Plywood can make a good alternative to traditional lumber for a model train layout. It is stronger and more dimensionally stable. The challenge is to reduce it to board-like size by ripping it into strips. Traditionally this is done with a table saw. But table saws aren't cheap and they require a lot of room. Also, working alone it can be very difficult to handle a large sheet of plywood on such a tool. A good alternative is a hand-held circlular saw.
Circular are a well suited for making straight cuts, but generally only as straight as the operator can manage. Trying to cut free-hand can result in some imperfections that may make assembling benchwork more difficult. A simple guide can be purchased for a low cost and acts just like the fence on a table saw. Some of these guides have additional attachments that can be used to make angled or even consistent radius curved cuts.
- Attach the guide to the circular saw and set the width of the rip.
- Check and double check the rip width.
- Double check that the saw blade is perpendicular
- Remember to put on eye protection and a dust mask.
- Keep the guide against the edge of the plywood and make the cut.
- Start the saw before hitting the wood and cut all the way through the other side.
- Reapeat as necessary until you've ripped all the lumber you'll need.
- After multiple cuts, it is a good idea to re-check the width.
Once the guide is set, ripping goes very quickly. Typically 2 and 2.5 inch width strips work well for most benchwork projects. Once ripped, these strips become the starting point for any open-grid or L-girder design.