How To: Get Clean, Chip-Free Cuts in Melamine and Veneer

How to Cut Laminate

Photo: Chris Gardner

Melamine-coated particleboard is a great material for storage, basement, garage, home office, and kid’s room projects. It’s less expensive than plywood and has a much cleaner finished look than painted MDF or fiberboard. Unfortunately, the plastic resins in the coating are prone to chip when cut with a spinning saw blade. They make special (read: expensive) saw blades just for the task, but with a bit of care, you can get perfectly clean, factory-like edges with the circular or table saw blade you currently have.

This technique will also work when salvaging old particleboard furniture from secondhand stores or garage sales.

How to Cut Laminate - Scoring Height

Photo: Chris Gardner

Step 1

First, measure your cut line and use a straight edge, utility knife, or box cutter to lightly score along the line on both sides of the board.

How to Cut Laminate - Chip Free

Photo: Chris Gardner

Step 2

Next, set up your table saw or circular saw blade to cut 1/4″ into the material. You are not cutting through the material here; you are simply creating a clean cut in the bottom face of the melamine. Since most chips occur when the teeth that are not actually removing material come in contact with the surface, this 1/4″ deep scoring will help prevent tear-out during the final cut.

How to Cut Laminate - Final

Photo: Chris Gardner

Step 3

Now, set your blade height or cut depth to just above the gullets of the blade (the standard height to prevent kickback), then…

How to Cut Laminate - Circular Saw Blade

Photo: Chris Gardner

Step 4

Turn on the saw and make your final cut.



See? No chips, and no need for a special $150 laminate cutting blade.