How to cut veroboard is a question that has been asked many times over the years and the reason why is probably because it’s never really been answered with a definitive answer. Everyone who has worked with Veroboard or stripboard as it’s also known as, for any length of time has their own methods. Some will swear by them and some will swear at them. They all have their advantages and disadvantages.
The most popular and probably basic method is to use something like a Stanley knife and a steel ruler. You just put the steel ruler against the stripboard obviously where you want the cut to be and then score the board with the knife. You need to use a fair amount of force with the knife and you don’t want to move the ruler at all. When you think you’ve cut a deep enough grove into the board you snap it. It’s all a bit basic to be honest and not something I’ve felt comfortable about doing. It feels a bit of a bodge job.
There are ways to improve on it though. I always make sure that the knife has a new or fairly new sharp blade. Make sure the knife is sturdy as well as you have to put a bit of pressure on it. You don’t want a flimsy knife breaking and you don’t want to slip with it either, it hurts and leads to lots of blood!
Use a solid 1 foot steel ruler. Your knife will cut into a plastic or wooden one. Don’t move it while you’re scoring. You want one deep groove not lots of shallow ones. You then need a surface that’s flat and study to snap the board against. Something with a square edge works best to get a good clean break.
You’ll have to decide where to make the cut. It depends if you’re cutting it along the length of the copper strips or not. Some people make the cut along the row of holes. It makes breaking it easier but it will also be along a copper strip on the back so you’ll end up with the remnants of the destroyed copper track on either side. This is best tidied up with a file. You also lose one of the tracks.
It’s slightly harder to cut the board between the holes as they weaken the board and it’s more willing to snap along a hole line, but then you won’t waste any of it.
If you’re cutting across the tracks the same rule of losing a row applies if you cut along the row of holes. Bear in mind that you will also be cutting through copper tracks even if you miss the row of holes so you need to be very careful not to pull any of the copper tracks off when you snap the board.
Regardless of whether you snap it on the holes or between them the board should be cleaned up with a file and abrasive paper.
I have never really been a fan of this method as I’ve said. My preferred way was to use a hacksaw with a very fine tooth blade. The finest blade you can get is best as it makes the cutting smoother. It’s also a lot easier and safer if you have some sort of bench to do it on and something to hold it with. You can get blade holders that make the hacksaw blade more into a hand saw. This makes it easier to cut larger boards as the hacksaw frame won’t stop you cutting.
I used to cut between the tracks along the board and between the holes across the board. This saved any holes and strips and because it was being cut with a fine saw blade there wasn’t really any advantage to cutting through holes. I marked where the cut was to be made with a fine tip black marker pen. As you cut, the blade dust obscures the black ink so you’ll need to blow it away as you cut.
Always mark and cut with the copper side facing up. You’ll get a better cut against the copper tracks. If you do it with the copper facing down the saw will have a tendency to try to pull the tracks off the board. I used G clamps to hold the strip board down to the bench with it slightly overhanging where it was to be cut. Also you should use small scraps of strip board or thin wood like plywood or hardboard so the clamp doesn’t damage the strip board. After the strip board has been cut it doesn’t take as much filing or sanding as the snapping method.
That’s the way I used to do it but I now have a different and for me a much preferable way. I use an electric tile cutter. The exact model is the Plasplugs compact tile cutter. It’s basically a table saw with a diamond impregnated circular cutting wheel. The reasons I prefer it are:-
- It’s like a work bench for cutting with a large flat surface.
- It has rulers around it that you can set to where you want the cut to be.
- It cuts straight and at ninety degree angles.
- The blade is water cooled and lubricated for a smooth cut.
- No dust is produced.
Plasplugs compact tile cutter.
You just put water in the bottom of it and it gets recirculated. Then set the cutting guide, turn it on then slide the veroboard up to the cutting wheel and you end up with a cut that’s dead straight at perfect right angles. Just make sure the copper tracks are facing upwards and it’s really easy to produce consistently good results. I find it much easier than any other methods. The whole unit is only about a foot square and can be easily stored. I had an unused one lying around in the loft that has now taken on a new lease of life. This for me had proven to be the definitive answer to how to cut veroboard. If you want to read about my tips for breaking the tracks see my guide Cutting veroboard tracks.
Plasplugs compact tile cutter with guard down.
Plasplugs compact tile cutter water reservoir.
Obviously you can cut PCB's the same way as Veroboard.
The tile cutter is very accurate and clean cutting. As you can see from the picture above you are left with an accurate ninety degree cut and you can trim small slices from a board.
Wear a mask!
I would always advise anyone to wear a mask when creating dust from any PCB’s or veroboards. Although there are no health warnings as such to say it can cause any serious problems why breathe it in the first place? It’s easy enough just to wear a mask while you’re sanding or cutting and not risk it.