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Panel Saws

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Hardware' started by bob, Dec 7, 2006.

  1. bob

    bob Major Contributor

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    I find myself in the market for a panel saw. I've always wrangled everything through a table saw in the past and so have no real experience with panel saws.

    Any recommendations, experiences, features you must have, things you don;t want, etc. would be a boon.

    I've nosed around a bit and so far the Saw Trax compact 52" with the sign shop package catches my eye and tickles my fancy. Of course every manufacturer will tell you how much better their saw is than any other. It's a lot of money to pony up for a mere fancy tickling.

    Some specific questions:

    Is 52" sufficient? I can count to number of 5'x boards I've dealt with on the thumbs one hand, but one never knows.

    Can this or any model be used reasonably without being up against a wall?

    Relative to cross-cutting, how much of a hassle is ripping?

    What accessories are considered indispensable? Things like mid-fences, knife cutters, hold downs, stops, etc?
     
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  2. ChiknNutz

    ChiknNutz Major Contributor

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    Personally, I've thought about one of those Fletcher cutters. They won't do MDO, but will cut up to 4mm Dibond, aluminum, glass, lexan, etc. with no mess like a saw will. I personally just don't use a lot of MDO, and try to use Dibond whenever I can. These cutters don't cut with a traditional rotary blade, but either with special clicing blades or like a rotary trimmer for the dibond. Not sure if you've consider them, as it may not suit your type of production.
     
  3. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

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    I have a SawTrax 52" which comes with everything you need for crosscutting. It is not worth much for ripping unless you also get the side extensions. I added them after the original purchase and they solved the ripping inaccuracies.

    I got mine seven years ago and they tell me that my two primary complaints have been resolved ... although I cannot personally attest to it. They are:

    1. The vacuum attachment system totally sucked. On mine it is nearly useless and I usually leave it disconnected and just hit myself and the floor with compressed air after cutting.

    2. The utility knife feature has too much slop in it to give a clean straight cut in coroplast.

    I do not have mine flush to the wall ... more like 4 to 6 inches out. It is in a fixed position though with about four feet of clearance beyond the extensions on each end to allow for passing an eight foot panel through it as a rip cut. The entire frame is on wheels and collapses from front to back if you want to roll it out of the way and lean it against a wall.
     
  4. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

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    We have the 60” with the side ends of an extra 72” on each side of the blade. :thumb:

    The vacuum is totally unnecessary, unless you’re setting this up in your living room. We have the mid fence, which is a really nice feature. We also have the knife and it’s so-so.

    As far as cutting 5’ boards, it’s more about if you have a 5’ cutoff and you want to cut it down the long way and not turn the saw sideways to do it. It’s just for lazy people… yep, that’s why I got it. Ripping and crosscutting, much like Fred said, you really need the side ends. Whole thing is only about $2,700 new, I think. It sure beats the table saw. In fact, we don’t use them near as much and it’s safer… so it seems.

    Ours is about 3’ from the wall, so we can get behind it to clean. We keep 10’ clear on each side so we can run larger substrates through it, including all the PVC’s, aluminum products and all the wood we can find. It stays perfectly plumb as long as you don’t kick a leg out by accident.
     
