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Shop Tip: Cutting melamine-coated particleboard panels

An off-site bookcase project required cutting melamine-coated particleboard panels, but a tablesaw and radial-arm saw were not available. We did, however, have a circular saw and framing square. When cutting the particleboard end panels for the bookcase, we experienced a bit of chip-out and less-than-perfect cross cuts.

To solve the problem, we started by supporting the panels on sawhorses. Then, to reduce chipping, we used a 60-tooth carbide-tipped blade and fit our saw with a zero-clearance auxiliary hardboard shoe. To do this, we cut a piece of tempered hardboard the same size as the metal saw base. Then, we raised the blade above the metal base and adhered the hardboard to it with double-faced tape, carefully aligning the edges of the hardboard with the saw base. We then set the saw on the workpiece so the blade cleared the edge. With the saw running, we plunged the blade through the hardboard shoe, as shown at below, top.

For simple but accurate right-angle crosscuts, we purchased a pair of stair gauges (about $5 at hardware stores) for our framing square. We clamped the stair gauges to the short blade of the square, as shown at below, middle, and adjusted the circular saw blade to cut about 7/8" deep. Next, we positioned the square to align the saw blade with the marked cutline. Finally, we clamped the square to the end panel and crosscut it as shown at below, bottom.

cutting group


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