The goal was to find something bigger than the basic 14" saw, but I didn't want to spend $2K. I was hoping to spend about a grand, give or take. I think I would have gone to $1600 if the right model presented itself.
It also had to be < 400 lbs as my shop is upstairs and I would have to muscle it up. I figured that table and motor should come off easily and the balance would be in the neighborhood of 200lbs which is manageable by 2 guys.
My other requirement is that I wanted the saw in the next month or two. Since I live in a pretty rural area, this ruled out finding a deal on the used market. On-line searches did not even yield that much nation-wide.
The contenders were:
Griz G0513 17" http://tinyurl.com/298rg
Bridgewood 17" http://tinyurl.com/23q9m
WoodTek 18" http://tinyurl.com/3ezk7
Laguna LT16,14,14SE http://www.lagunatools.com/bandsaws.asp
Minimax S16, S45 http://www.minimax-usa.com
Show deals: The closest show to me was Hartford CT, about a 5-hour drive. I really considered it for a while but MiniMax is was to only vendor to attend, AND they require that you pre-buy before the show. It would be nice if you could "go shopping" kick the tires on a few Lagunas and a few Minimaxes, pick the best one and drive away. It's not like that, and Minimax **only** had the S16 available for sale at the show. If I had looked at their 16" and said "Ooh Ahh. I don't care if it's $2K I want it.." The answer would have been" Sorry you have to order it and pay $240 shipping. I' m not clear as to whether show promotional pricing would have been in effect.
This give's me a segue into the shipping issues. Cost of shipping can be substantial. Laguna provided be with an "quote" (and I quote "quote" intentionally) of $240," because they all weigh about 500 lbs gross..." Whatever.. That's a lot of scratch to me!
Minmax. - > $200
Griz - $75 + 20 for liftgate, but they could not tell me if liftgate was available until I placed the order. I'm sure they could, if I pushed the issue, but it just seemed like the wrong answer.
Bridgewood -$78, liftgate included
Woodtek/Woodworkers warehouse - $65 liftgate included
How I picked:
In short, by elimination. The Laguna 16HD and Minimax 16 were conceivable at $2k, but at $2200+ delivered, that was just too much.
The lower end Lagunas were eliminated for the following reasons: High shipping made them a poor value, and the on-line testimonials suggest that they just do not live up to Laguna's reputation which was built on the 16HD (and up) models. There was one story of a guy who bought an LT16 with big vibration issues. Laguna's solution was to convince him to come up with another $500 and upgrade to a 16HD.. That is seems really bogus to me. Also, Benny at Laguna was relatively unresponsive (slow and sloppy email replies) and when I spoke to him his attitude was cavalier. It turned me off.
MiniMax S16 - Presales support was excellent. But since it's a new model and consequently there were no independent 1st hand testimonials available. Upper edge of my price range + so-so feature set + unproven = no sale.
I was tempted though..
Woodworker's supply/Woodtek: Presales support was excellent as well. Their tech guy was able to fill in all of the blanks immediately. He sent a manual to me, which absolutely sucked. I emailed one of their of their showroom managers and asked if they could take/send me some digital photos (specific close-ups) of the machine. A day later I got 6 excellent quality photos rendered to PDF. They even removed to table for a better shot of the lower blade guides. I felt that this was above and beyond the call. The machine has serious heft. The cast table was larger than the Griz/BW machines, Cast Iron wheels, Euro guides with nice big knurled knobs for adjusting big knurled locking rings. It even had a cast Iron fence, something seen only on the $2k machines. Cast Iron trunion.. Oh yeah, micro-switched footbreak too.
I must admit, I was smitten by the heft. On the downside, the resaw capacity was 10" rather than 12, and I could find no testimonials good or bad. Despite these it got the nod for Heft/features/price ($999).
Griz - Nice looking machine, great price, good on-line testimonials. Good feature set: the quick release blade tensioner is relatively unique. Aluminum wheels are a bit of a turn-off and the fence looks a bit weak. Overall, it appears to be a good value. I doubt I would have been unhappy had I chosen this saw.
Bridgewood - It *is* the same saw as the Griz 17 , manufactured by OAV. Did I get the letters in the right order? With CI wheels, different guides and perhaps a couple of other minor changes) No testimonials, but I figure that the Griz ones apply. This was my runner-up choice.
St Patty's day. Did I mention that this saw is shamrock green?
Minor gloat here. I noticed that WWsupply was selling the DW735 planer for the same price as Amazon, but with "free shipping and freight on your entire order". I didn't need the planer but my dad was going to buy one on the next month or two and this model was on his (very) short list. so I bought it for him. or at least I'll give him all of the shipping savings. That brings the cost of the planer below $400.
The unit arrived in on a pallet in a 3/8" OSB box with some minimal interior framing. It *barely* slid in my 7' garage door with the pallet jack set as low as possible.
The crate was labeled 190KG net 240KG gross. There' no way there was 80bs of packaging there. Also, the machine specs said 309lbs net. As I would later estimate, I think the net was much more than the spec'd 309lbs. Uncrating was a breeze. Since I had to get this beast up a flight if stairs, I started breaking it down .
The table came off with one massive bolt, and the motor was removed with four bolts. Without an extra back on hand, I continued with the doors (just hinge pins) and a few bolts for the blade blade guides (surprisingly massive) and the pinion rack.
So I figure that I took shed at least 150lbs
The next night I had a buddy over and the dead-lifted the carcass one step at a time. Based on the level of grunting of 2 able-bodied, yet not especially beefy thirty-something year-old men I guess that it weighed an even 200lbs. Therefore I don't believe the 309lb number. After 20 minutes of pointing and planning it took all of ten minutes to move the thing.
