Startrite PS315 Panel Saw archive
Wednesday 21 March 2012
Alan Holtham tries out a new full sheet panel saw from Startrite that will not cost you the earth to own
Cutting large sheets of material is always something of a struggle, particularly when you need consistent accuracy and clean cuts in veneered material straight off the saw. Until recently, dedicated panel saws with a scoring blade that can handle this sort of work have always been the preserve of the professional workshop that can justify their considerable expense.
However, Startrite have just introduced the PS315 Industrial Panel Saw that appears to have perfect credentials for panel cutting, but at a price that is considerably less than you would expect for a machine of this size and quality. I thought I had better check it outâ€¦
Full sheet capacityThe first feature is the large squaring frame that is big enough to support 8 x 4 sheets. This is attached to the sliding beam and incorporates an adjustable fence that can be extended out to 3.2m. Two really substantial flip-stops inspire confidence that they will stay where you put them and be consistent. I have exactly the same stop system on my own table saw
and can vouch for their ease of use and accuracy.
I like the fact that you can slide the back fence right up to the blade. A hardwood stop on the end allows you to cut to make it zero clearance, which makes it much easier to line up the work for cutting. A neat feature is the roller in the outer end of the squaring table, a real boon when you are trying to lift a large sheet on to the saw by yourself.
Full beamThe sliding beam assembly is equally impressive, the lower section being a massive cast alloy section long enough to allow for a 1.8m stroke. The top sliding table section of the beam slides easily with a large, easily accessible handle. You donâ€™t get the feeling that you are going to trap your fingers somewhere as you often do with other saws.
The necessary support for the squaring table is provided by the large telescopic arm. The support bar on the end of this allows you to make minute adjustments to the table height so you can get it perfectly level with the main saw table. Looking at the hinge arrangement for this arm gives you an idea of the general construction of this machine with plenty of heavy cast iron giving exceptional strength and rigidity.
There is plenty of support on the right hand side of the blade as well, with a large table extension giving a maximum blade-to-fence width of 1250mm. Although the main table is cast iron, this extension is pressed steel but nevertheless appears to be dead flat and does actually line up perfectly with the main table, quite rare for this type of extension.
Rip fenceThe rip fence is based around another heavy duty casting, although the actual face is an aluminium section, which is a pity. It would have been so much better being cast. However, it is plenty long enough and the position of the face can be adjusted with a single lever. It is equipped with a micro adjuster, which I must admit I found rather confusing at first, probably because it is so simple. Once you realise how it works itâ€™s actually no problem.
The saw takes a blade of 315mm giving a maximum depth of cut of 120mm, and what looks like a pretty decent blade is fitted as standard. The scoring unit is fitted just in front of the main blade and takes a 120mm blade. The lateral position of this blade is very easy to set through a hole in the table top; it is much more responsive than many other saws I have used. A bonus is that the scoring blade is actually two overlapping blades, so you can adjust the width using shims between them to match the main blade perfectly.
Twin motorsThe two sawblades are powered independently via separate motors, which are easily accessible for belt adjustment or change.
With the casing off you can see how surprisingly neat it is inside; usually there are wires trailing everywhere, this one is very tidy and I think it sums up the general care that has been taken with the construction.
The options for the main motor are 3hp single phase or 4hp on three phase, with the scribing blade motor being a healthy hp. The control panel houses separate switches for each motor, which is useful as there are situations where you may not need the scoring blade to be running.
As you would expect the single-phase version will need a dedicated 16amp supply, you canâ€™t run it off a 13amp plug.
Rise and fall for both blades is achieved with handwheels on the front of the machine, particularly handy for tweaking the depth of cut of the scoring blade or even dropping it down out of the way.
Angles are set with the large hand wheel on the side, the central dial giving an instant readout of the selected angle. The handle folds flat after use so you are not going to knock it off when you drop a panel.
Dust controlDust control is always an important issue on any saw cutting panels, as in the first place the materials like MDF are often not that pleasant to work, and secondly the action of the blade tends to waft the dust everywhere making efficient collection difficult. On the PS315 extraction is just about ok but not outstanding, primarily I think because the outlets are too small. I would have expected considerably bigger on the crown guard, and the main extraction point on a semi-industrial machine like this should be at least 125mm not 100mm, as you will need an extractor with considerable suck to stand any chance of extracting efficiently within the base.
The sliding table is supplied with a material clamp, which is very quick and easy to position. There is also a stop for straight-edging, very helpful if you are trimming up waney edged boards.