ripping plywood for bookcases
I’m finishing off my sister’s home office, including making a bunch of bookcases out of birch plywood. For rips to width (or depth), I can use a guide with a circular saw, have the lumberyard or big box rip them, or buy a cheap bench top table saw (not for full sheets, but final widths). I don’t have a table saw and don’t have enough need for one to justify the cost of a good one (unless someone can talk me into it), though I will have a few jamb extensions to rip also. The problem is getting very consistent widths, not easy, at least for me, with the circular saw, and I’m guessing a crap shoot with the yard or big box. How reliable are the bench top table saw fences for consistent rips? Thanks for any thoughts or other ideas.
Edited 3/13/2003 12:10:03 AM ET by DHoov2
It is very hard to rip with a straight edge for repeat rips unless you make a block for a gauge . The block is set the same distance off the edge to set the straight edge each time.
I like the kind of homemade cutting guide described here.
Heres what I would do lacking a table saw. Don't let HD or Lowes do it, they will screw it up.
Figure out the width you want for the book cases
Pick up a piece of 3/4 MDF
Figure out the distance between the edge of the tooth that kicks out towards the edge of the saw and edge of the base of the saw.
Rip a piece of MDF off one side about 2 inch wide.
Then Rip another piece off the other factory edge wide enough to accommodate the width of the shelf + the two inches of the first piece
Put it together like the picture.
You can use it as a carriage for consistent rips if you clamp it to the edge of the Birch.
Make SURE the factory edge is facing out so the saw rides against one and board rides against one.
Set it up on saw horses with a sacrafial 2x to make sure the piece your cutting doesn't hit the ground when you cut it off. and adjust the saw depth to about 1 1/4" and have it.
Use a good sharp thin kerf blade and flip the plywood finish side down to avoid tear out.
At least that's what I do with out a table saw.
Uncle Dunc gave you the easiest and best answer to your dilemma. Some people refer to this as a "shooting board," others call it a "rip guide," and I'm sure a lot of other names are used as well.
Bottom line, DON"T BUY a sheet of MDF as was mentioned by another poster...too costly for setting up a rip guide...buy a sheet of 1/4 inch luan, or 3/8 plywood. Rip approx a 2inch wide piece off of the one factory edge side and attach it with glue and drywall screws to the other factory edge. Don't worry that the drywall screws will penetrate too far through the wood...flip the wood piece over and "snap" off the protruding tips by wacking the screws with your hammer..they should break off clean. If not, leave screws in place until glue drys and then permenently remove screws.
This 2 inch wide "top piece" that you attached to the main sheet becomes your "fence" for your circular saw. Install whatever type blade you plan to use (when cutting your book cases) onto your circular saw. Now using the 2 inch strip fence as a guide, run your saw against this fence and cut through the main sheet. Rip the entire 8 ft length. Throw the cut-off piece out. The remaining piece ( or "body") with the strip fence already attached, becomes your rip guide jig.Now you have the perfect guide jig with no need for measuring saw blade distances.
Simply mark each end of the cut-line on your bookcase material, line up the the edge of the rip guide's body next to that line, and clamp this jig in place. Set the cutting depth of your saw to that of the material you are cutting through, plus add to this depth the thickness of your jig's body.Now run your saw as before, against the strip fence and you have it. Wipe off any sawdust that may gather on the jig after each cut so that your saw will run smoothly and tightly against the strip fence.
This jig is cheap to make and will yield good results. Use a carbide toothed blade on your circular saw for cutting ease and to minimze tear-out...the more teeth ( 40 is good) the less tear-out.
If by chance you opt for something else, don't buy a cheap table saw, this will do you no good at all. Most of these types only allow for 12 inch wide rips...hard to rip a full size sheet ( dangerous!) on one of these lil things. Rather, opt for no less than a contractor grade table saw that allows a fence width of at least 24 inches from the blade. When ripping plywood on a table saw, the wider the table, the safer and easier it is to make the cut...also accuracy improves. If you buy a table saw and unless the fence system is a biesemer style, you will need to physically measure the distance from the blade to the fence at both the front and back locations whenever you are setting up the fence to make a cut. Failure to do so can result in a crooked fence line-up; resulting in a crooked cut...you don't want that do you?
