Vertical panel saws

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A comparison of speed and efficiency of vertical panel saws as opposed to sliding table saws. July 24, 2001

Are vertical panel saws faster, more accurate and do they demand less material handling than table saws or sliding table saws?

Forum Responses
It depends. My feeling is that you need both if you're cutting many sheet goods. If you work alone and don't have much space to manhandle large panels, a vertical saw will save your back, the sheet goods surfaces and a lot of time. You can do all cross cutting on the vertical saw and move to the table saw for rips. Even if two workers are cutting parts, one can make initial crosscuts on the vertical saw and the other can rip to finished width at the same time.

Vertical saws can rip, but the ones Iíve used were far better suited to crosscutting. Table saws are typically better at ripping. Then again, all saws are not created equal and your choices depend on your level of production. Ours was a small face frame kitchen shop; we used a good 10Ē table saw and a medium-duty vertical saw to process a kitchenís worth of sheets every few days. Higher production would demand heavier machines.

We had a Holz Her vertical for years. It is hard to handle the panels, especially on rips, so the guys would rip on the table saw and crosscut on the vertical. We got much chipping-out on the edges from table saw ripping.

We decided to get rid of the vertical and bought a new Altendorf slider. It is not difficult to operate the saw once the panel is up on it. But it is not easy to get perfectly square cuts, as you are just butting your panel against the front fence, so if your panel is not wide enough it is easy to be out a little. I'm surprised and a little disappointed at how much concentration the Altendorf takes. You do get the angle cutting capability, though.

In looking back, I think the best bet is to put 2 guys on the vertical saw for the rip cutting. 2 guys can lift the rip off of the saw without damaging the freshly cut edges. The vertical saw did cut absolutely perfectly square all the time.

It takes a few weeks getting used to using a vertical, but once you get one, you'll never want to go flat again. Think of the other materials you need to cut besides plywood. If you do any laminate work, one man can cut a 5 x 12 sheet easily. Also, it's safer than a slider.

You could also use one to straight line rip solid wood if you wanted to, since the vertical concentrates more on parallel cut technology. It is true that they are a little tougher on the small pieces, but I never had a problem with rips since I have an automatic model (Holz Her 1270).

While the saw is making the rip, I'm setting the stop for the cross cut. Any cuts less than 40", which are about 70% of them after the rips, only require you to move a simple stop instead of a whole fence. It also has a shelf for small part cutting and ripping, which is a real back saver, and it has a repeat rip gauge that allows you to set a measurement--say 4"--and keep making 4" rips all the way down the sheet from top to bottom. It has preset stops for your most-used rips, like for wall and base depths, that you just lock onto every time you need one that size. This feature means a part cut last week was cut at the same stop as one cut today, unlike with a slider, where the accuracy is only as good as the guy setting the fence. All in all, you still need a table saw for angle cuts, but with the space saving a vertical affords, you could really place one 3" from the operator and never have an obstruction problem.

From the original questioner:
Can I process more parts per shift more accurately with less material handling? Let's assume all my products use only square panels. I am also considering a non-automatic saw with a mid-shelf and multiple adjustable X-cut stops.

We use a rip system for our Altendorf. Our guys rip up the all of the cut list (don't forget to stress relieve on melamine and MDF core veneers) then cross cut to final length using the carriage. We don't ever use the carriage for squaring a panel if it is longer than wide. Also, we use a forklift to pull units out of the rack and set the lift next to the saw and just slide the sheets off the unit and onto the carriage. Saves all of our backs.

I think you can process more per shift. On average I can do a part a minute. Remember that your table saw is still free at this time to have another operator doing rips or angle cuts. If you really want to do more parts on a vertical, I highly recommend an automatic model. It frees the operator up to be sticking a label or setting a stop or pulling the next sheet while the saw is doing its thing. I can cut like-size parts up while the stop is set and rest them right on the saw till I'm done with that batch. It takes me about 10 minutes each sheet on average, so that's about 6 per hour and 48 per day, but this could be a lot more or a lot less depending on how many parts and if I'm doing 3rd phase cuts, etc. My saw will allow me to book cut up to two sheets at a time, since I have gravity working with me and I don't need to apply pressure to a fence to ensure accuracy. I never use it for that, though.

Factors you must consider if the overall goal is simply more sheets per day: Operator fatigue, panel optimization, labeling and accuracy of those parts as well as all-important safety. Throw in floor space saving, laminate ability, straight-line rip ability and a free-to-use table saw and I think the vertical is the clear winner.

After using my vertical panel saw (HH 1265s) for over a year, my advice is, especially if you are making only square cuts, the vertical panel saw is the best way to make little pieces of sheet goods out of big ones. Unless you go to a room-size beam saw, but that's another level and I've never used one.

