Panel Saw Experiences?

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Sun, Dec 23, 2007, 5:31am (EST-3) snipped-for-privacy@q.com (OldGuy) doth sayeth: <snip> Their power saw of choice was a miter saw. I was impressed. It'sa lot safer than a circular saw or a table saw, and the design practically prevents kick backs. <snip>
I consider my mitre saw one of my scarier tools. I can just see turning a bunch like those descrived with miter saws, and lopping fingers off right and left.
It's no problem cutting along a line with a circular saw, if you don't opt to use a straightedge. "Ge doctore, I was just trying to cut that really small piee." Probably they wouldn't do much better with a panel saw, proably want to cut some odd shapes. If they freehand panels on a contractor saw they sure can't be much concerned with really accurate cuts. I'd say the safest way would be a couple of circular saws, and a couple (or more) dedicated cutters. Or get 'em a few sabre saws and turn 'em loose, I've never heard of anyone getting a critical injury with one of those - of course there's always a first time. And make bloody damn sure they con't screw with any circular saw guards. Me, I'd probably bail, and to Hell with 'em all.
JOAT My memory is not as sharp as it used to be. Also, my memory is not as sharp as it used to be.
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On Sat, 22 Dec 2007 17:14:25 -0800 (PST), DonkeyHody

I purchased the Milwaukee panel saw for the scene shop for our local community theater. We used it to cut anything from 1/4 inch luan to 3/4 inch decking ply.
Not only does it make cutting full sheets of ply much easier, it's much faster and safer than trying to wrestle those heavy sheets up onto a table saw. Everyone who had an experience with this saw was amazed at how much easier it was to use.
I use both the panel saw and straight edge/circular saw for cutting plywood and can only say that when building a set with lots of plywood cutting, the panel saw wins hands down.
Two points: Take your time on setup to get it as accurate as possible and purchase the mid support rail. I didn't do the second and regretted it because you have to bend down a lot when cutting narrow strips to length.
HTH Bill
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Bill, You're the guy I've been looking for! From the photos, it appears that the Milwaukee saw doesn't move horizontally, that you push the material through it to make cuts longer than 4 feet, is that correct? Is the bed long enough to rip an 8 foot piece accurately, or does it require skill to keep it straight?
DonkeyHody "If you think you've made it foolproof, you've obviously underestimated the ingenuity of the fool."
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On Sun, 23 Dec 2007 06:40:29 -0800 (PST), DonkeyHody

That is correct. The saw only moves vertically. I think the total movement is The platten is rotated 90 degrees and locked in place for long rip cuts. For full 8' sheets, you will need to buy the feed rail extensions. For ripping, I've found it's best to have two people (but not necessary). One to feed and one to extract. However, you can feed a sheet part way, move to the other side and pull the sheet the rest of the way through. I typically handled up to 1/2 inch sheets myself, and asked for help with 3/4 inch sheets for ease of handling.
Again, accuracy depends on setup. The bottom rail extensions have adjustable feed rollers, that need to be aligned with a long straight edge. If I remember correctly, the feed rollers on the main rail were pre-set. I didn't check the accuracy very often, but in general, the accuracy appeared to be within 1/16 inch or better.
The only drawback is that the crosscut stop only goes to about 60 inches, so if you are using the stop to cut a piece longer than that, you need to do a little math.
The picture shown here: http://tinyurl.com/35d57s includes the rail extensions (as well as all of the other accessories, I believe).
Bill
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DonkeyHody wrote:

Go cheap and save the money for educational materials the school really needs: http://www.popularwoodworking.com/techniquearticle?id 186
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The show choir is self-funded. It does not compete with education for money. The director is paid a salary by the school, but ticket sales and fundraisers bring in the rest. Oh, and the parents of each kid pay an unholy monthly fee for the privilege of participation.
DonkeyHody "We, the unwilling, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much with so little for so long that we are now qualified to do anything with nothing."
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well, if they have the funds and the space, a panel saw would be of great service to them. good panel saws are expensive, though. perhaps if there is a metal shop at the school they might be interested in taking on building one as a class project?
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DonkeyHody wrote:

Simple, cheap method that works great for me:
Build open support frame of tubafors screwed together more than an inch away from edge, to make an open matrix about 4' x 8'.
Drop 4' x 8' sheet onto frame.
Set up straight edge for cutting an edge "really" straight, if it matters, with circ-saw set to just cut through sheet. Then set up straight edge for subsequent cuts. Main challenge here is sequence of cuts to harvest most of sheet. Simple factory-made guide of (2) 4'+ lengths works great.
Resting tubafore support frame on tailgate of p/u and horses also works great for breaking down sheets while unloading, and minimizes damage.
Only incremental expense is a few tubafores and screws. Meanwhile, all extremities are full-length. No amputations/kickbacks yet.
John
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wrote:

