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Minimal workspace setup needed for better precision cuts

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Hi all. I'm very slowing progressing through my build, but one thing I think holding me back is that my tools are just mediocre, and I have a hard time (at times) making precision cut on things like plywood, luan, etc (and soon 80/20).

I also don't want to spend a bunch right now on more workspace stuff if I can avoid it.

So my question is: what do you think are the bare minimum tools helpers I could acquire to help improve my overall building process? By helpers, I mean things like tables, clamps, guides etc.

What I'm primarily using is a plunge saw, jigsaw and dremel. I have 1 plunge guide rail that I've been using and it's worked well. I have virtually no table to cut on (no work bench etc), so I'm using 2 cheap saw horses.

Anyway, just wondering what else you might suggest. And in particular I'm hoping to just find a way to improve the stability when making angle cuts. I imagine the response is a better work bench?
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To cut plywood I use a 4 1/2" dia. circular saw instead of a 7 1/4". Saw is lighter so easier to handle. Put short 4 x 4's on the floor to space up the plywood from the floor to clear the blade. Use an aluminum angle clamped at each end for a saw guide.

80/20 requires a chop saw with an aluminum cutting blade. 80/20 needs to be clamped to saw table.
 

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Hey edylan. If you’re in the Salt Lake or Park City area, you’re more than welcome to use my shop. I am a professional wooden boatbuilder with lots of bench space.

When breaking down plywood panels, I typically cut on the floor with the plywood sitting on top of a 1” thick 4x8 sheet of XPS. This provides a rock solid, flat cutting surface and zero resistance to the saw blade from the foam. Just be sure to wear a respirator or mask, as it is no good to breathe in the XPS dust (or plywood dust for that matter!).

I have not cut 8020 yet, but have run a lot of wood through my compound miter saw. In my old shop, which required that I move my tools to the side of the room from time to time, I had my miter saw on a piece of 3/4” plywood (cut to the footprint of the saw) suspended between two wooden Manning benches at such a height that the benches extended the support surface for the material being cut to each side of the saw (basically acting as infeed/outfeed tables). Given the design of the benches, I was able to clamp guides, fences, and cut-stops to them, increasing the accuracy and repeatability of my cuts.

Manning Benches:
(skip to 37 seconds). BTW, I am not affiliated with Off Center Harbor, although if you’re in to boats (and especially wooden boats), they are an incredible resource.

In my experience, Manning benches will give you a lot of versatile work space for little investment of time/money and are just as useful as many of the larger benches in my shop.
 

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WOW. Being a contractor for 30yrs, jump on any chance for use of space! Super hard to justify spending on tools possible never use again. A jigsaw is necessary. larger Home Depot have rentals. U can rent a chop saw for 80/20 cute. Plus all Home Depot’s will cut ply for you except the radius cuts. But getting those sheet down to smaller size is pretty help ful
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Hey edylan. If you’re in the Salt Lake or Park City area, you’re more than welcome to use my shop. I am a professional wooden boatbuilder with lots of bench space.

When breaking down plywood panels, I typically cut on the floor with the plywood sitting on top of a 1” thick 4x8 sheet of XPS. This provides a rock solid, flat cutting surface and zero resistance to the saw blade from the foam. Just be sure to wear a respirator or mask, as it is no good to breathe in the XPS dust (or plywood dust for that matter!).

I have not cut 8020 yet, but have run a lot of wood through my compound miter saw. In my old shop, which required that I move my tools to the side of the room from time to time, I had my miter saw on a piece of 3/4” plywood (cut to the footprint of the saw) suspended between two wooden Manning benches at such a height that the benches extended the support surface for the material being cut to each side of the saw (basically acting as infeed/outfeed tables). Given the design of the benches, I was able to clamp guides, fences, and cut-stops to them, increasing the accuracy and repeatability of my cuts.

Manning Benches:
(skip to 37 seconds). BTW, I am not affiliated with Off Center Harbor, although if you’re in to boats (and especially wooden boats), they are an incredible resource.

In my experience, Manning benches will give you a lot of versatile work space for little investment of time/money and are just as useful as many of the larger benches in my shop.
Wow, love those manning benches ❤ may not end up making them for this van build, but definitely keeping them in mind for a future shop one day.

Great tip on XPS, that makes a lot of sense.

@Redfish greatly appreciate your offer to use your shop! I'm in the PNW, else I'd love to come by!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
WOW. Being a contractor for 30yrs, jump on any chance for use of space! Super hard to justify spending on tools possible never use again. A jigsaw is necessary. larger Home Depot have rentals. U can rent a chop saw for 80/20 cute. Plus all Home Depot’s will cut ply for you except the radius cuts. But getting those sheet down to smaller size is pretty help ful
Love it, great tips. Hadn't thought of renting, but absolutely what I should do for tools I'll use once. And great suggestion on having HD do the larger cuts!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
To cut plywood I use a 4 1/2" dia. circular saw instead of a 7 1/4". Saw is lighter so easier to handle. Put short 4 x 4's on the floor to space up the plywood from the floor to clear the blade. Use an aluminum angle clamped at each end for a saw guide.

