Fence Considerations with a Sliding Tablesaw

Here's a lot of detailed advice for getting the most out of the fence on a European-made sliding table saw. May 11, 2011

We just bought a used Pansan sliding table saw (panel saw). I like the sliding fence system but donít like the fixed fence system to the right cause it slides on a pole, etc. Iím thinking of installing a Biesemeyer fence that I have to this saw. Has anyone ever done this before? Iím pretty sure it could work. One thing I noticed on all types of panel saws is that the fence is longer in rip length than regular table saw fences. Whatís the reason for this?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor C:
I have an older Felder combo shaper saw. The fence isnít very good so I installed a Biesemeyer. I drilled and tapped holes for rail and it works like a charm. Due to the fence's "T" shape at the base it doesn't allow for cutting closer than about 3" to the blade so I made a box that fits over the fence that goes to zero or past the saw blade.

From contributor S:
What specifically is your problem with the fence? The round bar should be a chromed, solid steel rod around 2" diameter. Also a good euro rip fence should slide so smoothly that a good push with two fingers should send it all the way to the end on the table. No Beismier is that smooth. The aluminum fence should be a heavy machined extrusion that is a lot stiffer. Finally it should be a lot safer because it can be used in the low position for narrow rips, giving your hands more space at the blade.

I know Beismier is considered king in smaller American shops, but try your euro fence for a month. Don't forget to slide it back past the front of the blade when using the slider. The fence will spend 90% of it time in that position, something Beismeir cannot do.

From contributor F:
You need to be able to retract the fence behind the blade for making crosscuts with the rip fence.

From the original questioner:
Iím not having any problem with it all because I havenít set it up yet. But what I see is that the fence has no measurement indicator and no measurement numbers. The numbers are no problem because I know I can buy the stick on measurement roll. In addition, this is not the first time I see no measurement indicator on a panel saw rip fence.

From contributor F:
They donít have measurement indicators because you sight down the fence to see what measurement you are at. This is because the fence can go on two ways as a tall fence or as a short fence. When you look at the extrusion it will make sense. It should have come with a scale though, so just add one of those sticky tapes.

When I first got my saw, the no indicator thing bugged me for a little bit, but you get used to it really fast and it isnít an issue at all. There are thousands of these saws in use without an indicator. If it was a problem, Iím sure they would have put indicators on them by now.

You really need the ability to unlock the fence and slide it back so the back edge of the fence is behind the blade. You are asking for an accident due to binding if you donít do this. I think once you start using the new fence, you will actually prefer it over the Bessey.

From contributor J:
I agree with the above posts. Your saw is a Panhans, not whatever you said before. Itís very high quality German iron. You will be happy with it, once you get used to it. I think I recall from your post last week that this is your first slider? The thing you will learn, or should learn is that the rip fence is not used much on a 10' panel saw. Ripping as you would on the old PM66 or Unisaw isn't something you'll do a lot of. Keep the other saw for that purpose though.

With the footprint of a panel saw such that it is, your normal ripping position is compromised. It is uncomfortable, and unsafe to rip from where you have to stand on that saw. With the exception of very narrow parts, you'll be able to rip everything to the left of the blade on the slider. There are parallel fence setups you can buy or make to enable the narrow rips too. I like to have both saws. I do my solid stock ripping on the PM, and nearly everything else on the slider. Give it a little time, try to get some pointers from guys used to running one-and you'll never go back.

From contributor G:
As said, you absolutely have to be able to slide the fence forwards of the blade to use as a stop on the right side of the blade when crosscutting. A Biesemeyer would be worthless and dangerous on a slider. I also have a Felder and after time the fence can be less than easy to move. A quick cleaning and waxing of the guide bar and it's as good as new.

From contributor S:
Using a panel saw is a whole different game. In order to maximize the machine you will start to work differently. It is hard to explain, but the work flow on a panel saw is very different from that of a cabinet saw. Not having an indicator seems odd at first. But sighting straight down the face of the fence is a lot better. In fact for quick non-critical cuts you do not even need to use the fence. The scale is true to the blade, no offset for an indicator, so if you line up the edge of a panel with a measurement on the scale it will be the actual cut.

From contributor S:
1. You need a good optimization program that is slider friendly. "Strip sorting" and "part in strip" sorting are a big deal. So are things like the ability to eliminate T-cuts, third phase cuts and have "rip only 1st phase cuts. Depending on the size of the job you may use some or all of these features to speed up the cutting while loosing little to waste, smaller jobs (less than 8 or 10 sheets) and cabinet backs or panelized doors will suffer a lot in the optimization.

2. Orient the first trim cut so that the last trim cut leaves you ready for the first strip cut. Meaning that if the first actual cut is a rip start with the head dust cut, that way the last dust cut will leave your panel in the rip position. Start with a long edge if a head cut is first.

3. Use the cross cut fence as much as possible. The goes back to the strip/part sorting I refered to earlier. If you have "largest first" selected it usually is easier to do this.

4. Unload the parts on the back side of the saw pushing off the slide.

5. Rip all strips first pushing them off to the far side of the table. (Again this is easier is the big rips are done first.) Then pull the strips onto the slider and make second and third phase cuts.

6. Get into the habit of setting the cross-cut stops while the slide is all the way forward. This way when you return the slide you can cut straight away without stopping a second time. (you always have to stop at the end of a cut to unload a part, might as well get it all done then).

7. Banana cuts are a reality that must be dealt with. If you are making faceframe cabinets it is not an issue, but for Melamine frameless planning the stress relief cuts is a issue.

8. Do not push the stock into the blade. Hold it down to the table and walk it through. Once the slide is moving there is no way to hold the piece tight to the fence (unless it is a narrow strip). This means you have to really change how you handle the piece. You literally have to use your body weight to clamp the piece to the slide. This requires an upright position with hands close to your waist. Then you "walk the cut". On wide cuts you actually have to lift up with the left hand and push down with the right to keep the panel flat.

9. Use the table lock. This is one of the most important parts of the saw. When shopping for a new saw the first thing I do is slam the table into the lock a few times to see if it can handle the abuse.

10. No running starts into the blade. There should only be three to five inches from the part and the scoring blade while in the locked position. Do not try to build up speed before the cut starts. Increase the feed speed slightly towards the end of the cut then allow the momentum to finish the last 3 inches of the cut. This prevents the "broken corner" problem on the off-cut.

11. Every pattern is different. Some or all of these hints will not apply to every scenario. Each cutting pattern will have a different "best way" to attack it. I know some of these things probably do not make sense now but later they will so save this post and read it in a few months. I have only been using a slider for eight months and still figure out new things every day.

These saws are unbelievably efficient and fast once the operator is in sync with the process. We process 50 sheets in an eight hour shift with one man on the saw (this includes backs, drawers, doors which are generally easier than case parts). Not many CNC machines are that fast

From contributor D:

The Knowledge Base is absolutely full of good info. Just do a search for sliding table saw and sliding panel saw and you will get a ton of useful info.