Can You Cut Plywood With a Handsaw?

When you do a lot of DIY, one of the materials you will probably work a lot with is plywood. However, power tools may not always be available or within budget. Your next best bet to cut plywood is a handsaw.

You can cut plywood with a combination hand saw. You will get a pretty straight cut with the help of a guide and a slow, steady hand. Always measure your cuts. Getting some practice cutting plywood scraps before cutting the final board can also be helpful.

This article will discuss how you can cut plywood using a handsaw. You’ll get a general step-by-step process and other tips to help you cut plywood with a handsaw.

Best Handsaw for Cutting Plywood

If you plan to cut plywood with a handsaw, your best bet for a cleaner cut is a combination saw.

Hand saws are typically crosscut saws or rip saws. As implied in their name, crosscut saws are made to cut with the blade perpendicular to the wood’s grain. Rip saws, on the other hand, have teeth made to cut wood along the grain.

Plywood is made of layers of wood glued together. The grain alternates in directions per layer, creating a dilemma for those who want to cut it with a hand saw.

Choosing between a crosscut or rip saw means it would only be effective in cutting every second layer, resulting in a rough cut.

Here are other things to remember when choosing the right saw:

  • Choose a saw with a less flexible blade for straighter, more precise cuts.
  • Your saw should be very sharp for a clean cut.
  • A longer blade will work better than a shorter one.
  • Always make sure your saw is made for cutting wood. A wood saw is different from a metal saw.
  • Check your Teeth Per Inch (TPI). Fewer teeth cut faster but result in a rougher cut. A lower TPI cuts slower but smoother.

I recommend getting HAUTMEC 14 in. Universal Hand Saw on It has sharp teeth suitable for crosscutting and rip-cutting, and its blade is quite firm. These factors make it perfect for cutting plywood. Additionally, the saw’s blade is made of carbon steel and has a rust-proof coating.

How To Cut Plywood With a Handsaw

When you have a good combination saw, you need to prepare a bit before you start cutting. Here’s a simple guide to the general process. You can tweak it based on your needs.

Prepare Your Cutting Station

You need a stationary surface for this. This can be accomplished with a pair of saw horses, a work table, or even the floor or ground.

The key is to  have a steady surface where you can cut your plywood without cutting through anything important like your saw horses or worktable. A few pieces of scrap wood can help.

Measure and Mark Out Your Cut

Once a cut is made, it cannot be undone. Make sure to measure your cut, mark it, and plan out your cuts if you’re making more than one. Double-check your measurements.

Doing this will help ensure that you don’t end up wasting wood.

Secure Your Plywood to Your Cutting Station

While using the knee or hand to hold down your plywood to keep it steady may be enough for some, there’re tools available for you to really secure and steady your plywood.

Clamps are a helpful tool for holding down your plywood securely to your cutting station. To make things extra secure, you can use four clamps – two on each side of your cutting line with a gap wider than the thickness of your saw.

Use Cutting Guides (Optional)

You can use a guide if you are making a straight cut and are worried about sticking to your cutting line. Your guide can be a t-square, a long ruler, or even a scrap of straight wood board. 

Some woodworkers suggest using a set of two guides and securing one on each side of your cutting line, with a gap  slightly thicker than your saw in between.

However, others do not recommend this as you can quickly damage or wear down your saw’s teeth.

Notch Your Wood

Notch the wood at the edge of your plywood board, where your cut starts. Do this by taking your saw, holding it upright, and sawing it up and down a few times to create a notch. Use the firmer edge of your saw, the first several inches closer to your saw handle.

This notch will help ensure that your cut starts and moves in the right direction.

Start Cutting Your Plywood

It’s best to angle your saw blade low and closer to the wood- around 30-45 degrees for a straighter cut. If you want more maneuverability, hold your saw at a steeper angle. 

While cutting your plywood, keep your forearm and shoulder in line with the saw. This will also help ensure a straighter cut.

One important thing to note when cutting is not to force your saw to cut. Let the blade do the work while you’re pushing and pulling the saw.

Hold the Cutoff End Steady

When reaching the end of your cut, use short, vertical strokes. Make sure to hold the cutoff end steady with your hand to avoid splinters and help create a cleaner.

This also prevents the side that is cut off from falling to the floor and possibly causing injury.

Other Tips for a Cleaner Cut

Below are additional tips for a cleaner cut:

  • Practice: If you’re unsure about cutting plywood or don’t have much experience, practicing on scraps of plywood will help you gain confidence before you cut a bigger plywood sheet.
  • Apply tape or paint on your cut line: When using a handsaw to cut plywood, the concern is causing splinters on the wood or making a rough cut. Some woodworkers suggest taping over the cut line or brushing over it with paint. The tape or paint should help hold the layers of wood together while cutting.

If a handsaw is not available, there are other tools you can use to cut through your plywood. 

Final Thoughts

Getting a smooth, clean, and straight cut through plywood using a handsaw is possible. You don’t always need a circular saw or power tools. You only need a sharp combination saw with a stiffer blade. 

When cutting, angle the blade lower and take your time. Don’t force the saw to cut faster.

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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