  5. GB2

    GB2 Very Active Member

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    I have a Safety Speed Cut H4, which I am very satisfied with and use every single day. I have demoed the Saw Trax a number of times and it seems to be a fine tool also. Without getting into a big debate, I think the Safety Speed Cut is of overall sturdier construction. I have no problem at all with consistent accuracy and easy cutting with both crosscuts and ripping. I routinely cut aluminum, mdo, pvc, hdu, laminate (formica), acryilic, etc. flawlessly with the same blade. As far as the 4' versus 5' cut capacity, if you are purchasing new and have the choice and the overhead room to use it, I would definitely go with the 5' capacity. You may not need that everyday, but the day you do you'll be happy you made that decision. My saw is the 120" frame, with 6' of support on either side of the blade. This is the basic frame as far as I'm concerned and anything less than that is a compromise out of some necessity, such as you are limited to space in your shop, you only do one type of small production, or some other reason. Do not get less than that based on price alone. You have the option of stationery mounting these saws flat against a wall, or having them sit on the floor with a rear support, and with or without wheels. As far as accessories, I agree with the others that the vacuum systems only work to a very limited degree and are not very worthwhile. The mid-fence is a very handy feature for repetitive use on small items. I have one and use it occasionally, the other option is getting down on your knees to cut small pieces at the floor level. I also have a stop gauge, which I think is a very good accessory. It is good for accuracy on repeat crosscuts. The other item that is almost essential is a hold down for thin materials, I didn't have one originally and added it afterwards. I do not have the knife cutter and don't see much sense in it. The saw cuts anything the knife cutter will, with no problem whatsoever. I also looked at the Fletcher cutters recently, they are OK for the limited materials they will cut but require repetitive scoring to do their work. They make a nice companion to a panel saw in the perfect shop setting but I'd choose the panel saw first.
     
  6. WYLDGFI

    WYLDGFI Active Member

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    I was personally thinking of the Sign Shop 64" SawTrax....I liked the options on it with the mid-fence the fact I could move it around if I wanted to. I have lots of space here BUT not exactly sure where I want to mount this thing. Getting the flatbed in a month or so and I have to be able to cut more of those substrates. The knife option did seem a bit sloppy...can probably figure out a way to get a better knife in there! Im getting mine through Charette and a hell of a deal on it. Somewheres around $1900 and change.
     
  7. theroq

    theroq Member

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    We have three speedcut panel saws.... Ebay for about 1000.00 for the sign industry this handles it all.

    I bought my first two machines used for about $500.00 and under used...

    Suggestions, shop around.

    Robert
     
  8. iSign

    iSign Major Contributor

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    another vote for Safety Speed cut.
    I also have the knife attachment & never use it... the blade does the job anyway, on items that could have been cut with the knife.

    I have the free-standing "leg" & wheels on mine & wouldn't consider not having them.

    I have the hold-down spring-things... but took them off & don't miss them.

    I have the extra heavy-duty vacuum system & love it.

    I don't have the mid fence, but that's not important.

    I think from what I've seen AND heard... it is vastly superior to the saw trax.

    I also wanted a fletcher... but got this & don't need that now.

    Here's mine when I just finished building the room it's in:

    [​IMG]
     
  9. MAB SIGNS

    MAB SIGNS Very Active Member

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    I'm glad this came up, Safety Speed Cut all the way! Anyone who has seen a safety speed cut or owned one knows why and here is another reason. Your saw direction on the Safety Speed Cut pulls the material towards the panel bed, the saw direction on the SawTraxx pulls your material away from the panel bed. Anyone see a problem with this? Safety Speed Cut is a superior product in my opinion.

    Doug your shop is tidy!
     
  10. iSign

    iSign Major Contributor

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    well... that shot was the day I moved in to that room after having it wrapped with sheetrock & painted. Before that it was a loft made with steel pallet racks & the ceiling was planks across the pallet rack crossbeams. To keep my sawdust contained in that one room, I decided to get it enclosed. My shop is always pretty tidy... but never that much!

    forklifted it to here:
    [​IMG]

    from here:
    [​IMG]

    ...when I bought my printer & needed more space on the first floor.
     
