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Cutting Plywood

Cutting Plywood And Other Sheet Goods

Accurately Cutting Plywood 

Infeed and Outfeed units designed by the creator of Pro Woodworking Tips!

A problem for every woodworker is how to accurately cut plywood. Or any sheet goods, like  Particle Board,  Melamine, and M.D.F.

Common materials in many woodworking and cabinet making projects,  and all of them need to be cut down to usable sizes. Worse, is the fact that the cuts need to be straight, and accurate.  A cabinet with a wavy front edge isn't a sign of great craftsmanship.

 
 
 
 

Beyond the fact that these sheets are heavy, (some approach ninety pounds, or more), ripping them can be a real chore, due to their bulky size. Holding them up, while feeding them through a table saw, isn't the easiest thing to do.

Some of us try to get away with having our local supplier, or big box store, rip the pieces for us, but that never seems to work out too well. Usually the sizes are approximately what you wanted, (sometimes not even close), and often, they're rather jagged and certainly not furniture quality.

The next common solution is to use a roller stand. This does help us hold up the weight of the sheet, as we feed it through the table saw. The problems we run into make us tend to curse it, rather than praise it though.

There are several challenges in using a roller stand. The first is actually getting the sheet on top of the roller stand, without knocking it over. The process of placing the sheet on requires a rather awkward body position, at least while holding the sheet goods.

This is where most back injuries occur in the woodworking vocation. The human body just isn't designed to hold something so bulky and heavy, while bending at the waist. Any weight lifter will tell you, keep your back straight, and lift with your legs.

The next problem is that we place the sheet on it, either we knock it over, or we move it enough to cause the roller to actually pull the sheet away from the rip fence. This can be somewhat dangerous, as a kick back could occur. At best, the plywood edge ends up burnt, and not as straight as required.

Many of us resort to asking a spouse or child to help us. This can lead to trouble, as it is very difficult to get two people to work in unison. Especially, when it's not a common task.

In small professional wood shops, they will often have two people working on ripping the sheets to manageable sizes, or they will invest in a sliding table. These are European style table saws, which are typically very accurate. They range in price from $6,500.00 all the way up past the $100,000.00 dollar mark.

They also take up a large amount of floor space. Many small shops can't afford the price of this equipment, or simply don't have the physical space to allow for a machine with such a large footprint.

Another option is a circular saw and track system. These are very convenient, since they are portable. And the better ones are very accurate. Festool makes a unit that is extremely well engineered. The track system also works with several of their other tools, such as the router.  I do own and use this system, on occasion. It is capable of cabinet quality cuts, even when making a miter cut. This system is very easy to use.

The next option is a modified roller stand, which has transfer balls, as opposed to a roller. This eliminates the problem of having the sheet pulled away from the rip fence. It does nothing to prevent it from being knocked over.

This leaves the small shop with a couple options. In my own cabinet shop, when a large amount of sheets had to be ripped, I would have someone help me. Sometimes this just isn't possible. In one case, I had just shy of 100 sheet of 3/4" Mahogany plywood to cut and all the available employees were on the jobsite.

I started on the pile working with a roller stand, but quickly gave up due to a very sore back. And I had only ripped about five sheets. I went into the office and started searching the internet, looking for a viable solution. I found nothing that would foot the bill.

So I went back to the shop and started to make a list of what the perfect device would have to do to make this problem history. This device became known as the Ezee-Feed system.

The list was pretty comprehensive.

First, it had to be something that could not be knocked over while trying to load plywood onto them.

Second, it had to have a roller system that would not pull the sheets away from the fence.

Third, it would be best if it could actually be attached to the table saw. This meant it had to be easy to install, and remove, so it was not in the way all the time. Since shop space is always at a premium, that was a major consideration as well.

Also, something to assist with loading the sheets onto it would be helpful. The idea of holding a ninety pound piece of particle board, and walking to the saw, which you can't see due to the sheet, isn't very appealing.

With these prerequisites in mind, I designed a system that could be quickly attached to the front of the saw, yet be removed easily, and stored when not needed.

The resulting product has made cutting plywood, and other sheet goods an easy process. Getting a perfect cut every time is no problem, no matter how heavy the sheet is.

It has also proven to be a great asset in ripping rough lumber. We rarely use our jointer for jointing the edges of boards. The process is so much faster, since it takes one pass through the table saw, as opposed to five or six passes through the jointer, to end up with a glue quality edge.

We have been marketing these devices for a couple years now, at the insistence of our local Woodcraft Store owner.

They are now in use in Woodworking Schools, Colleges, Vocational Schools, Technical Schools, Housing Authorities, and many home and professional wood shops. We have clients in almost every state. 

  

For more information, go to:  http://www.ezee-feed.com  and see the demo video.

Written by: Lee A. Jesberger © 2006 - 2010
Inventor of: Ezee-Feed Systems ® 

 



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