Is It Time For a New Saw Paradigm?

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Forum topic by robertp posted 06-07-2010 01:14 AM 1586 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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18 posts in 2335 days

06-07-2010 01:14 AM

Topic tags/keywords: tablesaw tracksaw

After reading festool advocates comparing table saws to track saws I am trying to figure out how to frame in a question an idea I have had for a while. My table saw is set up so it can process 4×8 sheets but I have always felt a little stupid pushing big sheets against a fence or dragging them onto the sled. I’m wondering if it isn’t time for some kind of lower cost beam saw that would take up just 10’x5’, have a fence or carriage or something to make quick adjustments and repeatable cuts and then have a compact 5hp table saw with a built in powerfeed to rip wood less than say 16” in width?

The draw back that I see to a track saw is the lack of easy repetitive cuts and squaring; make it do those two things and I would cut my table saws fence down, put it on wheels and move it into the corner, (well not really but you get the idea.) Today it sits in the center of my shop and I use it for everything. Make the beam saw take a dado too, and bevel.

I’ve never shopped for a beam saw but I imagine they cost 15K and weigh as much as a pickup. I’m thinking of something simpler, lighter, not 3 phase. One sheet at a time not multiples, not cnc, not scoring.

Has anyone else felt silly pushing a 4×8 of MDF through their table saw?

14 replies so far

View Ger21's profile


1047 posts in 2555 days

#1 posted 06-07-2010 01:42 AM

I’d be surprised if you can get a new beam say for under $50K. Last one I used was $110K 12 years ago, and was bigger than my garage. It could cut 12’x12’.

What you want is a vertical panel saw. I built one for $100 + the circular saw mounted to it. I do all my crosscuts on it, and all my 8’ rips on my table saw. It does take up 8ft of wall space, but only 1’ away from the wall. I can also cut 2 sheets at a time if I want to ,and if I go slow. I use a Forrest Duraline Hi/AT, and it cuts clean on both sides.

-- Gerry,

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2422 days

#2 posted 06-07-2010 02:07 AM

I love the track saws that are out now. Festool, DeWalt, and Makita have them. I just use a saw guide and a circular saw rather than wrestle around sheetgoods. I can put them on sawhorses and use the cutting guide and it ends up being much easier, more exact, and a lot safer.

I don’t even have a table saw (nor want one). Someday I might go ahead and invest in one of the track saws though. They are so cool.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View mvflaim's profile


183 posts in 2515 days

#3 posted 06-07-2010 02:28 AM

Ditto on the track saw. I just bought the Festool and love it. For years I always wanted a panel saw but no way do I need one now. The cut on the Festool is incredibly smooth.


View Sailor's profile


543 posts in 2689 days

#4 posted 06-07-2010 03:28 AM

Track saw here. I too bought the Festool not to long ago and it’s great. Getting it squared up isn’t that big of a deal. Im sure you can rig up a way to make the track into a large T square if you wanted. Or set it up like the Festool MFT for a larger version of the MFT (multi function table). I have heard people mention that the Festool saw would be great incorperated into a panel saw.

-- Dothan, Alabama Check out my woodworking blog! Also my Youtube Channel's Facebook page

View robertp's profile


18 posts in 2335 days

#5 posted 06-07-2010 08:25 AM

Hey Ger21, see what I am thinking about is something that doesn’t exist right now. I knew the existing beam saws were industrial and cost a fortune I meant something new that would only have a 4×8 capacity like a vertical panel saw only horizontal and optimized so that you could do all your cuts on it, angles, 8’ rips, small pieces, repeatably the way having your table saw fence as a cut off stop or a rip guide works. You know, never having to get out a tape. Small shop production.

I’ve gone as far as buying the ubolts nylon washers and conduit to build a panel saw but never go around to it as I figured I would have to re cut everything on the table saw anyway. In your experience what kind of tolerance for squareness does the panel saw you built give you? I never liked the way the panel saws ripped which is why I assume you rip on the TS right?

What I’m thinking of is a machine that is to the table saw as the chop saw is to the skilsaw. When chopboxes came out they seemed a little redundant and expensive, nowadays people have 2 of them. What I want is a machine that has the advantages that the track saw has over the TS, (except for portability,) and the advantages that the TS has over the track saw.

View rhett's profile


734 posts in 3091 days

#6 posted 06-07-2010 01:59 PM

I think you may be overcomplicating your plan. A panel saw will rip wood it’s just a matter of rotating the saw 180 degrees.

Here is the best way I have thought of to make a track saw completely repetitive. It would take a 4’x8’ foot print, a table with vaccum clamping ability and the longer 118” track.

The tracks have a narrow groove on the bottome for fitting a clamp. You make a 4×8 bed with say a 13/16” ledge protruding from the top. Put reference tabs the width of the groove across from one another Set the tabs at your most common rips and crosscuts. This follows the K.I.S.S. rule.