Everything was back together within an hour and after a quickie alignment a test-cut was made. So far so. Just for grins I got out the nickel. I restarted the saw and the nickel stood on edge. until I jumped up and down with a glee for a high five and a "yes!" causing just enough bounce in the floor structure to topple the nickel. Perhaps a bad omen. Beers had been cracked to it seemed like a good place to stop and declare victory.
The next day I set out to figure out how to adjust properly blade tension. I was having trouble with the tracking. I had to max out the tracking adjustment to get the blade to not slide off the near side of the to wheel. Further investigation showed that in the "zero" tracking position, the upper wheel was canted -2.3 degrees from vertical.
The saw was usable but clearly not "right" I 'm not sure that I could put full tension on the blade with decent tracking.
It appeared that either the axel was bent, or the slide block into which it inserted had "given". I placed a couple calls to woodworkers supply on this. The other thing that I noticed was that there was an unusual gap at the top of the axel where it entered the slide block. They graciously offered to send me another saw, but I figured that that was not good for anyone as that would be very costly for them, and a big pain in the ass for me. They agreed to send me a new axel and slide block but it would take 4-6 weeks as the parts were not on hand. I agreed with that approach for the time being.
Armed with the knowledge that I would have to disassemble the upper wheel assembly anyway, I invested $2.49 in some snap-ring pliers and proceeded with disassembly. What I found was that the axel is formed with a ½" recess which should be centered in the 1" thick slide block. The set screw in the slide block should make contact with the recessed portion of the axel, leaving about ¼" of baring surface on either side of the recess. I found that the axel was only inserted ¾" into the slide block and consequently the axel was only supported by the inbound ¼" baring surface. Insert axel fully; problem solved. Cool.
It would have been nice if WWS could have diagnosed that one for me, but I knew going in that Taiwanese machinery often needs a little TLC.
Blow by blow features assessment:
Fence: A-. Cast iron, both faces perpendicular to the table. The set screws on the front of the fence not, as they appear, adjust for parallel to the blade. This is done by adjusting the whole fence rail: two bolts on the underside of the table. easy enough. The fence slides well on an HDPE glide in front, and a roller bearing (nice) on the back. It locks securely with huge knurled knob on the front. I took points off for the silly scale etched in the steel tube guide rail. Once you adjust for tracking it's nearly useless (there is no cursor) and metric is on top with English markings at a less-readable angle. I don't consider this a serious limitation as adjusting the fence for parallel to the blade will render any scale inaccurate.
Miter Gauge. A- No slop in the guide bar. Curiously better than my Jet cabinet saw. It did, however have to file down a high spot on the bar at the pivot point to get the fence part to come in contact with the table and be a closer the perpendicular. I have found that stock miter gauges are always underwhelming afterthoughts. This one is actually on par with the rest of the tool.
Table: A. 18"x20"x2" flat to within .01" between all corners and diagonals. Nicely machined. The insert is fairly large, but has 3 set screws for leveling
Motor: 9.6 Amp/220V 2HP. (contrary to the 12amp on the spec sheet) The toughest test to date was 5-1/4" resaw of maple. Feed rate was limited by the configuration of the 1" 2tpi blade, not the motor as there was not audible decrease in RPM. As the votes have not been fully tallied here, I will rate it as "good". The motor pulley is also balanced.
Guides: B+ . Really heavy Cast iron-housed euro-guides. Micro-adjustable with large knurled knobs and locked with a knurled outer ring. The thrust baring is 1-1/2" in diameter and they are the type where the blade rides in the flat side of the baring. Points off for not micro-adjust for the thrust bearing, the lower guide could be closer to the table, and the upper guide casting is so big that it precludes setting the fence with 2 inches of the blade if the bade guides are set with 4 inches of the table. An auxiliary fence would be required in that case.
Wheels. A- The top wheel is a 6-spoke cast iron affair. While the lower Wheel is a more or less solid (holes) with an integrated pulley. Both are balanced as evidenced by the hole drilled on the back side.I assume that this configuration is designed to keep the center of gravity low. I would estimate that the cumulative mass of both wheels to be 80 to 100 lbs. I'm glad I have a foot break because it takes a *long* time for them to spin down.
Foot Break B. It *has* a microswitch (unlike the MM S16) which kills the motor. It feels a little coarse, but it works.
Body B. There is some significant flex in the steel in the direction of stock feeding. This concerned me until I realized that closing the upper door eliminates most of this flex. The door actually provides a fair bit of structure in that axis. I have not noticed any flex in any other direction. The paint is job rather poor. There were a few rust spots that they just painted over. Frankly, I'm not that wild about the green.
Rack and Pinion: C+. Hang onto that knob because them guides are heavy! The pinion knob is chromed steel (CI?) but it really should be bigger. The locking knob has a plastic handle which works fine, bit it's just much cheesier than the rest of the saw.
Tracking C+: It works fine, but the used a that cheesy plastic knob again. A lager knob would be appreciated here as well. It requires a strong grip to turn the wheel upward when the blade is under tension.
Tensioning A-: Nice beefy chromed hand wheel! The tensioning gauge only reads the elevation of the slide block rather than the compression of the spring.
Stock blade: C-: 1" 2TPI monster, but the quality of cust was nasty.
Proof is in the pudding:
I picked up some Timber wolf blades and a Woodslicer from highland hardware. I have only tried the Woodslicer so far. Frankly, it rocks. Tiny kerf, clean cut, I was able to slice off 1/32" sheets of 4.5" hard maple. I cant ask for much better than that.
Conclusion. I'm happy, anyone who is looking for a little more than your basic 14" saw should put this one on your short list.