Another "what to buy" question...Mini Max S16 or General 17"

Hi all,
Just another woodworker here trying to decide on what to buy. There are many points to consider when buying a tool, and for me, I've decided I want something more than a 14" bandsaw, but don't have the funds for the big dogs, i.e. Laguna 16HD or 18, or the MiniMax MM16 or MM20. So I'm somewhere in the middle. I've bought top of the line in my table saw, jointer and planer, all Powermatic stuff, with 5HP on the saw and planer both, but as I'm building my shop, I can't justify spending another $2500 on a bandsaw.
Here's the story on what I'm looking at:
The Mini Max S16 is the OLD Laguna 16SE, manufactured by Meber, in Italy. Here's a link to Mini Max's site, as well as a review of the old Laguna 16SE. And there's an additional link to the General saw.
http://www.minimax-usa.com/specials.html
http://www.internetwoodworking.com/w5/reviews/bandsaw/review.html
http://www.general.ca/product/inter/90240anfea.html
From all that I've read, the current LT16 hasn't really made customers too happy (though I'd love to hear from those on the forum who feel otherwise--I'm just going on what I've heard and read). The new LT16 is made in Bulgaria. Note: this is different from the LT16HD, which, from what I understand, is made in Italy.
Some changes have been made, however. On the original LT16, the trunnions were stamped steel, and on the Mini Max version, they're now cast iron. They've also incorporated a 2-piece Welded Steel Column, which according to the guys at Mini Max is a change and an improvement, which brings added rigidity and stability when resawing (capacity is 12").
The rack and pinion is an option, and this seems a little flaky, since it has a nylon rack with a steel gear. Owners of the old LT16 contended with this as well, but it seems to work out as well. It also has a cast iron fence, which I believe the LT16SE has as well. Negative feature on the S16 is that it only tilts 5 degrees to the left. 10 or 15 would be nice to allow for making pins for dovetails.
Here's the kicker: the current price is $1395, which is $200 off the regular price. By adding the foot brake and rack and pinion (which isn't standard), that adds the price another $75, and with $200 for shipping, that brings in the total for $1670--a lot of money. Most on the forums have said buy as much as you can, which I agree with. For me, I was initially looking at a 14" and decided I wanted more power and resaw capacity. I can afford $1670, but I can't afford going another $500 to get the MM16, or the Laguna 18. I'm a bit torn, since I'm certain this S16 will be a great saw for me, but at that price, plus an additional $$$ for a mobile base from HTC, I'm looking at over $1700. The only real negative I see is the price and the fact that the saw can't tilt 10 degrees to the left, plus I think the low table could be a pain, but workable. I've also had my eyes on a 2HP 17" General International at a local dealer. I've seen it fired up--seems to be a great saw. Has steel trunnions however. The rack and pinion is steel, and the other plus for me is that it tilts 10 degrees to the left. Table is cast iron. The price is a bit easier to swallow too. With taxes, and delivery charges, it'll run me $1200. I'll still need to get a mobile base, add roughly $75. The other nice feature of the S16 is that it will come with three blades--the General comes with one only. So, for me, it's looking like a difference between these two saws of around $400, $1275 vs $1700+. I can afford both, but it sounds to me like the S16 is a bit overpriced. However, they state that a price increase is coming due to the inflated price of cast iron and steel all across the world, which I feel is most likely legitimate.
Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated! And if anyone has any experience with the General 17", I'd really like to hear from you.
Thanks!
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You certainly have done some homework. Have you seen the June issue of Fine Woodworking Magazine? They have a review of Bandsaws.
Rich

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after going through the same process, i just got the MM16. it's a fantastic machine, and i have absolutely no regrets.
like you, i believe that you should buy the best tools you can afford. IMHO, if you spread the price difference between the laguna and the MM over the lifetime of the tool, it's insignificant.
i cannot imagine that you will be sorry if you get the MM16.
good luck,
--- dz
Tbone Dano wrote:

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Just went through the same analysis. I wanted the Laguna 16, but just couldn't swing it. I bought the Jet 18" (10" resaw) and have absolutely no regrets. This is the new model with cast iron frame, euro guides. Has all the features you mentioned except the fence, which is aluminum. Price was $987 at the recent 10% off Woodcraft sale (list, $1099).
Bob

