How to Avoid Tearout When Cutting (9 Powerful Tips)

When cutting wood, one of the most common problems encountered by both rookie and professional woodworkers is wood splintering at the cut’s edge.
The tearout will destroy your project, leaving you with a piece you can’t utilize, wasting both wood and time.

If you don’t want this, you’ll need to learn how to avoid tearout when cutting. In a nutshell, there is a straightforward answer:

Splinters form when there isn’t enough support for the wood. To fix this, support the wood you’re cutting along its entire length on the side where the blade can pull the splinters out to avoid tearout.

There are a few ways to support the wood, depending on the material and type of saw you are using. That is what you are about to discover in this article, so you can avoid wood splintering in the future.

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What is wood tearout?

Like I have said before, wood tearout is a frustrating problem and can ruin your workpiece. If you understand what tearout is, you will understand better how to avoid a tearout when cutting.

Tearout, or wood splintering, occurs when the tooth of the saw blade or router bit will lift and pull the grain with it instead of cutting through.

In many cases, the grain pulling will also happen to a point that is deeper than the cut you make with the tool, causing a deep tear-out that is hard to repair.

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Why Does Wood Splinter When Cutting It

Wood is composed of fibers that run its length. You can compare them to the veins of the trees that transport moisture and nutrients from the roots to the leaves.

When cutting in the same direction that the grain runs (rip cut), there will be little tearout because these fibers separate so easily.

However, when you shorten wood (crosscut), and thus cut through this grain, the saw tries to cut those fibers in half. However, the fiber is flexible, and when placed under stress, it will bend rather than cut in half.

How to avoid tearout when cutting - Crosscut vs. Ripcut
How to avoid tearout when cuttingCrosscut vs. Rip cut

If those fibers are supported, they have nowhere to go, and so they stay put. However, if there is nothing behind the fibers, they will pull away from the wood surface and you will end up with splinters.

So if you want to avoid wood splintering while cutting, you should try to make as few cuts against the grain as possible and try to cut along the grain as much as possible.
However, cutting along the grain still does not guarantee a cut without a tearout. You will still have to take a few points into account.

How to avoid tearout when cutting (9 tips)

Now that you know more about tearout and why wood splinters when cutting, we can move on and look at a few tips you can use to avoid having tearout on the next cuts you make.
Below you will find 10 powerful tips that will definitely help you, read them carefully as they are important for the rest of the article.

How to avoid tearout when cutting – TIP #1

The first suggestion is to look at the grain of the wood before you start sawing, as I mentioned before in this article. Cutting across the grain will result in splinters, whilst cutting along the grain will almost certainly result in a clean and sharp cut.

Before you begin marking where you will cut wood panels, this should always be the primary point of interest.

How to avoid tearout when cutting – TIP #2

The second piece of advice is to tape your wood before cutting it to protect it. This is a divisive strategy, as some argue, “Hey, this works great,” while others argue, “Hey, this doesn’t.” Combining this with some of the other techniques you’ll learn in this post has proven to be really beneficial. All you have to do is place the tape where you want to cut, and it will assist you in cutting that sharp edge.
Related article: 7 types of tape for woodworking you should have.

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How to avoid tearout when cutting – TIP #3

Next up, you will have to look at your blades. Saw blades can be found with a different number of teeth. The more teeth a sawblade has, the nicer and cleaner the cut will be. A lower number of teeth will make a faster cut, but there is a higher chance of tear-out. Now, of course, the higher the tooth, the more it’s gonna cost you, but it should do a lot better at cutting your wood without tear out.

If you want to know how you can find the best table saw blade for your table saw, check out my article, “Understanding Table Saw Blades | Always Find The Perfect One”. In there, I’ll give you the best tips in your search for the table saw blade you need for your projects.

How to avoid tearout when cutting – TIP #4

Now, if you know exactly where you are going to be making your cuts, it’s a good idea to take a nice straight edge, and then take a razor blade and score along the edge. Make a couple of cuts, and you can make them pretty deep.

What you do by this is to cut the fibers that are going across the board with a nice straight edge. Then, when you go back to cut it with a saw, it should make a nice clean edge. On top of that, you have also a great marking line that you can use as a guide while cutting.

How to avoid tearout when cutting – TIP #5

When you’re cutting your wood, and if you’re interested in one side of it is nice and clean, but the other side really doesn’t matter, here’s a quick way to solve that.
For cutting your plywood with a circular saw, notice here that a circular saw is going to be cutting in an upward motion. In this case, you’re going to make sure the good piece of your plywood is facing down.

So when you will make the cut, it should cut cleanly on the bottom and there’s a good chance there might be a little wood splintering on the top.
When you want to make the same cut on your table saw, notice that it is cutting with a down-worth motion. So, as it comes into contact with the wood, you want the good side of the wood that wouldn’t be torn out facing up. That way, it should create a nice clean cut on the top, and it will probably be a little rough on the bottom.

How to avoid tearout when cutting – TIP #6

If you know you’re cutting more than one piece of plywood at a time, you can take the good sides and face them toward each other.
Once you put them together, clamp them or tape them and make your cut. That way, you know the two inner sides are supporting each other, and they should be nice and sharp.

How to avoid tearout when cutting – TIP #7

Now, if you’re trying to get a clean cut on both the top and bottom of your wood, you can first make a really shallow cut.
Once you’ve made a really shallow cut, you can go back, and make a second cut, all the way thru the wood. That way, you should have a nice clean top and bottom. You can do this process with the table saw, circular saw, and miter saw. More about this later in this article.

