Sliding Table Saw and Panel Saw Choices

Cabinetmakers kick around the uses of sliders and panel saws, what makes a good one, and which to purchase if you can't have both. November 22, 2005

I'm looking for feedback on sliding table saws, especially Grizzly and Laguna. Wish I could afford an Altendorf, but that's out of the ballpark for now. Comments welcome on the ones I mentioned and others in that price range.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor J:
Check out Felder saws. I have a Format 4 with 10.5' slider, 10 hp motor, up to 18" blade, scoring blade, etc. Very happy with it. I got it for 12,000 two years ago, but you'll pay more now.

From contributor R:
I wouldn't even consider the Grizzly. If you can't afford a Felder, get the Laguna and a Tiger Stop to go with it. In my opinion, a slider without some kind of really accurate fence is a waste of money. I've looked at the Laguna and it is pretty well put together, but I think you can get a Felder for not a whole lot more and you'll get a whole lot more saw.

From contributor L:
Check out Paolini. Nice saw with economy in mind. I just set one up for an architectural school and know a few folks who bought a couple of them 10 years ago. No problems in ten years, and the saw is accurate as the day it was set up. They make 4', 8, and 10' models.

From contributor D:
Minimax is the American distributor for one of the largest and best of the Italian woodworking manufacturers. Our shop owns several of their tools, including an 8 1/2 foot sliding table saw. They are Laguna Tools' number one competitor. We use their sliding table saws because they are superior to Laguna and less expensive. They are located in Texas. They have some kind of promo going on now, but I wouldn't buy until I knew exactly what I wanted. All of them are really aggressive salesmen (I usually get the feeling that a feeding frenzy is going on at Laguna), so go slow.

Felder, Laguna, Mini Max, and Paolini are all made in Europe and are all good products. I disagree with contributor R - Felder is just over the top as far as price goes. We have to get a reasonable return on our equipment, and Felder focuses primarily on wealthy folks with nice home shops. Nothing wrong with that, but we need a high degree of accuracy at the most reasonable price we can find. I've never seen a Felder in a commercial shop, though I don't doubt there probably are some out there somewhere. If you're a home woodworker and cost is your primary criteria, you might get by with a Grizzly, but it's quite a compromise. Otherwise, I agree with contributor R that Grizzly is not a consideration.

The major reason for sliders is accuracy, so the carriage assembly is crucial to performance. When we made our last purchase, Paolini was a little cheaper and we thought it was a good product. Overall, we just thought the slider from Mini Max was a better fit for us.

From contributor Y:
There is a commercial shop near here with both a Felder slider and a very nice Felder shaper - well thought out machines. I've got a SCM SL16 that has served very well and has held its accuracy. Its scales are not as good as the Felder, but still, it's been a good saw.

From contributor F:
I agree with that Felder makes some pretty nice stuff. Their 7 series competes very well with the Mini Max line, but it is a bit more refined. Their 9 series competes with SCMI and the other large Italians and the Format machines compete with Altendorf. I would contact all the companies that have been mentioned here, then go see the machines in person. This will allow you to make your own educated decision.

From contributor C:
I think the Laguna Robland is your best bet. I've had a good close up look at them, most recently at the Vegas show. Seemed very heavy duty. The Grizzly seemed just so-so, more like it was trying to be a clone of the Altendorf F45.

I have to disagree with a few things contributor D said. The Felder is not that expensive compared to his MM. And as far as Felder selling only to wealthy home hobbyists, that sounds like it came from right out of a Minimax salesman's book. In talking to Felder, it appears that they are moving a lot of 900 and Format saws. And they are going into commercial shops that use them everyday.

There are a lot of fine sliders on the market. My personal favorite is my friend's Martin T-73. Take a look also at the Casolin. Very well made Italian saw. But if the Laguna Robland looks good and the price is right, go for that one. It's a good choice and will serve you well for years to come.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for all of the input. The two main reasons I have been thinking of upgrading to a sliding saw are to square plywood and have the capability of cutting melamine. With that said, is this idea way off? I'm looking at the option of installing an Excalibur sliding table on my existing table saw. Also, I am told that there is a special saw blade that cuts melamine, therefore eliminating the need for a scoring blade. This upgrade would cost about $900 versus the (at least) $7,000 for a sliding table saw. Your feedback is appreciated.

