger splinters.
  • Sand along the grain: Always sand in the direction of the wood grain to prevent any damage or scratches. Moving the sandpaper parallel to the grain will give you the best results.
  • Use a back-and-forth motion: Apply light to moderate pressure and use a back-and-forth motion while sanding. This will help to even out the surface and ensure a consistent finish.
  • Check for smoothness: As you sand, regularly run your hand along the edges to check for smoothness. Make sure all rough patches and splinters have been eliminated.
  • Switch to a fine-grit sandpaper: Once the edges are relatively smooth, switch to a finer grit sandpaper, such as 120 or 150. This will further refine the surface and prepare it for finishing.
  • Remove dust: After sanding, always remember to remove any dust or debris from the surface. Use a brush or a vacuum cleaner to ensure that the area is clean before proceeding.
  • Optional: Round over the edges: if desired, you can use a router or sandpaper to slightly round over the sharp edges of the ripped plywood. This not only enhances the appearance but also helps prevent splintering and chipping.
  • Consider using an orbital sander: For larger projects or to speed up the sanding process, you can use an orbital sander. This power tool eliminates the need for manual sanding and allows for more efficient and even sanding.
  • Finish with a higher grit sandpaper: If you want an even smoother finish, you can further sand the edges with a higher grit sandpaper, such as 220 or 240. This will provide a polished look to the ripped plywood edges.
  • Ensure dust-free surface: Just like before, make sure the surface is free of any dust or debris before applying any finishes or paints. A clean surface will ensure better adhesion and a more professional outcome.

By following these steps and paying attention to the finishing touches, you can create clean, smooth edges on your ripped plywood with a circular saw. Remember, taking the time to sand the edges properly will result in a high-quality finish that will impress everyone who sees your woodworking projects.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What Safety Precautions Should I Take Before Ripping Plywood With A Circular Saw?

    Before ripping plywood with a circular saw, it’s important to wear protective eyewear, gloves, and earplugs. Ensure the work area is clear of debris and secure the plywood using clamps or a non-slip surface.

  • How Do I Choose The Right Blade For Ripping Plywood With A Circular Saw?

    To choose the right blade for ripping plywood with a circular saw, opt for a fine-toothed blade with a high tooth count. This will result in cleaner cuts and minimize splintering.

  • What Techniques Can I Use To Ensure A Smooth And Accurate Plywood Rip Cut?

    To ensure a smooth and accurate plywood rip cut, use a guide or fence to keep your cut straight. Take your time and use a steady, controlled motion while cutting. Practice on scrap pieces before tackling your actual project.


To sum it up, mastering the art of ripping plywood with a circular saw is an essential skill every diy enthusiast should possess. By following the step-by-step process outlined in this blog post, you can confidently tackle any plywood rip cut project with precision and efficiency.

Remember to prioritize safety by wearing protective gear, setting the correct blade depth, and double-checking your measurements before making any cuts. Additionally, investing in a high-quality circular saw with the appropriate blade will make all the difference in the quality of your cuts.

Practice and patience are key to perfecting this technique, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t achieve perfection right away. With time and practice, you’ll soon be ripping plywood like a pro, allowing you to take on even more ambitious woodworking projects.

Happy ripping!

Leave a Reply