In Tricks of the Trade

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I use a portable circular saw to break down plywood and other sheet goods into manageable pieces before bringing them to the table saw for final sizing. I prefer to do the job on sawhorses rather than crouching on the floor. Unfortunately, you normally need three or four horses to provide enough support to prevent cutoffs from binding the saw blade and crashing to the floor at the end of the cut.

My trick is to use a full sheet of 2″-thick rigid foam insulation (available at home-supply stores) as a cutting platform straddling two horses. I lay my plywood on top, and clamp it and the insulation board to the sawhorses. I adjust my saw blade depth to cut no more than 18” or so into the insulation board (always cutting into the same face to preserve strength.) I can now make my cuts safely and securely with all pieces fully supported at the end of the cut. If necessary, I can clamp workpieces or straightedge guides anywhere I like by removing the jaw from a clamp, poking the bar through the foam board, then reattaching the jaw. When I’m done cutting, the lightweight insulation board stores perfectly with my other sheet goods. David Peterson

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