How To Break Down Sheet Goods With a Track Saw

How To Break Down Sheet Goods With a Track Saw

Many woodworking projects start with sheet good processing—that is, taking full-size sheets of plywood, MDF, or particleboard and cutting them into smaller panels for your specific project. While working with these large sheet goods may seem challenging, having the right tools—namely a track saw, parallel guide system, and guide rail square—can make this process easier and more accurate. Let’s explore the fastest way to break down sheet goods with a track saw.

Step 1: Start With a Known Straight Edge

The first step is to acknowledge that any sheet good, regardless of your supplier, is never square. Hence, it is important to establish a known straight edge, typically along one of the long edges (eight-foot section) of your sheet.

To perform this initial cut, you’ll need a guide rail (or combination of guide rails) long enough to make this cut. To make an eight-foot-long cut, a guide rail at least 106" long, such as the Festool FS-2700/2, provides enough overhang at the beginning and end of your cut to ensure the cleanest cut. If you combine multiple guide rails, consider auto-aligning guide rail connectors.

Place the guide rail near the long edge of your sheet, trimming the minimum amount of material necessary for a clean, straight edge.

Step 2: Make Your Rip Cuts

With a known straight edge, you can now rotate the guide rail 180° and install the TSO Parallel Guide System, with the parallel guide flip-stops now referencing this new straight edge. Set the flip-stops to the required rip width of the panel and begin making your rip cuts.

Remember, your final workpiece should always be underneath the guide rail, not the offcut. After completing each rip, slide the workpiece out from underneath the guide rail and slide the remainder of the panel back underneath the guide rail assembly, abutting the fresh-cut edge against the parallel guide flip-stops. Continue making all of your necessary rip cuts.

Step 3: Get to Crosscutting

Depending on the required length of crosscuts, using a shorter guide rail to perform this step may be more efficient and ergonomic. First, attach your GRS-16 Guide Rail Square to your guide rail. Next, attach one parallel guide to the GRS-16 using the two accessory mounting holes on the face of the guide rail square.

Before crosscutting your first panel, it’s essential to make certain you’re starting with a fresh, square edge. Ensure the guide rail square references the freshly cut long edge of your workpiece and trim off the factory edge of the sheet so you can have a perfectly square starting point.

Next, rotate the guide rail assembly 180° and set the parallel guide flip-stop to the desired crosscutting width. Place the flip-stop down and confirm it is touching the newly cut (and square) end of your workpiece. Make each successive crosscut, each time removing the finished panel from underneath the guide rail and sliding in the remainder of the panel until it once again touches the flip-stop.

With the proper technique and the right tools, you can use this method to quickly—and very accurately—cut down your sheet goods so you can move on to the next phase of your project. For a terrific overview of this method, watch our How to Break Down Large Sheet Goods video.

Tools Highlighted in This Guide

Below, you’ll find an overview of the tools in this guide. That way, you can better understand their purpose and advantages. You can also purchase these tools from us!

GRC-12 Auto-Aligning Guide Rail Connectors

The GRC-12 Auto-Aligning Guide Rail Connectors is a first-of-its-kind, self-aligning guide rail connector to use with Festool, Makita, Milwaukee, Kreg ACS, POWERTEC, WEN, and Triton brand guide rails.

Before the GRC-12, aligning connected guide rails required various methods and additional tools to achieve straight connections. Detecting misalignment with a long straight edge or similar tool took a lot of work. This issue becomes obvious too late—when gaps appear during assembly or glue-up. The GRC-12 TSO guide rail connectors solve this problem with a self-contained and self-aligning design, thanks to an innovative integral keystone feature.

TSO Parallel Guide System

Upgrade from the tape-measure-and-marking routine to a best-in-class system that will increase your work’s speed, accuracy, and quality. The TSO Parallel Guide (TPG) System utilizes two precision-extruded T-tracks attached perpendicular to your guide rail with two flip-stops, which engage the edge of your workpiece parallel to your guide rail’s cutting line—resulting in accurate and perfectly repeatable rip cuts.

The TSO Parallel Guide System is compatible with any length of Festool, Makita, Milwaukee, Kreg ACS, RIGID, Milescraft, WEN, Eastvolt, and Powertec guide rails. Compared to costly and complicated combination bundles, the TSO parallel guides are simple to order. To get started, check out our TPG System Product Page. Follow the steps on that page to select your system’s capacity and connection method.

GRS-16 Guide Rail Square

Since its initial release over seven years ago, the GRS-16 Guide Rail Square has become an essential companion to the track saw for two big reasons: accuracy and efficiency. With the GRS-16, you can quickly break down sheet goods while guaranteeing perfect 90° cuts every time.

All GRS-16 squares feature a single-piece design that self-squares to 90° with no adjustments necessary (and therefore, no future failure points). It connects to your guide rail with a strong, custom draw latch that features a resilient coating to grasp the edge of your guide rail and prevent marring.

We now offer a GRS-16 model compatible with most popular track saw systems, including Festool, Milwaukee, DeWalt, Makita, Kreg, and Triton.

With our comprehensive guide on how to break down sheet goods with a track saw, you can confidently approach the task, ensuring precision and safety at every step. At TSO Products, we’re here to support woodworking with the best advice and tools. Along with guide systems and connectors, we offer workholding clamps and other tools. Check them out!

How To Break Down Sheet Goods With a Track Saw

18th Mar 2024 Eric

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