Cutting Melamine Coated Particle Core Board with the Festool TS 55 Plunge Saw 

    Over the past couple of years I have taken pride in being able to work with white melamine particle core (PC) board without edge chipping. We all know that this material really wants to chip along the edges and that some quality material is more prone to chipping than other.
   Pictured is the golf bag rack that I made with Sal. It was for the garage so chipping didn't matter all that much, but we both thought that it would be a good time to figure out how to work with the material.

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    Having the right blade is a good place to start. This is the 80 tooth blade that CMT makes especially for cutting melamine. Good quality cuts start here.

  We also found that making smooth passes was very important. Any jiggling along the way is a sure way to get chipped edges.  The large slider saws do cutting of this material very well — that makes sense. The sliding table can control the cut.

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   With the panels weighing so much, we would usually cut the pieces to approximate size and then make the final dimension cuts inside at the table saw. That was in 2003 "bf" (before Festool).

   Then when we started reviewing the Festool line we found that a saw cut could be so much better. In fact, it took Karla one long cut to find that the kerf was perfect — no chip outs, or at least not many. Karla, who weighs about the same as the panel, was able to handle the cuts that were required for a cabinet. She didn't have to lift the panel. She let gravity do its job, and the panel falls into place on her worktable. I was thrilled with that as well. Those sheets just get heavier and heavier.

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   Fact is, cutting full panels to finished  dimensions and not having to carry them to the table saw for final dimensioning was to become a whole new way of life for us in the shop.

    For this report, Andrea and I wanted to find out how to get perfect cuts in white melamine particle core board and to see if there is a difference between blades.

 
 

      We have three Festool blades to try out. The first one is the "fine tooth saw blade (491 952). This is one that comes with the saw and I call it the "cabinetmakers blade" since it basically has given me the same high quality cuts that I get with an 80 tooth cabinetmakers blade on the table saw.
  We also try the other "special saw blades".  According to the Festool catalog, one is for aluminum and fiber materials (439 686) and the other "special saw blade" that is described as for laminated floors and polymer materials (489 457.)  They each have different tooth configuration but, frankly, that doesn't make as much sense to me — a finished cut does.

   Our testing the different blades on this Festool Plunge Saw is no different than what we have done with my cabinet saw. Andrea and I put a number of blades through their paces. Now we know which blade is best for each of the materials we cut. And for you curious readers, the CMT melamine cutting blade is a gem, but the cabinetmakers blade gives as good a cut, in my estimation, so we basically leave that blade on the saw all the time except for ripping wood.

 
 

   Changing blades with the new Festool TS 55 Plunge Saw is so improved over the last plunge saw. The green lever at her left hand locks the saw in the plunge depth, locks the shaft so it will not turn and locks the ON/OFF switch. That one improvement alone makes me love this saw. Andrea uses the Allen wrench to loosen the arbor nut. She then pushes the riving knife up just enough to give her access to the blade. She then easily slides it off the arbor and away from the housing.  It is a sweet system.

      She places a stop block on the guide rail so that we do not saw all the way through. That way, we can  will keep the strips in tack so that we can make comparison easier.

 
 

   Just as she does at the table saw, Andrea thinks through the cut and sets things up so that when she is actually cutting, everything works at it should be.

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