How to Cut Luan Plywood

By Chris Deziel

The term "luan" refers to a soft wood that comes from a number of species that originate in Southeast Asia, and while luan is sometimes called Philippine mahogany, it bears little relationship to true mahoganies. Plywood made by cutting veneer slices from luan and laminating them together is relatively inexpensive and is a good choice for toys and various household projects. The surface veneer is frequently precariously thin, however, and it splinters readily when you cut the plywood unless you take a few precautions. One of the most important is to use a sharp blade.

List of Items Needed

  • 60-tooth circular or table saw blade
  • Metal-cutting jigsaw or reciprocating saw blade
  • Multipurpose cutting accessory
  • Sawhorses
  • Masking tape
  • Utility knife
  1. Cut luan plywood from the back of the sheet whenever possible. When using a handheld saw, this means placing the sheet face down to cut it, but when using a table saw, it means running the sheet through the saw with the good side facing up.

  2. Use any saw that you would use to cut regular plywood, but avoid utility blades used for cutting 2-by-4s and other framing lumber. When cutting with a circular saw, table saw or handheld cutting tool, use a blade that has a large number of teeth. If you cut with a jigsaw or reciprocating saw, use a metal-cutting blade, and if you cut with a rotary tool or handheld multipurpose tool, use a multi-purpose cutting accessory and operate the tool at about three-quarter speed.

  3. Set the depth of circular saw, table saw and handheld cutting tool blades to slightly more than the thickness of the plywood. There is less chance of splintering if the saw blade extends a minimal distance from the surface while you are cutting.

  4. Support the plywood well on sawhorses or boards when cutting it with a handheld tool. As you near the end of the cut, prevent the off-cut from breaking off by holding it or otherwise providing extra support.

  5. Lay masking tape along the cut line if you have to cut luan plywood from the front. Cut through the tape, then remove it when you are finished cutting. The tape will bind the edges of the surface layer of veneer so they don't splinter.

  6. Score along the cut line with a utility knife as an alternative to laying masking tape. Press hard enough with the knife to break through the surface veneer so it will already be evenly cut when you use the saw to cut through the rest of the sheet.

Tips and Warnings

  • When both sides of the sheet will be visible, it's still best to cut from the back, but lay masking tape or score along the cut line to minimize splintering on the back.
  • After cutting luan plywood, round the cut edges with sandpaper to prevent splinters from developing while you're fastening and otherwise working with it.

© Demand Media 2011