How to Cut Paneling Without Splintering — 3 Tips and Tricks

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Wood panels have always been a popular accent on homes because they are affordable and easy to achieve with DIY. However, wood splintering is a common problem with these projects.

Not only does it detract from the aesthetic, but it can also jeopardize the entire paneling system! To avoid potential damage, I’ll detail the best techniques to help you cut paneling without splintering. Let’s dive in!

What Is Wood Paneling And What Is It Made Of?

Today’s wood panels are typically flat or curved sheets made from modern engineered boards, traditional solid wood, or wood-like items bonded together with an adhesive.

There are alternative options available that are cheaper and more accessible. Some examples are veneer, particles, or fiber that are bound using heat or pressure. 

Types Of Wood Used On Wall Paneling

Usually, builders use solid wood, fiberboard, and plywood for wood paneling. However, other options that work just as well as these materials are available. They are as follows:

lady painting wall grey

Natural Wood

These panels are made from solid wood or veneer that preserve the authentic characteristics of the wood species used. Also, it involves using unprocessed or minimally processed wood planks or sheets to create a warm, organic, and rustic aesthetic in interior spaces.

Plywood Panels

These panels are one of the highly recognized types of multi-purpose wood products for construction. They are made from wooden fiber sheets, and resin bonded together to create a composite often sold as panels. 

MDF Panels

MDF panels are primarily found in furniture, moldings, laminate flooring, and kitchen cabinets. They are also popular for DIY projects because of their workability.

MDF wood panel

MDF panels are more flexible compared to natural wood. They also take paint nicely and are usually pre-primed upon arrival.

Reclaimed Wood Panels

Reclaimed or salvaged wood panels are often found in places like old factory floors and barns.

Different Kinds Of Wood Paneling

You can incorporate wood paneling into an area in different ways. Some of the most renowned styles used in the US are the following:


You will often find these paneling systems [1] in horizontal boards supported on the sides for creating tightened seals.

Board and Batten

Boards and battens are common wall accents in farmhouses. They comprise vertical boards that are overlaid with battens for covering the joints. 

board and batten wood panel

Plank Walls

These often utilize reclaimed wood for creating a rustic or aesthetically-rich façade on a wall. They can be installed horizontally, vertically, or diagonally to create an unusual pattern. 


This type is mostly stick-built with wide wooden strips that have beaded edges along the tongue. It also comes with a complementing rounded edge along the side, which enables the pieces to fit snugly in a continuous or solid wall cover.

Tongue And Groove

These panels are achieved with multiple planks, with each having a groove on one end and a tongue on the other. The pieces slide into one another, creating an even surface.

Tips And Tricks To Avoid Wood Splintering In Paneling

Splintering is common when cutting wood panels, and several factors contribute to it. Unfortunately, it leaves wood vulnerable to moisture and further splintering if left untreated.

measuring wood for paneling

Below are some of the techniques that you can do to cut paneling without splintering:

Tip #1: Apply The Right Cutting Techniques

The most common cause of splintering is how you cut wood paneling. It’s possible that you’re not applying the proper techniques to do so.

Here are some tricks that you can consider to avoid wood paneling splintering the next time you do it:

Set the face of the paneling in the right direction

When using a circular saw, I recommend placing the paneling face down to avoid splintering. Circular saws cut upward, ensuring the panel’s face comes out clean.

For a table saw, its teeth rotate downwards. The face of the panel should be facing upwards to create an excellent cut.

Cut along the grain

Splinters mostly occur when you try to cut opposite to the grain of the wood panel. You should always position the saw with the grain to create a nicer cut on its face.

cutting walnut slab with table saw

Apply tape to the cutting line

Another useful technique to avoid splintering is using masking tape on the area you will cut. It may not work well on the first try, but it could be helpful with continuous practice.

Start with a shallow cut

If you are relatively new to wood panel cutting, starting with shallow cuts using the saw would be best. Although it takes longer to finish, it lessens the chances of splintering.

Tip #2: Sharpen Your Cutting Tools

Sharper tools equate to a neater cut; that’s a fact. If your saw has dull blades, your cut is more likely to cause splintering.

Here are some tricks that you can do to help with that:

Use precision tools

Precision tools are valuable for cutting wood panels. Still, you should know that not all precision tools work the same.

operating a jigsaw

Your best bet would be with a circular saw, jigsaws, table saws, saber saws, and utility knives. 

Use a circular saw

A circular saw would be your best choice for cutting wood panels effortlessly. I’d recommend choosing a size based on the specific panel you’re working with.

Its automatic braking mechanism can also help alleviate your fatigue and lessens the risk of an accident when you release the trigger.

Ensure that your tool is sharp enough

Blunt edges are one of the leading causes of splintering as you cut the paneling. That is why you should always use a razor-sharp blade for your saw to make a clean cut.

Tip #3: Work On A Flat And Smooth Workbench

This technique might not sound as good as the others, but it is essential in avoiding splintering. Placing the wood on uneven surfaces may create tremors, which you wouldn’t want.

cutting lumber with table saw

As much as possible, have a designated flat surface where you can do the cutting. Smoothen the surface from fissures to ensure a clean cut on your wood panels.  

Which Tools Should You Use to Cut Wood Panels?

Now that we’re done with the techniques, it’s time to discuss the best tools you can use for cutting wood panels. Not all tools are made for the same purpose, so you need to get the right ones if you want to do the job nicely!

Table saw

A table saw is best for ripping wood surfaces. They are usually much easier to use because of their stationary position. Just be careful when using it, and avoid cutting your hands!

Circular saw

These are more portable and easier to control, making them a good option for cutting wood paneling. While they typically cut upward, I recommend turning their face downward by removing the blade.

circular saw holder


Jigsaws operate on a blade (single-tooth) that moves forward and back against the wood panel. Aside from cutting pieces in half, they are also great for carving shapes and letters.

If you don’t want to use jigsaws, here are machines that can cut wood letters and shapes!

Hand saw

Hand saws for wood are great for making minor cuts, which are usually openings or holes for a switch or an outlet. You should cut using slow and firm movements to avoid splintering the area.

Saber saw

This saw has a fine blade that is perfect for detail work.

How Do I Cut Wood Panels That are Already Attached to the Wall?

If you want to cut panels attached to the wall, you can start by putting on the markings. You should always measure to make it as clean as possible.

Once you finish that, you can drill holes through the markings before cutting them down with the proper tools. 

marking wood panels

You can cut wood panels already attached to a wall by marking and measuring the area. Then, drill a small hole in those markings before cutting through them. 

Can I Use Utility Knives to Cut Wood Paneling?

Yes, you can use a utility knife to cut wood paneling as long as it is sharp enough. You should start by making the necessary markings and measurements like a regular saw.

Draw the knife lightly across the piece and repeat the process as necessary.

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That covers the essentials on how to cut paneling without splintering. Keep in mind that it may take practice before you can achieve the cleanest cut possible with wood paneling. Remember the techniques I listed above, and you’ll eventually get there!

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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