Cutting Formica Laminate with Jigsaw

I want to purchase a jigsaw and use it for precise cuts in thin plastic laminate. Any suggestions on which model provides the least tearout? Any suggestions on the best technic to use?
Philly
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First, let's make sure we're talking about the same thing. When you say "jigsaw" do you mean the hand-held portable tool often known as a saber saw, which holds the blade at only one end, or do you mean the stationary tool formerly called a jigsaw and now usually referred to as a scroll saw, which holds the blade at both ends?
If the former... forget it. You can't make precise cuts in anything with one of those.
If the latter... the DeWalt DW788 is kinda pricy, but it does a beautiful job.
Regardless of what you use, the degree of tearout is going to depend more on the blade you use, than on the saw. You want something with really fine teeth.
Are you cutting just the bare laminate? Or is it laminated onto something already? And what type of "precise cuts" do you need to make? If you're just cutting straight lines, a table saw with a good combination blade makes very clean, smooth cuts.
-- Regards, Doug Miller (alphageek-at-milmac-dot-com)
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I'm referring to a sabre saw. I want to cut 2" strips from a full 8 foot sheet. The full sheet is too large for my table saw setup.
Philly
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Your chance of making a "precise cut" eight feet long with a saber saw is exactly zero. Sorry.
In fact, your chance of making *any* kind of cut, precise or otherwise, that long with a saber saw, without cracking the laminate, is IMHO very close to zero.
I have a few suggestions:
1) Figure out a way to do it with your table saw. I recently managed to cut two strips, one 4" and one 1", from a one by twelve foot strip on my table saw, without a helper. My shop is 16' x 20'. If I can do that, so can you. Note that it doesn't have to be flat over the entire length of the sheet. It's sufficient to have it flat on the saw table, and allow it to droop down in front and behind. I used the rubber-padded pushblocks from my jointer to feed it through. If you don't have anything like that, you can buy them at any Rockler or Woodcraft store.
2) Get an eight-foot straightedge, and score and snap it. Unlike cutting glass or drywall with the score-and-snap method, when doing this to Formica you bend the sheet *toward* the score line instead of away. Wear ear protection: it makes a heck of a noise. You'll have better luck with the snapping if you clamp the straightedge down along the score line, than if you try to hold both pieces in your hands. Two inches is a bit narrow, though, and you have a significant chance of breakage. You're really better off figuring out a way to do it with the table saw.
3) Combine the two approaches: score and snap into, say, three 16-inch strips. Then run those through the table saw. They'll certainly be easier to handle than a full sheet.
-- Regards, Doug Miller (alphageek-at-milmac-dot-com)
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And wear gloves (and eye protection). I nearly cut of a finger when a piece of formica snapped and sprung back into my hand. It can be extremely sharp, sharper than a knife. Since then I have a great deal of respect for Formica.
--
mare

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"philly" wrote in message:

Hey philly, the up-and-down motion of any reciprocating blade can cause chipping, whether it be a jigsaw, sawzall, or scroll saw. But you can sometimes get by with it if you cut slowly. A bandsaw with a piece of plywood underneath might work better for cutting laminate by itself. I have been assuming you are talking about cutting curves. (Also cutting solid surface material with a saw that reciprocates can cause stress cracks in solid surface material, according to Wilsonart tech people.)
For straight cuts of plain laminate, you can use a table saw. For thinner cuts, I use a slitter like the one in this picture: http://www.virutex-tnt.com/catalog/i11.html
Have a good day, woodstuff
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This is not a saber saw.
If you want lots of super accurate strips from sheets of plastic laminate, you need one of these:
Virutex slitter: http://www.247shopping-mall.com/universal-top-selling.asp?a 00071NUW&lstCategories
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I have used a router and straight edge to make the cuts you want to make. There is significant kerf loss, but the cuts were really clean.
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8', or longer, straight edge and a router with a square base and a small bit. 1/8" bit will do. Feed sloooowly and support the piece you have just cut with some thin shims and spring clamps so there is no weight on the section being cut.
I bought a 12 foot straight edge 15 years ago. I went to an alloy dealer and had him order me a 1/4" x 6" x 145" and a 1/4"x 6' x 49". He made me buy a 20' length, because "that's how it comes." I had him cut it into a 12', a 5' and a 3'. He charged me by the pound, "that's how aluminum is sold." Those straight edges, and they were straight enough for me, have allowed me to do things over the years that paid back plenty times the 75 CAN$ I paid for them. That's right. SEVENTY-FIVE bucks. Aluminum hasn't gone up that much over the years. The 12-footer hangs off the ceiling. It has a "notch" in it, about midway from some asshole who was careless with his guide-bushing and the router, which was riding on top, slipped and nicked the aluminum.. it almost knocked the router out of my hand, but the bit was okay. When I use a square router base, it slides right by the 'notch'. Most of my routers have 1/2" thick Acrylic bases on them. Go to your local Solid Surface fabricator and ask him for some sink cut-outs. Stuff cuts on a table saw. Make sure he gives you acrylic, like Wilsonart, Corian, Staron, Meganite, HiMac, Formstone or Dovae. Stay away from polyester in that application...just too brittle and stinks when you work with it.
Rob
"Common sense is NOT common" (Voltaire)
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Try this.
Take 2 peices of 8' MDF - sandwich the laminate between the 2 peices - take your router w/ a flush bit and cut it . It will leave a great surface for you. You can also try the score and snap method.

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On Sat, 18 Dec 2004 12:59:45 GMT, "philly"

A somewhat vague description, but my first thought is a bandsaw especially if you have curves to cut. I have used my tablesaw to cut laminate using a specialized blade and raised to the highest height--the cut was very clean (and razor sharp). Use adequate ventilation!
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Philly, I would siggest using a Roto Zip type of tool. It will cut just as clean as a router and is as easy to handle as a trim router. It will do the straight cuts as well as curves. I believe even the new Dremels have a router type base that would probably do a nice job of this.
Usual disclaimer - not affiliated with Roto Zip or Dremel.
HTH
Big John
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