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Thanks for the replies so far. Buying tools is both fun and exasperating at the same time, since everyone wants to make the best buy with his or her hard earned money. Thanks for the suggestion on the MM16, as well as the Jet 18 incher. It makes me think both about the possibility of spending more or less, since many people are happy with either side of the coin, as it were. I think before going with the Jet, I'd look hard again at the General 17 incher that I've seen at my local dealer, since I was very impressed by that saw. But Mini Max still looks appealing...I'll let you all know what I decide, since I'll be making the decision very soon.
Thanks...
Dano
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Tbone,
Just my $.02 worth. I went through the same quandry as you recently and have no access in my area to Mini-Max or Laguna dealers. After reading reviews of bandsaws decided I would buy a Laguna 14SE which has gotten fantastic reviews. When I tried to order the saw there was over a 3 month waiting period for delivery and Laguna tried to get me to upgrade to the 16HD -- quite a price jump! Ended up ordering the LT 16 to expedite delivery and compromise on price. After I ordered I read about vibration problems with this saw on their web site. Spoke to the salesman and he assured me this was resolved on the batch of saws mine was coming from. Got the saw with their upgrade kit which included a Resaw King blade plus 3 other blades, a mobility kit and "free shipping" for another $300. The Resaw King blade is fantastic. Once you set the saw up square you can resaw using the fence with absolutely no drift and cut as thin of a veneer as you desire. The saw does have some vibration and the Laguna personnel are of no value in helping resolve this "issue". Lacking experience with bandsaw vibration I compared it to my Unisaw and there is no comparison. A nickel will stand on my Unisaw on edge for an eternity even during start up and shut down. After you get the LT 16 up to speed and after plently of tuning I can get a nickel to stand on edge for 30 seconds to a minute.
I went to the LI Woodworker's Show two weeks ago and it was the first time I got a chance to see the Mini-Max, the Laguna LT 16 and Laguna 16HD side by side. After tuning my LT 16 doesn't vibrate any more than the MM16 or Laguna's LT16 demo which has had the wheels dynamically balanced. I drooled over the 16HD however. The saw although $650 more than the LT 16 is a real step above -- better table, better fence, a heavier and smoother operating machine with a true rack and pinion blade guide system and rack and pinion table tilt mechanism. Had I been able to see this saw before I purchased mine I would definitely (and painfully) separated with the extra bucks.
My LT 16 with the Resaw King blade though has resawn 9" maple without drift and with ample power and is a joy to use in cutting tenons and making straight rip cuts. The ceramic guides provide great support for the resaw blade to prevent twisting but due to less contact area on a 1/4" blade are of little value in improving the narrower blade's performance. All in all this saw provides the utility I need but don't depend on Laguna's tech service to bail you out of problems. Table will tilt 15 degrees to the back and 45 degrees to the front and comes with a foot brake which is nice since it takes the cast iron wheels a long time to spin down on their own. Hope this harangue has been helpful.
Dave

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A few notes from another "been there done that" story
1.    The more I researched, the more I wanted. 2.    Its important to know what you plan to do with the saw. If you don't have a table saw, then wheel diameter / throat clearance is important. 3.    Since I plan to resaw hardwood, throat capacity / wheel diameter was not a comparable spec. As an example, the MM16 has 14.25" resaw capacity while the Jet 20 (JWBS-20) can only resaw 12". Though both cost about $1900.. 4.    As you noted, adding a mobile base, a decent table and fence, real blade guides, and height capacity extension kit to a low price Delta or other brand will add up to the price of the "hard to justify to SWMBO" fine Italian sports car / bandsaw. 5.    As noted in other posts, this months issue of Fine Woodworking reviews bandsaws from most of the major players. Their choice of rating criteria are important points for any BS purchase. But other issues of concern should include dust collection, wheel weight/construction, wheel brakes, safety switches, company service, and predicted reliability. 6.    As you may be aware of, some of the machines have such a following that they have their own user groups. Posting questions on the Laguna or Minimax user bulletin boards will get you an immediate response from people who have already tweaked every knob and bolt, or built the ultimate jigs on their identical-to-your machine (pictures included). My bandsaw needs more tweaking and adjustment to setup than any machine in my shop. Thank God for FAQs and archives.
Good luck. rick
snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Tbone Dano) wrote in message

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