Best Saws for Cutting Panels of 2020

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Categories Saws
Got a panel that needs cutting? We’ve got 5 saws that will cut it. 

Some woodworking tasks require specialist tools. The construction industry works on efficiency, accuracy, and speed, so it’s no wonder that when extensive sheet material needs cutting, they turn to panel saws.

But can saws other than dedicated panel saws cut panels? We say yes. Let us look at the best saws for cutting boards to see which is the best and why you should choose them.


What Is a Panel Saw Used For?

The clue is in the name. Panel saws are the best tools for cutting substantial sheet material. In the building trade, cutting panels and other tasks require efficiency and speed. A panel saw, once set up, will cut panel after panel with no adjustments.

This allows the tradesperson to work swiftly, completing a task that would have taken much longer had they not used the right tool.

Types of Saws for Cutting Panels

Besides dedicated panel saws, there are a variety of saws that cut panels. Some of these other saws even have multiple uses.

Vertical Panel Saws

Saw Trax 1064 Full Size Varsity Package Panel Saw
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Vertical panel saws deal with the most substantial sheet material. They are expensive, typically costing thousands of dollars. Unsurprisingly, they are a firm favorite with the construction industry, especially house builders.

Vertical panel saws are designed around a frame system that holds the panel vertically, and they look a little like an artist’s easel. They have guide rods to position the stock and roller bearings to make saw adjustment easy.

These saws cut hundreds of sheets per day. They are best for heavy-duty work, so you wouldn’t have one of these for a home DIY task. And because of the cost, only professional tradespeople would invest in one.

Due to their size and lack of portability, these saws are permanent features of wood shops where the panels are cut to size and shipped to the construction site.


Horizontal or Sliding Saws

Shop Fox W1811 10-Inch 5 HP Sliding Table Saw
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Horizontal or sliding panel saws are more akin to table saws with a specialist attachment. Rather than working vertically, the sheet material is clamped into a brace and slid towards the blade to make rip cuts, crosscuts, and angled cuts.

The advantage of this saw system is that you can use the table saw for almost every type of woodworking task, so it doesn’t just cut panels. The table saw is the backbone of any woodshop, so having a sliding attachment to turn it into a vertical panel saw increases its versatility.


Hand Panel Saws

SUIZAN Japanese Pull Saw Hand Saw 9.5 Inch Ryoba Double Edge for Woodworking
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If you favor the traditional way of cutting panels, you could always look to the East for inspiration. Japan is famed for its steel blades, and when it comes to hand panel saws, they have it covered.

Often these tools are called pull saws because unlike western push saw design, the teeth cut on the pull action. This uses less energy to create the cut and has the bonus of leaving a much cleaner edge.


Track Saws

Makita SP6000J1 6-1/2 In. Plunge Circular Saw Kit, with Stackable Tool Case and 55 In. Guide Rail
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You could also invest in a track saw. These tools are mainly electric circular saws that run along a track.

The track enables you to make accurate and straight cuts in large panels and sheet material without too much fuss. They are cheaper than sliding table saws and vertical saws, but the trade-off is that hand saws, including track saws, are much slower.

For this reason, DIY enthusiasts are more likely to favor them.


How to Choose the Best Saw for Cutting Panels

Frame Size

Frame size is crucial if you are shopping for a vertical panel saw. The frame size determines the panel capacity. If the frame isn’t large enough to accommodate the biggest boards, warping could occur in the panel.

This leads to inaccuracies and mistakes creeping in. Ideally, you should look for a frame that is at least 100 inches wide. This ensures the right support for the most common types of plywood but if your budget doesn’t stretch to 100 inches, try 80 inches instead.

Portability

Getting your panel saw to the job site is important. It means you have the tools to hand to tackle any surprises that arise. Also, you can make adjustments and cut to order, which reduces delays while you wait for more panels to get shipped from the factory or workshop.

