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With Proper Care, Plywood Can Stand Up to Some Pounding

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From Associated Press

Plywood has become a great standby for the do-it-yourselfer. Here are some tips on using it:

Carrying and Storing

Plywood usually comes in sheets measuring 4 feet by 8 feet, in thicknesses of one-quarter, one-half or three-quarter inches. Carrying a full sheet alone is awkward. Try this: Put your arm over the center of the sheet and hook the claw of a hammer under the bottom edge. The hammer handle becomes a convenient carrying grip.

You can also carry a sheet with an 18-foot-long rope. Knot the rope ends together to create a loop. Slip the loop over the two bottom corners of the plywood sheet. Then put your arm over the sheet and grasp the middle sections of the loop. Use your other hand to steady the sheet.

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Store plywood panels flat on 2-by-4s to deter warping. Store them off the floor in a cool, dry place for several weeks before using them. If you must store plywood on edge, rest it on 2-by-4-inch blocks so the bottom edge won’t absorb moisture. Brace the blocks in place and rest the sheet against the wall at a slight angle.

Cutting Plywood

Cutting plywood is easy after you’ve done it a couple of times. But many people prefer to buy from a lumber dealer who will cut pieces to size for them. If you do, be sure to supply exact measurements and indicate the surface grain direction of each piece. For strengths and looks, you’ll usually want the grain to run in the longer direction.

Sawing Preparation

When sawing, wear a dust mask and safety goggles. Make sure the entire panel is well supported.

To avoid splintering the plywood surface when sawing by hand or with a table saw, position the finished side of the panel face up. Any splintering will occur at the bottom. If you’re using a circular saw or a saber saw, however, you have to place the finished side face down to prevent splintering.

Be sure to use a carbide-tipped blade or a special plywood blade on any power saw. Plywood’s glue dulls a steel blade quickly.

If you use a handsaw, circular saw, or saber saw, clamp a straightedge board to the plywood to serve as a guide for the saw.

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Sawing

To saw plywood, first score the face ply along the desired cut lines with a utility knife. Then make the cut. Any splinters will break off cleanly at the scored line. Make lengthwise cuts first.

Then hold the handsaw at a low angle and cut along the scored line. Adjust a table saw so that the blade clears the top of the sheet by one-quarter inch. When using a table saw, use a push stick to advance the panel into the saw’s guarded blade.

Joining

Nails, brads or screws won’t hold in the edges of thin plywood. As a general rule, the best way to join pieces of plywood is to put a three-fourths-inch-square block of wood in the corner between the pieces. Then glue and screw (or nail) both pieces to the block.

You can center screws in plywood edges that are three-fourths-inch thick if you drill pilot holes first. When drilling, the bit may chew up the exit hole unless you back up the work with a piece of scrap wood.

Panel Edges

If you plan to paint a piece, fill gaps in the edges of plywood panels with wood putty or spackling compound. Sand smooth before painting. To protect the edges, use wood strips or molding instead.

If you plan a clear varnish finish on a piece, the best choice is usually an adhesive-backed veneer tape in a matching wood that you can press on with an iron.

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