Vertical advantage

45_verticaladvantage_01For shops that cut a lot of sheet goods, a panel saw is a necessity. The vertical panel saw has become a popular choice since it takes up minimal floor space and has ergonomic loading advantages.

But selecting a vertical panel saw is no easy task. The Woodshop News staff found plenty of new or upgraded designs at IWF 2010, ranging from portable to CNC models. What follows is an alphabetical listing of the major brands.

Elcon

Adwood Corp. of High Point, N.C., the U.S. distributor of the Elcon brand, offers three lines of "high-end" vertical panel saws. The latest models are from the DS line of compact machines developed to offer a quality and affordable machine to the entry-level customer.

44_verticaladvantage_01"What makes a good vertical panel saw versus an inferior one is how long do you get a chip-free square cut on the machine," says Rudi Stockinger, Adwood president. "There are some machines out there and you set them up and you never have a chip-free cut because that is how they are built. They are inexpensive and are just set up to bust panels down. There are some panel saws out there that are $2,000 to $3,000 and there are others that go up to $80,000 or $90,000. You have to look at what you want to do with the machine, what you expect that the outcome is going to be on your panel. Do you want the panel to come off so you can stick it in an edgebander and put the edge on and everything is fine, everything is high quality? Or do you want a machine where you just say, 'I'm busting down crating material and I don't care what the cut looks like.'"

DS line features include a 7.5-hp motor, transport rollers, double-cut scoring, moveable frame, roller-bearing guides and a welded box frame. Elcon also has a DSX line and a DSXE CNC model, which offers automatic operation for both the horizontal and vertical axis.

"The DS is a mid-market machine, what we call our entry-level vertical panel saw," Stockinger says. "It is a price-conscious machine, which we normally have in shops with anywhere from three to 15 employees. The DSX normally goes in shops from 10 to 25 employees."

The base DS model starts at about $17,000, the entry-level DSX model costs about $24,000 and the DSXE can go as high as $124,000. www.adwood.com

Hendrick Mfg.

For about $22,500, Hendrick Mfg. in Salem, Mass., offers the new VSS20.40 scoring vertical panel saw.

"Our machine comes standard with a 7.5-hp motor, the 3-1/2" cut depth. Another nice feature is the digital scales," says Hendrick's Jeff Grant. "We have both the vertical and horizontal cut and the positioning is done with scales with digital readouts on them. A lot of our competitors have options for those and I know they're real pricey options."

46_verticaladvantage_01The 20.40 also has a dust-assist system, which is an impellor fan on the motor that actually pushes the material to the backside of the machine. "For a lot of applications, that's all you need. Of course, we also recommend that the [saw] be connected to a stand-alone or central system, but the dust-assist system really does work quite well.

"We use an automatic grid shift. Ours is pneumatic/electrical, so there's really not a whole lot mechanical that can go wrong. We like to brag that our machines require very little maintenance. They're engineered and manufactured around that."

The 20.40 is a European-style vertical panel saw. For a few thousand more, Hendrick also offers a fully automatic vertical beam saw, the Pro-V.

"It has a single cut direction. If you want to crosscut your material, instead of pivoting the saw carriage and manually pulling it through, you would actually rotate the material 90 degrees and just push a button. The saw blade is completely concealed, it has a full-length pneumatic, precision-engineered beam that the saw carriage travels through and it's fully automatic," says Grant.

"We've replaced a lot of European-style panel saws with our vertical beam saw." www.hendrickmanufacturing.com

Holz-Her

Holz-Her introduced the vertical panel saw in 1958 and the company, which was recently purchased by the Weinig Group, continues to be a leader in the field.

Its latest model is the VPS 1255, a manual vertical panel saw that features an all-welded frame, 169" x 75" cutting capacity, 2-1/2" cutting depth with scoring, 5.5-hp motor, precision guideways for the saw beam and saw unit, full-length continuous grooved workpiece support and automatic shifting back grid.

It's also available as an automatic version, model VPS 1260.

Both models are available with an optional angle cut fixture for cutting angles up to 49 degrees. The fixture is clamped to the saw and once the angle is selected, the panel is positioned and fixed in place by two moveable suction cups. The fixture can be set up to the right or left of the cutting location.

Prices could not be determined at press time. www.holzher.com

Powermatic

Powermatic has one vertical panel saw, model 511, which lists for $7,057, but sells for $4,500 to $5,000 from several distributors.

47_verticaladvantage_01The 511 has plenty of power for the most demanding cuts, according to the company. It features a 3-hp worm-drive motor which rotates in the carriage, adding the versatility to perform rip cuts. The saw can accept panels up to 5' tall, has horizontal and vertical scales, an adjustable stop and casters for mobility. A counterweight system keeps the carriage out of the way, while loading stock and the rollers are solid aluminum. Two 4" ports help with dust collection. www.powermatic.com

Safety Speed Cut

Safety Speed Cut recently upgraded its ES5210 panel saw, ideal for shops where it will get plenty of use.

"This saw is designed for a high-production shop that demands continuous production and tight tolerance cutting. The optional scoring unit on this saw will deliver a nice chip-free cut. We do have some smaller shops that put it in, but usually it's going into the mid- to large-sized shops with 10-plus employees," says Tom Houska of Safety Speed Cut.

48_verticaladvantage_01Houska adds this is the company's top-of-the line panel saw. It's a European-style saw that features a traveling carriage. The traveling beam allows the operator to leave the panel stationary while the cutting blade moves both vertically and horizontally. It's equipped with a 7-hp, 3-phase 220-volt motor, so it's a very powerful machine. It can handle panels up to 61" tall and 130" long.

