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I occasionally get 4x8 sheets of plywood for projects, and I've heard that I should never use the rip fence for cross cuts because the peice that is being cut can get trapped in between the sawblade and the rip fence and cause kickback.

I can't see a way to avoid using it though, as my miter gauge doesn't have enough track to travel all the way to the base of the board. Should I use the rip fence to cross cut these types of boards, or is this mroe of a task for something like a circular saw?

  • If you're just roughly breaking down the stock then yes, this is most definitely a good job for the circular saw if you have one. If you must do the job on the table saw you can do various things to improve on safety, and I believe no1 of those is to install a secondary short fence that doesn't extend much past the blade. Obviously use the riving knife too. – Graphus Jan 25 '18 at 7:12
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If you are cutting large 4x8 panels you are not really cross cutting in either direction. You do not want to use the miter gauge. The problem is having adequate support to properly feed the panel past the blade using the fence. To do so you need adequate support for the entire plywood panel on front, back and side of the table saw. For the side and back this can be accomplished with run-off tables. They can be either full tables (mobile is useful for other shop tasks) or tilt up platforms attached to the table. Support in front of the table cannot obstruct your travel as you push the panel forward. I use support arms that mount to the fence rail as shown in this project image from Lumberjocks.com.

Table saw extension arms

With this setup you are performing a regular rip cut, and not a crosscut.

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    Good to note that with sheet materials ripping/crosscutting is often an arbitrary distinction. – Graphus Jan 26 '18 at 8:19
  • @Graphus That is actually a good distinction, especially with engineered woods. I didn't think of that actually. Also, I should mention that I just found HF's roller stand, which appears to be worth it's mass in gold for things like this. harborfreight.com/132-lb-capacity-roller-stand-68898.html – Sarah Szabo Jan 27 '18 at 4:39
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A circular saw or track saw is another popular way to break down sheet goods into more manageable pieces. Final dimensioning is usually done on the table saw or miter saw. To ensure a straight cut, you can use a homemade track with a regular circular saw, see e.g., Jay Bates, that you can make with a ~quarter-sheet of plywood or MDF.

Other options include clamping a long straight-edge to the plywood and running the saw along that, or attaching a third-party fence like the Kreg Rip-Cut:

Kreg

If you do go this route, you'll need something underneath the plywood that can be cut into. A 4'x8' piece of foam insulation on the floor is popular for this as it provides support underneath the whole piece. Or you could use a few pieces of 1x2 or 1x3 - just make sure to use enough to provide support for both pieces after the cut. Or, as shown in the Kreg picture above, saw horses or an assembly table work as well for the smaller pieces.

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