I think most of the posters are missing the point. The OP is asking if a panel saw is the best solution for his situation, not the cheapest.
I've used a table saw, circular saw with straight edge and home made jigs and none of them beat the panel saw for dealing with full size sheets of plywood. I will admit that I've never used a commercial table saw with massive infeed and outfeed tables though.
Our scene shop workers consisted of people with many, many years of experience to those with no experience at all. With minimal training, just about anyone could be taught to use the panel saw safely.
I never felt comfortable letting people with little experienc use the table saw or circular saw. I won't say it doesn't happen, but I never experienced a kickback with the panel saw.
Another thing of note is that we have a power miter saw fixed in place for cutting board stock. We have the luxury of having a 30 foot bench with the saw fixed in the middle. Again, much safer and quicker than a circular saw.
Bill
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Exactly. Many, despite evidence to the contrary, also seem to have it in their heads that experienced woodworkers are doing this work. Though it would be nice, I have no real need for a panel saw because I just don't cut enough volume of sheet goods to make it worth the cost. The OP talks about cutting 40 sheets at a time.
todd
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Thank you for correctly interpreting my perhaps ill-phrased question. I know all about the cheap solutions. Trouble is, they take too much time and don't reduce the risk significantly. I've been cutting plywood with a circular saw and straightedges for decades, but this high-volume operation needs a quicker method that will yeild accurate results and can be used by semi-skilled volunteers. I'm already convinced that a panel saw, or some other very similar machine, is what we need. What I wanted to know was about the Milwaukee in particular, and also if there are other similar machines I should look into. Thanks again for your help.
DonkeyHody "While I know you understood what you thought I said, you fail to realize that what you heard was not what I meant."
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I admire your diplomatic approach to joining this group. No one responds well to the "new kid on the block" trying to boss people around or becoming a "safety Nazi"! Your skills have obviously been recognized and I'm sure you're correct in concluding that they view you as their "technical expert".
There've been many good suggestions (some not so good) about equipment and techniques so I'll simply add that I think a good quality panel saw would make a fine "investment" for many years to come. May I also suggest an idea taken from the pages of The Home Depot approach to equipment. I work parttime at a local store and no one can operate any of the equipment (saws, cutters, forklifts, etc.) without first completing an equipment orientation and safety training course. Their policy is driven for liability reasons.
May I suggest that you, as the expert, develop a brief and simple orientation course for each of the tools in the inventory. The intent wouldn't be to teach people how to design and build things... but simply to ensure they know the correct and safe operation of a power tool. Whoever is the overall "boss" of the program would readily see the value of adopting a policy requiring everyone to have this training before using any potentially dangerous power tool. Maintaining a log showing who's been trained would be a good thing, too. The orientation would minimize the potential for personal injury or damage to the equipment and it would go a long way to indemnifying the organization (and its members) from a lawsuit.
Good on 'ya for helping in the community and passing on your skills and knowledge to the younger generation. After all... they'll be building our coffins!
Michael
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One thing I failed to make clear is that these are NOT high school kids building sets. The dads are building sets while the kids practice. But many of the other dads are quite a bit younger than I am.
I'm amazed both with what they've been able to accomplish in building sets, and with the total lack of organization or any systematic approach. The guy who is overall in charge of making it happen is an architech. He's mostly an artsy type with good people skills, but he's not into tools & such. He confessed the other day that he doesn't own a drill.
There are huge gaps in the group's tool inventory. Those gaps are usually filled by tools the volunteers bring from home. I don't mind taking my tools up there for my own use, or under my watch, but I treasure my tools and I'm not willing to leave them for others to use while I'm not there.
Most of the group had never used a quality jig saw before and were amazed at the performance and smoothness of my Porter Cable.
There's lots of other tools I'd like them to buy besides the panel saw, but I think the panel saw would help prevent that accident that's just waiting to happen.
DonkeyHody "Every man is my superior in that I can learn from him." - Thomas Carlyle
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"DonkeyHody"