80/20 requires a chop saw with an aluminum cutting blade. 80/20 needs to be clamped to saw table.
Aluminum angle + 4x4s is a great idea. Will give that a shop, sounds way better than what I've been doing.
 

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I built my van cabinets in my garage with a track saw. I had approximately a one car parking space to work in. I set up a sturdy folding table and an Ezsmart cutting table. I used a 108" Ezsmart track saw to cut 95% of the plywood for my cabinets. I did have a Dewalt protable table saw but mainly used it to build the drawers.

With a track saw you can easily make very precise cuts, to better than 1/32" accuracy. The system is designed to be anti-chip so, with a sharp carbide saw blade, you can make very clean cuts.


I used the Ezsmart cutting table which is a brilliant design. You can pull a sheet of plywood, out of your truck or trailer, directly onto the cutting table and break it down with the track saw. This allows you to tackle big jobs alone.


I used to own a AV contracting business. I used the track saw to build many soffits to mount large projector screens and many AV cabinets. I have enough track to cut a 10' long piece of plywood. I cut a lot of plywood (also some lumber) with this track saw system and was very happy with it. There are other good track saw systems but most of them are much more expensive.
 

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Hi all. I'm very slowing progressing through my build, but one thing I think holding me back is that my tools are just mediocre, and I have a hard time (at times) making precision cut on things like plywood, luan, etc (and soon 80/20).

I also don't want to spend a bunch right now on more workspace stuff if I can avoid it.

So my question is: what do you think are the bare minimum tools helpers I could acquire to help improve my overall building process? By helpers, I mean things like tables, clamps, guides etc.

What I'm primarily using is a plunge saw, jigsaw and dremel. I have 1 plunge guide rail that I've been using and it's worked well. I have virtually no table to cut on (no work bench etc), so I'm using 2 cheap saw horses.

Anyway, just wondering what else you might suggest. And in particular I'm hoping to just find a way to improve the stability when making angle cuts. I imagine the response is a better work bench?
If you can design the 8020 ahead of time, just have them (8020 - not tnutz) cut to length. It will be more accurate and square than what you can do on your own. For the cuts that we had to on our own, I screwed an evolution rage chopsaw (cheap) to 3/4 ply along with some aluminum angle as extended guides + adhesive tape measure. That gave fairly accurate, repeatable cuts for 8020 and L-track.


Saw Floor Gas Wood Engineering
 

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Aluminum angle + 4x4s is a great idea. Will give that a shop, sounds way better than what I've been doing.
The smaller and lighter 4 1/2" saw is much easier to handle when reaching across the plywood. Easy to make accurate cuts with this method. Would be more difficult with a much bigger and heavier 7 1/4" saw.

It is also easy to make accurate DIY 80/20 cuts with a wood cutting chop saw. I installed saw with tabletops on both sides that are the same height as the top of the chop saw table so long lengths are supported. Fast to measure the length of 80/20 or angle wanted in van, cut it and then install it in van immediately. Cut all my 80/20 with chop saw and did not have any accuracy issues. Bought 20' lengths of 80/20 locally and had supplier cut them into 8' and 12' lengths to fit inside the van. I did have an accident when cutting an unclamped short angle. Part jammed, destroyed the blade and the bent angle flew across the barn. Checked that I had all my fingers. Did get a cut. ALWAYS clamp the part.
 

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Given you have space for a plywood sheet, then there must be room for a cutting table. Here's one I made. When not cutting, you can also leave a plywood sheet on it to use it as a workbench.
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Sounds like you've got the plywood cutting going well: plunge with track is hard to beat. If you don't have a mix of good clamps, those are huge. Especially on angle cuts. I really like these ones - work smoother than my ~30-year-old steel ones that I really like as well.

On the 8020, even an inexpensive chop-saw or mitre-saw works fine. We used a $100 Ryobi on our first van (did ours and a friend's with it at the time). It wasn't as clean of a cut - required a little filing of edges - but they were straight.
 

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No one seems to warn the new 8020 users about the amount of metal flake that flies everywhere. And I mean everywhere. A quality shop vac is really important in my experience. There's no way I could have done an 8020 design for them to cut and ship. Half the fun and biggest value of using 8020 for me was being able to custom tune the fit and make changes. Good luck.
 

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@Sams stock van same experience here, there's no way I could have planned the cuts ahead of time. Often times I thought something would work one way, but once I got in there and had the materials I changed my mind multiple times on how to do the cuts for strength and attaching to the floor / sides of the van.

