Managing sheet good breakout

I needed to have a safe and effective way to mange the break out of my sheet goods. I have used a systems of laying 2 x 4’s on the garage floor as a base for cutting and one that used two 24” x 30” aluminum step stools with 2 x 4’s for supporting the cutting of sheet goods. Both methods worked well, but I wanted something different. The solution I wanted must be sturdy enough to support a full sheet of plywood, low enough to make cutting across a sheet easy and yet have the  ability to be broken down into small components, so that I could store in my small shop.

What I came up with is a small table design, 44” x 46” that stands 24” off the ground and has a sheet of inexpensive plywood as a sub-base to support my sheet goods. The table is made up of 2 side rails, 2 end rails, 4 legs, 3 support beams and a piece of plywood, cut in half for table top.

The plywood side pieces, which are 3” wide, has a piece of 2”x2” spruce screwed to the inside edge, aligned with the top edge of the side to add stability and strength to the sides. I cut the length of the spruce supports so that they fit between the legs on the side. To each end piece,which is the same 3” width,I added a second piece of 3/4” plywood 1 1/2” wide, positioning this plywood  1 1/2” from the top edge. The  length of the plywood rails for the ends are also I cut to fit between the legs at the ends. Placing the plywood down 1 1/2” allowed me to add three 2” x 3” spruce strips to provide additional support along the length of the unit.The top of the unit is a piece of inexpensive plywood sheeting that acts as backing when cutting my sheet goods to eliminate tear out. I cut in the top sheeting in half to make it easy for me to move the top around.I made the legs using two pieces of 3/4” plywood, that I tapered using a home made tapering jig for my table saw. The legs were assembled using my Kreg jig and screws. I used 3/8” bolts, washers and nuts to assemble the legs to the sides and ends.

When it comes to the guiding my skill saw during sheet good breakouts I have a solution that gives me a great result while giving me good control of the skill saw during breakouts. I have tried many aluminum cutting guides for my skill saw, but I have found that most of them will bow when you cut a plywood sheet length wise. I have also tried to make long and short guides from hardboard and solids.

What I ended up getting was a guide system from Lee Valley. The system, which is made from extruded aluminum, is separately or as a full set and the set comes with a small set of clamps, that fit into the a track on the bottom of the extrusion, that allows you to clamp the guide to 3/4” plywood. Lee Valley also sells a set of longer clamps that provide 2” of clamping depth capacity and a guide traveller strip and mounting screws that allows you to add your own base for your router or skill saw.  You need to provide for the base material such as 1/4” thick hardboard or MDF.

Also when I use the table and guide system for the breakout, I set the depth of the blade on the skill saw to be about an 1/8” inch below bottom of the piece I am cutting. That way I only scratch the sheeting surface of the top of my cutting table. Once I have damaged the sheeting top enough, I can recycle the old top and get a new one.

All in all the support table and guide system now allow me to manage my break out cutting of large sheet goods quite nicely and safely. Other added benefits are

  • the cutting table is that it breaks down into small pieces that I can store easy in my shop.
  • I have an additional assembly table when I need it for larger projects
  • I have a huge coffee table for those important neighbourhood workshop chin wags!! 🙂

See you in the Workshop!!

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