Cutting plywood veneer board is notorious for producing huge chips and splinters. How can you cut it with a circular saw and keep the veneer surface flaw-free?
Using a fine finish blade, cut the board upside-down and with the blade set just below the surface.
There is too much misinformation out there about cutting veneer plywood board, and I can only think of it as cognitive dissonance.
The wrong advice out there runs like this: lay painter’s tape on the surface and cut through the tape. The cognitive dissonance part, I believe, comes partially from our modern Internet-day zeal for simple hacks and tips but mainly because it seems like it should work. Tape should keep those those splinters and veneer peel-backs down, right?
Not really. This does not work as well as you might imagine–if at all.
While taping the surfaces certainly will not hurt (go ahead if you want), the three conditions I listed in the Best Answer section are far more important. Of those three, the most important is this: set your blade shallow.
Set Blade Shallow (Just Below Surface of Plywood)
This change makes all the difference in the world. I don’t know exactly how to describe the blade height: shallow, high, low, whatever. You can see here that the teeth of the saw blade extend about 1/4″ below the bottom of the board that you are cutting. By the standards of veneer board-cutting, this is still rather a deep cut. You can go shallower if you like.
Use an Ultra-Fine Finish Blade in Good Condition
Shown here is an Avanti 7 1/4 in. x 60-Tooth Fine Finish Saw Blade. No doubt there are even better veneer saw blades, but this one works fine for me. Despite the smeared paint on the blade, this is a fairly new one.
Cut From the Back
This one is debatable, but I’ve found that cutting the backside of your finish surface produces better results and less splintering. Test this out on a board for yourself.
I’ve cut veneer board with this method many times and have always had good results.
Class B Source
A site called Here There Home has both sets of information. The blog writer, Corey, says that taping the board will eliminate splinters. While I personally disagree with this advice (based on my experience), this too is Corey’s personal experience, so I give credence to her statement. She even has photos of her project, showing non-splintered wood. A commenter on her blog mentions the trick about setting the saw blade high.