  11. Sign Works

    Sign Works Very Active Member

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    I've had my Safety Speed Cut H5 for about 7 years now with no problems. I had previously used a smaller one at previous job at sign franchise, that's why I got the bigger one and I'm glad I did. I never liked using a panel saw that was unsecured (on wheels) , try ripping a 24' sheet of expensive Lexan by yourself with a machine that's not secured, not very effecient and pretty dangerous too. I secured mine to the floor and to the wall by first securing pieces of 2 by 4's to the wall and floor then fabricated some brackets and mounted the saw to the 2 by 4's, very stable and works great, this also allowed me to get the saw closer to the wall than if I were to use the provided stand, it's probably 14" at the base and 6" at the top away from the wall. I also use a vacaum system but just went to home depot and got a large shop-vac and hooked that up, works great and at a fraction of the cost of what Safety Speed Cut charges for threir's. Also Safety Speed Cut wants way too much for their good blades, like $280.00, I use Systi-Matic blades, $40.00 - $60.00 and they work great.
     
  12. GB2

    GB2 Very Active Member

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    Speaking of blades....I just got a Bad Dog Blade at the USSC Show triple chip grind, suitable for any material, guaranteed for life...and a good price! How can you beat that? I'll let you know how it cuts shortly but I'm expecting great things.
     
  13. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

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    Triple chip is the best kind of blade for cutting acrylic. I've been using them forever. The only thing they don't do well with is aluminum.
     
  14. threeputt

    threeputt Very Active Member

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    Safety Speed Cut. First piece of equipment I bought in '89. Still going strong. Don't have the vacuum though, that'd be useful.

    My one beef with SSC, is like SignWorks'. The stinking blades cost too much if you buy through them. Been everywhere trying to find a better solution. Been re-sharpening the two I have forever.

    It seems like SSC uses an odd size so you almost have to buy from them. Thanks SignWorks, I'll try Systi-Matic.
     
  15. Gene@mpls

    Gene@mpls Very Active Member

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    SSC rules- they are 2 miles down the road and bring their new hires down
    here to see a saw in the real world. I have an H6 (6' tall) and the only
    thing that I have changed is the spring counterbalance- I was not fond
    of, I changed it to a pulley/counterweight (don't know how they come now).
    It is handy being able to cut a 6' panel without switching over to ripping.
    I would get the mid fence- I have at times cut hundreds of smaller panels
    and standing is better than squatting when you get to my age. And my
    vacuum system works fine with a $200 vac from Sears- the heavier dust
    falls to the floor, but the light stuff does not float around to cause problems
    for my printers. Spend a little more than you intended and you will not regret
    it- I hate when I underspend and regret it every time I use that equipment!
     
  16. iSign

    iSign Major Contributor

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    I agree about the blade price. I returned my $250 blade unused & bought a $50 blade from my local countertop laminate shop who runs a huge commercial panel saw every day... cutting dozens of different substrates... I don't recal what they called the blade, but it cuts aluminum, sintra, MDO, HDU, and Plex without ever changing or resharpening in the last 2 years.

    Their industrial dust collection unit is also too pricey... but they pictured it on every page of the catalog & every photo on the website when directing me to look at what package I was buying... so when they sent me a 10 gallon craftsman shop vac priced at double the price I could get it at Costco...

    ..I sent them some photos of minor scratches & dings my saw incurred in transit.... & told them to send me the industrial dust collection system... or come out to Hawaii and pick up the damaged product they delivered me.

    Man, that industrial strength dust collection unit is awesome!! (anyone want to buy a shop vac?)

    hmm.. I might have to get myself that mid-fence for christmas this year.
     
  17. Gene@mpls

    Gene@mpls Very Active Member

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    Doug- they are working on a folding version that I expect to be superior
    to their current model. I will be the beta tester- so I have been on them
    to getter' done. I would wait for that. Gene
     
  18. iSign

    iSign Major Contributor

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    HMMM... A FOLDING MID-FENCE???

    ok, maybe an Easter present?

    tell 'em I said Git-R-Done too!
     
  19. Mike Paul

    Mike Paul Major Contributor

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    Think they can put in in a sofa for all us space savers...:tongue:...:cool1:
     
  20. gabagoo

    gabagoo Major Contributor

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    I have the same one as Doug Allens, although mine looks smaller and without the vacuum attachment. I love it and it sure speeds things up at the shop
     
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