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