Vertical Panel Saw and Sliding Table Saw Comparison

This discussion of the choice between vertical saws and sliders includes some thoughts on sliding table saw technique. November 21, 2006

I am interested in buying a panel saw. I have been interested in a vertical, as it just seems easier to use. The slider seems like there is too much stuff in the way, especially when you are used to just cutting parts out on a tablesaw with Biesemeyer fence and a huge table built around it? Do you use a slider on every piece or just the big ones? It seems as though it would walk from fence. I talked to a guy that has both and says everyone in the shop uses the slider. What about quality of cuts on 2-sided melamine?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor J:
My personal preference, having used both, is strongly on the side of the slider. My shop builds inset frameless cabinets where both sides of material are seen. Using 30 sheets daily making sure to grain match even the melamine. The proper score blade main blade setup is critically important. Too large of a score looks terrible coming out of the edgebander. I have found it much easier to cut smaller pieces and make and adjust angled cuts on the slider. We have a digital rip fence which is a significant time saver if you are regularly changing sizes.

From contributor D:
If you've got the room for it, a slider is the way to go. You'll use it for everything and not believe how you lived without it.

From contributor P:
Slider. You're going to have to have a table saw anyhow for small stuff and solid material. The space taken up by a slider is identical to the space that you'd need with a regular tablesaw to be able to cut a standard 4' x 8' panel into any size. We looked at adding a Striebig (doing mostly frameless melamine right now), but couldn't justify the space and expense in our small shop. Beautiful tool, though!

From contributor R:
Big difference in vertical sliders such as Streibig or Safety Speed Cut. A slider is the best way, in my experience. Much more versatile than a vertical. Lots of choices such as Felder, Minimax, Paolini, so you don't have to break the bank with a Martin, either. A four foot slider is nice, eight foot is even better. There are some nifty carts so one guy can move sheet goods around as well. Cuts on melamine with a scoring saw or Forest Hi AT blade are perfect.

From contributor A:
We have both. If you're going to own only one saw, then get a slider. If you're going to own more than one, then a vertical and a regular tablesaw. I'll take my Streibig over any slider for cutting panels. It takes about half the area required for a full size slider and produces more perfectly square parts per hour with razor sharp edges. We no longer cut panels on our slider except for the occasional bevel cut. It is used strictly as a table saw and the sliding table comes in handy to crosscut solid stock to final dimension.

From contributor M:
What parts are you cutting and how big is your shop? If you are cutting many square parts or your space is limited, horizontal and keep your cabinet saw. I wish that I would have done this. Advantages of a horizontal are space, stack cutting (a slider is not meant for this), and ease of use.

As for ease of use, if a slider is to be effective, you need a cutter and a catcher. It is easier to load and unload panels on a horizontal. You do, however, need to take precautions when you rip on a horizontal.

The basic advantage for a slider is that you can cut bevels, and you can cut angles easier (you can cut angles on a horizontal). My Altendorf is equipped with motorized rip fence, blade height and tilt. I don't think horizontals are usually equipped with as much electronic accessories.

I believe you need to be more skilled to operate a slider. It is not an oversized tablesaw. You must learn to walk, hold, press, and push to get accurate cuts. This is an acquired skill.

As far as chipping, you will get it on both. If your melamine is bowed and does not sit flat on the carriage, the scoring will not cut it and you will chip. You can also chip with a dull scoring blade. On a horizontal, they have scoring or scoring features. Most of the more industrial saws will allow you to make a shallow pass (scoring the top sheet), then come back and make a full depth cut.

I am surprised to see so many who favor the slider. Again, I wish I had kept the Unisaw and got a Striebig.

From the original questioner:
Do you mean vertical? I will have a saw setup, the one I use now. It is a 5hp Grizzly with Biesemeyer fence. I figured I would use it to cut out laminate, bevels and angles along with small pieces. I want safety and ease of use. It seems to me the vertical was the way to go! I am going to get a quality one (Holz-Her, Strieberg or such). I cut everything out now, and I want to turn that operation over to an employee, safely. It will mainly be cabinet parts (boxes and doors).

From contributor E:
I can't comment on the slider since I have not used one, but I have cut quite a few panels on a Striebig and would get one in a second if I could afford it. I use a SawTrax now just to rip down to size and final cut everything on the tablesaw. If you're going to have one guy working by himself, I think the vertical would be easier to load and unload than the slider.

