Value of a Sliding Table Saw
Cabinetmakers discuss whether, and why, a sliding table saw is worth having around when other tools can do (sort of) the same thing.April 29, 2012
I am thinking about purchasing a Martin T60 Classic sliding table saw and I'm looking for some input on the value of such a large investment. We specialize in custom cabinetry and doors. I currently outsource most of my cabinet box construction and I plan to continue to do so. We currently process a good deal of veneered sheet goods for closets, open shelving units and so forth. My sense is that people associate sliding table saws with cutting panels and box construction. Can anyone attest to the benefits I will see from making this purchase in areas of the cabinet and door making process other than panel cutting?
From contributor K:
If you are cutting more than 1 or 2 units a week, I would recommend a decent beam saw and a modest slider in the 10k to 15k range.
From contributor L:
A slider's primary function is sheet goods cutting. It really isn't a good replacement for a 10" table saw. They can be very handy for jig cutting odd angles and the like. We cut lots of miters that are too wide for anything else. We've got an older SCMI SL16 that I bought new - good machine. They take up a lot of space. I'd hate to be without it now. It served as our only panel saw until I bought a beam saw. The beam saw is faster and less operator dependent.
From contributor G:
Since we got our CNC, about the only thing we use our slider for is squaring up and cutting solid wood door panels to size. It works great for that and other odd jobs, but it does take up a lot of space. For what a high end slider costs, you may want to consider putting that money towards a CNC. Especially if you have cabinet software in place and know how to use it. If not, maybe go with the slider.
From contributor M:
I agree that for a small shop a slider takes up a lot of space and a CNC is a lot more versatile. But I think a slider in the hands of a good carpenter can be a powerful tool. It is the best damn straight line saw I have ever used. With a good blade I can glue up 8' long boards and have an invisible glue line. The supreme accuracy of the cross cut fence makes it easy to make one off jigs for production level output of tenons, miters and other odd sawing jobs.
Of course the biggest reason to have a panel saw is to cut large amounts of panels with near perfect precision. One operator can easily cut 20 to 30 panels in a shift. This means that even a busy medium sized shop would never exceed the production capacity. I would need 20 or more employees to keep up with my one saw operator. As to the precision, a saw like Martin will cut to .2mm easily and the operator does not really have to try that hard. If you have a digital fence, the accuracy is better than .05mm. These are not manufacturer's specs, these are the machines in my shop right now. Panel saws are a great partner to a busy CNC. By processing all parts with no boring on the saw, you will increase the router's value added work. A panel saw can cut squares as fast as or faster than a CNC.
But if you intend to outsource your case work, the panel saw will have little value given the space it takes up. Are you buying the saw because it is a good deal or do you have a specific reason you think you need it?
From the original questioner:
My initial reason was to square up our doors and panels with more precision and efficiency. We currently do it with a sled attachment on an old Delta, which works, but seems a bit archaic given what's out there. I was also thinking that it could be a way to process rails and stiles with more precision than our radial arm saw, which constantly seems to be getting knocked out of square for one reason or another. We cross cut our sheet goods on the radial saw as well, which presents further challenges. Then I was told it would be useful for straight line ripping, which also seems appealing given that we do have a small moulder in our shop. I guess what I need to determine is whether or not the investment is worth it given the tasks I'd be looking for the tool to perform. The input I've received suggests I could be looking in the wrong direction.
From contributor G:
We used to use our panel saw for straight line ripping when we first got it. We use the SLR now that we have it. It is great for the first straight line rip on the edge of the board, but slower than a SLR. Rips after that on the same board are awkward and best done on a SLR or a regular tablesaw. Maybe with fences and clamps on the sliding table itself, ripping would be easier, but also time consuming.
From contributor L:
"By processing all parts with no boring on the saw you will increase the router's value added work. A panel saw can cut squares as fast or faster than a CNC."
Okay, I'm usually into a good debate. In my shop we've got a slider, a SL Rip, a Komo router and a Schelling beam saw. For single sheet processing the router beats them all. It can cut, bore, groove and notch a sheet of parts faster than the beam saw can just cut them. The beam saw, even just single sheet cutting, is faster than the slider and less operator dependent for accuracy. The straight line saw is way faster than the slider for straightening or ripping. The slider beats them all for versatility. Pick your poison, or better yet one of each.
From contributor V:
A good slider like the Martin will give a quantum leap in accuracy, repeatability and dependability over what you have now. Actually, even a mediocre slider will do that, but Martins are built to be precise from the get-go and stay that way under hard use. It will take up considerable floor space, but it will give you the option of working with full size sheets if your plans change. It is easy to set up for odd angles and bevels, and is great for straight lining lumber. If all you want to do is square edge cuts, a good vertical panel saw like Streibig is as accurate, probably more productive, and uses less space. The T60 is not the high-end Martin, but is a great saw. The adjustment and locking of the rip fence from the operator's side of the slider has to be a real timesaver.
From contributor H:
I have a large slider in a small shop. They really don't take up more space, as most shops with a 10" saw have outfeed tables, and when you cut 8' panels you still need 10' before and after your saw blade. If the slider is in the way you just push it back or forward. Straight lining lumber is great, plus all plywood and other sheet goods need a straight line clean edge before you start ripping. I cut small parts and even face frame parts on my slider. The face frames are square and dead on in sizing. The one thing I would like is a power feed that I could swing over and somehow bolt down quickly to rip face frame stock. Also having a 9 hp motor is nice when you're cutting hickory or maple. If you buy this Martin, all it will do is make your life easier and make you more money!
From contributor P:
I wouldn't have been able to function without a slider. I do cut all my panels, which is why I got it 23 years ago. It is an Altendorf. If you are having your parts drilled and dadoed, etc., I guess it is easier to have someone else do that on a CNC, but a slider is invaluable. The radial saw should go. As you say, they always get out of adjustment. A CTD chop saw or upcut saw would be much better. Put a Tiger stop on it, and it is even better.
From contributor L:
"The radial saw should go." How can you say that about a tool that will always cut roughly to size, sort of square, and add an interesting texture to the bottom of the cut?
From contributor U:
Although I hope to never again need to put a full sheet of plywood through a traditional tablesaw, I have found that cutting up sheet goods is not the only task I always take to my panel saw. I frequently build large estate gates using 12/4" stock. The sliding panel saw is, without question, the easiest, most reliably accurate way to cut the joints.
From contributor M:
Contributor L, that cracks me up. I used to have a 1950's Dewalt monster RAS. I loved it at the time but agree with you completely.
From contributor R:
We have a MiniMax S35 - 14" slider that we use to build passage doors and large gates. Our SLR has its place in raw stock processing, but the sliding table saw is definitely the most versatile tool in the shop. The only panel stock we have cut over the years is for jig material. Everything else we do is typically larger solid wood. The only place for me to go is up to a larger Martin slider.