Can I Cut Plywood Without a Saw?

Often, people use saws when cutting plywood for cleaner and more efficient cuts. Plywood is relatively thin and delicate and thus requires specific tools and cutting techniques to prevent issues, including splintering and developing rough edges. So, what alternative methods to saws can you use when cutting plywood?

You can cut plywood without a saw; however, it’s not the ideal way to do it. Using tools like table saws, jigsaws, and circular saws is the best option. They deliver cleaner cuts more efficiently. However, other practical plywood cutting tools exist, including chisels, routers, and utility knives. 

In this article, I will expound on the best tools for use other than saws when cutting plywood and precautions to follow when cutting plywood without a saw. Read on to find out!

How To Cut Plywood Without a Saw

Cutting plywood with a saw is efficient because the saw’s serrated teeth cut through effectively. Using saws, especially electric saws, is much faster than the other methods of cutting plywood. However, with certain saws, this also causes shredding and burring to the plywood. Therefore, you may want to try out some of the methods below to see if they give you a smoother finish.

Chisel and Mallet

The chisel and mallet are the first alternative method you should consider when cutting plywood without a saw. The upside of using a chisel and mallet is that it is pretty easy compared to other methods. You do not need any specialized skills or experience to use them.

Get a sharp chisel and place it along the marked line on the plywood you want to cut. Hammer on the chisel using the mallet while applying force to split the plywood. Clamp the plywood in place to minimize random movements as you hammer on it.

I recommend getting the IRWIN Chisel Set for Woodworking (available on Amazon). The wood chisels are designed for use with a wooden mallet or the palm of the hand. They are also made from high carbon solid-forged hardened steel blades for superior performance and maximum edge retention.

Utility Knife

The utility knife is one of the most common methods of cutting plywood without a saw. To use the utility knife correctly, mark a line using a pencil or chalk on both sides of the plywood you wish to cut. Ensure the utility knife is as sharp as possible to ease the process. 

Use the utility knife to cut along the marked line until you reach the center. Once at the center, flip the board and repeat the procedure from the opposite side.

Usually, people prefer different approaches when using the utility knife. Some prefer cutting deeper straight lines into the plywood, while others prefer chipping away at the wood.

Whichever method you prefer, ensure your utility knife is sharp and of good quality. Try the Amazon Basics Folding Utility Knife (available on It is best for general purpose and precision cutting and has a quick-change mechanism allowing for easy blade replacement.

Power Drill

Another easy plywood cutting method you should consider using is a power drill. In this method, draw a straight line on the plywood using chalk or pencil and use the power drill to make tiny holes along the line. 

The holes should be as closely spaced as possible to increase the pressure exerted on the plywood. With a little more force, the plywood should snap along the line with drilled holes without much stress.

If you want to try this method, I recommend the RIDA Cordless Electric Power Drill (available on The cordless drill’s clutch offers precise control, making drilling quick and easy.


You can also use wood routers to perform intricate woodwork and cut through plywood. In most cases, the router works well on the plywood’s edges. You should expect common routing problems, such as the plywood glue causing the router bit to dull faster. The gap between plies in industrial-grade plywood also causes tear-out and splintering.

There are a few ways to prevent these issues, including cutting the plywood in increments and setting the clearance to zero on the router table.

I recommend trying the Lotos Electric Plunge Wood Router (available on It has a powerful motor and variable speeds, which allow you to choose appropriate speeds for different materials. 

Ax or Machete

The ax and machete are also pretty effective when cutting plywood. Ensure the ax and machete are sharp to avoid splintering the plywood. I would recommend sharpening the ax or machete right before you begin cutting it.

When cutting the plywood, use the V-approach by cutting 45 degrees along the marked line from both sides. Remember not to cut all the way down. Instead, chip into the plywood, leaving it weak enough to snap with your hands. This is much safer and guarantees better results than hacking the plywood all the way.

For a quality ax, consider purchasing the WilFiks Chopping Axe (available on It is easy to use because its fiberglass shock reduction handle has a grip that prevents slipping; it also comes with a rubber protective sheath for safe storage. 

Precautions When Cutting Plywood Without a Saw

Cutting plywood using the tools mentioned is fairly straightforward and does not pose significant problems. However, cutting plywood without a saw presents some challenges you must address. Here are a few precautions to follow when cutting plywood without a saw:

  • Use sharp-edged blades: Ensure the tools you use to cut the plywood have sharp-edged blades. Using tools with uneven edges and serrated teeth often destroys the plywood by shredding it. Use tools with sharp edges that can make clean cuts with minimal effort to avoid destroying the plywood.
  • Observe safety measures: Do not forget safety measures such as wearing protective equipment to prevent cuts and dust from getting into your eyes. Therefore, wear protective goggles and gloves when cutting plywood using other tools.
  • Secure the plywood in place: The final precaution you should observe is securing the plywood in place before cutting it. It is particularly useful when using methods such as the chisel and hammer or ax, which cause a lot of movement. 


You can cut plywood without a saw. You just need to use the recommended tools and observe the precautions to avoid accidents. I cannot overemphasize securing the plywood to ensure you cut along the line correctly without shattering the plywood by accident.

Damien Madeira

Damien has been doing woodworking for the last 5 years. He began as a hobbyist with hand tools and slowly worked his way up to own larger machines and mill rough wood into beautiful creations. While still considering himself a hobbyist, he has a passion for woodworking and enjoys working with epoxy as well.

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