I made a vertical storage rack for my sheet goods so they could be fed straight from there. If you feed straight from a forklift or scissor lift, figure out a good system for tilting the sheet to your saw.

I'm curious what the vertical saws you guys are using have for a cutting vehicle. My vertical saw uses a manual driven circular saw, which produces chipping on one face. I cut my sheet goods oversized on the panel saw (to make the parts more manageable), then finish cut on the table saw. I can mount a router on my vertical, but have only done so to cut dados. How do you achieve a chip free cut with the panel saw?

I have a Holz Her 1270 automatic vertical. It has a scoring blade that scores the front side of the material an instant before the main blade cuts it. I believe it would be very difficult to get a better cut on any saw in the same price range (30,000), but you can find them used for under 20,000. With the auto cut, you're ensured no burns on the cut edge from when an operator stops in the middle of the sheet to get a better grip or take another sip of coffee. This will lead to a perfect edge when you go to run the edges through the bander, among all of the other benefits already listed.

You said you can mount a router on your vertical, so it is probably a Safety Speed Cut which uses a Skil saw as a cutting unit. I have the unit and could never achieve an actual chip-free cut, even with an expensive melamine blade, i.e. FS Tool HiAT. This week I installed a used Holz Her 1205 and am now getting virtually chip free cuts with a good triple chip blade. Good quality tools are a necessity to produce good quality work at a profit.

If you are comparing verticals with sliders, you need to look at comparable quality. Altendorf is at the top of the list as far as sliders go and Striebig is at the top of the list as far as verticals go. What is faster? I think when you are cutting normal cabinet parts, (square), the vertical is, with less handling labor. The slider comes in when you have angles or mitres. It would be hard to do everything with a vertical, but that would be my choice if I could have only one. (You would need a regular table saw to do odd stuff.) I used my Striebig for 10 years before I bought an Altendorf. Having both is definitely nice.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor S:
I use a Holzer 1265s vertical every day in addition to a 10" Jet table saw. I store my panels (approximately 30-40) adjacent the saw and feed it from the side. I can pick from any panel with relatively little effort as the pile is divided into three leaning against floor to ceiling supports.

I do not believe there is a better way to break down large panels into smaller parts because the operator can move the panel once and then moves the saw. I usually rip everything according to the optimizer (Cabinet Vision) and stack it to the side. If I need the tolerance I may 'dust cut' the edge to straighten out the spring of the panel. I often cross cut the rips and begin to collate the parts on the carts.

In comparison these things are obvious:

1. Even a small vertical like mine can handle a 5 x 10 with only a 2 x 10 footprint. Consider the 20 foot stroke you would need with a slider and you using up over 100 sf.

2. It is very easy to get a straight edge on the panel saw and you can set up to be as square as you would ever want. After a panel springs all you have to do is walk back with the saw in your grip and re-rip. The panel can stay in place. (A purist will flip the panel concave down or shim one/both ends so it doesn't rock in the cut.)

3. A vertical allows a single operator to handle large and heavy material with much less fatigue, barring a lift system (slow!).

4. The larger the panel the more sense it makes to use the vertical. The smaller the part the more sense it makes to use the table saw. In fact small parts do not work well on the vertical because the saw head can move the part when it engages.

5. Verticals are extremely safe.

6. Unless you spend enough to go beyond a basic model you'll still use the table saw to dado, cut angles, etc.

7. Verticals allow you to cut kerfs or reveals in a panel (eg. for wall paneling) in the face without scratching and while seeing exactly where the cut will end up. The reason I purchased the panel saw was for a job involving 200 or so 4 x 10 1/4 sawn walnut panels which needed design reveals cut in them. I had States stain and prefinish them. I didn't get a single scratch cutting the 1000 or so reveals.

Do not be discouraged by the counterintuitive technique when trying out a vertical in a show room. Within one day you will master it. After you learn what it is best used for you should be able to rough size parts on 50+ panels in an 8 hour day.

Comment from contributor R:
To the curious person who wanted to know how to get chip free cuts on a vertical without a super cut feature - you have to make two cuts. On the first cut, only let the blade go in an eighth of an inch from top to bottom or from side to side. Bring your saw carriage back to the beginning and cut like you would normally. This can also work on table saw, by only raising the blade up an eighth of an inch for your first pass and making the second cut like you normally do.

Comment from contributor A:
Have any of you guys heard of a Hendrick Vertical before? I have never had any issues with chipping, scratching, getting material on there, or getting a square cut. This saw is awesome! Itís the best purchase I ever made. It saves time, floor space, and my back whether Iím crosscutting or ripping. Not to mention this saw is strong and safer than any other saw I've used.