Sliding table saw question

I am looking to buy a combination machine with a sliding table. A major difference between the expensive ones and the cheap ones (if $7,000 can be called cheap) is that the expensive ones have the sliding table right next to the saw blade, while the cheap ones have an inch or two of fixed table inbetween.
Obviously the closer the better, but in practice will it make a difference?
All the demonstrations have the panel up against a fence, and they push on the wood. Why is that better than having the panel back against a fence and pushing the fence. I am sure they know what they are doing, but it is counter-intuitive.
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Tim wrote:

But you're buying FIVE functions - table saw WITH sliding table, shaper, 12" joiner/jointer (try finding a stand alone 12" joiner/jointer), 12" planer and horizontal boring/mortising with XYZ table. As a bonus, you have all that combined weight together in one half ton or better unit. Mass = inertia = resistance to movement = GOOOOOOD!

I've got the Robland X31 with the sliding table away from the saw blade. In practice, the top of the sliding table is a few thousandths above the table saw table. the edge of the sliding table is 7 inches from the blade, not a few inches. In theory, the gap between the bottom of the stock and the table saw table top could produce a little chatter and tear out. In practice it doesn't.
The sliding table that runs almost against the left side of the saw blade supports the wood a little better - BUT - is typcially long and narrow, providing no place to use additional clamps to hold the part to the sliding table. Not a big deal when sawing. Is a big deal when doing end grain on the shaper. see pics on this page for example http://www.geocities.com/PicketFence/5276/shop/page24.html
The other question about the narrower sliding table up against the left side of the saw blade is how it handles a dado blade. On the wider big cast iron sliding table, the right side of the arbor stays fixed and the dado blades stack to the left - towards the sliding table. Not sure how the narrow sliding table deals with a dado blade. Seems like the left side blade has to be close to the sliding table so that means the right side must be adjustable to accomodate the additional dado blades. That means something on the right side of the blade has to be able to move then be locked into position. How that's done can lead to a bit of complication.

Potay-toe / potah-toe? Not really. Think of the extreme case - an 8' piece of ply. If the far end is supported by the fence at the rear - you support it at the front. With a push on the fence, you typically have a larger sliding table, but still, the far end of the ply is supported only by the 7" on the saw table top.
This really isn't a big deal since you seldom are cutting in the 8' direction and neither the narrow close, nor the bigger farther away sliding table will do 8' anyway.
All that answer your questions?
charlie b
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