This is also what a Festool table does on a smaller scale.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View a1Jim's profile


115177 posts in 3001 days

#7 posted 06-07-2010 05:22 PM

I just use sleds on my table saw after making my first cuts.

-- Custom furniture

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2495 posts in 2531 days

#8 posted 06-07-2010 06:33 PM

You might want to look at my solution in my projects. My table saw jig lets me cut 4×8 sheets and the most it has ever been off is 1/64 over 8”. And I do this from a wheelchair. It doesn’t get much easier than this. Rand

View TurbineTester's profile


197 posts in 2337 days

#9 posted 06-07-2010 08:39 PM

lilred, i looked at your project, but i am having trouble wrapping my mind around the method for getting the panel aligned to cut the line. I can see how the jig rides in the track on the left of the saw, how do you align the sheet stock on the jig?

-- if you can't light a $100 bill on fire and watch it burn, you're in the wrong hobby.

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2495 posts in 2531 days

#10 posted 06-07-2010 09:54 PM

I cut a kerf on each end of the sliding piece at exactly 24” from the blade. If I am cutting to the right of the blade, I just add the finished measurement to the 24 and cut allowing 1/8” for the kerf.
I lower the blade and measure the top of the sheet from the slot in the zero clearance insert to the kerf mark and clamp, then I slide up to the bottom of the sheet and do the same. This automatically squares everything to the blade. I slide the sheet back to clear the blade so I can raise it and start the saw and make my cut.
I have a 49” slide and a 96 ” slide, depending on if I am ripping an 8 footer or a 4 footer.
I am going to get one of those yellow things for assisting me in getting the sheet on the saw. I forget the name of it , but it mounts on the right end of the fence bar and has a cup to set the edge of the sheet in and gives the balance you need to twist the sheet to the top of the saw.
If I can help further, please don’t hesitate to call…661-264-6431, Rand

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2495 posts in 2531 days

#11 posted 06-07-2010 10:11 PM

Hey TT,
I just found what I was trying to describe on It is called, Leg-up 58008 panel-lift table saw accessory. It is priced at $49.95. I’m ordering mine now.

View Ger21's profile


1047 posts in 2555 days

#12 posted 06-08-2010 01:22 AM

I rip on the table saw because my panel saw can’t rip. “Real” vertical panel saws rip by sliding the blade. Most inexpensive and homebuilt saws rip by sliding the sheet. No Thanks.

The “fence”, or bottom, of my saw is adjustable for squareness. If I’m cutting a lot of sheets, I’ll adjust it so it cuts perfectly square before starting the job. That way Every panel I take to the table saw is already square, so no sled is needed. Mainly, what I do, is quickly crosscut slightly oversize, but perfectly square, then cut everything to size on the table saw. Although Anything over 48” is cut to size on the panel saw. If I’m cutting two tall cabinet sides, I’ll clamp them together and cut them both at once.

I’ve also made angle cuts, by clamping the board to the saw at the required angle. Size is limited, but it’s very safe and easy.

To me, anything horizontal with 4×8 capacity would just take up too much space.

I routinely do projects requiring 10-15 sheets of material. I wouldn’t want to attempt that with a track saw.

Depending on your budget, you might want to seriously consider looking at a used industrial vertical saw. At my last job, we had two that we never used. I think they were about $20K when new. We sold one for $3500. Downside is you need 3 phase, and at least 10 ft of height. But it’s hard to beat a good vertical panel saw for production work.

I currently work in a shop with about 8 guys. Most of our cabinet parts get cut on a CNC router, but our vertical panel saw is still running all day long.

-- Gerry,

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2495 posts in 2531 days

#13 posted 06-16-2010 07:11 AM

I just got the Leg Up. Super simple design. I had to try to put a sheet up on the saw. Now I’m trying to figure out why I waited for so long. What ease. No slipping or sliding. Just pull the sheet out, set the far end in the J and twist the top to the left, easy peasy lemon squeezy. The slickest thing I have ever handled in a wheelchair.
Y’all come by and try it. Coffee’s on me. As far as I’m concerned, I now have the almost perfect sheet cutting setup. It will be perfect when I get Lee’s in feed table. Rand

View Domer's profile


252 posts in 2790 days

#14 posted 06-16-2010 08:59 PM

There are some pretty simple jigs to make setting up repetitive cuts on sheet goods with a track saw. Most of them are home made.

You can also use the track saw to cut to close size and then finish up on the table saw to get exact cuts.

In addition, the track saws will let you cutoff over sized panels. An example would be the the drawer frames for a china cabinet I am building. I purposely over sized them by a half an inch and cut them off with a track saw.

I’m not telling you why I know this, but if someone’s cabinet is a 1/4” out of square, you can match the shelves to the cabinet with a track saw a lot easier than with a table saw.

I bought the Festool TS55 and the MFT Table. You can make wide cut offs a lot easier than on the table saw and easier than with a table saw sled.

The track saws do not replace the table saw, but they can make a lot of operations a lot easier.

Just my 2cents worth.


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