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Slider vs. cabinet saw?

There is an ongoing discussion as to which is better, a conventional table saw or a sliding table saw. I have always maintained that, despite their obvious similarities, these are discretely different machines. If you can only afford or only have space for one, the decision should be made based on what your primary use is.

If you work mostly with solid stock, the conventional cabinet saw will probably serve you better. If you work mostly with sheet stock, the slider will win out.

Most sliders are sold as "panel saws." They are designed specifically for handling sheets. This is not to say that you cannot process solid stock on them. But these machines have one major drawback. Whether you are talking about a "dedicated" sliding table machine or a conventional table saw fitted with a sliding table attachment, you are going to have some sort of structure supporting the slider.

In the case of a dedicated slider, this is typically an extension of the saw base cabinet itself. With attachments, there is usually a tubular or rectangular support that is bolted to the saw's base or that replaces the left side table extension wing. Whichever one you have, this support will be in your way when you are attempting to rip lumber. You have to stand to the side of this support and lean over to push boards through the saw. Not only can this be uncomfortable (especially over a long period) but can put you in a compromised position which always reduces the safety of any operation.

The other thing about these supports is that you will find yourself continually walking around them to move the rip fence. In many instances, you will also find yourself walking around the outrigger of the slider to off-load the cutoff pieces. Many shops consider the slider to be a "two man" machine with one person doing the cutting and the other working as a "tail-off" person.

I have a 10' slider in my shop. But when I put it in, I kept my trusty Unisaw. I have found, over the years that the Uni is the "go to" saw for most of my cutting. But whenever I need to cut plywood or other sheets, the slider is the machine of choice. And the slider is great for tons of "specialty" cuts that would be a PITA on a conventional table saw. So my advice is, if at all possible, have both.


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