If you can afford the room and the cost, the turntable gantry saw is a great saw to have. Not only can you make fast, accurate parallel cuts, but you can also make fast, accurate (with proper maintenance) perpendicular cuts as well. With a tilting turntable, you can more safely load a fragile marble or limestone slab for cutting. Another advantage of the tilting turntable is that you can reduce the potential for a back injury. The table will need to be resurfaced at least as often as the gantry saw without a turntable. A grinding wheel can be used with this saw as well.
A CNC saw is a bridge saw that can be preprogrammed to make cuts. For example, you can lay out an entire slab and program the saw to make all the cuts automatically. For a complete description of how the CNC process works, see lasts month’s Stone Shop article.
The newest saw to enter our industry is the sawjet. This saw is basically a bridge saw combined with a waterjet. This is a great, but rather expensive, piece of equipment and has many advantages. The biggest advantage is that all of your cuts that can’t be done on a bridge saw can be done with the sawjet. This would include radii, curves, circles, French curves, sink cutouts and other cuts that would normally be done on a CNC machine or by hand.
Most permanent shop saws feature motorized traverse (forward and backward movement), but there are many other features to consider. Some of the more popular ones include: motorized raise and lower of the blade; motorized tilt for mitering; gantry brakes; miter brakes; remote control unit for operating the traverse and blade height while at the stone (this will normally not operate the cutting feature for safety reasons); laser sight for aligning your next cut, motorized gantry movement; and automatic gantry movement for use when grinding the table or making repetitive cuts. As I mentioned earlier, you should calculate the payback before adding a lot of features.
Now that you are better acquainted with one of your most important pieces of equipment, it should be that much easier for you to get from point A to point B in your shop.
About the author: Fred Hueston is a worldwide expert on stone installation, failures, fabrication and restoration. He is the founder of the National Training Center for Stone & Masonry Trades (ntc-stone.com) and Stone University (stoneuniversity.org). He can be reached at Fhueston@aol.com.