Sliding Table Saw Versus Vertical Panel Saw

Another take on a common topic: whether to buy a panel saw or a slider (or both). September 26, 2009

I am debating on whether to switch from a sliding panel saw to a vertical (Streibig), but have never operated a vertical. Would it be possible to square up doors and straight line lumber on a vertical? Is it easier to load and handle 4x8 sheets? Would like to hear from someone who has used both.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor T:
Yes, you can square up doors on a vertical, but it doesn't like small parts. Yes, you can straight line lumber if it is big enough and will sit on two points on the bottom shelf, then rip and flip, and rip again. If it won't sit nice, it can be easier to clamp it on the slider and cut. Yes, it's easier to load sheets on the vertical (look for the tilting carts from Hafele or ShopCarts, I think). We have both and use the vertical 95% of the time. If you're thinking vertical and want to talk about automating the crosscut stop for speed and repeatability, let me know.

From contributor P:
I just installed a VPS, but it's easier for me to load and cut with my horizontal, mostly as I'm in a pretty small space. Cuts great, short learning curve, but just too difficult to get the sheets on to it, even with the ShopCart. With a little more space to the right of the saw, it'd be a nice addition, but as the shop's currently laid out, just too tight.

From contributor J:
I've had both. First the slider, did not like it at all. Good for angles. That plus is offset tenfold by the constant jog around and knee bashing into the beam. Got the vertical, a Striebig full size, with like 6x14 capacity, easy on the back. Very productive on processing smaller rectangles from larger rectangles (99 percent of what we do) but I also do solid wood, squaring raised panels, and the common angles on templates, mostly 45 degree. Also much safer than a slider or tablesaw, as the blade is retracted or fully guarded in the material. A big plus if you like fingers. Also short learning curve. I'd like to hear more on automating the crosscut stop, though.

From the original questioner:
What are you talking about as for speeding up cross cutting? Sounds like you guys agree with VPS being easier on the back to load, and my back isn't as young as it used to be!

From contributor D:
On the first vertical panel saw I ever owned, almost 20 years ago now, I installed a Tiger Stop on the crosscut. It was an 8' unit and had to modify the saw frame for it to fit. It was well worth the trouble, though - added speed and accuracy to the operation.

My current saw is a Striebig that I used for about a year before having the Razor Gauge people custom build me a crosscut stop that would fit within the limits of the stock grid. It uses a touch screen and has offsets built in for the different cutting positions. Also added digital readouts for the rip cutting off the rollers, shelf and a readout to reference the top for strip cutting. This system has increased our accuracy and repeatability mostly because of the way different people read the tape stops. Also, my eyes are not what they used to be. The system also decreased our cut time significantly. It sets itself up while removing parts. Preset screens are very helpful on standard part sizes and repeat jobs. I do not know if Razor Gauge has put this system into full scale production, but I do know they have sold some for other Striebig saws.

From contributor V:
The Razorgage system was on display at IWF Atlanta last summer. It was installed on a Striebig Compact vertical panel saw, had many great features and it was very cool to use, but the price was staggering, so I don’t think that many shops will be buying it. If I remember correctly it was more than $10,000.

From contributor L:
In a production shop that $10K may not be that hard to justify. Time saved, accuracy improved, less errors, pay back in less than two years? Those guys also were showing a great upcut saw and gage. First smart upcut I've seen.

From contributor M:
I am surprised to see so many pro-vertical shops. We use horizontal saws and put two men on a saw. One loads and pushes, the other pulls and rotates. I have watched shops use a vertical saw and it looks a lot slower to rotate parts on the vertical table than on a horizontal one. Walking around the slide to move the fence is a pain, but we usually reset the fence while the slide is forward, then pull it back to load another sheet. Also there are digital fences that eliminate that altogether.

The real question is why do you want to buy a different saw? What is your saw not doing now, or what to you expect a vertical saw to do better?

From a Lean manufacturing perspective, material is delivered flat, stored flat, and machined flat. Why add the step of lifting boards on edge? If you use a lift table to feed the saw you don't have to pick up any material. The big issue with sliders is they take up a lot of space.

