Most hobbyist woodworkers are impressed when they see my saw. It’s a big piece of machinery, especially with the 5′ sliding table and outrigger. And for many of them, it’s something they’ve never seen, or even imagined before.
When I tell someone who has seen this type of machine before, they nod in approval and assume that I work with a lot of sheet goods. That’s a fair guess, as the saw does excel at cutting up plywood.
If you’ve ever tried to break down a sheet of plywood on a table saw, you’ll fully understand the benefits of a sliding table saw. When ripping, instead of fighting the plywood across the saw, trying to maintain an even feed rate while keeping the edge against the fence and struggling to support it throughout the cut, it’s a simple matter of loading the plywood on the sliding table, setting it against the fence, and pushing the plywood and sliding table past the blade. It’s almost effortless. Need a 4′ wide sheet cross-cut? No problem. Set the plywood against the cross-cut fence and push it through. Here’s a short demonstration of breaking down a sheet of plywood.
The sliding table is half of why this type of saw excels at working with sheet goods. The scoring blade is the other half. A scoring blade is a small blade located in front of the main blade. It cuts a kerf slightly wider than the main blade and is installed so the teeth point backwards and it counter-rotates, or turns the opposite way. It is set very low, just low enough to nick, or score, the bottom surface of the material being cut. It counter-rotates to ensure a clean cut on the bottom edge of the plywood – the face of the plywood is supported by the core so there is no tearout. Of course, having a blade rotating in the wrong direction, trying to pull the stock forward could be very dangerous in theory. However, because the blade is taking such a light cut, the weight of the material it is cutting is enough to keep the scoring blade from pulling it forward. Here is a very short clip of the scoring blade in use.
Yes, sliding table saws with scoring blades are great for plywood.
But that’s not why I bought mine. Plywood is great for some things, but my designs don’t have much use for plywood. Besides, my workshop is not large enough to easily manage a full sheet of plywood. Most of my work uses solid wood, and I feel my saw is equally advantageous. The sliding table is great for straight line ripping. That’s when I have a rough piece of lumber with no straight edges. Without this saw, I would joint one face and one edge, then rip the other edge. But now, I just clamp the piece of lumber to the sliding table and push it past the blade for a straight cut. Then I turn it around and use the fence to get the other edge straight and parallel. I’ve rarely used my jointer to edge-joint since I got this saw. It’s a big time saver – especially when the edge isn’t close to being straight.
Straight line ripping is half of the reason I bought this saw. The other half is to do wide crosscuts. With my old contractor’s saw, small cuts were easy with the miter gauge. Crosscuts up to about a foot or so were manageable with a sled, but wider cuts required a circular saw.
A few advantages that I hadn’t thought about when choosing a saw include cutting tapers and small parts. Tapers are a simple matter of clamping the stock to the sliding table at the intended angle and making the cut. With a conventional table saw, small parts can be a challenge to cut safely, but with the hold-down clamp I just position the part, clamp it down, and can safely cut the part while standing at the end out of the outrigger, a full 3′ away from the blade. I am very glad that I ordered the hold-down. Another advantage is that all the clutter that sometimes ends up on the table doesn’t get in your way… as long as it’s on the sliding table. Instead, it just moves with you.
A couple other niceties that this saw has, but aren’t exclusive to a sliding table saw include the european-style fence (similar to the Unifence) which can be used in the short configuration where the fence is slid forwards so that it at the leading edge of the blade. This virtually eliminates any chance of stock getting trapped between the fence and blade. I use the short fence a lot for ripping cuts and repetitive cross-cuts. The 5 HP motor is certainly nice too. Blade changes are made easy thanks to an arbor lock and a single wrench after moving the sliding table to the forward-most position. This video was taken soon after I got the saw; I am now more efficient at changing blades but the procedure remains the same.