Working Alone with Plywood Groton CT
New London, CT
M-SA 6 am - 10 pm
SU 8 am - 8 pm
Working Alone with Plywood
Working Alone with Plywood
Tips for taming those awkward and heavy sheets.
by Jean Bartholome
Woodworking alone is peaceful, serene and quiet. Just you, the radio and your project. It’s also a pain in the posterior when you have to work with big, heavy sheets of plywood, MDF or particleboard. If you can get help, it’s great, but often we end up battling them alone. Here are some tips to help ease the struggle, save your back, and make your cuts go more smoothly and accurately.
A Flip-Up Side for Your Shop Cart
A handy addition to your shop is a cart with a flip-up side. Build it from plywood, with strong hinges on the top edge, a track on the lower edge of the folding side, and a semi-circular cutout at the bottom. Weight your cart with a bag of sand or concrete mix, so it doesn’t tip over. To use this contraption, lift one corner of your plywood, slide it on the track (good side out) and wheel the cart to the front of your tablesaw. Lift the flip-up side, slide the plywood onto the top of the cart (the semi-circular cutout lets you grasp the bottom edge of the sheet), and you’re ready to feed it into the saw. No more awkward gyrations trying to carry the plywood, flip it over, and then hold it steady while you try to line it up with the fence.
How Much Does It Weigh?
If you’re working with sheet goods, it’s handy to know how much they weigh. Here are the most useful numbers:
- Hardwood plywood typically weighs around 55 lbs. per 3/4-in.-thick sheet. Utility plywood can be much heavier, however. A 3/4-in.-thick sheet of BC fir plywood, for example, can weigh more than 70 lbs. By comparison, a full sheet of 1/4-in. birch plywood weighs only 12 lbs.
- MDF is typically a whopping 96 lbs. per 3/4-in.-thick sheet. Ugh. The suggested maximum load for a car roof (check your owner’s manual) can be as low as 100 lbs., so it doesn’t take many sheets to max out your car. Maxing out your arms is another matter entirely.
Use a “Third Hand” for Assembly
If you’re making a large plywood or MDF case, it can be very awkward to hold the pieces in place when joining them. Two of the most useful tools are a couple of one-hand clamps (Quick-Grip is one brand) and a couple of right-angle brackets. Make the brackets from two thicknesses of 3/4-in. plywood glued together, and knock off the inside corner so it doesn’t interfere with the fit of the joint. If you need help holding up one piece of plywood so you can attach the brackets, simply clamp a handscrew to the bottom edge.
Rough Out Your Crosscuts First
If you need to crosscut a full sheet, don’t try to do it by yourself on your tablesaw. It’s too awkward, and you’re likely to get an inaccurate cut. Try cutting your panel close to the final size using a circular saw or jigsaw, always keeping one factory edge on ...