How to Cut Formica

Man holding a block of wood on a table

​Owing to its affordable cost, heat resistance, ease of cleaning, waterproof properties, and relative ease of installation, Formica is one of the most popular countertop materials. Formica is made of several layers of special paper impregnated with phenolic resins and heated under pressure. This makes formica products both soft and hard, with an approximate thickness of 1–2 inches.

Learning how to cut formica can save you time and money. It can also help you customize your home area effectively

Unique Attributes of Formica

Formica is different from wood materials as it consists of high-pressure laminate with melamine resin. The material has a high heat tolerance. Therefore, it requires special tools to cut.

The biggest challenge associated with cutting Formica is its tendency to chip. Using a dull saw/blade, or cutting Formica without adequately supporting it can make the material chip gravely like a tile. The result of this would be an ugly, ragged edge on the top layer. 

The solution lies in the tools you use to cut Formica, and the exact process you use to cut it. The good news is, you don’t have to blow your budget buying fancy tools with good tech to cut your Formica properly.

Basket of fruits on a counter

How to Cut Formica With a Jigsaw

A jigsaw, one of the most cost-friendly options today, is an electric handheld tool that can help you produce a smooth and clean finish on Formica.

​​Jigsaws are equipped with fine-toothed blades for making precise cuts. This works well cutting Formica. The tool has an even metal plate which sits on the material to be cut. The thin blade moves up and down once the trigger is pulled, meaning that you can cut in a curved or straight motion.

To cut Formica with a jigsaw, you will need to take adequate measures. By doing so, the decorative laminate layer is not damaged as you make curves on the supporting material underneath.

Pick the Right Blade

Cutting Formica to size is all about taking proper measurements and following through with the right jigsaw blade. From our experience, we recommend you use a top-ranking quality jigsaw.  

Here are the jigsaw blade considerations to keep in mind: 

  • ​The key aspect of making cuts on Formica is choosing a blade that has downward oriented teeth (a reverse jigsaw blade) that cut on the downstroke.
  • ​An ordinary blade whose teeth are pointing upwards or cut upstroke could crack and rip up the decorated laminated layer.
  • ​Finally, the blade’s tooth count should be medium to high.

Use Required Materials 

  • Measuring and Marking: You need to use a tape measure at every step of installing your new Formica countertops. You will also have to adopt an accurate way to scribe lines. A sharp pen or pencil will help you with this.
  • Straightedges: For great results when making Formica cuts, more so on the overhanging edges, you will require a fence guide. This could be a straight edge or a piece of straight lumber that you clump on the workpiece to guide your jigsaw.
  • Supports: When working on a new piece that is yet to be installed, you will need a way to support the countertop. A set of sawhorses can do the trick in many cases. Two or three of these should work for most Formica countertops.
  • Tape: You will need tape to prevent chipping on the thin, finished laminate surface. The tape will do the trick by creating a barrier between the surface itself and the blade. A quality masking or duct tape is good in this case.
  • Square: A square comes in handy for cross-cutting Formica countertops, and making angled cuts. You can go for a larger speed square, a T-square, or a carpenter’s square.
Close up of wood

Make Straight Cuts in Formica with a Jigsaw

  1. 1
    ​The first step is to mark out precise cutting lines. If you are replacing a set of countertops, you can use them as a template to sketch the layout of your cuts.
  2. 2
    ​Once your layout is measured, stick blue tape or masking tape on the areas where the cut lines will go. The tape will help prevent the laminate from chipping out and keep the cut clean.
  3. 3
    ​For the second time, mark the cutting lines on the tape. This will help if you mark out the waste side of your cut reference. Use a workbench or sawhorses to secure the countertop. Clamp the guide fence alongside the first line you will be cutting through.
  4. 4
    Attach the blade to the jigsaw and use a speed square or a combination square to ensure that it is perfectly square to the shoe.
  5. 5
    Position the jigsaw on the end of your first cut, with the blade at the waste side of the cutting line. The shoe snug should be against the guide fence. Start the jigsaw and let it run to speed.
  6. 6
    Ease the running blade gently into the laminate. Be patient as you let the blade do the cutting. Focus on keeping it snug against the fence guide and be keen to ensure that the blade follows the cutting line.
  7. 7
    Slow down when approaching the cut on the other end, or as you approach a corner of the cut. Do not allow the cut piece to fall or break out under its own weight. Both sides of the cut should be adequately secured and supported throughout the process.
  8. 8
    If a piece breaks, it could ruin the whole piece of laminate, making your effort, money, and time useless. You can reposition jigsaws under the cutoff piece. Have someone hold the piece for you or use additional clamps until you are done cutting.

