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What Is a Panel Saw?

By Alex Newth
Updated May 17, 2024
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A panel saw is a tool that features a panel where the material to be cut rests, and the saw moves either vertically or horizontally. These saws are made to process and cut full panels of material, most commonly wood, to specific sizes. Vertical panel saws rest on a wall, while horizontal derivatives come with a table on which to rest. These saws are often used by cabinetmakers and sign makers to cut through wood, plywood, plastic and aluminum. Low-end panel saw models come with the saw and few features, while high-end models are computer-controlled for precise cuts.

There are many different sawing machines, each with distinguishable features. With a panel saw, the features include a panel for the saw, and a saw unit made to cut entire panels of material. The saw itself rests in a large panel table that is either vertical or horizontal, and the table is large enough to fit sheets of material so they can be cut down to size for parts.

A vertical panel saw is usually used to save space, because these units typically have fewer features but take up very little floor space. The main panel is supposed to rest against a wall, and it includes locking wheels so the operator can move the saw around if needed. The saw rests in the center of the panel, and the operator moves the saw piece up and down to vertically cut through material.

Horizontal panel saw units sit on the ground and have a table for the saw. They take up more floor room but usually include extra features that vertical models do not have. With these units, the operator places the material panel on the panel saw’s table and feeds the material into the saw. The saw itself can move sometimes, but usually it is stationary. These units have computer diagnostics and controls more often than vertical units do.

The materials cut with a panel saw are largely dependent on the operator’s occupation. A cabinetmaker may use it to process melamine and plywood for cabinets and cabinet parts. Sign makers may cut aluminum and plastic for sign blanks. Overall, the most common material processed is wood, but panel saws are versatile to meet many different operators' needs.

Some panel saw units just include a saw control, allowing the operator to turn the saw on and off, and may allow the operator to control the cutting depth. High-end models come with computer controls so the operator can make precise cuts into the material. Computer control is more common with horizontal panel saws, because there is a guiding piece that can move the material and cut it into whatever shape and size the operator needs.

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