Panel Saw

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Panel saw.

The panel saw is a circular saw affixed to rails that is used to easily cut down large (as large as 4'x8') sheets of material. The size of the stock normally requires two people to load the material safely into the machine.

The Idea Shop panel saw is a vertical unit that cab be used to make both vertical and horizontal cuts to material, though horizontal cuts require that the saw remain stationary and the material moved through the saw. Wood, wood products, acrylic, foam, and other soft materials can all be cut on the panel saw.

Because the saw operates on a gantry, the panel saw is a much safer alternative to the table saw for making large straight cuts, especially on large stock materials.

Machine Details

The panel saw is typically used to cut large sheets of foam, wood, or acrylic into smaller sheets for use on the laser cutter and CNC. Due to comparably large tolerance of ~1/16 inch, it main purpose is to cut large pieces of material into more workable sizes.

Permitted Materials

Permitted materials allowed on the panel saw include:

  • Cardboard, Chipboard, and Foam Core
  • Rigid Foam (EPS, XPS, Polymide, etc.)
  • MDF, Plywood
  • Soft Woods (Cedar, Pine, etc.)
  • Hard Woods (Walnut, Maple, etc.)
  • Soft Plastics (PVC, PP, PE, etc.)
  • Hard Plastics (Polycarbonate (PC), Acrylic, etc)

This saw cannot be used to cut metal. Please see a lab manager about cutting materials not included on this list.

Safety Instructions


  • Wear safety glasses at all times. Ear protection is recommended for extended sessions.
  • Always turn off and unplug saw when adjusting material to be cut.
  • Cut flat stock only - do not cut round stock or any other stock that cannot rest securely on the support rollers.
  • Material must be at least 12" wide (and be able to rest on at least two opposing rollers) to be cut on the panel saw
  • When necessary, use a clamp to secure your material. Be sure to place clamps away from the path of the blade and outside the vertical gantry bars.

Active Use

  • Allow blade to come up to full speed before beginning cut.
  • Cut thorough material in a steady consistent motion. Allow blade to come to a full stop before allowing saw to retract.
  • If flat stock has a warp, cut with concave bow facing towards outside - this will minimize any pinching or kickback.
  • Be aware of the power cord so that it does not fall into path of the blade

Cross Cuts (default setup):

  • The saw moves downwards along a gantry to cut though material.
  • Align material. Rulers are located on either side. Use insert for thinner materials.
  • Power on outside of material at top of saw. Allow the blade to come up to full speed before cutting into material
  • Cut all the way through to the bottom of the gantry. Power off saw and allow the blade to come to a full stop before allowing saw to retract.


  • Material is fed through the machine while the saw remains stationary. One person will need to push, while the other will need to “catch” on the other side.
  • Rotate blade. Move blade to desired height and secure in place with knob on the left side.
  • Load material on the correct side, noting the feed direction. Material should exit on the "tail end".
  • Power on blade and lock in on position by pushing in the black button.
  • Feed in from LEFT to RIGHT. One person pushes, one catches.
  • To power off saw, squeeze trigger to disengage lock.
  • Return saw to the default crosscut setup

Clean Up

  • Slowly return saw to the top of the gantry. Never let go at the bottom.
  • Vacuum up all debris after cutting.
  • Lockout the machine.

Best Practices

  • Always turn off and unplug saw when it is necessary to switch out blade or inspect for potential damage from embedded nails.
  • Circular saw blades can only be installed in one direction, refer to owner's manual for correct direction of teeth.
  • Remove magnetic insert/guide when it is necessary to rotate blade 90 degrees for longitudinal cuts.
  • Do not cut material that is too narrow for the machine: i.e. less than a 12 inches wide - as it will pinch blade. Opt instead for the table saw or the miter saw.

Machine Proficiency

In order for an individual to advance in machine proficiency they must demonstrate ability to perform certain actions or tasks. All levels include abilities and concepts from lower levels.

This section is primarily for student workers.

Level 0

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • Basic Cross cut of standard 4’x8’ plywood or MDF
  • Safe separation of material after cut has been performed
  • Allowing the blade to come to a full stop before retracting

Individual understands the concepts:

  • Max panel material size and thickness
  • Permitted materials
  • Never letting go of the gantry and allowing it to spring back into starting position

Level 1

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • Aligning the blade to cut along a line
  • Using the measurement guides
  • Demonstrating proper cut speed

Individual understands the concepts:

  • How to lock the blade to the gantry
  • Making sure the material is pushed to the back of the saw frame

Level 2

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • Turning saw blade direction
  • Performing a horizontal cut
  • Cutting thin strips of material

Individual understands the concepts:

  • Knowing when to use the panel saw instead of the table saw
  • Demonstrating knowledge of 1/8th inch kerf

Level 3

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • Replacing the blade
  • Clamping material properly to saw frame

Individual understands the concepts:

  • What types of blades can be used on our panel saw


Location of the Panel Saw in the Idea Shop Maker Space