If you are considering a vertical panel saw for your shop, you have more than likely thought about the many advantages such as one-person operation, safer cutting, cut accuracy, space savings, and many others. However, when you decide to buy a panel saw, it is very important to know the critical parts of the machine that can make the difference between your high expectations, and the real savings in time and money.
Let’s take a closer look at the important features you should consider before making your panel saw investment.
1. Factory assembly and alignment – A key reason to buy a panel saw is to get guaranteed cutting accuracy. Panel saws should be assembled and aligned at the factory by qualified technicians to meet exacting tolerances. If you buy a component saw, any price savings is quickly offset by the time spent trying to assemble the tool, and by poor cutting accuracy over the life of the saw.
2. One-piece welded frame – The frame that supports the panels is the backbone of any panel saw. This is critical to the alignment, accuracy, and safety of the machine. The frame should be one-piece, welded construction to ensure a lifetime of hard work in your shop. Frames that are bolted together can loosen over time and rust or corrode in the fasteners. These problems can lead to performance and safety issues later on.
3. Rugged guide system – A strong guide system is the heart of the panel saw. Quality guides tubes should be fabricated from specially manufactured steel tubing to ensure straightness, concentricity, and smoothness. The guide tubes should be welded to top and bottom brackets to assure absolute alignment with the frame as opposed to bolted guide tube systems that can loosen or vibrate during operation.
4. Specialized saw motors – Quality saw motors on panel saws should be specially selected and adapted for use in this type of machine. Features included on these motors are usually not available on off-the-shelf hand held circular saws. These items include: locking power switches, special blade guards for protection and free movement of dust extraction systems, kerf splitters to prevent blade binding on horizontal cuts, leaf springs that help hold material against the frame, and special mounting motor brackets that hold the saw and moving blade absolutely square and perpendicular for the most accurate cuts with clean edges. Cheap off the shelf hobbyist circular saws are no substitute for industrial strength power units.
5. Professional saw blade capability – Woodworkers, signmakers and others who use their panel saws to cut a wide range of materials need the ability to use a variety of professional saw blades to ensure the cleanest and safest cuts. Industrial panel saws are designed to use blades with a diamter of 8″-10″ for optimal performance. These blades are readily available from a wide range of sources and deliver performance that cannot be compared with rough-cut 7 1/4″ saw blades.
6. Quick change from crosscut to ripcut – Many jobs require both vertical and horizontal cuts. The saw you select should be able to change quickly and accurately between the two modes without having to disassemble the carriage. The best saws have a rotating center that lets you switch between vertical and horizontal positioning in a snap. The rotating carriage should be designed to always keep the sawblade in the center of the carriage so measurements taken from either side of the machine are always on the mark
7. Cutting accuracy – Accurate straight and square cuts are one of the most important reasons to buy a vertical panel saw. The manufacturer should guarantee the accuracy of the actual saw cut and not just the accuracy on some of the components of the saw. Panel saws that are designed and built as a complete unit will assure that cutting accuracy is maintained over many years of service.
8. Experienced manufacturer – Panel saws should be a long-term investment. It is important to buy a tool that is designed and built by an experienced manufacturer who stands behind their product and assures you top performance of your saw over the long term. Make sure that your panel saw provider carries a full line of replacement parts and optional accessories to increase the efficiency and versatility of your panel saw as your business grows.
Hopefully these tips will give you a better idea about the important features you should look for in order to give long-term performance and productivity that meets your expectations.