Wellllllll Swingman, Nailshooter, Mrs. Nailshooter, my wife and I got
together today and did the WW show in Houston. It was very nice meeting
Nailshooter and Mrs. Nailshooter. :~)
I have been going back and forth between the Laguna 16HD and the MiniMax
MM16 band saws trying to decide which would be the better buy for me. Last
weekend my wife and I went to the MiniMax store in Austin to meet with a rep
to see the saw in action. While the service has always been reported as
superior, I'll say that my meeting was arranged weeks in advance and e-mail
conformations were sent late last week. We arrived Monday morning as
expected and they did not have a machine that was in running condition.
Basically a 300 mile round trip for nothing.
Anyway I will say that the machine did look better than the brochure and
the web pictures.
Today I was able to compare the MiniMax MM16 directly to the Laguna 16HD.
Both are nice machines and are most likely more than I will need in a band
saw but IMHO hands down the Laguna wins.
The MiniMax simply looks like it needs to be finished. The paint and welds
look terrible for a $2500 saw. While looks do not affect the performance of
a machine I would hope that the machine at least looked new. The sales reps
indeed compared their machine to the Laguna but were not factual about the
Laguna with respect to saying that you cannot adjust the Laguna fence for
drift, which you can. They indicated that the Laguna front fence guide bar
was hollow, which it is not. They indicated that the ceramic guides get so
hot that they delaminate from the holder. I have my doubts. They did
demonstrate that you could grab the upper guide bar to tip the machine over
however I cannot think of a reason to use this feature. ;~) Strongly the
mobility Johnson bar had a broken wheel and could not be demonstrated. The
rep did cut a wide laminated chunk of wood in to a sorta thin veneer slice.
The center of the cut was about 3 times thicker than the beginning and end
The MiniMax tension wheel is actually made out of stamped steel and has many
exposed edges on the top side. The table tilts off center in relation to
the blade. Basically the table insert has to be removed if you tilt the
table to a 20 degree or greater angle. The blade ends up about 1/2" from
center when the table is tilted to 45 degrees.
The Laguna machines looked new. ;~) I did grab the upper guide bar and it
felt plenty sturdy to me however I did not try to tip the saw over to see if
the bar would flex. I still cannot see the need to this. :~) The Laguna
has a slightly smaller table than the MiniMax. The Laguna has a huge
honking 4.5 hp Baldor motor hanging off of the back side. The Laguna
produced a smoother resaw cut that was thin enough that the piece of walnut
curls in my hand and lays flat on a table. Saw blade tooth marks were
almost undetectable. The Laguna was fitted with a Resaw King blade and the
MiniMax had a Lennox carbide blade. The Laguna top and bottom doors open
at the same time which I thought odd but after opening the doors 1 time I
felt that this would not be a problem for me. The upper and lower doors are
connected by a square tube that covers the slot that the blade goes through
in the spine when removing or replacing the blade. I can see how this
might eliminate or lessen the chance of standing up and hitting your head on
an open upper door also. The Laguna of course had the 10 point ceramic
guides as compared to the European guides on the MiniMax. The blade
tension wheel on the Laguna was basically what you would expect as far as
being smooth with no thin rough edges however I could not determine if it
was metal or plastic. Either way it was much more comfortable cranking up
for a blade wider than 1 inch.
Both saws are similar in price however the longer I stood around the more
accessories the MiniMax rep threw in. It started off at $2495 for the saw,
carbide blade, and delivery on the ground. It ended up at $2495 for the
saw, carbide blade, miter fence, mobility kit, and delivery on the ground or
the same with 2 carbide blades instead of 1 if I would drive from Houston to
Austin and pick it up myself. This is $100 more than just the saw alone.
Normally this would total about $2850 + delivery from Austin to Houston.
Laguna offered the saw, Resaw King blade, mobility kit, 3 Swedish Silicon
blades, and delivery on the ground for $2595. This is $300 more than just
the saw alone. Normally this would total about $3040 Delivered.
I ordered the Laguna and expect to see it the second week in April.
There is no better teacher than experience. So I went ahead and got the
Grizzly G0550 (not the G0513x, not a laguna, not anything big or fancy)
with a riser kit--damn the uncertainties. I'm waiting on a friend to
bring a wrench to fit the riser block on the frame.
It seems very solid and, although I could wiggle the upper wheel left to
right a bit when there was no tension on the blade it was solid as a
rock with the (quick release) tension lever down (tension applied).
