How to Saw a Particle Board

By Chris Deziel

Cutting particle board presents a few more problems than cutting plywood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF). Like plywood and MDF, particle board comes in 4-by-8-foot sheets, and they may be laminated with a plastic coating. Because it is formed by gluing together relatively large wood chips and sawdust, however, it is much more prone to chipping than either of the other materials. Chipped edges can make for unattractive cabinets and fixtures, but you can avoid them by following a few strategies. Two of the most important are to use sharp cutting blades and to keep your tools properly aligned.

List of Items Needed

  • Table saw
  • 80-tooth saw blade
  • Carpenter's square
  • 2 sawhorses
  • Handheld cutting tool
  • Straight edge
  • Pencil
  • Handheld multipurpose tool
  • Multipurpose cutting blade
  1. Make rip or cross cuts with a table saw. Install a steel-tipped blade with 80 teeth or more on the saw and adjust it using a carpenter's square so you are sure it is exactly 90 degrees with respect to the table. Similarly, adjust the fence so that it is exactly parallel to the blade. Set the blade height about 1/2 inch more than the thickness of the material.

  2. Feed the particle board through the saw with the side you are going to use facing upward. Push it slowly, but steadily. If you are cutting a full sheet along its length, place a sawhorse on the out-feed side of the table to support the sheet, or have a helper support it. Be sure the helper understands that the job is only to support the sheet, not to pull on it.

  3. Support a sheet on a pair of sawhorses if you wish to make a straight cut with a handheld cutting tool. The side you are going to use should be facing down. Draw an accurate line with a straight edge and pencil and adjust the depth of the blade to about 1/8 inch more than the thickness of the material. Push the tool slowly but steadily along the line. Support the off-cut so it doesn't fall and break off when you near the end of the cut.

  4. Make curved cuts, notches and holes with a multipurpose cutting tool fitted with a cutting blade. The rotary action of the tool is less likely to chip the material than the reciprocating action of a jigsaw. If you only have a jigsaw, use a fine-tooth blade. Cut from the back whenever possible to minimize chipping on the front of the sheet.

Tips and Warnings

  • Particle board's propensity for chipping makes it unsuitable for edge routing or beveling.
  • You should wear safety glasses when sawing any kind of wood, but especially particle board. Cutting it can produce sizable chips that can easily damage your eyes.

© Demand Media 2011