Last but not least, if you don't like the circular saw set-up, and you don't want to invest in a table saw just for a few rip cuts, then contact a local cabinetshop, moulding shop, custom hardwood supplier , and or a kitchen counter top shop, and have them rip your sheet goods to size. They will most certainly do an accurate job for you. It may cost a few extra bucks, but in the long run may be the most hassle free and cheaper than a cash out lay for a new saw.
Around here a 3/4 MDF is going to cost about 10 bucks more then 1/4 in luan.
IMHO 1/4 inch material could be a bad choice for two reasons.
1. Its to flexible, I like my guides nice and rigid 2. Depending on the saw, many have a radius on the shoe which the saw could "jump" and ruin the piece.
The reasons I didnt suggest the same as Uncle Dunc is because he wants very consistant rips, and I also took it that he did not have much luck ripping in the past
Its possible the way you and uncle dunc suggested but the set up time of laying each piece out and making it perfectly square at the perfect width for a multitude of the same cut adds up
The way I suggested will you give a very consistant width and is self squaring to the ply. I've tried both ways, a shooting board is great for one or two off cuts, But they take much longer to square up and its harder to ensure you get the exact same width every time. opposed the other way.
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Edited 3/13/2003 2:24:52 AM ET by CAG
I like that idea. I'll definitely add it to my database. My first reaction when I read it was a little nightmare about ending up owning dozens of them in slightly different sizes, but I guess I'd probably buy a table saw before it got to that point. ;)
You only need about 6 different ones :) if you just screw the two pieces together you can un-screw it later and move the "fence" And like I said its a lot easier to ensure square and equal cuts repeatedly
It certainly doesn't replace a table saw, but it beats the heck out of trying to rip down 4x8 sheets on a little job site saw when you don't have a stand, out feed roller and an extra set of hands...
View ImageGo Jayhawks
Edited 3/13/2003 5:41:48 AM ET by CAG
I agree with you that 1/4 inch luan is a little flexible, but it has always worked well for me in the past. The body of my guide is luan, but my fence is actually 3/8 thick, which works great. I mentioned in my earlier post that 3/8 ply would be a good substitute.
I don't like 3/4 because for some reason, it interferes with the clearance between my saw's shoe and the motor housing (my saw is a "sidewinder") whenever the depth of my total cut is more than 3/4 inches. I suggested 1/4 inch luan or 3/8 ply so the user would not run into this problem.
Your method seems very accurate, but IMHO it has 2 shortcomings:
1. It is heavier than it needs to be.
2. It can only rip a specific size...the guide needs to be disassembled and reassembled each time a different sized piece of wood would require ripping.
I see no real time savings advantage since you still need to clamp your jig in place before using. The only real advantage is that you take away the need to use a measuring tape for marking both ends of the board before setting the jig.
I grant you that your method is "fool-proof" when it comes to accuracy of each cut, but accuracy with my jig can easily be obtained as well...simply hold the body of the jig right on the cut-line mark, and clamp it down. As for marking the board before cutting, use a combination square pre-set to give you your marks, or do the same thing as you but in a smaller scale...cut a 1X4 the same length as the desired shelf width. Add to this board the width of the 1X before cutting. Now cut this board to length, and cut another scrap piece of 1X and screw it to the underside of the first piece, making a "T" square. Hold the "T" square at each end and mark your shelf board for cutting...Using a "T" square or a combination square for consistent marking takes the "fudge factor" out of using a tape measure for every cut.
If the person making these shelfs is unable to align my described "Rip Guide" jig to his pencil marks and clamp it down...he/she got no business building anything in the first place.
The main advantage to the design I and Uncle Dunc described, is that this rip guide can be used over and over and over...to rip any sized width off any sized board (8ft in length or smaller) without any disassembly/reassembly. Even on this particular project, if the sides of the bookcase are to be slighlty wider than the fitted shelves, using your guide system, this person would have to spend time making another jig, or disassembling/reassembling the one he's got if he intended to rip down the shelving material. Using the suggested rip guide I posted, the guide is all ready to go...just clamp it in place.
Please don't misunderstand me...your method definately will yield accurate results. It's definately a good trade tip. Depending upon the user's ability, it may be the best and safest route to go. However, for me...unless I had to rip 30 or more pieces in succession, I would not want to bother with the time it takes to set it up...I prefer the ease and versatality of my current rip guide system.
