What to Use to Cut Plywood

By Louise Balle

When you cut a regular wood plank you need a handheld or high-powered saw to get the job done right. Wood is heavy, thick and sometimes difficult to penetrate unless you have the right tools. But if you have a job that requires you to cut plywood instead, you may have other options for cutting through this thinner, softer material.

What Is Plywood?

Plywood is a manufactured wood product. It is made of multiple thin, soft layers of wood called veneers. The wood layers are placed so that the direction of the grain on each layer of wood alternates. It is strong and durable but less resistant to cutting compared to standard wood planks. Hardwood plywood is a variety where the outer layers of the wood are made of standard hardwood while the inside contains the thinner veneers.

Circular Saw

The ideal tool to use for cutting plywood is a portable circular saw. This is a small handheld saw that contains a circular blade. When you lower the blade, it spins its “teeth,” cutting through the plywood with ease. This option is best for straight, quick cuts. Some circular saw manufacturers offer blades made specifically for plywood cutting.


If you need to make detailed curves when cutting the plywood, you can use a jigsaw instead. A jigsaw contains a blade adapter that you can change according to your needs. You use the blade almost like a pen to trace out shapes and curves in your plywood. Think of a jigsaw puzzle, with a variety of shape cut-outs. The blades are strong enough to cut through soft plywood but it may be a bit of a challenge to use a jigsaw when cutting hardwood plywood.

Rotary Tools

Cutting curved and intricate patterns in plywood can be accomplished with a multipurpose tool equipped with a multipurpose bit accessory or a rotary tool equipped with a multipurpose cutting bit. A handheld cutting tool equipped with 3-inch multipurpose carbide wheel makes quick work of straight cuts in plywood. An oscillating tool equipped with a wood and drywall saw blade or a wood and metal flush cutting blade will also cut plywood efficiently.

Precautions and Suggestions

Use a saw horse, which is a convenient cutting board, when cutting plywood. The saw horse keeps the plywood in place and ensures straighter cuts. Wear goggles and thick utility gloves when cutting plywood; like standard wood it also produces sawdust that can irritate your eyes. Also, whenever possible, cut your plywood outdoors instead of allowing the dust to pile up indoors.

© Demand Media 2011