Vertical panel saws are the least portable of the varieties, but some do fold and are transportable. Sliding table saws are pretty much a no-go when it comes to moving them. The sliding attachment fits the cabinet or hybrid style of table saw, and those are often not maneuverable.

The most portable are track saws. They are lightweight, and the saw and track can be carried under your arm. The trade-off is that they are not as quick at cutting en-mass.

Cutting Power

Vertical saws are always going to win the power contest. They have one role, and that’s slicing panels.

Most vertical panel saws have 15 amp motors, which generate 5,000 to 8,000 RPM. The good news is that panels tend to be thinner and easier to cut, so they present little challenge to such powerful motors.

Sliding table saws are also powerful, so they will keep pace with a vertical panel saw. The difference is in the way you load the stock into the saw and how it feeds into the saw blade. This is where the vertical saws have the edge with speed and bulk cutting.

Track saws have less power but still cut through most panels with ease. The hand saw, on the other hand, is only as effective as the strength of the arm that operates it.

Dust Collection

Most vertical panel saws have a four-inch dust port that attaches to a hose to extract the dust safely. The same can be said for sliding table saws, although some employ a dust bag instead.

With track saws and hand saws, there is no dust collection as such. However, some track saws do have dust shroud attachments sold as an accessory.

Price

Price is always a consideration when choosing any power tool. You should weigh up the job at hand and balance it against the cost of the tool you need. So, if you are replacing a few floor panels, you are unlikely to spend thousands of dollars on a vertical or sliding panel saw.

It would be far more cost-effective to invest in a track saw. But if you are undertaking a large refurbishment project, getting that more substantial saw may be worth the investment.


The Best Panel Saws of 2020

After searching for the top-rated saws for cutting panels, we narrowed the list to the best five by category. We relied on customer reviews to balance our choices and chose the best-selling models in each design.

1. Saw Trax Full Size Varsity Panel Saw

Best Vertical Panel Saw

Saw Trax 1064 Full Size Varsity Package Panel Saw
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This is a saw for the professionals. It cuts panels accurately and swiftly. This saw comes with a set and forget, patented alignment system that means it never goes out of square. It uses a floating router plate or a razor knife cutter in the same carriage.

Even though this saw is large, it is still portable. It has a folding stand and frame and comes with wheels.

Why We Love It

Dust Extraction Hose

This saw has a dust extractor hose that removes almost all the debris as you make your cut. Given that this is a professional tool, capable of cutting lots of panels, that’s a lot of pollutant material removed from the air.

Portable

While you might not think these saws are portable, this model has folding legs and is fitted with wheels, making it maneuverable.

Cross-Cutting Capabilities

This saw can make cross cuts up to 64 inches. That means this saw will handle the widest panels with ease.

Keep In Mind

The Price

You either need to be a serious woodworker or a professional to invest in this tool. It costs thousands of dollars, so unless you need to cut a lot of panels, this saw is way beyond the reach of most individuals.

The Weight

It weighs 336 pounds. So, while it may be portable, it isn’t going to be easy maneuvering this from one job to the next.

The Size

This saw has a 10-foot frame which restricts where you can store and use this tool. Only those with dedicated workshops and construction companies are going to have the capacity to use this.

Additional Specs

Weight 336 pounds
Price $$$$
Crosscut capacity 64 inches
Rip cut capacity Unlimited
Depth capacity 1.75 inches
Best for Cutting panels

2. Shop Fox W1811 Sliding Table Saw

Best Sliding Panel Saw

Shop Fox W1811 10-Inch 5 HP Sliding Table Saw
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In our quest to bring you the best saws for cutting panels, we couldn’t ignore this Shop Fox sliding table saw. It has a 5 horsepower motor that creates 4,000 RPM, and a table size that measures 47 inches by 40 inches. The sliding element of the table is 63 inches in length, giving you a substantial cutting parameter.