You are so right about the metal flakes. They'll get everywhere and you'll find them for months to come.
 

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I am not sure why 80 - 90% of the cuts cannot be pre - designed and outsourced.

The first time you will want to built a prototype and then edit from there but it isn't difficult if you can visualize it.

I have built multiple power cabinets with bed frames with the 1010 material, and several roof racks with 1515 and was able to design it all (just pen and paper) for cutting.

You can easily prototype with plywood strips if that helps.

One of the unexpected benefits that I found working with it is that it tends to be so straight and square, that you can use it as a cutting frame for baltic birch ply.

I rent my out my shop + tools + my help for van building in the SF Bay area, but for some reason it is mostly used by people traveling from other countries or the CA central valley.
 

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I am not sure why 80 - 90% of the cuts cannot be pre - designed and outsourced.

The first time you will want to built a prototype and then edit from there but it isn't difficult if you can visualize it.

I have built multiple power cabinets with bed frames with the 1010 material, and several roof racks with 1515 and was able to design it all (just pen and paper) for cutting.

You can easily prototype with plywood strips if that helps.

One of the unexpected benefits that I found working with it is that it tends to be so straight and square, that you can use it as a cutting frame for baltic birch ply.

I rent my out my shop + tools + my help for van building in the SF Bay area, but for some reason it is mostly used by people traveling from other countries or the CA central valley.
You're right about roof racks and presized cabinets. I would outsource those. My internal framing was adjusted during install to get around other features that controlled the layout.
Now on the next van...
 

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I am not sure why 80 - 90% of the cuts cannot be pre - designed and outsourced.

The first time you will want to built a prototype and then edit from there but it isn't difficult if you can visualize it.

I have built multiple power cabinets with bed frames with the 1010 material, and several roof racks with 1515 and was able to design it all (just pen and paper) for cutting.

You can easily prototype with plywood strips if that helps.

One of the unexpected benefits that I found working with it is that it tends to be so straight and square, that you can use it as a cutting frame for baltic birch ply.

I rent my out my shop + tools + my help for van building in the SF Bay area, but for some reason it is mostly used by people traveling from other countries or the CA central valley.
In theory. But I'd rather not feel committed to what was already built if it would be better to take it apart and rebuild.

Just rebuilt a friend's galley last week. We were just doing the plumbing stuff and he says, "oh... thinking about how to accommodate another seat since we're tryna have a baby..." and I laughed, of course. No, you can't half-ass a seat for a baby. We'll tear apart your current build and build around a legit seat for baby. Worked out super awesome: repurpose lots of pieces and have very little waste; new galley up and working in a couple days. Hard to beat that.

As for those aluminum shavings... yeah... we did all our cutting on the edge of our driveway with grass and blew it all into the grass for the last five years. Grass area is prolly a toxic waste site, now... but powerful air compressor with blower is certainly critical to getting all the crap out of the way (and into the grass).
 

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Even with a 1200 sq ft shop and a 3hp SawStop, I still break down sheet goods using this setup. Cheap sawhorses that hold notched 2x4's which hold long 2x3's. Throw a 3'x6' piece of xps on top and I can cut any size piece of plywood into a smaller piece.

I use a tracksaw but any size circular saw, corded or cordless, with a straight edge, will work as well. This also works great for jigsaw cuts, curved or angled.

Throw a hollow core door on top and you have a very workable workbench.

@edylan You've already seen my shop. You're welcome to take advantage of it if needed.
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Rectangle Gas Composite material Font Wood
 

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In theory. But I'd rather not feel committed to what was already built if it would be better to take it apart and rebuild.

Just rebuilt a friend's galley last week. We were just doing the plumbing stuff and he says, "oh... thinking about how to accommodate another seat since we're tryna have a baby..." and I laughed, of course. No, you can't half-ass a seat for a baby. We'll tear apart your current build and build around a legit seat for baby. Worked out super awesome: repurpose lots of pieces and have very little waste; new galley up and working in a couple days. Hard to beat that.

As for those aluminum shavings... yeah... we did all our cutting on the edge of our driveway with grass and blew it all into the grass for the last five years. Grass area is prolly a toxic waste site, now... but powerful air compressor with blower is certainly critical to getting all the crap out of the way (and into the grass).
I get it, but I was not talking about using standard cabinets.

It isn't difficult to design something and have the pieces cut to size.

There will be some editing - at least for the first one.

Saves a LOT of time and I am pretty sure that I could not make 20 pieces cut to length that are < +/- 0.5mm so easily like they can.

The cuts I don't mind paying for. Drilling holes - that I do myself.

___

Your friend sounds like a typical customer. :p
 
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