Articles - Panel Support
09/28/2003
With model railroading and cabinet construction I seem to be cutting nothing but huge 4' x 8' panels. They are great for project planning, but they are a bear to rip to the desired widths. What I needed was a in-feed table. However, the problem with most of those is that you cannot walk the board to the table as you are ripping it. The idea is to build some sort of supports that can easily be removed from the workshop and not take up too much space afterwards. The design calls for a single vertical support board that needs to be around 8 feet (2.43m) to provide full in-feed support of the 4x8 sheet. For out-feed I use roller stands. The height of the support was based on the height of the table saw, which was approximately 38 inches. By using two of these supports and placing them 2 feet apart from each other, I can push the 4x8 sheet into the saw blade and walk in between them, and when the cut is done, turn the machine off. The supports will not be in the way.
Panel Support
I used leftover L-girders (a thin strip of wood glued at a 90-degree angle to a wider strip of wood) salvaged from my previous layout. These provided nice straight boards. The first photo shows the two supports carefully positioned. The vertical legs were also made from leftover L-girders. Where the boards rest up on the measure tube at the table saw, I cleared enough material away to make the top of the boards match the top of the table saw surface.
Panel Support
To connect the two parts of each support and to be able to fold them up when not in use, I used ordinary door hinges. They were installed without hollowing out a space for the hinge part. It just needs to do the job. Simple and cheap.
Panel Support
When I am not using the panel supports, the legs can be folded up and the whole thing can be stood up vertically against the wall, out of the way.
Panel Support
Here's a photo of the actual set-up after cutting 14 sheets of Masonite hardboard for backdrops of the layout I was working on at the time. The two supports fell over quite easily without the clamped-on braces shown in the back. I can step over them when I feed the board.
Panel Support
Near the front where the panel supports rest on the fence guide of the table saw, I just hold the boards with clamps. The clamps cannot protrude above the boards otherwise they would interfere with the movement of the 4x8 sheet. The boards are simply held such that they cannot move left or right. This appears to be sufficient. Note the third clamp holding the other two clamps in place. This prevented the whole thing from wiggling loose if I accidentally hit the supports.
Panel Support
Here's a nice overall shot of the whole setup with the dust collector and the roller stands as the out-feed support. It takes a bit of time to configure all of this, but the results are nice predictable cuts with a minimum of clean-up. This setup makes it easy to cut large 4x8 sheets of plywood, Masonite hardboard, etc.
Panel Support