The saw features a 13-1/2' frame, built-in gauges with length stops, an integrated dust collection system, stops for horizontal cuts, self-moving panel supports, and a Mid-Way Fence system. A single-phase, 5-hp motor is also available.

The base price for the ES5210 is $19,199.

Safety Speed Cut also offers two portable models (C4 and C5), three entry-level full-sized models (H-Series), two models with worn-gear driven saw motors (6400 and 6800), and two 3-hp models (7400 and 7400XL). www.safetyspeed.com

Saw Systems

Saw Systems manufactures seven different models of vertical panel saws, the 5200 series, the 6400 series and the 7610 model. The first two model numbers denote the crosscut capabilities.

"The 52" crosscut is designed for cutting 4x8 sheets and the 64" model is designed for cutting 5' wide material," says company owner Don Long. "Most woodworking shops buy the 52" crosscut because they deal with the 4x8 sheet material. We sell a lot of the 64s to the people that work in plastics because a lot of plastics come 5' wide. That's the big difference."

48_verticaladvantage_02The saws feature a rotating saw plate that can be interchanged with other accessory plate options. By releasing two knobs on the right-hand side of the carriage, it releases the saw where it will rotate 360 degrees.

"Now there are pinholes in the plate where the saw can stop at every 90 degrees. Once you release it, all you have to do is turn the head of the saw and the pins will snap into the position. That's a standard feature on all of our saws. It's very easy," says Long.

Saw Systems' panel saws are also sold with a 15-amp, 3-1/4-hp Milwaukee saw motor that can use either a 7-1/4" or 8-1/4" blade. The company also offers a replacement motor to work with a 10" or 12" blade.

Frame extensions are also available. Saw prices range from $1,595 to $2,695. www.sawsystems.net

Saw Trax

Saw Trax Mfg. has small portable models and larger heavy-duty machines. Starting with its smallest choices, Saw Trax offers its Classic Series, which includes a horizontal and vertical tape, a Makita saw with saw cover and a 24-tooth carbide-tipped saw blade. Following that are the 1000, 2000 and 3000 series. The company also provides a Signmaker's combo machine.

The 1000 Series has a 10' wide frame and a package that includes many of the options woodworkers ask for, such as a folding stand and castors. The 2000 Series steps up with steel sleeved rollers and a Skil 15-amp worm-drive saw on a spinning insert. The 3000 Series is similar to the 2000 Series, but it also includes a 10" Milwaukee saw on a spinning insert.

Two of the most interesting Saw Trax innovations are the floating router insert, Accu-Square and knife-cutter insert.

"Most plywood has some type of flow with it or twist; it's not perfectly flat," explains company president Mike Dellapolla. "Now if you want to cut a 1/4" dado in that plywood and your router is suspended above it, as the router goes through the bowed middle, it is going to cut a little deeper than 1/4". If the router is floating or actually riding on the material, it is going to cut a constant 1/4" because it is on the material. The advantage of our machines is you can put that floating router insert in any model."

The Accu-Square feature is exclusive to Saw Trax, which is a patented alignment system that never goes out of square, according to the company.

Prices range from $1,999 to $4,626. www.sawtrax.com.

Striebig

At IWF 2010, Colonial Saw introduced the latest accessory for the Swiss-made Striebig vertical panel saws. The Touch and Go programmable stop can increase production by up to 35 percent, according to the distributor.

"It's part of the system that controls the programmable measuring stop on the machine that moves back and forth, right to left," explains product manager Dave Bull. "You position the measuring stop with the touch screen by entering a dimension - the stop, via a motor, will automatically go to that position. You still need to manually move the panel up against the measuring stop and then go ahead and make your cut, whether it's manually with a manual saw or with the push of a button with an automatic saw."

The programmable stop lets the user input fractions by pushing a single touch-screen control and download a cut list from a network connection or a USB drive. The touch screen is a 15" color monitor that can be retrofitted to any new Striebig Compact or Standard models, or any existing Control and Evolution models.

The Touch and Go sells for $8,900, plus the cost of installation. www.csaw.com.

Zapkut and SageTech

Zapkut Ltd., a vertical panel saw specialist based in southern England, debuted two portable models at IWF 2010: the 4x8 ZK8 and 5x10 ZK10.

Featuring fiberglass supports that fold up in seconds, the ZK8 weighs about 70 lbs. with the saw attachment.

49_verticaladvantage_01"What I realized is that there were a lot of people asking for something that they could use on site or in a very small workshop. There's never been anything on the market. The challenge was to get something that was robust, lightweight, could fold up and be taken out to site. It had to be accurate and it had to be low cost. We've achieve all of that," says Keith Bunker, director of Zapkut Ltd.

"You can plunge- and bevel-cut with it. The other big thing with it is it has very good support for the 4x8 sheets so when you're wanting to rip, you're well away from the blade. And when you're not using it, you can fold it up in just a few seconds and hang it on the wall or in your van."

The portable units use a 7'-1/4 saw, supplied by the customer. The ZK8 sells for $1,595, while the ZK10 costs $1,895.

Zapkut also offers the ZM series with a compact moving column design. Designed for use in the shop, the series includes the 4x8 ZM12 ($4,200), 5x10 ZM16 ($4,795) and 7'6x10 ZM21 ($6,295).

Finally, there's the SageTech series of Koolkut vertical panel saws. "The Koolkut models are our company's next level up. They sit in the U.S. market in a bracket that is not covered at all, in between the ZK and ZM units and the Streibigs, Elcons and the like," says Bunker.

There are 12 Koolkut models. www.zapkut.co.uk and www.sagetech.co.uk.

This article originally appeared in the November 2010 issue.