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I'm currently shopping for a table saw and am trying to decide between an American-style cabinet saw with a sliding miter table attachment (think like a Sawstop), and a European-style sliding table saw where the whole left table slides past the saw. One important thing that I would like to do on the machine is rip 4x8 sheet goods, like plywood, in half, into 2x8 sheets.

By and large, I like what I have seen of the European-style saws. The assembly of the sliding table to the saw itself feels much more solid, and seems like it would make much more precise and repeatable cuts (not that I've differentially measured between two individual saws of the style) than the add-on sliding miters that are made by Sawstop or Harvey. However, I do not believe I could fit a full 8+ foot sliding table for ripping the sheets[1]. I'd be limited in size to something like a Minimax SC3, which has a 5'5" slide capacity.

I've tried to find YouTube videos that show someone ripping a full 8' sheet on one of these smaller saws, but all I could find was people with larger saws using the sliding table for the job. If you own one of these smaller sliding table saws, do you handle large sheet rip cuts on it? If so, how do you handle it? Do you, for example, lock down the sliding fence to handle the outfeed, and then push the sheet through against the rip fence like you were using an American-style cabinet saw? Do you do something else entirely here? Do you just not use the saw for this job?

I appreciate any information about any procedures you might use. Sometimes watching YouTube, it feels like everyone just has the gigantic saw for the job!

[1] When I need to rip the full 8 feet, obviously I'll need 8 feet behind the blade, but I can open a roll-up door behind me to get the extra capacity.

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    Hi, are you willing to buy circular saw for these cuts? Much easier, safer this way. You can make circular saw into track saw with simple jig.
    – Volfram K
    Feb 7 at 6:32
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    Also I found this previous question here, woodworking.stackexchange.com/questions/5031/… with many good answers.
    – Volfram K
    Feb 7 at 6:39
  • The sliding table isn't really designed for large sheet goods. The "slide" isn't going to do you much good unless it has a very long travel...which is not a feature of smaller saws. "...lock down the sliding fence to handle the outfeed, and then push the sheet through against the rip fence like you were using an American-style cabinet saw..." seems like it might be a good strategy depending on the physical characteristics of one model to another.
    – gnicko
    Feb 7 at 15:39
  • It's a good question, but I've always advocated for not using a table saw for breaking down sheet goods. There just aren't good non-commercial options for doing this safely and easily when compared with all the other ways we can do things. My advice is buy a table/cabinet saw if you do table/cabinet saw stuff! Or phone a friend to help you. Don't do it alone!
    – jdv
    Feb 7 at 19:58

1 Answer 1

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Frame challenge: I think a strong argument can be made that this is a job better done by other means.

These days the primary other means are a circular saw run against some form of straightedge (or a more formal jig made for the purpose) or a commercial track saw.

These allow for the type of cut you intend to do to be made in a more consistently safe way1, with sufficient accuracy for most purposes2 plus reducing the amount of lifting and manoeuvring of full sheets.

In support of the theoretical arguments is this: many owners of table saws made some form of DIY track saw, and in later years bought commercial track saws as their availability and popularity grew, specifically because of how difficult, tricky or just plain tiring long cuts on sheet goods can be when tackled on the table saw.

Their reasons may vary, but the wide adoption of the method speaks volumes for which is preferable to owners of both tools. Some, including numerous pros, went on to use those exclusively/almost exclusively for initial breakdown cuts on sheet goods.

A few related Answers from previous Q&As:
4'x8' length cut - circular saw, table saw, or panel saw?
Straight cuts in plywood without a circular saw
How can I accurately cross-cut a board that is too wide for my table saw?
Cross Cutting Large Boards (4x8) Stock?

While I don't want to guide you specifically towards a track saw I did fell I should include this article on Family Handyman, Benefits of a Track Saw

When I first laid eyes on a track saw, I thought, “I have a table saw. I have a straightedge to guide my circular saw. Why would I spend $500 (or more) on one of these contraptions?” I was sure it was another tool gimmick for suckers. Then I talked to track saw owners, from cabinetmakers and flooring installers to trim carpenters and remodelers. Every single one of them told me that buying a track saw was a smart move. Now I own one too.


1 An understatement with conventional table saws.

2 High enough accuracy for any purpose if you buy the right track saw or take extra care in setting up your DIY equivalent.

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    Fair enough. That then turns my own question into whether I like the features of the American (with SawStop) or European table saws better, which is something I have to think about and ends up being a different question entirely. I appreciate the frame challenge, especially the reality that so many people who own table saws end up buying a track.
    – Surgo
    Feb 7 at 15:45
  • Once the larger sheet goods are roughly broken down with a circular saw (with or without a guide) greater accuracy can be achieved in many situations much more efficiently and easily using a table saw. Just pointing out that there's no reason to be confined to one method, etc.
    – gnicko
    Feb 7 at 15:47
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    I have a home made track for my 6-1/2" circular saw. Then I got a 7-1/4" saw and now I need to make a new one to fit the base of that. Then my wife got me a 4-1/2" saw and... I'm not really sure what that's gonna be good for, but I'll probably make a track for that one too. A couple of pieces of 3/8" or 1/2" plywood make for a simple, accurate home made track saw that costs well under $500! Sure the store bought one may have built in clamping, but I own plenty of quick clamps and mine works fine for me. I'll spend the extra cash on lumber, thankyouverymuch!
    – FreeMan
    Feb 7 at 17:35
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    Again, the answer I wanted to make but was too lazy. Break down sheet goods with anything other than a table saw, please.
    – jdv
    Feb 7 at 19:54
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    Just chiming in as an owner of both a tablesaw and a tracksaw. Don’t break your back and introduce wavy edges by trying to slug a sheet across a tablesaw. Even a home-made guide is a vast improvement. Feb 8 at 1:31

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