Before disassembling the frame it passes the nickel test. (it wasn't
particularly level, and I did it on the table base mounting area instead
of the table itself, which I won't install until I get the riser block on.
I found a couple bubbles in the paint of the riser block so asked for
(and got) a bottle of touch up paint. It was a bit of a bear lifting
that cast iron frame up onto the stand after putting the stand together.
If I've never seen a Laguna, or a MiniMax, or a 0513x, are they *really*
better than what I've got? :)
Tomorrow I will put it together and, with a timberwolf blade, will try
to cut a few sheets of veneer from a 1-3/4" x 8-1/4" block of cocobolo.
From the remnant (oh, say 7/8" of that, give or take--yes, using a
different blade), a couple saw handles.
Yeha, messed up on the model, it's a G0555. I'm having a problem though:
can't get the (appropriate) 105" bands around the wheels--I got the
riser block with it.
There's an adjustment to be made on the tension bar assembly for the
longer blades--just have to dig up the right allen wrench.
Unfortunately, I loaned my set out awhile back and forget to whom. I
actually did call this one in but the fix became obvious when he pointed
me to the tensioning device.
I've had a L16-HD for 3-4 years now and really like the machine. It's the
only BS I've ever owned, so addmittedly, I don't have anything to compare it
to. Mine has a 3HP motor on it. Are you sure it's 4.5 now? Maybe they
I did an overview of my saw when it came, so you could DAG if you're
I have the woodslicer and that's one aspect I'm not 100% pleased with. When
my blade arrived, there was a twist at the weld causing a very deliberate
"ticking" and scoring in the cuts. Using a caliper, I determined that the
blade was twisted at the weld and returned it Laguna promptly replaced it.
However, the replacement was so dull, I had to have it resharpened. At this
point, I was so frustrated, I didn't quibble about having a new blade
sharpened (should have, I know) and it's worked well ever since.
Setting up the machine had very few bumps. I did learn that you have to
pull out the red emergency "off" knob in order to get it to run. The fact
was not in my manual and I'm not going to admit to how long it took me to
figure that one out ;-).
Don't interpret my criticisms as disatisfaction in the saw on my part. I
love my machine. I just thought I'd give you a 'head's up" as to some of
the difficulties I experienced.
But for the fickle finger of fate and and a northern Gulf that was a
couple of degrees too warm late last summer, I'd be living in Biloxi
right now. Some of my machines were already living there. Didn't
fair too well. Fortunately, the Laguna 16HD was on high ground.
Yeah, you don't want to be close and east of the storm. I have been through
4 major hurricanes, mostly in Corpus Christi, and for the first time ran
like a scardy cat when Rita cam on the heels of Katrina. Fortunately Rita
was a dud for us in Houston and I beat the big exodus leaving Houston.
I really don't think that you could go wrong with either saw. I have a
Laguna 18" that works fine but if I were going to purchase again I think
that I would go with MiniMax.
I don't understand why MiniMax markets it's service as being fantastic. It
isn't, and I believe it sets them up for failure. They create expectations
that many times they fail to meet. There are lots of message threads on
their Yahoo forum from unhappy customers.
You're going to have to qualify those statements Frank. You say you'd
purchase the Minimax over the Laguna, but then you go onto the next
paragraph where you talk about unhappy Minimax customers. Considering you
feel that way, what is there about the Laguna that would make you prefer to
buy the Minimax?
Sorry I should have made it more clear. I would by the MiniMax because I
think that the product is better than the Laguna. I have used both and
think that the MiniMax has less flex and cuts better.
My statements about MiniMax service are mostly about expectations. People
pay an up-charge over Grizzly, Jet, and Delta to purchase MiniMax and when
something goes wrong many times they think that MiniMax should be able to
fix their problem instantly. I don't think the Grizzly customers have the
same expectations. When MiniMax tells them that there is nothing they can
do, or that a part needs to be sent over from Europe, their expectations are
not met and they become unhappy.
Leon's story about going all the way to Austin to test a saw, with an
appointment, and going away unhappy because they didn't have a saw are
pretty typical. If you are not a member join the MiniMax group at Yahoo and
read through the message archives.
More than you probably ever wanted to know but here goes.
Knowing folks at Laguna Tools and MiniMax and owning both a Laguna
Tools Robland X31 combinatgion machine (made in Brugge Belgium)
and an LT16SEC (made in Italy by Meber) perhaps I can provide some
info to this discussion.
