Cutting thin plywood

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Forum topic by MrRon posted 01-29-2019 10:51 PM 1275 views 0 times favorited 45 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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5631 posts in 3697 days

01-29-2019 10:51 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

As a model train maker, I use a lot of aircraft plywood for the bodies. The plywood I use is 3 ply, 1/16” thick. Cutting it to size is no problem as I can cut it with a saw. Cutting window and door openings is a problem. I layout the openings accurately with a thin lead and cut the outline. Openings are around 1”x 1” up to around 3”x 5”. I have used all kinds of sharp knives and razor blades, but it is tough going. I wonder if there is a tool that would cut clean openings in 1/16” plywood. I’ve thought about using a jewelers saw, but that may cause tear out. I’ve even tried drilling overlapping holes and cleaning up the opening with sanding sticks, chisels and razor blades. I just discovered a new product called “Wonder Cutter” that cuts using ultrasonic technology; cost $400; not an option. Maybe someone has an ingenious way of cutting; please let me know.

45 replies so far

View RDan's profile


106 posts in 2778 days

#1 posted 01-29-2019 11:04 PM

Have you tried a Oscillating tool with a small blade? Still will give some vibration issues, if you want the Cadillac it is the Fein. Or if the same size, make a punch out of box steel. Dan

View bilyo's profile


780 posts in 1556 days

#2 posted 01-29-2019 11:20 PM

I wonder if the tiny circular saw blades they make for the dremel rotary tool would work. Or maybe the diamond or carbide cut-off wheels like this or this. Or, maybe exacto saw blades.

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7450 posts in 2653 days

#3 posted 01-29-2019 11:32 PM

Sounds like a perfect job for a scroll saw…


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View MrRon's profile


5631 posts in 3697 days

#4 posted 01-29-2019 11:33 PM

I just thought about an oscillating multi tool before reading the replies. I think I will try one. Any recommendations on the least expensive and reliable brand? HF, Worx, Dremel, Fein, too expensive.

View Joe Andrews's profile

Joe Andrews

73 posts in 2453 days

#5 posted 01-29-2019 11:38 PM

Was going to suggest a small laser cutter, but they are around $350-$400 also.

View GR8HUNTER's profile


6348 posts in 1166 days

#6 posted 01-29-2019 11:39 PM

scroll saw for the win :<))

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN

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90 posts in 211 days

#7 posted 01-29-2019 11:55 PM

scroll saw

-- CRANE OPERATORS START EARLY because iron workers need their heros ready when they wake up

View ralbuck's profile


6094 posts in 2720 days

#8 posted 01-30-2019 12:48 AM



Let us know please what worked best for you. b If you do not have a scrollsaw and go to buy one——VARIABLE speed is a MUST!

-- Wood rescue is good for the environment and me! just rjR

View Hermit's profile


233 posts in 1779 days

#9 posted 01-30-2019 01:41 AM

Scroll saw….2/0 blade….28 tooth per inch.

-- I'm like the farmer's duck. If it don't rain, I'll walk.

View Richard Lee's profile

Richard Lee

248 posts in 1229 days

#10 posted 01-30-2019 01:43 AM

Router and a template.
Or a sanding drum in the drill press , rough the hole then finish sand with a drum.

View EeerWoodworker's profile


24 posts in 215 days

#11 posted 01-30-2019 02:12 AM

Get some really cheap 1/4” plywood and sandwich your 1/16” stuff between the 1/4 sheets and make the cut, any tearout will be in the 1/4” stuff.

You can use double sided scotch tape to hold the layers of plywood together.

View BFamous's profile


320 posts in 574 days

#12 posted 01-30-2019 02:16 AM

Scroll saw is my vote as well… Though I think the #1 key overall is taping both sides as ralbuck points out.

If you don’t want to spend the money on a scroll saw, tape both sides and use a dremel and a cut off wheel.

-- Brian Famous :: Charlotte, NC ::

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4105 posts in 2442 days

#13 posted 01-30-2019 12:17 PM

Scroll saw with a #1 ultra reverse blade.

Note that it may take some practice to cut a straight line.

View Sylvain's profile


856 posts in 2953 days

#14 posted 01-30-2019 01:46 PM

You might borrow techniques used for marquetry.
Look at what Shipwright is doing in his various post and forum topics.
You might glue the plywood to another substrate with hide glue. Hide glue is reversible.

Or maybe sandwich the plywood between two (thin) cardboard sheets with hide glue. The paper/cardboard and hide glue would be easy to scrap with the help of some water (if you plywood has enough water resistance).

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

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2839 posts in 2750 days

#15 posted 01-30-2019 01:55 PM

An oscillating cuter from Harbor Freight will cost you under twenty buck to try. I’d go that route before investing in a scroll saw.

One of these old signmakers cutters always seemed interesting to me but I don’t know how much control you would have on the really small stuff. They show up n CL or ebay frequently.

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