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I recently completed building a mammoth vertical panel saw. Measuring over 8' long and 6' tall, this was to be the tool to end all tools as far as cutting sheet goods goes. I was pretty proud of it, but in the end it did not work quite as well as I expected.

Then, I came across an article in Fine WoodWorking, Issue #143, titled "A Circular Saw in the Furniture Shop?", written by Gary Williams. Dang! It hit me that his Panel Cutting Table was really what I needed. Most of us have built or used something similar to Gary's cutting table, it was his simple procedure for lifting the material onto the table that I had never thought of. Ingenious.

Anyway, I purchased a banquet table folding leg set at Menards for $13.00, four 2 x 4s (I needed one additional 32" piece), and 1 hour later I had myself a panel cutting table. And his procedure for lifting the material onto the table works like a charm. If only I had seen the article before I built my blasted contraption. Thanks FWW. Thanks Gary. Thanks Luzimar for putting up with my failed inventions.....

Update: After using the panel cutting table and my shop-made cutting guides for several months, I can honestly say that I have absolutely no interest in purchasing a vertical panel cutting saw. My setup is easy to use and produces perfectly accurate cuts with minimal chip out. I purchased a Forrest WWII blade for my DeWALT circular saw thinking it would out perform the less-expensive 7-1/4" CMT Cut-Off blade. After comparing the two, the CMT blade produces a cleaner crosscut (no chip out) in hardwood plywoods. The Forrest blade might have a slight edge on rip cuts, though the difference is miniscule.

Panel Cutting Table Design

Design / Construction Notes:

  • All frame members are standard 2 x 4's.
  • You could use 2 x 2s for the long rails and not mortise the rails like I did.
  • Adjust the spacing of the second and third cross members depending on your leg set.
Panel Cutting Table Panel Cutting Table

Panel Cutting Operations

Animated TableTo load a sheet of plywood onto the table, tip the table onto a pair of scrap 2 x 4 spacers, lift the plywood onto the spacers and against the table, and lift the plywood and the table together. You will find that gravity does most of the work.

Online Access to Issue # 143

You can access the Gary Williams article here: A Circular Saw in the Furniture Shop?" If for some reason the article is no longer available, click here for a PDF version.

Circular Saw Guides

In the past I have used Penn State Circular Saw Guides with my circular saw to cut large panels. However, I decided to toss the Penn State guide for several shop-made guides that in my opinion, work better. I have three primary shop-made guides:

  1. An 8-foot guide used for ripping large panels. The guide works well enough that I can rip the entire length of a sheet of plywood and be accurate within 1/64" or better.
  2. A 48-inch guide used for crosscutting panels.
  3. A 60-inch "T-Square" guide used for crosscutting panels. I often use this guide and my saw as a substitute for the radial arm saw I sold a few years ago. I simply clamp the guide to my panel cutting table (with a spacer the thickness of my workpieces at the far end). I then slide the work under the guide and cut.

Recently, I have begun using the Festool circular saw and guide system. They have advantages over shop-made guides. You can check out our review of the Festool system at our Tool Reviews page.

There are numerous ways to calibrate a circular saw guide to cut square. Unfortunately, using a carpenter's square or even a machinist's square does not always cut it. There are three methods that are regarded as being the best practice methods for squaring a crosscut device (guides, miter gauges, sleds, and sliding tables). Click Here to read about and view demonstrations of three methods for calibrating crosscut devices.

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