From contributor M:
Thanks. Yes, I did mean a vertical. I apologize. I just got back from an all-you-can-eat buffet and it was late.

If you want to use someone else to cut parts, the vertical will be the best. The wood does not move. The operator moves the blade and it is captured in precision guides. I had a guy who has been using tables saws many times a week for 20+ years. He could not get an accurate rip over 8'... best he could do was 1/8" off.

With sliders you must be a skilled operator. You must keep a panel completely still as you walk over 16'. Lift with your left hand, push forward and down with your right hand. Don't let your right hand move. And by the way, you must walk straight forward while watching the blade, the crosscut fence, and the rip fence at the same time. It is very a complicated process to teach your muscles and mind.

From contributor N:
I might add that it is easier on the back. My sheet good rack is just the right distance from the end of my vertical saw so that as I tilt wood from resting on end, I simply guide it onto the saw. No more fighting to get it across the shop and up on the tablesaw. Cabinet building is strenuous enough without that. I also agree with contributor M - it is more accurate for me as 1/32 is better than I get from a full sheet on the tablesaw. I am a one man, small shop and the vertical works great for me.

From contributor P:
Unless I'm totally misunderstanding, I don't see walking 16' - generally put the panel on the table, walk it through 8' plus the blade, then take it off. The panel stays really stable on the table - the combination of gravity and a minimal push against the crosscut fence keeps it true just fine. As far as a learning curve, I was already an experienced walker before getting the saw - snugged up against the panel, "butt-bar" behind me, it's pretty mindless and effortless to get great, repeatable, accurate cuts.

1/8 over 8'? You've got a problem with the saw fence, blade alignment, some wild material, or an operator who needs to wake up. I find a fair bit of tension in most materials - our usual procedure is to bust panels to approximate widths, let them sit for a few hours, than straight-line and rip to final dimension. During the wetter parts of the year especially, I find it good practice to double-cut on crosscuts, too - saw is set up right, but the material does move a bit.

From contributor L:
A slider is a really versatile machine, but be sure to buy a good one, donít go cheap. A Tigerstop fence is also very worthwhile. For just cutting rectangles, a good vertical is it, but handling is different. We went from a Unisaw to an SCM SL16 to a Schelling beamsaw to nesting on a Komo router, each a major improvement in productivity. Still use all the saws but only for what each is best at.

From contributor M:
How many guys have you trained to use a slider? I have tried 4. For the record, mine is an Altendorf Elmo 3, and regularly passed the 5 cut test. Maybe you have never paid attention to how many steps must be performed for you to get an accurate cut. You don't just throw the sheet up there and push it through. First, you must walk upright. The tendency is to walk into the blade. You must lift the left side of the sheet to maintain a 90 degree cut. You must push the panel forward, while walking, without moving your right hand. You also have to push down with your right hand while all the time you are balancing between the panel and the butt barÖ and still walking. Yes, I can do it, and even dance with the panel as I transition from rip to crosscut. And if I can do it, yes, there is hope for the masses.

But this does not make it easy, or a quick skill to acquire. It is not like holding a piece of stock still as you bring a miter saw down or pushing a piece of lumber over a jointer. It takes a number of skills executed simultaneously to be done correctly. A normal person must perform a new skill approximately 18 times before he moves out of that awkward phase. Then he can stop concentrating so mechanically that he can add another skill. Add another repetition of 18 to this process and he might be able to progress to the next step. If he can draw on similar skills, like looking at the rip fence as he pushes the material through, the process is faster.

If he must unlearn a skill, it takes much longer. For instance, we push forward and into the rip fence on a traditional cabinet saw. On a slider, you must touch the rip fence and push completely forward, without any other movement. These are completely different movements and the new operator must learn a new thought process and new muscle movements. Learning to use a slider is much more complicated than a vertical panel saw.

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

Comment from contributor O:
From my experience, the vertical is far easier to work with than a slider and is more "idiot" proof. In the low cost verticals, I've had far better experience using a Saw Trax vs. the SSC I used to have. SSCís go out of square a lot and the material rollers need to be adjusted. If I could afford a Steibig, I would probably get one but I don't have the room or the money.

The slider is nice if you are the one using it. If you have employees using it, I've found the cut quality goes down quite a bit. It takes up a larger foot print and it's harder to load sheets. I've found that a Vertical for breaking sheets down is the best way and the table saw for boards and dadoes seems to work well.