I may have missed it, but are you not going to instruct them on safe tool use? And, as soon as possible? You seem preoccupied with them buying a panel saw, but they have they're safety hazards too, just not as many as a table saw. Why haven't you yet spoken up within your theatre group about your concerns about safety? Either you're too shy to do so for some reason or hesitant for another reason. What is it? I'm not attacking you, reciting what seems to be happening.
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I did point out to them the dangers of crosscutting against the fence. I have stated to the leadership that I think wrestling full- size sheets across an undersize table saw with no outfeed table is unecessarily dangerous. But until we have a better way, I'm not going to attempt to stop grown adults from doing something just because I consider it risky. If I were in charge of them, it would be different, but I'm not. Next you'll want me to confront people who skydive, bungie jump and jaywalk. I'm not taking on that responsibility, and if you see it as a character weakness, I can live with it.
DonkeyHody "We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it - and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again---and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore." - Mark Twain
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There's a considerable difference between people who engage in risky activities for the thrill of it and those who are just trying to enjoy themselves in friendly interaction like your theatre group. You didn't hesitate for one second in stating your concern here in this newsgroup obviously because you feel the people here would be more likely to support what you are thinking. That doesn't appear to be the case within your theatre group however.
If was in your place, I'd speak up and present graphic examples of what they're doing wrong and suggest how it could be fixed. All that could happen is that I might be temporarily booed a bit, but then it would be over. Consider however, if they took you seriously and acted on your concerns.
Just as obviously, these are only my opinions. My personality usually dictates that I should act if I think I can make a positive contribution to some situation, at least when it comes to my friends.
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*snip*

*snip*
You know, you don't always need graphic examples to get the point across. A few kindly spoken words, suggesting that they do something different, or rethink an action they're taking sometimes works just fine.
As long as you're trying to help, IME most people are willing to let you.
Puckdropper
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Marching to the beat of a different drum is great... unless you're in
marching band.
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Festool has a pretty neat setup . . . but its $$$$$.
In the recent FWW 2008 tool review they looked at a number of methods of cutting sheet goods. Cant remember all they tested, but the festool got high marks and the Lee Valley system did pretty well.
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I hope you won't think I'm bragging when I say that I own or owned just about every tool you can imagine. And to present my credentials I'll tell you that I was a licensed welder, machinist and gunsmith before pursuing knowledge and skill development in the building, electronics and computer trades. I've owned a number of different businesses and have achieved a measure of noteriety (within my neck of the woods, anyway) as a world champion athlete in a shooting sport. I'm told that I'm a fairly reasonable and learned guy.
But...my suggestion to you draws upon 32 years in law enforcement (I'm currently a Detective Sergeant in command of a specialty unit). Over the years I've investigated many, many industrial and residential accidents and have witnessed both the physical carnage and the legal ramifications from these types of events. Ask your insurance agent why your homeowner's policy includes a "slip and fall" clause to protect you in the event a trespasser becomes injured while on your property.
North American culture... and more importantly, our courts... have created the notion that we have a right to be protected from our own stupidity. If I get hurt... someone else has to pay, regardless of how stupid my actions were!
If you take one of your tools to use at the jobsite and someone uses it without your knowledge or permission and hurts themselves... in a lawsuit you could be found "negligent" for not securing the dangerous tool from another person's access. And it could cost 'ya.
If you take one of your tools to use at the jobsite and allow another person to use it with your permission but without ensuring that they know how to use it safely, and they get hurt... you could be found "grossly negligent" and it could cost 'ya... big time! The same holds true for the organization and its principals, directors, directly involved members, and so on.
But don't just take my word for it... check out the meaning of "negligence" and "gross negligence" with a lawyer and ask him or her about civil liability as well. I'm sure that the artsy fartsy architect will understand... as he's no doubt aware of his liability risks in the event that a building he designs should fall on someone's head.
I'm not trying to scare you... I'm offering my opinion to help you, based upon my experience and based upon the horror stories I personally know about. It would be a shame to lose all your tools... your house, your car/truck, etc. for lack of a few minutes taken to cover 'yer butt!
Geez... did I say all that out loud?!? I didn't mean to climb up on a soap box... I guess I would just hate to see a good guy like you get hooped!
All the best and good luck to you.
Michael
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On Wed, 26 Dec 2007 05:44:41 GMT, "toolman946 via CraftKB.com"

Sadly, I had some similar thoughts.
I do volunteer work, where I'll never loan my power tools to anyone who I haven't developed total respect for their skills and sensibilities. I turn down LOTS of requests at jobs to use my tools to make a quick cut, or drive a few nails...
I'm not even sure I would select a specific panel saw for the school to buy, or install it. I would simply point them to a knowledgeable local dealer, who can sell it and set it up.
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