Table Saw, Slider, or Panel Saw?

Here's another detailed thread on an important topic: selecting and using panel-cutting equipment. July 5, 2006

I have been looking at either an industrial size table saw or a slider for my shop. I have gone from a low production custom shop to very busy cabinet shop this year and I need to upgrade my saw. I probably have about $6000 - $8000 to deal with. I hear everyone say how a slider has drastically improved production in the shop, and my question is how? What exactly were the improvements that you experienced? Where can a good used one be bought, or new one?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor H:
A slider or vertical saw are better because there is less effort to make a cut and it will be square if the machine is set up properly. If you do not make a lot of angle cuts a vertical is faster and takes less space. For one man to cut on a slider a lift table or fork lift is a great help. Check out ex-factory or any of the used machine outfits on this website as well as the machinery exchange on this site. A new slider will be double your budget and a vertical even more. I have a Casolin Astra with Tiger rip fence and my Unisaw is reserved for hardwood ripping and small drawer parts when the slider is in use. If you have not seen a slider in operation, go to a local shop to check it out. You will never go back to panel processing on a regular saw again.

From contributor L:
Your slider can do one other thing (among others) that comes in real handy, and that is edging boards. You dog one end of the board into a shoe, hold the other end down and rip a straight edge. It saves a ton of time at the jointer. Your board can be a little longer than the sliding table depending on the design.

From contributor B:
I bought a slider a couple months ago and it made a huge difference. You don't have to wrestle the panels through the saw, no fear of kick-back, no binding when your sizing panels and don't quite hold it strait because they stay strait, very square panels with clean cuts and no chipping of melamine, lots more power than a typical saw. I will probably cite more improvements after spending more time with it.

The saw does take up more room than a unisaw, but like the unisaw you can put a large outfeed/storage/assembly table behind it to fill in an area and make use of it. The moving part (wagon) of my saw travels right next to my assembly/outfeed table, so it didn't cost me much space.

I have also used it to true up the boards as mentioned here. Clamp them down to the wagon, push them through (very easy) and you have a perfectly strait and square edge without trying to hold a long board steady through a jointer as you make several passes and the wood chips out!

If you have room, get one with a 10' stroke so the cross-cut fence doesn't have to be removed when you are ripping anything under 10'. Otherwise, get used to taking it off and putting it back on and do some planning to minimize it or just keep your regular saw for those rips. If you are on a budget, check out the Mini-Max 315. I saw it at the wood working show and it was pretty impressive.

From contributor H:
I have both a Striebig vertical and an Altendorf slider. If I could have only one and were cutting cabinet parts it would be the vertical. I have jigs for the Striebig to cut the few angled parts that I need.

From contributor A:
I agree with Contributor H. Once you get used to a vertical saw you'll never go back to anything else.

From contributor D:
I agree also. I use angle blocks for 'fences' on the vertical and get unbelievable joints. It’s not as hi-tech as a digital fence but it's fast and easy and perfect. If you get a vertical get one that will cross cut (vertical) at least 8'. The less you have to move the wood the better the cut.

From contributor O:
How many owners of Sliders actually use the full capacity of the machine? I'm in the market for a slider but am wondering if I will rip a sheet larger than 96". I'm a cabinetmaker and do make lots of tower units and oven stack cabinets, but for the most part, I'm making standard size cabinets. Would a smaller slider make more sense because floor space can be a premium?

From contributor H:
No, get a full 120" unit. If you didn't have it you would miss it. Floor space is a problem, however just bite the bullet.

From contributor L:
I bought a SCMI SL16 in '88; ran the heck out of it and it is still used for lots of things today and the sliding system is still good. It is used with assorted jigs clamped to the sliding table for cutting difficult to position items exactly the same, part after part. Being able to use a 16" blade is also great for some things. You will want to keep your Unisaw for small parts. The fences on the 10' sliders are very solid allowing you do very accurate work.

The cross fence is easily brought to exact 90* or any other angle so you can do compound miters with ease. It is easy to do stress relief cuts in melamine so you get away from the banana rips. Putting a tiger stop on the rip fence will speed things a lot. When we got to the point we were double shift cutting on the slider we bought a beam saw, and it was much faster. But now a lot of our cutting is done nested on a Komo. If the beam saw is single sheet cutting the Komo is faster.

From contributor M:
To contributor O: One of the great benefits of a full-sized slider is the ability to straight line rip lumber. It is a heck of a lot faster than the jointer, almost never has blowout, and at .07 a linear foot I am saving a ton of money.

The smaller sliders are generally not as well built. Let's face it; the heart of a slider is the carriage. You can attach almost any saw to it. But it is the carriage system that makes the unit. Smaller units have systems that don't wear as well, or allow more play in the travel. My Altendorf has a tolerance of .006" over 10.5' for 3 or 5 years. Martin may have similar specs. Why won't these smaller units guarantee such tolerances? Better to have more than enough and not use it than not enough and need it.