How to cut plywood
without chips and burrs

You should always saw along the fibers of the tree. This way, you most likely won’t run into any problems. However, if you decide to saw across, some chips and burrs can appear on the surface.

Often beginners have difficulties in cutting plywood. Namely, when cutting plywood across the fibers, the top layer of veneer is chipped off. This is especially not pleasant if the cut is already ready to burn the picture. These chips appear for various reasons. In most cases, it is almost impossible to fix them. In this article, we will analyze the main reasons for the appearance of chips and a couple of tips on how to avoid them on ready-made portraits.

1 plywood with clips

chips on plywood when sawing with a jigsaw


The chip appears due to the fact that the file with the teeth pointing up rips off the top layer of veneer. There is a space between the legs of the electric jigsaw and the saw. At this point, the saw when moving from the bottom up lifts the top layer of veneer plywood. Due to the fact that nothing presses on top of this top layer of plywood, this veneer is chipped at this point.


1. Turn off the pendulum stroke on the jigsaw.

A number of modern electric jigsaws have a setting that helps speed up the cutting of wood. The speed of sawing increases significantly. However, the quality of the cut suffers and there are chips on the surface.
2 jigsaw-cutting2
3 jigsaw cut the plywood

This will not give you a clean cut. But without this stage, it is useless to move on.


2. Select the appropriate saw file

Files differ in the size of the tooth, edge, length, direction of the tooth, and so on. You can read more about which saw file to choose and how it looks in this article.

As strange as it may sound, do not use saws for wood. They have a very long rough tooth. These saws are designed for fast sawing of boards. But if you need a clean saw on plywood, they will not work for you.

Files for wood:

file for wood

If you are working with a jig saw, it is highly recommended to either use a saw blade for cutting metal or files used for laminates.

Files for metal:

file for metal

Files for laminates:


But using only a finishing file does not guarantee you a clean cut. Files need to be combined with other methods, which are described below.


3. Cut the plywood on the back side

The fact that the standard saws have teeth in the side of the fret (as opposed to the saw blade with a reverse tooth). These saw “eats” the wood when moving from the bottom up. When the tooth clings to the top layer of veneer, it often splits and there is a chip. In this case, the lower side is often left with a very good edge. Hence, the masters made a simple conclusion that for a clean saw, it is enough to turn the plywood upside down and saw from the “wrong” side. The method gives the best result, so feel free to adopt it.

But I do not like this method – the chips still remain even when turning over. Of course, they are not so strong, but you can not get rid of them.


4. Use tape

To prevent the top layer of veneer from being lifted up, you can glue a tape on top of the plywood. It is important that the tape is well glued and held. Otherwise, it will come off during the sawing process. Therefore, some use masking tape (white) or construction (silver) tape. Construction tape is glued and holds much better.

cut with tape cut with tape2

This method is not bad. But personally, I don’t like this method.

  • First of all, the tape can often come off when sawing, leaving the spot unprotected from chipping.
  • Secondly, if you use this method on a piece of plywood, which has already been burned with a picture made by our Pyroprinter, small pieces of the picture may come off with the tape.


5. The placing of the second sheet of plywood

Another way to get a very clean cut is to put another sheet on top of our plywood and pull them together with clamps. The upper sheet of plywood will not allow chips to form on the lower sheet of plywood.

cut 2 pieces
cut 2 pieces2

The result is really very smooth and neat. No chips.

BUT! I do not like that:

  • I have to spend an extra piece of plywood 
  • I do not see the cut place because of the top sheet of plywood.


6. Undercutting with a knife

There is another way – it is to undercut with a knife the place of the future saw cut. So you will undercut the top layer of veneer and it will break at the point of the undercut, and not further. For undercutting, use a metal ruler to make a straight line. The saw cut width usually takes 3 mm.

cut by knife

cut with knife2

The result is quite good. I actively use this method.

If when sawing I just need to cut a piece of plywood, and the second part I throw out, then I make only one incision – from the finishing side.


7. Anti-chipping insert

4 the insert from chipping

This is a special pad for a specific brand of jigsaw. It is simply inserted between the legs of the jigsaw and is not fixed in any way. The insert is adjacent to the saw, so it does not allow the upper layer to rise. Therefore, the saw is smooth. Masters advise you to use saws from the same manufacturer as the jigsaw — so the quality of the cut will be better with the use of the liner.

Inserts are sold in sets of 3-5 pieces. They are not eternal. They have to be changed periodically.

Anti-chipping insert from Bosch:
5 the insert from chipping bosch

There are inserts made of plexiglass:
6 the insert from chipping plexiglass

This insert can be made yourself, using your own electric jigsaw.

Here is a version of a thin sheet of tin made by our client.

modification from our customer

But it is more convenient to make such a platform from a sheet of plexiglass. And glue it to the bottom of the jigsaw using double-sided tape.


So you will get a very clean cut!


Lets sum up:

  1. Disable the pendulum stroke on the jigsaw.
  2. Use saws for finishing wood (for laminate) or at least metal saws. Not saw for speed cut of wood.
  3. Turning plywood over for sawing from the back side still leaves chips.
  4. The use of masking tape is a good option for cutting. But it won’t work if you have the front side of a burned-out picture.
  5. If you put another sheet of plywood over the one that needs cutting, you will get perfectly cut edges. The only drawback is the use of extra plywood.
  6. Undercutting the top layer of plywood with a knife helps to get a clean saw cut very well.
  7. You can use the insert against chips or make it yourself from a piece of plexiglass.



If you’re new to our website, we highly recommend you watch this on our development machine for burning on wood Pyroprinter.

You just upload an image via a program on your computer or an app on your phone and the machine burns the image itself. Read more about this machine here. Learn how to create your own home business with this machine in this section of the site.


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