Cutting Across the Grain and Getting a Smooth Cut

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“How can I cut across grain on OAK plywood and get a smooth cut? I used a brand new Freud Diablo 40-tooth circular saw blade and it chipped out on the cut. Please help.”

Submitted by: lpribyl

WWGOA Editor Response:

There are a handful of tricks you can try for cutting across the grain. First, make sure the depth of cut on your circular saw is set so the blade only projects about 1/4″ more than the thickness of the plywood. With that setting the blade exits the top of the cut more horizontally than vertically.

You can also try laying a strip of masking tape down on the face of the plywood, then cutting through the tape.

You’ll get more chips from a free hand cut than from one you’ve used a straight edge on. A steel stud works great as a guide for your circular saw.

Finally, some woodworkers take the time to score the cut line with a utility knife before making the cut, which also helps a lot.

Remember that, as a rule, circular saw arbors have a lot more run out (wobble) than table saw arbors. Even with a great blade, depending on your saw, you may not be able to get as crisp a cut as a table saw can produce.

Thank you for your question.

George Vondriska

Managing Editor

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8 Responses to “Cutting Across the Grain and Getting a Smooth Cut”

  1. RANDY

    What about a angle cut on a table saw using a miter gauge? I get tear out at the front of the cut on the side I want to use. It hard to score the cut or tape the cut beforehand not knowing exactly where the cut is going to be.

    • Customer Service

      Hello Randy,

      Thank you for contacting us.

      You might consider using a backer board for your cut. You can attach a long piece of wood to your miter gauge, that extends the miter gauge to the other side of the blade. That way the wood fibers will be supported through the cut. Also, it helps to use a blade that is designed for cross-cutting. Something like this would work well:

      If you have any other concerns, please contact us at 1-855-253-0822, or chat with us on our site.

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  2. Jerry Miller

    lpribyl, I used a piece of 1/8″ hardboard cut to fit the saw base and 2 sided tap to hold it to the underside of the base created a zero clearance base for the saw. Lower the blade slowly to a depth of the material plus a 1/4″. A fine tooth blade may help but my combination blade works well with this base installed. .

    • Customer Service

      Hello. Well, that depends on your skills and preferences. For me, hand cut dovetails are easier to make. Some people prefer to cut them on a bandsaw. Probably the largest group of people would say that using a router and dovetail jig is the easiest.

  3. Brian

    If you use a chop saw use a 60 0r 80 tooth blade. Start your cut with the blade against the fence and cut down just 1/4″ or less and draw the blade towards you slowly. Once you have scored the entire length of the cut, lower the blade completely and push back against the fence. That way your blade teeth are cutting into the core of the wood, not exiting. Make sure the initial cut is shallow and slow so the blade does not catch and run towards you.

    • Customer Service

      Hi Ken. Your approach will depend on the size of the wooden rod, but one way that you could do this would be to cut a recess into the piece of wood, say a 2×3, that is just the right size for the rod to slip in snugly. Then, use hot glue to secure the rod in place in the recess. Then put the 2×4 against the fence on a bandsaw and rip the flat side.