During the construction of the kitchen cabinets, I concluded that more time and effort than necessary went into cutting parts out of 4′x8′ sheet stock. I had to hire an extra set of hands many times. This was true both when I was building the carcasses as well as for the door fronts, rails, and stiles because my bamboo came in 4′x8′ sheets. The solution was to employ a panel saw but I did not have one and was not about to buy one, given their $2k – $4k price tags. However, there are a group of ingenious wood workers who have crafted their own. So I decided to do the same.
The trick is to build a "sled" for the saw and run it on two pipes. The real trick is how the sled is built. It uses angle iron, "U" bolts, and roller skate bearings !
I started with the description from the lumenalb forum.
- 1@ 21′ black iron pipe – $50
- 1@ 3′ 1-1/2" pre-drilled angle iron- $8
- 20@ 22mm roller skate bearings ($40 for 100 on ebay)
- 1@ 4′x8′ sheet of 3/4" MDF
- 4@ 12′ 2"x6" – $15
- 1@ 4′x8′ 3/4" plywood $30
- 1@ 4′ of 5/16" clear tubing – $2
- lots@ hardware (U-bolts, carriage bolts, nuts, washers, etc.) – aprox $15
- 1@ 8-1/4" circular saw
The process builds from the inside out, starting with the wood plate that the saw will mount to, then the receivers for the sled, then all of the hardware for the sled. Once that is built, the next step is to glue up three layers of 3/4" plywood to build the top and bottom holders for the pipe. I’d recommend getting 1-1/4" ID rigid conduit pipe but that was not locally available for me so I went with 1-1/4" ID black iron pipe. The iron pipe is a bit rougher exterior than the conduit and weighs a lot more.
The forum shows the sled being built to ride under the pipe rails. I chose to have it ride on top – mostly because it made it easier to access the hardware if/when I needed to work on it. (Plus, I did not build my end blocks wide enough to comfortable accommodate the sled and saw – oops. At some point I may build the sled again to accommodate the recessed saw but to be honest, it works so well, I may just leave it.
You can see in the picture that this thing is huge. The reason is I needed it to handle a full 8′ sheet of stock so the entire panel saw is 10′-6" tall. I have plenty of vertical space so it was not an issue. I could have made it so the saw could be rotated 90 degrees and then slide the stock through but that would complicate keeping everything square and true and that was a priority. Getting the base bed square to the saw rails took some trial and error but better to spend an hour now than to have cuts off down the road when I am building the home office.