Tip: If you are new to cutting laminates or unfamiliar with the jigsaw or blade you are using, it is a good idea to do some practice of cutting first. You can practice this on a scrap Formica/laminate piece, or on the old countertops you are looking to replace.  You can also try out on the countertop’s waste side before doing the final cut.

Use a Jigsaw to Cut Angles in Formica

Cutting angles on Formica is closely similar to cutting straight lines. All you need to do is adjust the line and work on finding your desired angle.

  1. 1
    ​The first step is taking and making the right measurements. For instance, a 45 degree angle to be cut on the right side would give a 90 degree turn for the Formica countertop when the other piece is cut and fitted together.
  2. 2
    ​Measure from the back of the countertop. Starting your cut from here will give you a more accurate angle. You can use a framing square or a larger speed square to make a 45-degree line.
  3. 3
    ​Use a pencil or pen to make your cut line onto the surface of your Formica countertop.
  4. 4
    From here, put a piece of tape over the cut line. Mark the line to be cut on the tape once more. This step will prevent chipping in the finished Formica surface. You can run the tape without having to make a reference line first. Ensure that it is closely centered on the line.
  5. 5
    Position your corded or cordless jigsaw on your countertop’s edge and start cutting into the Formica. The best approach is starting from the back, making way to the front. This way, it will be easier to get a smooth and straight cut. The lip on the front edge of the countertop could cause problems for your jigsaw blade if you start from the front.

If you are cutting freehand, take your time and ensure that the cut is as straight as possible. You want the two pieces to look professionally done and clean when combined.

To make the cut straighter and the process smoother, you can also use a straightedge.

Man holding a block of wood on a table

Cut Out a Sink Opening in a Formica Countertop

Cutting into the interior of a Formica countertop is best done by starting the cut with starter holes.

  1. 1
    ​Trace the sides of the sink on the Formica to get the layout right, and ensure that the sink remains centered at the laminate’s base.
  2. 2
    ​Stick some tape around the area where you intend to place the cutting lines
  3. 3
    ​Measure the sink’s mounting lip and offset the line inwards by a similar amount. Ensure you cross out the traced line you had made before.
  4. 4
    Drill starter holes on the corners of the layout with a heavy-duty drill tool.
  5. 5
    Use those starter holes to start cutting the interior. Insert the blade in the hole, and align the blade with the cutting line as you keep the show flat against the Formica countertop. Turn on your jigsaw and get your blade to speed, then move it steadily against the countertop.
  6. 6
    Focus on the cutting line and let the blade do most of the work. Ensure the piece you are cutting out is well supported so it does not break off on its own.

Tip: Using a small piece of wood with one screw in the center of a cutout to span and hang over a bit of every side will keep your cutout from falling after completing the cut. A screw in the middle would also make the brace to pivot so that you can move it around the jigsaw as needed.

Other Tools You Can Use to Cut Formica

The jigsaw is by far one of the most convenient and cost-effective tools for cutting Formica. There is a myriad of other options you can employ to cut and customize Formica as well. These include:

Circular Saw

Used with a 40-toothed carbide blade, the circular saw works efficiently at cutting Formica. A circular saw is good for making longer cuts. It iis not ideal for smaller and detailed laminate cuts.

You can use the circular saw by pushing Formica to the piece you are cutting. However, be careful as this could chip the material.

Another way of cutting Formica with a circular saw is reverse cutting. That means cutting the material by pulling the saw into that piece, and cutting from the back end of your blade. 

A blue Ryobi circular saw

This is not an easy technique and should not be tried by anyone who is ​a beginner to woodworking or adequately practiced.

Router

A handheld electric tool, the router, sits flat on the Formica piece to be cut. Routers have bits that can be locked into the center of the machine. Once the machine is on, the bit spins speedily in a circle and cuts the material.

You can buy a bit for the router that is precisely made for cutting Formica. Routers are meant to round off the edges of Formica or similar pieces. You can also use a router to carve designs on the piece.

Laminate Shears

Laminate shears are exceptional tools meant for cutting high-pressure laminates. Laminate shears can cut up to 1/8 inch thick Formica pieces easily without chipping.

The mouth of a laminate shear moves in an up-down direction to cut small laminate pieces. With the tool, you can cut patterns or circles. Laminate shears stand out since one can rotate them at a 360-degree angle.

Utility Knife

Formica countertops are plastic laminates. Since all plastic laminates are essentially similar, cutting a Formica material using a utility knife is identical to cutting most laminates.

A utility knife works well when making one or two shorter cuts, but can be too time consuming and inconsistent on larger projects.

Final Thoughts

Formica products are a blessing to homes all over the world. They improve the aesthetics, value, and function of homes. With the right cutting materials, you can easily cut Formica countertops to blend well with the design of your home and add convenience. 

You will also get better results when you apply the right cutting and safety measures. We hope that our Formica cutting tips above will enhance your DIY Formica cutting.