From contributor R:
Ask yourself what your long term business plan is. If you are happy doing little jobs and taking a while to do them, then the Excalibur/makeshift scoring saw setup might work for you.

If you're really going to make a go of it as a cabinet shop, you have to bite the bullet and buy some professional tools, the first of which is a professional saw. A decent slider is the bare minimum. I think I am not letting myself in for too much flak by saying this. You will be amazed how much faster and more accurate you will be. Have you looked at used saws on the MLS and Ex-Factory sites? There are some good deals there, although it is definitely buyer-beware. Some people might be moving up to a beam saw and don't need their slider or whatever.

A 5 year old Altendorf is going be a better buy than a brand new Laguna, believe me. There's also a reason you'll never hardly see a Martin used, as the wife will go before the Martin (I know mine won't read this!)! You know, we all pretty much started with our Deltas and Powermatics (I still have mine), but they really don't cut it, no pun intended, when it comes to busting up a lift of plywood in a day. If I wanted to, I could stack 4-6 sheets of melamine on my Martin and cut 'em, but I don't want to be that fast. Happy shopping!

From contributor U:
I don't quite understand why anyone would want a slider over a panel saw when what you want is to cut panels. I say move the saw, not the panel. And sliders require so much more clear travel space than a vertical panel saw. You still need a table saw along with a panel saw, but it's good to have multiple saws anyhow. Am I wrong? I must admit that I've only used good panel saws and lower end sliders.

From contributor V:
Just in case space is an issue, what about that new scoring blade/6 inch blade combo that was featured in the last Fine Woodworking? For $400 it might get you by until you decide how much melamine you're going to cut.

The fancy melamine blades do a good job for about 15 sheets of melamine, then need sharpening. And the cut is still not as good as a good slider.

From contributor P:
There is an ongoing friendly debate over slider vs. vertical - my best option would be to have both! The vertical does save space and does its job well - some think it doesn't handle angle cuts well and is a bit awkward, plus, for you it would be more expensive than a slider.

I have been using an old, smaller slider - the MiniMax S250 with a solid steel slider and a crosscut of 59". It has served me very well for over 10 years. I would have (actually did at one point) bought a larger, full-size slider, but can't fit it into my small shop, so had to stay with a small slider.

You can still find this saw on used equipment sites such as Ex-Factory for around $2000. It is a great piece of equipment. The newer MiniMax are much lighter - some would say too light.

As to using a melamine blade, I have done that for many years and buy them from Amana for around $50 each. I use them for several jobs each and probably get around 20-30 sheets with good cuts. Remember, with melamine, you only need one good side (usually), so having both sides perfect is not really important to me. We are a frameless shop and produce upscale woodworking. Yes, you need two good sides for shelves, but even in that situation, only one side is seen at once.

You don't have to spend a lot of money for new and still will get a good saw if you carefully buy a good used saw. Just a note of caution - stay away from the older MiniMax S300W - not a good saw.

From contributor N:
I always like to look at the source in Europe to see how the different machines are used. Visiting small- to mid-size shops in Germany and Northern Italy, every shop, regardless of size, had both the vertical and slider. One big difference over there is most sheet goods come in large sizes (usually 5' plus in width and 12' to 14' long) and are better quality than ours. The typical arrangement is to have a vertical sheet storage rack right next to the vertical saw. The rack has rollers on the bottom and sheets are rolled out, using panel grips or vacuum lifters, onto the saw.

The other difference in cabinet construction is they do the typical edge banded melamine frameless box, but also do a lot of high end cabinets and furniture using shop veneered panels and doors (built the meister way). In this case, they do the initial cutting at the vertical, band with solid, then press the veneer, with final cuts and mitering done at the slider. They do a lot of solid wood cutting at the slider and most shops had the crosscut fence in the rear position when I visited.

As I said, all these shops were small to mid size - 3000 to 12000 sq ft - and doing custom work. I am sure the more specialized cabinet manufacturers are using beam saws or nested based. I think it comes down to the vertical being more efficient for sheet goods, but not as good as the slider for other things. With our size sheet goods, the slider can cut almost as efficiently.

From contributor A:
I bought a Hammer, a division of Felder, about a year ago, and am very happy with it. 52" fence, cut off table with an 8' plus stroke (cuts 4x8 sheets), and a cut off capacity of over 9'. About $5500.