Regardless of your expertise in woodwork, it is often tricky to make perfect cuts on a laminate countertop. Unlike boards and plywood materials that can withstand hard handling, laminated layers generally break at the slightest error. Apart from the fact that doing hard-and-miss often costs woodworkers more, it leaves limited time to execute other jobs.
Of all the applicable cutting methods, using a jigsaw tends to make a better option of all the applicable cutting methods. A jigsaw is relatively mild on wood and easy to use, among other reasons. However, the challenge often is how to follow the procedures in their proper progression.
This article will guide you into everything you need to know on how to cut a laminate countertop with a jigsaw.
What Materials Do I Need?
Getting it right with your cuts on a laminated countertop starts with your choice of materials and tools. Basically, you need a masking tape, square, set of supports, straight edges, measuring edges, pencil, measuring tape, and of course, a jigsaw. Let’s briefly look at why you need them.
1. Masking tape
Usually, saws leave chips on wood surfaces that could roughen laminate countertops’ surfaces. A tap provides a barrier between the jigsaw and the countertop. However, you can improvise duct tape if masking tape is not accessible.
To make clean cuts, you need a square to ensure your markings are at perfect right angles. We recommend getting a speed square for countertop cuts with a jigsaw. However, a carpenter or T-square can be improvised, provided you work with patience.
Supports are essential to hold new laminate countertops that are not yet in position. Depending on the size of the laminate surface and the cut you want to make, you will need between two and four pieces of saw horses.
A fence guide is essential to make clean and straight cuts. Straightedges serve the dual purpose of ensuring safety and accuracy while marking and cutting a laminated wood surface. Short and straight lumber will as well do the work perfectly.
You need a pencil to mark out your guide on the laminated surface. Any graphite pencil will do since it is for a small do-it-yourself task.
6. Measuring Tape
Your cut can only be perfect when your measurement is accurate. So, keep a small measurement tape on the countertops.
7. A Jigsaw
Any jigsaw type will work. However, you need to select the saw blade carefully. Generally, jigsaw blades are of two types – the upward and downstroke variants. The chances of ripping are high when you use a jigsaw blade that works upstroke. Thus, we recommend a jigsaw with blades pointing downwards with an averagely high tooth count.
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How Do I Use a Jigsaw to Cut Straight Lines on a Laminate Countertop?
Now that you have all the tools, how do you use them to make precise straight line cuts? Here are the necessary steps:
Step One: Measure the layout
Whether the countertop is in position already or you are installing a new one, mark out the layout with a graphite pen. The layout is the area of the laminated countertop surface where you will be cutting. However, you may need to practice using a template if this is your first time working on a laminate countertop.
Step Two: Stick masking tape
Next, stick masking tape along the path you intend to cut through. The masking tape forms a barrier between the jigsaw blade and the laminated surface to reduce the chances of cracking and chipping. In addition, it helps you keep your cuts neat even as a newbie.
Step Three: Mark the cutting lines
After sticking the masking tape on the cut line, mark the cut line a second time. The cut line eventually serves as a guide to cut the laminate countertop. Hence, ensure your markings are legible and on perfectly straight lines. You may need the square here to keep the angular cuts precise.
For new installations, place the countertop on supports. Three or four sawhorses should do. If it is a household DIY task, you can use a wide tabletop or any elevated platform. However, if you have access to a workshop, place the supports on a workbench and lay the countertop on them.
Step Four: Fix the blade into position
Regular jigsaws come with their teeth pointing upwards. So, there are chances you will need to change your saw blade. Carefully pick the downstroke blade and attach it to the jigsaw. However, ensure the blade is well fit into position. Check the positioning with your square. The blade’s straightness is what determines how straight your cut would be.
Step Five: Position the jigsaw
Once you confirm that the blade is sitting well, position the jigsaw on the countertop. The jigsaw should be on the end where you are cutting through, the blade on the waste side, with the shoe snug by the fence guide. However, confirm that the blade is directly on the cutting line. Next, start your jigsaw and leave the blade to run.
Step Six: Start cutting
After the saw blade has run to speed, release the blade into the countertop. We recommend that you release the blade gently so you can adequately monitor the cut. Also, it is important to keep an eye on the jigsaw snug to ensure it doesn’t shift away from the fence guide. Also, you must ensure the blade stays on the cutting line on the tape.
After cutting through 80 percent of the cutting line, slow down the run of the blade into the laminate. The idea is to prevent the waste from breaking out while the cut is ongoing. To avoid falling underweight, ensure both the cut line and the waste areas of the laminate have adequate supports.
How Do I Use a Jigsaw to Cut Angles on a Laminate Countertop?
The process is quite similar to that of a straight line. However, this time, you must maneuver the blade properly. Here is a step-by-step guide to that.
Step One: Take your measurements
Start by marking out the angular measurements at the right side of the laminate surface with a 45-degree angle. Generally, starting from the right side often helps keep angular cuts clean. That said, a fair knowledge of geometry would be helpful. To make angular cuts, you will need a bigger speed square. Also, get a framing square and a pencil for marking your measurements.
Step Two: Mark the layout and cut line on the laminate countertop surface
With straight lines, mark out the layout and cut line with a pen on the laminate countertop surface.
Step Three: Stick a masking tape over the cut line
Next, stick masking tape over the entire length of the cut line on the surface. This step is particularly important here as angular cuts have a higher probability of causing chipping. Afterward, mark the cut line again on the masking tape. Someone may ask, “So, why don’t I wait till I install the masking tape before marking my cut line?” The first cut line marking ensures the tape sits directly along the cutting line. But, if you think you will get the cut line position, either way, you may skip the first marking.
Step Four: Position the jigsaw
Now that you have mapped your cut line, position the jigsaw on the back edge of the countertop. Usually, it is much easier to maintain a perfect cut and accurate angles if you work your way from the back to the front. Ensure the blade is sitting well on the cut line.
Step Five: Turn on the saw and release the blade into the countertop
Finally, put on your jigsaw and wait till the blade runs to speed. Afterward, gently release it into the laminate countertop. However, you need to be more careful here, especially as you approach the angled edge. Do the cut for other angle edges too. If you think you may not be able to maneuver the cut perfectly, make use of a straightedge. Also, you can practice with an old countertop first.
With this step-by-step guide, you should be able to make perfect cuts on a laminate countertop, even if you’re a newbie. However, remember to use a blade that cuts from top to bottom to reduce the possibilities of chipping. In addition, mark your cut line legibly to follow the guide accurately. Be patient enough to mark out the cut lines before and after installing the masking tape. While this can be time-consuming, you are sure the tape will sit well on the cutting line. Also, release the blade gently into the countertop and ensure the edge does not lose contact with the fence guide. All in all, handle all tools safely.