Help! Getting plywood cut at orange/blue

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kristen's picture
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Joined: 2010-09-06 18:59
Help! Getting plywood cut at orange/blue
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After my first project, I found out how important precise cuts are.  My second project was SO much better when I got more precise with my saw.  Those projects involved boards I could cut myself with the miter saw.

 

Today I went to one of the box stores to start on my third project, which involves plywood.  I don't have the know-how to cut it myself (I so wish I did).  The cuts are horrible.  He marked the cuts with a highlighter (how do you get a precise cut with a thick highlighter?).  I needed two pieces 12" wide for the hutch sides.  I got one 1/8" shy of 12" and another almost 1/4" larger.  When I asked if we could even them up, he said it was real close and he thought I could "make it work".  Since when is 1/4" "real close" in woodworking?

 

How do you get them to give you accurate cuts?  I had hoped I would get all my pieces cut out to their measurements and now I have little hope to even get accurate "Ana boards" (like when she says to have them rip a plywood sheet into 1x16s).  This guy couldn't give me two accurate 12" wide pieces.

 

I don't know what to do now. Does anyone have them cut your entire project out?  Have you had success with that? Asking for an experienced associate would not have helped with this guy.  He knew how to work the saw (even helped another associate with it) and thought he was accurate. He even made a show of remeasuring the cut after he pulled it off the saw and put it on the carrier.  The other cuts besides the 12" boards were somewhat better, but none were right on.

 

I guess I would like to know:

1)Is there a good reference for learning how to rip your own sheet of plywood out there?  I'm scared to death of the circular saw (kick back), but willing to work through that after this.  I just need to know what I'm supposed to be doing.

2)How accurate should I expect the cuts to be at orange/blue?  I know 1/4" isn't acceptable, but do others generally get good accuracy at the box stores?

3)Anyone get their entire projects cut out at orange/blue?  Or just get them cut into the board widths and then cut them down themselves?

 

Thanks for any help.  Highly discouraged tonight...

woodchip's picture
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Joined: 2011-01-19 19:05

Additionally, if you do cut the ply with a jigsaw or circular saw and your cut has any gap behind it (or below, if it helps to picture it that way), run a couple of strips of masking tape over your cut line to prevent some really ugly chip-out on the backside of your cut. The masking tape becomes the new outside layer of the ply for the purposes of the cut and will blow out instead of hte thin outer layer of the ply, leaving you with a clean edge on your wood and saving you time and effort with both sanding and filling the chips. This is particularly important if you will be staining your project instead of painting it, as the grain pattern will not be interrupted or discoloured.

kristen's picture
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Joined: 2010-09-06 18:59

Yetunde--Looks like I need to check out Menards!  We have one not too far away, but I've never been there.  Don't know if I'll have them cut (I might be more scared of having someone make the cuts than I am of the circular saw now!).  But I would like to see what they have otherwise.  Thanks!

 

woodchip--I appreciate that advice because I definitely do not want to sand and fill chipping.  The cuts from the box store had chips in some of the pieces too, in addition to not being straight.  I wasn't happy to see those, but never having worked with plywood, I didn't know if I should expect that or not.  I wasn't sure how I was going to fix them, but luckily the store returned my plywood the next day without any problems.  I will be starting entirely from scratch now.  All mistakes will be my own!

pinktoesandpowertools.com

bhoppy's picture
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Joined: 2010-09-17 16:05

Last time I went to Orange, I bought a sheet of plywood and needed it ripped into 1x16's.  That part went ok.  Then I needed two 35 1/4 pieces cut from one of those.  The first one was ok but the second one came up short and that's when I told him no cuts.  Close enough isn't good enough when you need them accurate.  I was able to put the seats down and actually fit the two other 1x16's in my car. I borrowed a circular saw and cut the rest myself… it isn't as great as I would like but luckily it was for the laundry basket dresser and I'm ok with it not looking great.  I've since read more about making accurate cuts so hopefully my next go around with the circular saw will be better.

kristen's picture
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Joined: 2010-09-06 18:59

You make it sound so easy--"I borrowed a circular saw and cut the rest myself"Smile  I'm going to attempt to use our circular saw this weekend.  I hope it really is as easy as you make it sound!!

pinktoesandpowertools.com

ellison01's picture
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Joined: 2010-12-26 23:35

just a note, our menards will not make precision cuts, they will only cut the wood down if needed to fit in a vehicle  I'd rather do it myself anyways :)

claydowling's picture
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Joined: 2011-01-26 17:28

As to why you're having trouble getting good cuts at the big box stores, it's because they're cutting to construction tolerances, where 1/4" off is acceptable.  In construction you've probably got an 1 1/2" of room for slop.  When you're building furniture, 1/4" is a gigantic mess up.

That cutting jig is pretty good. I found better luck by picking up one of the metal straight edges.  I have one that comes in two parts, and can be put together to span just over 8', making it long enough to cut the full length of a sheet of plywood. The chief problem is that "straight" is not a concept the big box stores around me are familiar with when it comes to lumber products.