From contributor B:
I have both an Altendorf and a Striebig. Wouldn't trade either for love or money. Different saws for different cutting. I also have a beam saw, but still use both of these.

From the original questioner:
I want to update to a newer saw, while there are some good deals out there. I have an older Robland slider right now and it is not real accurate. I thought it would be easier to load a vertical but I can't make up my mind which I want.

From contributor B:
Get a Striebig and keep your Robland. It's that simple. You'd have the best of both worlds if you tune your slider.

From contributor T:
For all the reasons that contributor D explained, plus yield versus material handling was a constant issue. My optimization software was of limited value since we wanted to cut all parts of a particular dimension at the same time (for consistency). Digital readouts for the rip and crosscut have been available for a long time, but they’re just too slow to fiddle with (in my opinion). In our case, we were slinging around 9’ rips of melamine a lot. That gets old.

Anyway, working with an automation company from the metal industry we co-developed a system for vertical saws crosscut stop. Now, my saw is a Holz-Her and the stop works great. It does require splitting the melamine backboard, which we reinforced with aluminum extrusions, but no cuts are needed to the frame. The key is a low profile rail that allows us to offset one diagonal brace with a small spacer to fit the rail behind it.

We believe the same can be done with a Striebig using a jigsaw to cut out a pocket in the grid and we would provide a two-piece frame to surround the opening. For now we are looking at each brand of saw individually to modify the rail to fit the frame. We also will supply an offset stop to maintain the travel required to get to the second position of the saw beam.

We mounted our control to the face of our backer board at eye level, which makes it real convenient to move position while pulling the finished part off the saw. We have improved our speed and repeatability tremendously. Plus my 24” (610mm) is the same as any of my other guy’s. And now we can follow the optimization program right down the line and not remove a board until it’s done rather than cut, move, and replace on the saw later.

With regard to cost, we are trying hard to keep it affordable. I know everyone’s definition of affordable is different, but for the improvement, it was a no-brainer for us. We would need pictures and dimensions for your saw. It is designed to be a bolt up kit you can install in less than a day. The control works in metric or imperial. You can load and store multiple cut lists. You can load a list and then sequence it by going to the next position, and the next, and the next, and so on. Or, you can use it as a simple “go to” stop by punching in the dimension and hitting go!

From contributor D:
I agree with what others have said - the slider is great for miters and bevel cuts, vertical is much faster for cutting rectangles. Most slider guys have not seen a vertical saw being operated properly. Contributor M's own statement tells why so many shops use a vertical saw. To really cut fast on a slider you need two people, while on a vertical saw you only need one operator. As a matter of fact, another person on the vertical saw is not much faster - they just get in the way unless you are cutting large, heavy panels into large pieces. I have personally cut 2 units or 80 sheets 3/4" melamine in one day on my Striebig, no helper, easy cut patterns, six to ten parts per sheet. That being said I would not want to be without our slider for miters, bevels, etc.

From contributor I:
I agree to a great extent with contributors B and D. It's been awhile but I have been to B's shop.

To start with, one must evaluate the concept of the slider vs. vertical to determine which is best for you relative to your business. They are more unique than you may think. Secondly, evaluate the manufacturer. If you have decided on a slider, having been responsible for importing Altendorf's into the USA for over 20 years, I can substantiate that Altendorf is the leading slider manufacturer. As to a vertical panel saw, I feel Striebig is the leader.

From contributor L:
If you need production, get a way of handling the panels. A vacuum lift with tilt for the vertical saw will make life much easier. The two saws have different strengths. For rectangular panels, a Striebig with a good stop system. The slider is great for angles and bevels and attaching jigs to the sliding table for very odd cuts. Two men on a slider is a waste if it's being used much! For the cost of the second man you can buy a beam saw! Or go nested with a router, even better.

From contributor N:
Contributor L, I agree with you 100%! I sold my old slider and purchased a vertical. My savings by freeing up that one additional guy on the slider justified a new Hendrick vertical and Schmaltz vacuum lift. What a team, and my back thanks me every day.