You know — those unsightly edges that make an otherwise nice piece of work look like something amateurish. Edges are everything. They are the appearance. Anyone can do a smooth surface. But fitting flush, perfect edges — that’s a little more work. (It’s where I’m at. Other techniques will cove over time.)

You want that perfect edge. There is no sense in wasting wood.

As a novice I’m still figuring out all of the things I need to do to make it all work out exactly right. Yesterday in a conversation on WoodTalkOnline I learned a few things from some others and applied them in a way that helped me and maybe you, too.

It’s standard to use a backer board to reduce or eliminate tear-out. If you are like me it is easy to want to skip that step. An extra piece of wood is being wasted.  And if you’ve got some nice pieces in your stack you may not want to waste them on this purpose. Waste has a cost. It may have a valuable use, but it is none-the-less a cost. The goal is to reduce that cost and increase the quality of work.

That means taking the easy way out. And it is easy. Just rip some 2x4s to thin strips – 1/4″ thick or less. Make them all the same thickness if you can. And you should. This is why:

One of the notorious places where you get tear-out is when cutting plywood. Of course there isn’t any (if your blade is sharp and clean) on the down-stroke of the blade (that’s the top side on a table saw, the bottom side on a track saw or circular saw). It’s that other side where the blade exits where you get the tear-out. It’s easy to fix with these strips.

I laid out three strips and used the like a sled. The center strip went over the blade. Initially I had to give the strip a little encouragement but just a touch. It went through with the sheet quite nicely.

The center strip takes the place of a zero-clearance insert. In short, it absorbs the pull that would otherwise create tear-out on the back side.

This would be less convenient on a track saw. You would want two strips side-by-side.

Of course even a 2×4 is not free. But they are rather cheap. Now go make some cleaner cuts and make those projects look that much better.