As for Menards, I would recommend going there for any sheet goods, be it plywood, MDF or melamine covered boards. Blue and Orange around me sell sheet goods that look more like artistic interpretations of a storm at sea than useful construction materials. Menards has better variety and quality, and they store the materials correctly.

Best solution, of course, is to find a local lumber yard. As I've mentioned before, they're intimidating at first because there isn't a showroom you can walk around in, but you actually get better service and usually better product. The employees tend to build things themselves, so they have a better grip on what you'll need.

kristen's picture
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I am really going to have to check out Menards!  I don't know why I don't think to go there--I can sing the slogan from their commercial on cueSmile

 

I, sweaty palms and all, finally plugged in the circular saw this weekend and constructed some of the straight edge jigs.  The saw wasn't nearly as bad as I imagined it to be, and I am hoping to get some free time to cut my first full plywood sheet later this week and get started on my next project.  Thanks for all the feedback on this forum post--it was a huge help.  Keeping my fingers crossed that I get some nice, straight cuts so the build is smooth! 

pinktoesandpowertools.com

kristen's picture
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Joined: 2010-09-06 18:59

For those with experience, how does this information look?  I like the Family Handyman and think they would be a reputable source.  I also like the idea of cutting with the circular saw on the ground.  I saw the post a few days ago on this community about making a jig for getting a straight cut also, so I might construct that to go with this.

 

http://www.familyhandyman.com/.....ep-By-Step

(sorry, couldn't get the link button to work, so I had to just put the link in here).

 

Feeling better after finding this information.  My husband says orange/blue's machine will do a better job than what a circular saw will do here at home, if I can find an associate who can make accurate cuts.  I feel like I want to be in control of the precision from this point on.  I couldn't do any worse than what I got today.

I'm still nervous about kick back, but feel like having the plywood on the ground will prevent the pinch that causes kickback.  Am I on the right track or totally off??

pinktoesandpowertools.com

airyn1's picture
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Joined: 2011-01-08 00:01

I'd call and speak with a manager.  You shouldn't have to "make it work".

Dan K's picture
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Joined: 2010-11-19 04:06

If you haven't already done so get some safety goggles and hearing protection.  And please don't try ripping plywood directly on the ground.  Bad idea.

One way to make ripping plywood easier is to get a sheet of 2" foam insulation board (not styrofoam).  The foam supports the entire piece as it is the same size as the plywood and it prevents pinching and kickback.  Just lay the insulation down and flop the plywood on top of it.  If you set the depth of the saw to just deeper than the thickness of the plywood you can reuse the same sheet for many cuts.

   I would suggest doing practice cuts on a 2x4 clamped down to a sawhorse.  Just practice pushing the saw through straight and smooth.  When you get confidence and aren't afraid of the tool, you'll find that
you can cut much more accurately and easily than relying on the talents
of a store employee.  The straighedge you mentioned along with a sharp blade are an good way to get a quality cut.

OkieJoe's picture
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Joined: 2010-12-16 02:20

I'm with the others here who recommend getting your own saw and cutting things themselves. At the Orange here, they have a sign that says they don't do precision cuts, so I'd think you won't ever be able to guarantee you can get accurate cuts everytime. That said, a circ saw is not a bad tool to use, and I would agree that just clamping a straight edge on your plywood and making your own cuts is the way to go. There are several threads, including one of mine about how to cut straight edges using various saws, like the circ saw and the jig saw. As far as straight cuts go, using a straight edge jig, anyone can cut a straight line. The table saw has the advantage of a fixed fence, but using the straight line jig you should be able to cut a line that is within a 1/64th of a inch. That's 15 1/1000ths (0.015) of an inch, plenty accurate for anything short of machine shop tolerances. Dan has great advice, and if you are still apprehensive about a circ saw, use a jigsaw. Here is a link to the same type of straight cutting jig I made for the jigsaw, but this one is for the circ saw: http://www.popularmechanics.co.....ws/4283497. Here is a link to a pic of what Dan is talking about, using a straight edge jig: http://www.woodsmithtips.com/2.....cular-saw/

 

Don't rely on the stores to cut for you, you can make your own cuts accurately, quickly and safely!

kaytrishjr's picture
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Joined: 2010-10-28 15:55

OMG, on my third project, I got someone at Blue to make my cuts. He was a young guy and I usually take my measuring tape with me to measure my boards after they make my cuts, but I didn't this time and the cuts were terrible. I was so upset when I started putting my desk together, I had to make the corrections myself.  When I have to buy a whole piece of plywood, I usually get the store to make the cut....but that's the only one I'll get cut, and then I measure after they cut to make sure it's correct.

