Public school Radley College, just outside Oxford, England, is a substantial and diverse enterprise, generating a constant and varied flow of construction, fit-out and maintenance tasks.
The right tools are essential, and in the case of MDF and plywood sheet cutting, the right tool is a Zapkut ZM12 moving-column vertical panel saw from British specialist Sagetech Ltd.
Design and Technology Workshop Technician Laurence Gardiner explained, “We’re principally a student resource, but we do work for anyone and everyone across the College. We cut a steady stream of MDF and plywood as part of our materials preparation for everything from student projects to grounds and buildings maintenance.”
For many years the workshop cut such materials on a table saw. “Safety was my main concern,” Laurence noted. “The danger of kick-back, the exposed blade, the need to manually feed the sheet through the machine – it was too risky, especially in a school environment.”
There were other challenges, too. Handling sheet materials horizontally is almost always more difficult than handling them vertically, and the heavier the sheet, the greater the difficulty. “We always needed two people to cut an 8′ x 4′ sheet,” Laurence said. It was also all too easy for sheets to go off true during cuts, and cutting required a significant area of clear floor space.
A Vertical Panel Saw Solution
The best solution to such challenges, as Laurence knew, is a vertical panel saw. Armed with a budget and a list of requirements, he began to trawl the web to find out what was available.
“In the end it was down to budget,” he observed. Having found the Zapkut ZM range (which starts at £2,495) and noted that the next best alternative was a second hand machine at almost £10,000, it was really a ‘no-brainer’ – the ZM12 was clearly the machine to go for.
Safer and Quicker
Installed in mid 2013, Radley College’s Zapkut ZM12 quickly made its presence felt. Cutting a mix of MDF and plywood, it has made sheet material preparation significantly safer and quicker. “The ZM12 is much safer than the table saw for sizing large sheets,” Laurence said. “It’s also faster and cutting is a very straightforward one-person job.”
With many of the jobs coming in to the department being last-minute ‘panic’ requests, this faster, one-person cutting is paying dividends. “Such jobs get done if we have the time when they come in,” Laurence explained. “The ZM12 has made a big difference there.”
Old-fashioned, one-to-one service
Laurence found Sagetech as useful before and after purchasing Radley’s Zapkut ZM12 as he’s found the saw itself. He describes dealing with the company as being, “Like stepping back in time – old-fashioned, one-to-one service” and “Talking to genuine enthusiasts who really understand their products and what their customers need.”
The Zapkut ZM range is part of Sagetech’s wider range of sheet cutting solutions, including Zapkut ZK portable panel saws and Koolkut heavy-duty wall saws. The ZM12 takes boards of up to 8′ x 4′ (2.5m x 1.25m) the ZM16 caters for sheets of up to 10′ x 5′ (3.1m x 1.6m) and the ZM21 cuts boards measuring up to 10′ x 7′ (3.1m x 2.1m). All Zapkut ZM saws offer plunge and bevel cutting, quick switching from cross to rip cutting and easy dimensioning.