How to avoid tearout when cutting – TIP #8

Most table saws have an insert plate around the blade and this insert has quite a large gap between the blade, and it’s side. This is because the blade can tilt to have the angles that you need.

So it’s a good idea to create your own custom-made zero clearance insert. Check out this video to see how I have made a zero clearance insert blade for my table saw and get inspired to make your own.

The insert will actually take the place of the current insert. By doing this, the blade has very little room on either side. So, whenever you’re cutting any wood, all the little fibers will now be supported by the insert plate that you’ve created on the sides of the saw blade. So for these, cuts should be much nicer and cleaner done.

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How to avoid tearout when cutting – TIP #9

The final suggestion is to make yourself a table saw crosscut sled. This is essentially a sled that slides on top of the table saw. With this jig, You can have perfect control over whatever you’re cutting with a crosscut sled, and it allows for a zero-clearance cut right in the center, where the blade is. As a result, this is an excellent tool for making precise cuts with a good, clean, crisp edge. The main drawback is that the front and back barriers on your sled limit your movement inside.

Do you want to build a table saw sled yourself? Check out this article, where you can learn step by step how to build a crosscut sled and where you can download free plans to help you build it.

How do you cut wood without Tearout?

Wood can be cut in a variety of ways. Table saws, circular saws, jigsaws, crosscut saws, and routers are the most common methods. Each of these tools will be vulnerable to tearout, with a distinct element playing a key role in each. As a result, I’ll go over each tool in turn, along with the main reason for tear out, so you may get a better idea of how to avoid tearout when cutting.

How to prevent tearout on table saw

The blade of a table saw is rotated downward to cut the wood. As a result, the top will be exactly straight, but there is a good probability that the bottom may tear.
If you understand this and have read the previous advice, you will know how to avoid taerout when cutting with a table saw.
I’ve included the most crucial steps you can do below.

  • If at all possible, cut in the direction of the grain.
  • To support the wood, use a zero clearance insert in the table saw or a crosscut sled.
  • Place a strip of tape where you wish the cut to be made.
  • Use a saw blade with a high number of teeth which will give you a finer cut.

How to avoid tearout with circular saw

A circular saw, unlike the table saw, cuts the wood by turning the blade in an upward motion. This will give the underside a perfectly clean cut, but there is a good chance that the top will tear.
Knowing this, you can apply the following tips to avoid wood splintering when cutting with a circular saw:

  • Cut in the direction of the grain whenever possible.
  • Make a deep cut with a utility knife where you will make the cut.
  • Make the cut with the circular saw in two passes, making a shallow cut the first time and returning to finally cut through the wood.
  • Whenever possible, cut several pieces at once by stacking them on top of each other. Make sure that the piece at the top is allowed to show, tear out on one side.
  • Use a saw blade with a high number of teeth, which will give you a finer cut.

How to prevent tearout on miter saw

A crosscut saw, like the table saw, cuts the wood by turning the blade in a downward motion. This allows you to apply the same tips as with the table saw. I repeat them briefly for you:

  • Cut towards the direction of the grain if at all possible.
  • Use a zero clearance insert in the miter saw to support the wood.
  • Apply a strip of tape to the area where the cut will be made.
  • Use a saw blade with a large number of teeth for a more precise cut.

How to prevent tearout on router table

Tearout can also easily be generated with a router table. Although a router bit is used here and no saw blade, the principle to prevent tear out remains the same, and that is to provide good support.

When working with a router for table wood, use the following tips to avoid tearout.

  • If possible, cut in the direction of the grain.
  • If you want to process both end grain and long grain, it is best to take the end grain first. This is where the risk of tear out is greatest, and when this happens you may be able to eliminate the damage by making a profile along the long side of the fibers.
  • Make shallow passes, this will make the wood less likely to splinter, plus you’ll also avoid burn marks that can be caused when milling.
  • Back up the wood: On a router table, routing across end grain causes the most tearout. The router bit will almost certainly pull large splinters from the workpiece as it exits the cut.
    To solve this problem, place a scrap piece of wood behind the wood you’re working on. That piece of wood will serve as a support for the wood, preventing it from being ripped out.
  • Make the gap around the router bit as small as possible. This creates a zero clearance plate that supports the wood and can reduce tearout.
  • Be sure you use the correct router bit speed

If you are working with a router or router table, I’m sure these articles will be of great value for you, so don’t miss them!

how to prevent tearout with a jigsaw

Wood that will be cut with a jigsaw is extremely prone to chipping. That is because there is simply no support for the wood by the jigsaw. A jigsaw cut with a pulling movement, and will give you a clean cut on the underside of the wood, but there is a good chance wood splintering will occur at the top of the wood.

If you wanna control this wood splintering, there are a couple of things you can do:

  • What sometimes helps is to put a piece of mask tape down over the area you are going to be cutting. That could help bind the fibers together.
  • Another thing that is working well is to score the line you are going to be cutting. So use a utility knife and cut all the way through the facing veneer on the plywood, and this also works on solid wood as well.
    When cutting, be sure you always cut on the outside of the line you made with the utility knife.

How to avoid tearout when cutting – conclusion

If you read this text carefully, you’ll realize that there’s only one key answer to the question of how to avoid tearout when cutting: the wood must be well-supported. If you offer sufficient support, the blade, or router will not pull the fibers, and you will prevent a lot of tear out. Go over all the preceding tips and see which ones might apply to the project you’re working on to reduce tearout even more.

Now that you’ve read this article, wood splintering should be a thing of the past.

Having the right saw blade or router bit is essential for a clean cut. To help you find the best one, I’ve written several articles, be sure to check them out and find the best tips to choose the best blade for your projects.

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