Clean Cuts with Vertical Panel Saws

      Cabinetmakers discuss scoring blades, blade types, and cutting techniques for getting clean, razor-sharp cuts with panel saws. December 28, 2005

I am in the process of choosing a vertical panel saw. It comes down to a Striebig or Holz-her. The Striebig is available with a scoring blade and the Holz-her has an insert knife system. I had a SCMI sliding table saw and know how scoring blades work, but I have no experience with insert knives. I would like to hear from users of panel saws and insert knife systems, and anyone familiar with both types of scoring units. I cut all types of panels, melamine and veneers.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor S:
I own a Striebig without a scoring blade. With a sharp blade, I have never needed or wanted one, because it cuts very clean, chip-free lines even in melamine and while cross-cutting ply veneers. I suspect the Holz-her is comparable. If I do want to score the panel for some reason, I just back score it (push the blade forward just a little at the end of the cut, drag the saw backwards, push the blade in all the way, push it forward - sounds tedious, but it's really not).

The problem will be when the blade begins to dull. A dullish blade on my machine means the chipping problem is on the back of the panel, which isn't going to be helped by a scoring blade. I avoid the problem altogether by having three blades... one on the machine, one hanging on the wall and one in the sharpener's shop.

From contributor T:
The same blade is used for scoring and cutting on our Streibig. There is a gauge that allows the blade to bury a little bit in the surface when pulling the carriage in the opposite direction of cutting, and the scoring is done then. Usually I do that on melamine. I know at first glance it seems like more work, but you are pulling the carriage back for each cut anyway, so it's no problem. And no separate blade or knives to adjust! If you can afford it, upgrade to the Streibig with the moveable supports. I wish I had.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the data. I have heard that the Striebig does get high quality cuts without the scoring blade, I just find it hard to believe that the edge will be ready to edgeband without scoring, but I am open to surprises like that. I had the Striebig demonstrated to me with Optiscore, where the blade cuts through the top in one direction and drops down for the final cut in the other direction. I can see how this would not be a big deal for crosscuts, but wonder about ripping. Walking down an 8' sheet both directions seems a bit much. Will the saw track in the same groove for the final cut? I guess with a Striebig, the scoring can be added if it is necessary, and yes, I am definitely looking at a unit with the moveable support grid. Interesting data about the back of the panel chipping when the blade gets dull - the 3 blade system seems like a good idea.

From contributor S:
You can see contributor T and I have similar opinions and techniques. As for the edge being ready for edgebanding right off the saw, it'll not only be ready, it'll be razor sharp. It's the first thing I warn newbies in the shop about. As for walking back and forth across an 8' rip, the sawblade will track perfectly every time. At least mine does. Of course, it's all about the initial setup... square, level, plumb, etc. Install it cockeyed and who knows.

From the original questioner:
I get that you guys like your Striebigs. Is there anyone using a Holz-her vertical panel saw with the same results? I am looking at the used market and the price on some Holz-her units is attractive. But I want to make sure that I will be happy with what I purchase.

From contributor P:
I just received my new Striebig Compact Plus. The tech is supposed to come this weekend and set it up. I can't wait for Monday! What are movable supports?

The 3 blade rule sounds good. That is what my blade sharpening guy told me. I looked at the Holz-her but was not sold on the knives. The price was not bad, but I felt the Striebig was a superior vertical. Plus, I don't need a separate scoring attachment, even though it's available.

From the original questioner:
The Compact Plus is the saw I am leaning toward. That or the compact, depending on how much space I have. By movable supports, I mean the slats that the panel rests on, which on your machine will shift out of the way on rip cuts. Let me know next week how you like the machine.

From contributor P:
I sure will. Does anyone know of anything that I should be looking out for while I'm ripping to 12", or should I crosscut first (24") and then rip while pieces are all stacked together side by side? Can two sheets of melamine 3/4 be cut at the same time? Any info would be greatly appreciated.

From contributor B:
We have had a Holz-her panel saw for four years and love it. We go straight from ripping to edgebanding. In looking at equipment, I always check service. The guys at Holz-her know their machines and are very helpful.

From contributor P:
When you say "ripping straight to edgebanding," do you rip first, edge second, and then back to crosscut third? Or rip first, crosscut second then edge third? Or crosscut (1), rip(2), then edge(3)?

From contributor B:
We rip, edgeband and then cross cut. You end up using a little more edgebanding, but you make up for it not having to handle a lot of smaller pieces and the guillotine on the edgebander is only being used once per piece. We use a 72 tooth triple chip blade for melamine. We use an ATB for plywood.

From contributor M:
My experience with a Streibig Compact, equipped with Leuco hollow ground blades, has been the same as contributor S's. My only issue has been cut yield on melamine, between sharpenings. I probably get about 12-15 sheets before I have to switch blades, and this is because of the chipping on the frame side of the saw. Can anyone tell me what kind of yield they are getting on melamine, with triple chip blades, and recommend brands?

From contributor T:
We were having the same problem with the hollow ground blades. When they came back from the sharpener, they would cut so nice for a couple of sheets. In fact, the sound even indicated that they were making a beautiful cut. Wouldn't last, though. The hollow ground probably give the cleanest cut, but don't last. The blade sharpener recommended the following blades, which I think are triple chip 72 tooth.

Leitz # WK-852-2 156002092
300 X 3,2/2,2 Z72/13,09

They make clean cuts, and last a lot longer. We are very happy with them. He said a lot of shops with Streibigs were going with that blade for exactly those reasons. I just finished paying off the 5 year lease on the saw, and it works as well now as it did the day it was installed. We usually rip first, then crosscut. The saw will start to develop a step from the scoring that is able to be adjusted back to a perfect edge, although the adjustment works backward from what is intuitive, and takes a lot less adjustment than one would think necessary. The reps in this area for Streibig, the Mitch Higdon Co, are great reps. They stand behind the product and will take the time necessary to adjust anything that goes out of whack.

We had the same problem with the back of melamine chipping as soon as the hollow ground would start to dull. Mitch spent all day here trying to get the saw adjusted to get rid of the chipping, finally put on a new h ground, and the chipping was gone.

It is probably either the hollow ground going dull, or the other thing he said causes that problem - the blade gets smaller with successive sharpenings, and doesn't project far enough through the board. A very small adjustment would probably take care of the latter, different blades the former.

From contributor P:
Thanks for all the advice. The edgebander works great. The Striebig is also great. My production is up and so is employee morale, and I am even working on Saturday and Sunday. Not because I have to - because I want to!

From the original questioner:
Great to hear the Striebig works well. I decided to get a Striebig, also. I found a later model compact at a good price and bought it. I will not be able to set it up for a few months but I am looking forward to it. I have not read any complaints from owners of Striebigs, and I liked the idea of being able to add a scoring blade to the saw if I need it. Most other users say that the scoring blade is really not needed. I will give it a shot.

From contributor T:
1.Set 'er up now! You will be kicking yourself for every day/month/year you didn't have it going.

2. Get somebody who knows what they are doing to set it up! There are way too many things that need to be tweaked to do it yourself.

From contributor E:
I recently bought a Striebig. Just started cutting my first big job this week. Today I noticed a horrible amount of chipping on the backside and also realized my blades are really dull. I bought a 80 tooth at blade, but that thing chipped out of the box. I think I'm going to stick with triple chip. Striebig is one thought-out, well-made piece of machinery, but very expensive. I have a good feeling that it will pay for itself many times over.

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