How to Break Down Sheet Material Easily!

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Introduction: How to Break Down Sheet Material Easily!

About: Maker On YouTube

I'm working on a project at the moment that is using a lot of MDF. I have limited space and find it difficult to cut full sheets on my own. I came up with a very basic solution of making a frame to cut the full sheet on top of. Its made form treated 2x4's so it can be stored outside behind my shed.

I have a video here showing the entire process:

Materials used:

  • Treated 2x4's
  • 6mm MDF
  • 10cm Wood Screws
  • Wood Glue

Tools Used:

Step 1: Make the Frame

To make room for clamps and to also make the frame easier to store I made it roughly 6ft x 3ft. This way the full 8ft x 4ft sheet is supported well and there is an overhang space to add clamps.

I start by cutting 2 pieces to 180cm and 4 pieces to 90cm. The longer pieces will be the outside pieces and 2 of the shorter piece will attach at the end. The other 2 shorter pieces will be placed in the middle. I was going to space them evenly apart but I opted for one slightly closer to the edge and one slightly further away. My reason behind this was in case I want to cut narrower pieces on the frame I have the option to support it then. If they were evenly spaces I would be limited a lot more.

With the pieces cut I simply drilled pilot holes and screwed in 2 10cm wood screw at each joint. the joints dont have to be very strong, the frame just needs to hold together. The reason for using 2x4's (100mx50mm) was so I could leave a decent space at the top of the wood free from screws. This will allow the circular saw blade to pass through without worry of hitting the metal screws underneath.

Step 2: Make the Saw Guide Rail

To make the guide rail I used 6mm MDF. To work out the sizes I needed to cut the pieces I measured from the edge of my circular saw base to the my blade which was 10cm. I then added on 1cm (you could add more if you wanted) which gave me 11cm total. I decided to use the same size for my fence piece too. It would give me room to add clamps out of the way of the circular saw motor.

So for my circular saw (Ryobi 18v) I needed 1 piece cut to 11cm wide for the fence and 1 piece cut to 22cm wide for the base. This will give me room to glue the fence onto the base leaving 11cm exposed. Please see pics to get a better idea of what I mean.

I simply glue the fence onto the base trying to line it up flush along the one side. its not critical but you don't want it too far off.

With the glue dry you can cut it to fit your circular saw perfectly.

Keep the saw pressed tight up against the fence and make the cut. The extra 1cm is cut off leaving an edge that fits perfectly along the edge of your saw blade. You can now simple place the guide on you mark and know it will all line up perfectly.

Step 3: Cut the Sheet Material

Now to break down the MDF all I have to do is set the frame on the floor (or on a stand if you prefer) and place my full sheet on top.

I can then measure 3 points for my cut and line up the guide rail with those points. Remember to cut on the waste side of your line. Then add a couple of clamps to hold it in place.

Then simply make the cut. As long as the saw is tight up against the fence you will get a perfect cut every time.

Like I said its very basic but I hope you found it helpful.

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    37 Comments

    Good, quick, simple and cheap solution. Definitely something I'll consider in the future. Good to hear a West Midlands accent on Instructables - I'm Notts born & bred. One little thing though - our American friends would probably appreciate everything in imperial measurements, so using both is probably the way to go for videos. You started off using both then went on to just use metric for a coupe of measurements. Hope you don't think I'm being too picky!

    7 replies

    I mean, how often do you come here and get something right down to the exact measurements? I come here to see techniques, and I'll work the exact details to fit what I've got available. I'll just do the measurements in my native system.

    Great idea - I have a similar set up but with more cross rails set on edge to support the material and the lengths set flat, That way the board is nearly 50mm clear of the lengthways rails so you can cut across without risk of cutting into them. I usually allow about 5 to 10mm blade depth clear throught the material being cut to make sure it's cut clean through.

    I wouldn't worry about the Americans - they need to get out of the stone age and start using metrics on an everyday basis. I grew up with imperial but I can still do long division etc with it - but why, when metric is so much simpler. I still laugh about the time when you'd hear builders say something was four feet, two inches and 3 millimetres long.

    Haha I often use both measurements when they best suit the situation. When I make rough idea for sizes I use feet and inches but when I make a cut list I use millimetres. Saying 8ft x 4ft sheet of MDF is much easier than saying 2440mm x 1220mm lol

    Could always call it 244cmx122cm, 24.4dm x 12.2dm or 2.44m x 1.22m ;)

    All being equal to each other but slightly larger than a 4' x 8' here in North America ... measure twice in your favorite unit and scale, cut once.

    Fair point! 4"x2" is really 94x47mm when measured, nowhere near its nominal size of 100x50 It is quicker to say 4 by 2 and I still do sometimes but all cutting measurements for building in NZ are in mm - one number, no fractions, even if it is in the thousands. Room or building size is usually given in metres to 3 decimal places but take out the decimal point and it's mm. So simple and so 21st century ;)

    Incidentally if you have one of those fancy electronic measuring devices - does it do imperial or metric?

    I wouldn't worry too much about the conversion, though. There are plenty of easy to use calculators.

    Thanks mate! I'm from Wolverhampton so not too far from you :) I switched to just metric when it was personal to me. Those measurements aren't ones that people would use exactly because it depends on the size of their saw :)

    I wish I'd have found this about a week ago. It's a bloody great idea, and all you have to do is add legs to it to make a work table. Bonus points for making knock-down legs so you can use it in either format.

    I should have menetioned I love the sawguide you made I made mine with a fold back with a piano hinge system works the same way but when I cut I just fold back the saw depth part and cut, but it's only for short cuts have not gotten around to making my long cut version yet but after seeing yours I think I will make it like that one ?? save a bit of money on having to buy 3 piano hinges that's for sure ? Thanks for the instructable for that as well I would have gotten there eventually but you saved me a few hours of work around ?????

    1 reply

    Thank you! I like the idea of using a piano hinge! I'm really glad you've been inspired by this instructable. Always happy to help :)

    ?? now I wish I had thought of this I have a heap of old pallet sheets from solar panals when they where brought into the country a friend gave me the palates after he finished installing all the solar panals. I have a heap of the staked away as I have to have someone help me cut them on the bench saw?? now with the table top idea I have just throw it down and cut to my hearts content on me own ???? thanks for the great instructable and great idea ?? umm I can see a lot of workshop time heading my way again yummy ???

    I really like this, I wish I would have thought of this. I have had to cut sheets lots of times and had a real hard time using my circular saw. I have always wanted a Fesstool to do this with but could not afford it. Now I can make my own. Great work and in my opinion Genius at work.

    1 reply

    I really like the self adjusting guide - simple, but effective. No fundling to offset anything from where the cut is wanted. The cut line will always be right where you need it to be and as straight as you can guide the saw.

    Could always make the top layer, actual saw guide, a bit thicker if need be.

    1 reply

    Thanks! It really makes the job simple. I kept the guide to 6mm thick so I could maximise the cut depth of the saw. The thicker the guide, the shallower the saw can cut

    I really like this simple idea, thank you for sharing!
    I work with very limited space and find cutting down sheet goods is always a problem.
    Did you also create an 8'-0" fence for Ripping the sheet goods as well?

    1 reply

    Thanks mate! Glad you found it helpful. I havent made an 8ft one yet but it is on my list. I just didnt have the material on hand. I ended up shuffling the board along when I needed to make longer then 4ft cuts :)

    I made some a while ago and they work like a hot dandy. Nice video. Well done.

    1 reply