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Cutting Formica with Skill/Circular Saw

When you are installing cabinets that have plastic laminate on them, the process of cutting the Formica, when scribing to fit, can be done with a skill saw. The trick to this is using the circular saw in a reverse motion when making the cut on the finished side. What I mean is that rather than pushing the circular saw forward so that the rotation of the blade is pulling the finish side of the laminate up and causing it to chip, you kerf the laminate running the skill saw in a reverse motion. The first pass of this saw kerf should only be about an eight of an inch deep. Make sure that you practice this technique several times on a scrap piece of wood before actually doing it on the cabinet. Use the following steps as a guide.

How to Clean Cut Plastic Laminate or Real Wood Veneer Cabinets

1) Mark the cabinet with a pencil where you want the cut to be made.

2) Make sure that your blade is very sharp. If it is not sharp there is great danger that the saw will walk across the cabinet and ruin the finish. DO NOT try this with a dull blade.

3) Lift the circular saw guard and hold it up out of the way.

4) Tilting the saw by resting the front edge of the skill saw on the cabinet align the blade so that the cut will be about 1/16” to 1/8” larger than the line. The blade should not be touching the cabinet at this point or be powered up yet.

5) Once you are confident that your body is in a safe position, pull the trigger and lower the saw blade so that it begins to cut 1/8” deep and pull the saw in a reverse motion. This cut should not be on the line but you’re using the mark as a guide as you make the shallow saw kerf the entire length of the line a little larger.

6) Once you have made a nice clean kerf the entire distance, you can cut through the rest of the material by angling the saw blade so that you are not hitting the clean cut that you just made causing it to chip out. Make this second cut by pushing the saw as you normally would. Do not cut backward.

7) Use a belt sander with a 50 grit belt on it and finish sand the cabinet part to the accurate mark that you made. By angling the second cut there will be less material to sand with the belt sander.

  • CAUTION: You cannot make this type of saw cut on the very edge of the cabinet. There really needs to be about ¼” of material that is being cut off.
  • Tip: If you have never tried cutting with a circular saw in a reverse motion, then make sure that you practice this several times before you actually try to make the cut on the cabinetry.

This is going to take a certain level of skill to accomplish acceptable results. Do not try this if you are not good with operating a circular saw and acquainted with how this power tool works. If the saw begins to skid or skip across the Formica or wood veneer finished surface, then this means that the cut in the laminate is not deep enough. If you’re not comfortable cutting the plastic laminate surface this way use a saber saw with a fine- toothed blade designed for making clean cuts. You can cut from the opposite side of the material from where the finish is if you have enough room.

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