This company's is aimed mainly at production shops and their bread
and butter is the higher end production machines in the $20,000 to
$50,000 range. They sell mainly to people who are familiar with
powered woodworking tools, their set up, maintenance and use, not
abuse. While their markup on the lower end of their line is, shall
we say, "healthy", the profits from these units is a relatively
small part of their business. Unlike production shops, small one
and two man shops are not willing to pay an LT tech to do on site
set up, training and repairs.
Torben, LT's president,is an acomplished euro trained woodworker.
Then he discovered surfing at Laguna Beach (which is why the
company, prior to moving inland and up the road from Laguna beach,
was in Laguna Beach). He also did a lot of laminated pieces earlier
on and thus has a love for bandsawing which continues to this
day. He is repsonsible for the development of the ceramic
blade guides and the Resaw King carbide tipped bandsaw blade.
He knows bandsaws and how to use them.
He's also, let's just say, impatient when it comes to answering
what he believes to be a dumb question. He's selling tools, not
being paid to teach you how to how to set it up properly or how
to use it.
Several years ago, LT brought in a new head of marketing
because the guy guaranteed he'd at least double their sales
within two or maybe it was three years. Part of his strategy
was to dramatically increase the LT sales staff and aggressively
push LT products (if you got on their call list you WOULD get
called often, once a month or more until you bought something
from LT, and then expect a call once a week from then on).
Unfortunately, the increase in sales department staffing
did not include a corresponding increase in other LT staffing,
especially in Tech Support.
Two other strategies the new head of marketing introducedd
1. Opening an east coast distribution site - specifically in
New Jersey -just before a major east coast dock strike.
The east coast site also required that some of LT's west
coast tech support relocated to the east coast. You can
imagine what it took to get someone to move from Laguna
Beach, California, to New Jersey and environs.
2. replacing LT's computer system with new machines, new
software and networking the east and west coast sites
together. If you've ever gone through a "conversion"
you know that it's like trying to yank the table cloth
off a dining table, during a dinner for 12 people, and not
spilling a drop of fine wine, or even interupting the
dinner conversation. There's ALWAYS a "transition
period" during which NOTHING works - AT ALL!
BEFORE the new head of marketing's time was up he and
LT parted ways, the east coast site was closed down, the
computer system simplified and LT California was settling
down in thier new facility up the highway from their
Laguna beach facility, sans some of their tech people who'd
gone to Austin, with the former head of LT's marketing,
to set up MiniMax USA.
During this period, LT's customer support was understaffed,
with some of the most experienced people gone to a competitor.
They're still recovering.
The president of MiniMax USA is the former head of LT
marketing. He is not, to my knowledge a woodworker. His
business plan is to establish and sell MiniMax in the USA,
with plans to franchise sites in several key USA market
areas. To date, no franchises have been established.
I don't know about their current facilities, but when
I stopped in a couple of years ago to see the place and meet
the former LT staff I'd gotten to know over the phone while
they were at LT, MiniMax USA was in a small, newish,
industrial area in an "office and reception area in the front,
shop / shipping and receiving area in the back" 2500 - 3000
sf place. There was ONE combination machine set up and
a few crates in the back. Other than the receptionist out
front, there were only three guys in the back, two I knew
Since that time, most of the MiniMax tech guys who came
from LT have returned to LT.
The MiniMax machines are well built and the sliding table
on their combi units use linear bearing sliding tables similar
to those used on Felder combis, rather than having the
tables bearings riding on two steel rods with nine sealed
bearings mounted under the table like my Robland X31.
I know a couple of former X31 owners who, having sold
their X31s when they moved, bought MiniMax combis.
Haven't heard any complaints about the MiniMax.
Either the LT or MiniMax bandsaw will probably do
what you can expect a bandsaw to do, and do it well.
As for customer support, don't expect quick fixes or
much support, neither company stocks a lot of spare
parts and the lag time to get parts can take a while,
coming from Europe and all, to say nothing of "port
security, such as it is.
If you want help with either companies "prosumer"
products find and join one of the Yahoo groups of
Just a word to the wise. In business, it's not usually
a good idea to bad mouth the competition. You can
compare your features to theirs but it's best to back
up your claims of superiority with facts.
Told you it was going to be more than you wanted to
I had to go to the Robland factory in Brugge to find
out how to set up the Robland X31, the "manuals"
SUCK! With the help of members of what is now
the Yahoo Robland X-31 group, I wrote my own
set up instructions and put it up on my woodworking
site. LT tech support often refers new owners to
those pages and I serve as an unofficial tech support.
Got a call from a guy in Maine a few weeks ago and
we worked out a solution to a problem he had. I
added what we came up with to my set up pages.
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