It also has a maximum ripping length of 33 inches. The best thing about this sliding table saw is that once you finish cutting your panels, this will adapt to any other wood cutting task you have in your project. The table saw is the workhorse of the woodshop.

Why We Love It

Multiple Capabilities

This table saw is probably the most versatile of the large cutting machines available. It slices through panels but does so much more. So, when you finish one job, you can move straight onto the next project with this saw.

Crosscut Capacity

The Shop Fox almost rivals the Saw Trax vertical saw for capacity. It easily makes 63-inch crosscuts. That means the largest panels will be a breeze to chop through.

Reliability

Table saws are almost indestructible. With the right maintenance, they last forever. It’s not uncommon to see table saws that are thirty or forty years old and still going strong.

Keep In Mind

Safety

Table saws are notoriously dangerous to use. Most accidents in the woodshop occur when using a table saw. Kickback is the most common cause of severe injury.

Cost

These cabinet table saws are eye-wateringly expensive. This model is more costly than the Saw Trax vertical saw, but at least it has additional uses to justify the cost.

Not Portable

These table saws are designed to stay in one place. They are not for taking on the road to the job site.

Additional Specs

Weight 569 pounds
Price $$$$
Crosscut capacity 63 inches
Rip cut capacity 33 inches
Depth capacity 3.18 inches
Best for Cutting panels, angles, miters, bevel, dado, all types of woodwork

3. Suizan Japanese Pull Hand Saw

Best Hand Saw for Cutting Panels

SUIZAN Japanese Pull Saw Hand Saw 9.5 Inch Ryoba Double Edge for Woodworking
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Okay, so cutting panels with a hand tool may not be to everyone’s taste, but this hand saw is surprisingly effective. It is a pull saw, which means the cutting teeth slice through the wood on the pull rather than the push, as is the traditional western way.

It makes them lighter, and you use less energy. What makes these saws so effective at cutting panels is the high teeth count. On the rip cut edge, there are eight teeth per inch, and on the crosscut blade, there are 16 teeth per inch.

Panels are typically thin, and without the high teeth count, prone to splintering. This saw is so thin and sharp that it makes clean edges without shearing the wood.

Why We Love It

Versatile

This saw delivers super-fine edges when cutting panels. Better still, it is also a general-purpose tool for other woodwork projects.

Long Reach

The entire saw is 24 inches in length. That’s largely thanks to the long wooden handle that increases your reach.

Interchangeable Blades

The blades clamp to the handle, so when the edges start to dull, you can swap them for a new one.

Price

Compared to powered saws that cut panels, this hand-held version is a steal. It costs a fraction of the others.

Keep In Mind

Slow Work Rate

Just accept that if you use a hand-tool, you are going to slow your progress severely. This saw is great for smaller projects, but you wouldn’t want to cut floor panels for an entire house with this saw.

Energy-Sapping

You need to be fit to get the job done with this saw. Sure, it cuts using less energy than traditional push saws, but it still requires elbow grease to make the cuts.

Additional Specs

Weight 5.6 ounces
Price $
Crosscut capacity 24 inches
Rip cut capacity Unlimited
Depth capacity 9.5 inches
Best for Cutting panels, all types of general woodwork

4. Makita SP6000J1 Plunge Circular Track Saw

Best Small Saw for Cutting Panels

Makita SP6000J1 6-1/2 In. Plunge Circular Saw Kit, with Stackable Tool Case and 55 In. Guide Rail
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This Makita track saw is ideal for making long cross and rip cuts on boards and panels. The track connects to create a straight rail for the saw to glide along. Because there is no limit to the length of the track, there is also no limit to the size of cuts this saw can make.

It can also cut close to the wall, making it compact for working in confined spaces. Plus, it is easily portable if you need to take it to the job site.

Why We Love It

Lightweight

This little saw is transportable and easy to set up. It weighs just 28 pounds, so it is the perfect tool to take to the job.

