Cutting large sheet material can be tricky, difficult, and for some woodworkers, just not worth the hassle, at least when you don’t yet have the right tools for cutting plywood.
So maybe you settle with those “handy panels” that are pre-cut to 24″ by 48″. But that’s pretty limiting, and overall it’s more expensive than working with full sheets.
Having the ability to accurately (and safely) cross cut and rip full sheets of plywood is a great way to expand your woodworking to take on bigger, better projects.
I’ve been building furniture for several years now and I can promise you, once you’re handling full plywood sheets in your shop, you’ll love the doors it opens.
So today I wanted to dig in and research some power tool options for cutting large sheet material, so keep reading to see what I found to be some great tools for cutting plywood.
Wen Track Saw For Cutting Plywood
The track saw works as a system, with a track that sits on the plywood (or other sheet material), and a handheld plunge-style circular saw that rides along the track.
The Wen track saw is very affordable, and seems to be a great competitor in the track saw market.
When you buy the track for this saw, it comes in 2 pieces. You’ll use one track for cross cutting a 4’ sheet, and both pieces locked together for ripping an 8’ sheet.
The track is designed to not require clamping, as the bottom has a slip-free surface. But I like that they do offer track clamps that can be added to better secure the track in place.
TIP – Because the saw is sold separately from the tracks, you can actually skip on the Wen track and buy the Powertec track. This is not officially supported, but reviewers have been posting that it works fine with the Powertec tracks, and that they are better than the Wen tracks.
Makita Track Saw
Here’s another track saw system, which is at a higher price point than the Wen, and has more reviews as well.
It’s been on the market for several years, and the thing that impressed me the most is the reviews from those who have owned it for 3+ years.
They are basically raving fans and strongly suggest this tool, as it’s held up over the years and continues to provide good results.
Plus, after over 400 reviews, it’s holding a solid 4-½ stars, that’s impressive for a $400+ item.
Bora NGX Clamp Edge Guide
Here’s an economical tool for cutting plywood that will work with your standard circular saw. It’s a very clever system that has an integrated clamp built into the rail.
It comes in 2 rails, one of which would be used for crosscutting 4 feet. But when combined, they can be used for ripping a full 8′ sheet of plywood.
You can use the clamp-edge system as a guide to run your saw against, or you can buy the universal base that acts as a sled for your circular saw and carries it along the guide, similar to a track saw.
Kreg Accu-Cut XL Tool For Cutting Plywood
This guide is similar to the Bora system, but I’d say it’s a step down in overall quality and functionality.
It comes with 4 tracks that can be combined to allow for 100” of cutting capacity, so that’s good.
But it has no built in clamp. It claims to have a no-slip grip so clamping is not required, but I have my doubts and would be much more confident in the cut if it were being securely held in place with some sort of clamping.
And this is not a precision tool. Across the length of an 8’ sheet of plywood, it has a 1/16” tolerance. This is ok for construction, but not acceptable with furniture projects.
I would only suggest this system if you already have a circular saw, you’re on a tight budget, and are only working with smaller pieces of plywood.
I would then view this as a tool to initially break down your plywood, so long as you intend on running the smaller pieces through your table saw to finish them up.
In that case, this economical version would be well worth it to make quick work of breaking down large sheet material.
Panel Pro Vertical Panel Saw
As far as tools for cutting plywood, the panel saw is kind of the pinnacle of choices. It’s a professional grade tool, but still used and appreciated by hobbyists.
This particular panel saw is one of the most economical options on the market today. In fact, while writing this, it was the lowest priced panel saw I found.
It’s got some very interesting features as well, but a mixed bag of positive and negative reviews.
This panel saw is a vertical type that leans back on a kickstand, and also has casters to be easily rolled around your shop.
Without the extension support wings (which can easily be removed when not using), this saw will fit in the back of a pickup so it can be hauled to a job site if needed.
Many panel saws are designed to only cross cut a sheet of plywood.
My favorite part about this panel saw is that you can lock the blade into position on the guide rails, rotate the blade 90 degrees, and then you can push the plywood through the cut lengthwise, sliding it along the support wings.
This means you can rip cut a full sheet of plywood.
That feature alone, to me, makes this a strong competitor in the panel saw market, especially with the low price tag.
And in reality, it’s a simple machine with a few steel parts and a motor, so even if it’s not built to the same quality as a milwaukee panel saw at twice the price, it’s completely possible to fine tune and adjust until it’s as accurate as you need it.
My Methods For Breaking Down Plywood
I love working with plywood, and in a few years, a cool panel saw like the one above may be something I’ll consider.
But for now, I just can’t justify giving up that kind of floor space in my already-cramped garage wood shop.
I’ve made my share of tool investments, but a track saw or a panel saw just hasn’t “made the cut” (pun intended) for me yet.
Instead, I tend to make use of my circular saw, jig saw, and table saw as needed for the project, and I’m happy with my results so far.
So check out this post here to learn how I personally handle and break down sheet goods in my wood shop.
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