Edited 3/15/2003 1:13:11 PM ET by Davo
I have three of these shooting boards. A 97", 60" and 36". The 97" and 60" are mdf because I had it around, the 36" in the pic is luan, cause we go through those like kleenex. They're all 1/4". The flexibility of 1/4" is great cause it can be pushed tight to the surface for chip free cuts. I have a unisaw in the shop and a DeWalt on the job, but like the link Uncle Dunc posted sez, shooting boards are the ticket for making sheetgoods manageble...I can't even count how many bookshelfs I've cut up with them. EliphIno!
Just out of curiousity, why the 60" piece? I have a few shooting boards on the "to make" list, but I was thinking of 97, 49, and 36. Do you agree?
Baltic birch plywood comes in 60"x60" sheets. Particleboard and MDF come in 60" x various length sheets. The widest width plam you can get is 60", too (actually it comes 61").
If you don't want to build a shoot board, you can just take a freehand rip, maybe 3", off one edge of a sheet of plywood and use the factory edge as a clampable straight edge. Stack two sheets with edges flush and cut both at once to increase production/hour.
You have to be very carefull with MDF straight edges, they will get a hook in them if you leave them leaning against a wall, even a 5, or 6 incher. I definately prefer particle board or plywood. The problem with a 1/4 inch thich straight edge is it can be too light to lay flat on the surface and the edge of your saw table can slip under it if you're not carefull - guess it depends on what brand saw you use.
I have several length straight edges with a row of 13/16" holes drilled 2" o.c. so I can use them as shelf hole jigs for cabinets, too. Nice to get double duty out of a homemade jig.
What about tempered hardboard ( aka Masonite)? Not the lower quality stuff but tempered. I have seen it recommended but could have been by less than experts.
Might work, never tried it. I always use a scrap of what I have laying around and to be honest, I don't think I've ever used much of that stuff...maybe one sheet for an easel once...
I made one out of masonite once because it was laying around. Glued it with carpenter's glue. The glue didn't absorb into the temper and it eventually failed. I like 1/4" plywood. Used MDF and veneer core. Both work fine.
A shooting board like Bucksnort has is the cheapest way to go. I have one made from 1/4 inch baltic birch that I have had for a long time. I mainly trim doors with it.
I made a table saw from a 3'x4' sheet of 3/4 plywood a long time ago and I hung a skilsaw under it. I used it a long time to rip stuff down with.
What Jim said. MDF comes in 97" x 60". I think I made two 8'ers and cut one 5' and 3'. I've got 'em for 45° bevels, routers, jig saws, different circular saws...I can't pass up a scrap of 1/4" anything, so when one jig gets dinged, it's no big deal whipping up a new one...I sure wouldn't want to haul around a bunch of 3/4" ones, though. Plus, I'd get way too attached to anything that substantial ;-)
PS spray a little Top Coat™ on the saw base and guide, slickern' whale snot EliphIno!
Fair enough, I have made both types, and I only make the one I suggested if I have numerous, more then a dozen or so, cuts of the exact same size. And thats also providing I do not have a table saw to do it. It has only come up a few times, but when it has it worked well for me.View ImageGo Jayhawks
Buy a "good" table top table saw and good in feed and outfeed portable rollers.
You wont regret it. I dont think theres one job I do that I don't take my Makita with me. I've had that sucka over ten years and its still crankin like new (doesnt look it though....lol).
I've done big and small jobs on it.
I also own a very very good Powermatic 5 HP table saw with two different rip fences.a Biessmyer and the original Powermatic rip fence but I have to admit..I use my portable table saw ten X's as often..being that its portable.
"As long as you have certain desires about how it ought to be you can't see how it is."
Years ago, I had the same problem.
I bought a small Rockwell table top saw.
With out a doubt, it will not rip plywood good enough.
I bought a simple aluminum saw guide that clamps to the wood for ####rip up to 8 feet.
Worked great, still does after 25 years.
It's like the guides suggested that you make out of wood (I've made
a bunch of them also over the years).
They all will work better then the small saw.
Even today with my large cabinet saw, I'll often break down a large
sheet with that old guide.
Hope that helps.
I finally broke down and got a Festo saw and guide system. It's expensive but performs as advertised- exquisitely. Straight, clean cuts with no wandering from the guide. It's already paid for itself in reduced on the job screaming.
The rip guide they're all talking about was in Fine Homebuilding #1. Way to handy to be without even if you have a big table saw. One of my favorite uses is to cut off doors to clear the carpet. The door doesn't get scratched.