XPanel #1: The First Open Source Panel Saw Jig

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Blog entry by JRAP posted 01-24-2013 01:07 PM 6996 reads 5 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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I’m an IT guy, so I’m very familiar with the concept of open source software, and I love the idea. So, here’s my contribution to the relatively new open source “hardware” movement.

I’ve always been interested in woodworking to some extent, so was my father, and so was my grandfather, and up until recently it was my grandfather who had the most extensive home shop, and in his day, was probably the most avid woodworker among us (for the record, neither my father nor my grandfather are still around.)

But during the past year or so I’ve started getting into woodworking more seriously, and like a lot of new or rediscovering hobbyist woodworkers, I’ve spent most of my time so far just “setting up shop.” I’ve discovered that one of the most frustrating and difficult things to do in a home shop, is breaking down full 4’x8’ sheet stock panels, or large cutoffs of sheet stock, into smaller project pieces.

I’ve priced the ready made pre-fabricated panel saws that can be found online, and they’re way out of range for most home shops (certainly mine) and I’ve wrestled with taking on one of the many DIY versions to be found online as well, but even the kits for them are expensive, and the work involved in a version built from scratch with plans is daunting.

The whole time I’ve been looking around for some sort of panel sawing solution, I’ve always thought if I had it my way, I’d want something that satisfied what I considered to be several important requirements for hobbyist woodworkers, as follows:

- it must be makeable from inexpensive (i.e. cheap), readily available materials
- it must be quickly assembled and disassembled for storage
- it must not take up much room, whether assembled or stored
- it must go together without permanent fasteners, so as to make it easy to swap out worn pieces (clamps or notches are the preferred methods of fastening for sacrificial pieces)
- pieces that won’t ever be cut into, can have permanent fasteners and extensions attached
- it must be functionally flexible and easily modified

So while surfing around one night looking for yet another panel sawing suggestion, I stumbled upon something I thought might be a solution for my home shop. It was nothing more than just a cheap pair of 2”x4”x8’ studs, assembled in an “X” pattern, and fastened together using angled notches in the center edge of each stud. It could be placed on the floor, and it could support even a full 4’x8’ sheet of anything for cutting. The idea was to set the blade as high as possible while still cutting through the material, but scoring the supporting X’d 2by’s as little as possible.

This idea was good, and it satisfied some of my requirements, but it lacked something to make it a great idea.

Behold what I call the XPanel jig. I refer to it as a jig rather than a panel saw, because it behaves and is used much more as a jig is used. Here are pictures with and without an almost full-size sheet on the jig (ignore the incredible amount of junk around it.)

My addition of the vertical studs on each side has made it so the jig can be placed against a wall, and used similar to the way a “real” panel saw is used, and it all goes together and comes apart quickly, and by way of the angled notches, without the use of permanent fasteners. And the addition of a clamped deck rail makes it so a panel can be loaded onto the jig easily, without adding a permanent part to the jig. Here are pics of the angled notches for the vertical members.


Here’s a link to the original “X” jig page:

Sheet Rack page
(right-click on the link, then select “open in new tab/window”)

I also made three circular saw guides, similar to the popular version(s) found on woodworking sites around the internet. Here they are:


Here is the jig with various size sheets, and with the guides in place:


The ultimate advantage of this jig is this… EVERY CUT IS PERFORMED HORIZONTALLY, thereby allowing gravity to do most of the work, and eliminating the need for any sort of counterweight system to support the saw during vertical cuts. Here’s a picture of how that’s accomplished:


In keeping with the open source concept of this jig, it’s flexibility is only limited by your imagination, and my original requirements. I’ll be posting pics of some of the compliant “plug-ins” (i.e attachments), I’ve come up with to make the jig even sweeter.

And by all means, if you can think of anything to make the jig even more useful, feel free to comment or ask questions, and of course, I encourage you to make and use the jig and see for yourself how this incredibly simple design just may solve your panel cutting needs at a fraction of the cost of other solutions.


-- -- Jim, Cumberland,RI -- Life is all the other stuff you do when you're not in the shop. -

9 comments so far

View DIYaholic's profile


19921 posts in 3798 days

#1 posted 01-24-2013 01:44 PM

First off…. Welcome to LJs!!!

I like the simplicity, ease of use, portability and storage capability of this design.
However, most important is the extremely low cost of ownership!!!

Looking forward to your “Plug-ins” and accessories! Oh yeah, more pictures please!!!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View JRAP's profile


137 posts in 3072 days

#2 posted 01-24-2013 02:44 PM

Thanks so much DIY. I feel like a kid in a candy store on this site. Sorry for the lack of pics, I was so excited about XPanel that I just had to post something. I absolutely will be following up with much more.

-- -- Jim, Cumberland,RI -- Life is all the other stuff you do when you're not in the shop. -

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4457 days

#3 posted 01-24-2013 02:46 PM

This looks like a good economical alternative to the pricey panel saws. Well done.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View DIYaholic's profile


19921 posts in 3798 days

#4 posted 01-24-2013 02:47 PM

You have found a great site for wood working! There are tons of GREAT projects, people and information!!!

You got off to a great start here. Sharing is what this site is all about!!!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View AspiringWoodworker's profile


72 posts in 3428 days

#5 posted 01-24-2013 02:51 PM

I have used open source software for years and love the idea for woodworking jigs, etc.

I presently have to breakdown plywood sheets outside as there is no room in my basement shop for a panel saw. Not too bad during the warmer months, but this time of year ugh, it was 1 deg F outside my house this morning. This looks like it might be a great solution to my problem. I will be watching for more entries/updates to your blog.

-- Jeff W., Boston, MA area,

View JRAP's profile


137 posts in 3072 days

#6 posted 01-24-2013 03:32 PM

I hear you about the how cold it is AW, I’m down in Rhode Island, so I’m in the same boat.

The “vertical” members on the XPanel jig are just 8’ studs, but they certainly don’t have to be that long. As long as they’re no shorter than around 50”, they should be fine, and otherwise the entire jig is about 8’ feet wide, so it should fit almost anywhere. Although, keep in mind, you might need to rotate the jig to make a “cross-cut” on a long panel. For some reason I’m obsessed with this thing and I’ve got all kinds of ideas swimming around in my head about how to make it even better, so by all means keep watching, and thanks for the comment.

-- -- Jim, Cumberland,RI -- Life is all the other stuff you do when you're not in the shop. -

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 4159 days

#7 posted 01-25-2013 06:42 PM

Hmmm. Linux for panel saws. Good.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View LJackson's profile


295 posts in 2717 days

#8 posted 02-12-2014 08:33 PM

I do hope you can post more pictures and information regarding this cheap and easy panel jig. A lot of other jigs seem to be made from plywood (for environmental stability perhaps?) so it would be nice to get a sheet and then start making the other things I need to then make actual projects.

View JRAP's profile


137 posts in 3072 days

#9 posted 02-12-2014 08:44 PM

I’ve been lazy about posting more pics and info. LJackson. Since I originally posted this blog, I have made some “add on” pieces to the jig as well. I promise, because you’ve asked, i’ll get my butt in gear and post some more pics. I’ve used this jig quite a bit, in conjunction with a couple of shop made circular saw guides, it’s been a real helper. I’ll put up some pics up of them as well. Thanks for taking notice (and giving me a reason to post more pics.)

-- -- Jim, Cumberland,RI -- Life is all the other stuff you do when you're not in the shop. -

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