Tooling Up for High-Volume Crosscuts

Jump saw, radial arm saw, miter saw — what kind of equipment would be cost-effective investment for work requiring thousands of cross-cuts on short pieces of solid lumber? April 27, 2011

We're cutting up 3/8 cedar in a few different lengths from about 3" to 12". Right now we're using a 12" SCMS. For a current order we have, we're looking at over 24,000 crosscuts in a 1 month period. I have a feeling we're going to be burning up the poor motor in the SCMS with the starting and stopping.

What kind of equipment excels at making repeatable, square cross cuts? (We don't necessarily need miter capability). Our budget is somewhat limited for this $1000 and we don't have three phase available. That would make a jump saw a little pricey. We were considering a radial arm saw since you can keep the motor running and just keep plugging away at the boards. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor D:
You could sub it out to somebody who has the required equipment.

From contributor U:
If the job won't pay enough to re-tool in order to do it (which by the way is how we have purchased some of our equipment), find somebody with the right equipment and have them do it.

From contributor J:
Why can't you use a dedicated miter box for this? Set up a new chop saw with a short fence and stops, and whack them out. You wouldn't even need a slider if the width is small enough, and should be able to buy a new one for a few hundred bucks. If you burn it up, it might still be under warranty. If you don't, write an article for the manufacturer about the strength of their motors.

From contributor R:
I use a CTD 225M cutoff saw for cutting my stiles and rails. Flip it on in the AM and it runs all day. I went through a couple of Makita miter saws before figuring this one out. It will cut around 7" wide if I recall, maybe more. I bought it on eBay for around 225.00 but it needed the motor replaced. I had a 3450 Baldor and it was an easy fix being belt drive and all.

From contributor F:
An industrial jump saw is the proper answer. A jump saw raises the blade up into the wood to cut it. They are heavy duty, fast acting machines designed for heavy use. That being said, as stated above, it might not pay to buy one. You may be able to get a used one reasonable in the current economy.

From contributor X:
What width’s are you cutting? Are you cutting moulding, shingles, shelving or rough stock? Don't forget the swing saw in your consideration. It’s fast, has a tendency to surge, and is less accurate on wider width's.

From contributor K:
If you have a sliding table saw, do it on that. You can batch cut a few pieces at once and it will run all day.

From contributor U:
I like Contributor K's idea. Using the table saw you set a fence up with an offset stop to give you the start position and then as you make the cut you will clear the initial stop and the cutoff piece will fall clear. Other than that, if this is a one time order and you need to stay in budget, instead of stopping and starting your chop saw constantly, you can hold the switch to cut an entire board. We cut thousands of louver slats each week by doing this. We position our 12' louver material by the chop saw and when we start cutting a piece, we hold down the switch until we are through with this one piece. That way we only cycle the saw on and off every 12 to 16 cuts, depending on what our cut lengths are. One hand stays on the switch and tilts the saw the other hand feeds the material.

From contributor F:
It sounds like this is something of a regular product for you? If so then why not crunch the numbers and see how long it would take to pay off a modest investment for this operation. I think I'd prefer the chopsaw over the jumpsaw for the smaller 3" lengths, though it's more labor intensive. A radial arm could work as well, however you would need one of the industrial versions as the cheap ones don't necessarily hold square all that well. Either unit will certainly cut more than four pieces per minute. I'd put an estimate more between 30 - 40 cuts per minute depending on operator.

The problem I see with a miter or scms is with your lengths. Flip stops won't help as they will only get within maybe 12" or so of your blade. A slider on a tablesaw will allow you to get those short lengths but may be a bit slower output. I guess the best thing to do is figure out which piece of equipment could also benefit other operations around your shop and make your investment based on that.

From contributor L:
I'm not a fan of radial alarm saws, dangerous and the less expensive ones are really poor quality. Your limitation of $1k & no 3 phase is very limiting. It would help if we knew this was a one time or likely to be a repeat job. They can easily be a hazard especially on fast repeat cuts. If you end up with a miter saw get one with a separate induction motor, no brushes. The best saws for this are out of your price range, a long way. The best up-cut saw I've seen is the Razorgage, best safety features, nicely made, a bit pricey. They also make an add-on safety system for your existing saw that is much better than the one that came with our Whirlwind.

From contributor D:
Thanks for all the responses. This is going to be a fairly regular product for us, so we may eventually look into real equipment upgrades in the future. What brought the question up originally is that the quote I got for subbing out the rip, groove, and CTL, was substantially above what we were expecting. Our supplier then realized he could stack the pieces and reduce his labor hours on the cutoff saw. That ended up reducing the quoted price by about 45% and got it into the range we were looking for. At those prices, it would take much longer to achieve payback on a jump saw and phase converter. Thanks again. Since we are a young company, we view all of these transactions as major/defining points of the business that could easily sway where our business is headed. We appreciate all the feedback.