Unlimited Capacity

It doesn’t matter what size panels you’re cutting, this track saw is the ideal tool because as long as there is the track, you can keep cutting.

Splinter-Free Edges

Thanks to the carbide-tipped 48-tooth blade, this little saw creates a splinter-free finish that requires minimal rework.

Speed Control

The electronic speed control maintains a constant speed, even under a heavy load. It keeps the blade moving at pace and reduces tear-out.

Keep In Mind

Slower Work Rate

Nothing can match the work rate of the vertical panel saws. Accept that when you use a track saw, it is accurate, but a lot slower at cutting panels than panel saws. This is not an issue if you are fixing some boards at home, but on a construction site, time is money.

Requires Concentration

Unlike panel saws, which have a set and forget feature, track saws need aligning with every cut you make. This increases the amount of human interaction and the possibility of errors creeping in.

Additional Specs

Weight 28 pounds
Price $$
Crosscut capacity 55 inches (unlimited with additional track)
Rip cut capacity 55 inches (unlimited if you buy extra track)
Depth capacity 2.18 inches at 90 degrees
Best for Cutting panels, all types of general woodwork and working in small spaces

5. Milwaukee 6480-20 Vertical Panel Saw

Best Budget Vertical Panel Saw

Panel Saw, 8-1/4 In, 5800 rpm, Cut H 50 In
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This Milwaukee vertical panel saw is cheap when you compare it to the cost of other vertical panel saws. Mind you, you still have to find well over $1,500. The all-steel frame is electrically welded to prevent warping and distortion. It has a powerful 15 amp, 3.25 horsepower motor that generates 5,800 RPM, and it is constructed in the United States.

The workpiece is loaded from either the left or the right, and the saw flips 90 degrees to make horizontal cuts.

Why We Love It

The Price

We are not talking about this saw being a few dollars cheaper than Saw Trax; it is over $1,000 less. That represents a considerable saving.

The Weight

This saw weighs 175 pounds, which is a lot less than the 336-pound Saw Trax. It means that if you have to move it, it won’t be as tricky as other vertical panel saws.

The Warranty

The warranty on this saw is five years. That gives you lots of hassle-free saw time, and if the worst happens and it malfunctions, Milwaukee has you covered.

Keep In Mind

Not Portable

Portability is an issue because while this saw is lighter than the Saw Trax, it is less portable. This is thanks to the lack of wheels. It is a vertical panel saw intended to remain in the woodshop only.

The Price

Okay, so we’ve included the price twice as a plus and a minus. For a vertical panel saw, this is an excellent buy. But that’s all it does. Unless you are cutting an industrial amount of boards, buy something more affordable for the task.

Additional Specs

Weight 175 pounds
Price $$$
Crosscut capacity 50 inches
Rip cut capacity 96 inches
Depth capacity 1.75 inches
Best for Cutting panels

Panel Saw Comparison Chart

Product Best Weight Crosscut capacity Rip cut capacity Depth capacity
Saw Trax Varsity Panel Saw Vertical 336 lbs 64″ Unlimited 1.75″
Shop Fox W1811 Sliding Table Saw Sliding 569 lbs 63″ 33″ 3.18″
Suizan Japanese Pull Hand Saw Hand Saw 5.6 oz 24″ Unlimited 9.5″
Makita SP6000J1 Plunge Track Saw Small 28 lbs 55″ 55″ 2.18″
Milwaukee 6480-20 Vertical Panel Saw Budget 175 lbs 50″ 96″ 1.75″
Jump to the Full Panel Saw Reviews

Which Saw Has the Cutting Edge?

If you want to cut panels efficiently, there is no denying that a vertical panel saw is the best option. However, not everyone has the room to house one, the dollars to buy one, and the need to own one.

So, when it comes to cutting panels, there are alternatives that cost less and have far more uses. That way, when the panel project ends, you get to use your saw for countless other jobs.

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About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.
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