Red Beans and Ricely Yours,
Donna Foster

kristen's picture
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Joined: 2010-09-06 18:59

Thank you so much for the great information.  I REALLY like the idea of the foam insulation board.  The Family Handyman site used several 2x4s to support the plywood, but I think the insulation board will support it even more to avoid the pinching/kickback like Dan said.  I think that is what I'll end up doing--with the straight edge jig that Okie Joe talks about.  I'm still nervous about it, but I will be so happy when I can rely on my own accuracy.  This will be a blessing in disguise for me--now I can use my scraps for other projects because I have the ability to cut them to the size I need.  I never would have attempted to learn if orange/blue was cutting for me.

 

Still nervous, but I'd rather be a little nervous than overconfident around the power tools!  Envious of you Donna--you've already perfected making the corrections yourselfSmile

pinktoesandpowertools.com

afromartha's picture
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Joined: 2010-12-24 05:03

Hi,

I noticed you're in Ohio. I don't know where you are in Ohio, but I'm in Dayton and I go to Menard's for my cuts. Since their lumber yard is outdoors I don't feel so self-conscious asking them to cut for me. The guys are super helpful too. I don't know if you have a Menard's in your neck of the woods, but I've had success with them cutting for me. HOpe this helps!

 

Yetunde

Anonymous Coward's picture
Anonymous Coward
My husband says orange/blue's

My husband says orange/blue's machine will do a better job than what a circular saw will do here at home, if I can find an associate who can make accurate cuts.

Uh, in theory, a panel saw beats a hand saw, but in the real world, not necessarily. If their saw blade is not sharp, you will get a raggedy cut. If it needs alignment, you will get an off-square cut.

With a saw guide and some clamps, you can cut a perfectly straight cut through plywood.

It's EASY.

Anonymous Coward's picture
Sara
Such Great Information!

This thread is so helpful. We are planning on doing our first build this weekend, and assumed we could get precision cuts at orange (they carry PureBond). Maybe not! Will check with our local specialty lumber store tomorrow.

Thanks,
Sara

kristen's picture
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Joined: 2010-09-06 18:59
A little more information

That is exciting to be starting your first build--good luck!! Just a warning, it is addicting once you finish that first one :)

I did successfully learn how to use the circular saw to build quite a few projects now. If you want to see how I went about it, I've got a few posts on my blog about how it went down:

http://pinktoesandpowertools.com/2011/01/18/cutting-a-sheet-of-plywood/

http://pinktoesandpowertools.com/2011/01/30/beauty-and-the-beast-cutting...

http://pinktoesandpowertools.com/2011/02/06/and-they-lived-happily-ever-...

And then I shot a video of me actually cutting down a sheet of plywood with a circular saw:

http://pinktoesandpowertools.com/2012/01/07/how-to-cut-plywood-with-a-ci...

I hope your build goes smoothly!

pinktoesandpowertools.com

claydowling's picture
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Joined: 2011-01-26 17:28
Agreeing with Kristen

It's better to learn how to do it yourself. If you've never seen it done before, get somebody who has done it to provide you guidance, but do all the work yourself, with them providing the instruction.

It's very easy to fall into the trap of relying on other people to do things that are a bit intimidating. Unfortunately, as some of my friends have found out, the people who do the things for us might not always be part of our lives. So learn how to do as much as you can, even if it seems a hard or scary. It's worked out well for me: I enjoy kayaking, woodworking and motorcycles all because there were challenges that needed to be taken.

Anonymous Coward's picture
bobthebuilder1981
reality

The saw (panel) at my store is outdated and they no longer make the parts to repair it.

Our wheels are sagging in different spots; probably from all the different types of panels that have been dropped hard on them. Some of those MDF/Particle Board sheets are super heavy.

This causes side rips to go at a slight angle, can't be fixed since no wheels available.

Our markings on both the horizontal and vertical levels are now off since the saw has shifted. Not sure if it can be fixed but the actual saw would have to be realigned but no one knows how to do it. We now have store employees fix it.

The saws at the store get really beat up; plus we pick the cheapest blades to store use on those saws. So you'll never get a nice saw cut.

Plus everyone's skill level varies plus if you come in during peak time 11-3 (varies) all your going to get is someone trying to just rip and help the next customer.

Some people come in wanting an entire project cut for them! Holly crap, i thought it was a do it yourself project so you could be proud of doing it yourself. I had to chuckle once as I helped design a owl house for some customer that worked at a sanctuary and cut it for her. Thank you google! I also had someone hand me a creative ideas build sheet for a do it yourself project for a bird house; got out of that one by showing him our prebuilt bird houses that were cheaper than having me make his own out of our materials. Rips are one thing, its not do it yourself if you have every cut done for you.

I try to be accurate but I still can only get 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch on straight down cuts. But that takes a lot of manual compensating and depends on how many calls for customer assistance we get. I"ll admit to having to just rip at the pre-settings which I know are about 1/8 to 3/16 off.

Don't even bother asking to have a 4X4 cut; our saw have safety features that keeps it from cutting all the way through and requires a flip over a second cut.

So I would highly recommend that people buy their own saws to get accurate cuts and if you need them cut down to take them home; leave some leeway to cut it more accurately at home; especially on finer materials like the oak veneered sheets which look horrible on the edges some times as we rip them.