Introduction: How to Break Down Sheet Material Easily!

Picture of How to Break Down Sheet Material Easily!

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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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.


Dawsie (author)2017-06-22

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 ?????

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 :)

Dawsie (author)2017-06-22

?? 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 ???

manusamoa (author)2017-06-20

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.

Thanks mate! I'm really glad you found it helpful. :)

SergeE (author)2017-06-12

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.

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

Absinthe-Dragon (author)2017-06-13

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?

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 :)

jstork1 (author)2017-06-13

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

Thanks mate! They are very handy indeed :)

TheNottingHammer (author)2017-06-11

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!

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.

nedchurch (author)SergeE2017-06-13

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 :)

krr711 (author)2017-06-12

I guess the arrow cleared the crowd. The point is that it is really dangerous to create a learning environment with a picture of a young man running a power saw with bare feet. Nobody thinks that is a concern? Fine. Just trying to help out here. If you want to train your children or friends to run power tools barefooted then that is your choice. For those of you that can see what I am getting at, thank you for your wisdom.

krr711 (author)2017-06-11

To everyone: Never use power equipment or mow the lawn without the proper safety gear. Safety glasses, ear protection, and a good pair of shoes. I have witnessed so many accidents. The guide rail was a very helpful idea.

itsmescotty (author)krr7112017-06-11

you forgot proper training and preferably a two week course and certification, hard hat and steel toed shoes. Oh yeah, over 21 years old, not on any medication that can impair your perception and no drugs or alcohol.

I think I covered everything else, sigh.

Nope, you missed out that both the timber and the MDF are somewhat carcinogenic and so proper breathing equipment should also be worn at all times.

I have seen so many people who have ignored this simple precaution and now they are dead.

SergeE (author)Waste Of Space2017-06-12

Also forgot to always be aware of the power cord as you don't want to cut it.

Maybe also not use electric power tools near water, wet frame from being stored outside behind the shed, or flammable items in case the blade hits one of the screws holding the frame together (before it hits the steel shoe cap of your safety shoes).

Do instructables really need to spell out all warnings or do we really need those labels on the last step of ladders ?

krr711 (author)itsmescotty2017-06-11

I thought a saw bare feet on a circular saw operator and wanted to point it out for serious readers. In my town there
was a doctor who was saving money in a newly purchased office and ended up cutting his own fingers off with the same saw pictures because he lost his balance wearing a pair of sandals. Best of luck to you.

Luckily we have much better balance when bare foot. I took off my shoes because i was climbing all over the MDF when cutting it. I didn't want to dirty the surface. I was on my knees with me feet well out of the way of the saw so there wasnt any chance of losing toes haha

We are always responsible for our own safety. There is a long list of what COULD happen. As long as you are confident and thoughtful about what you are doing you will be safe. Of course accidents always happen. Don't ever do anything you aren't comfortable with, if you aren't confident in what you are doing don't do it.

KXperimental (author)2017-06-12

Good job. Excellent execution of age old jig that every woodworker should have.

Only 1 suggestion: Please watch your left hand placement when using the circular saw. You are one kickback away from being nicknamed "Stumpy".

Thanks! The jig really is a big help.

I know my hand placement isnt ideal but there is very little pressure applied. Its just there to prevent the saw from drifting away from the fence.

Pa1963 (author)2017-06-11

I get a sheet of foam insulation board and lay my sheet goods on it and let the saw blade cut into the foam.

I have seen a few people using foam to cut on and I do like the idea but as others have mentioned I wouldn't be a fan of the dust.

Technoaussie (author)Pa19632017-06-11

Yeah... That's a good idea NOT! A fre lengths of 2x4 don't come anywhere near the cost of a sheet of Styrofoam and don't create a cloud of fine particles that are light enough to get up your nose. Phew!

relbatto (author)2017-06-11

really a great use of what you have. if it were 32"wide it would be easy to rig 2 saw horse so you would have the ability to work standing up, i like the way you made a guide that's got little choice but to be perfect for your circular saw.

Thanks mate! I did think about making the frame more friendly for use on saw horses but I decided against it as I personally have some really cheap (£10) workbenches that have a clamping top which are ideal for the frame. I also don't have a large reach so when cutting I find it easier to work on the floor :)

ejk00 (author)2017-06-07

Nice. Reminds me of:

AverageJoesJoinery (author)ejk002017-06-07

It is similar yes. I haven't seen that instructable before.

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