Choosing a Sliding Table Saw

It's wiser to buy quality used equipment than a low-end brand new unit. May 27, 2006

I'm looking to purchase a new slide-saw. I've looked at every saw on the market, from Grizzly to Martin. There is a lot of difference in price, from $6000.00 to $40,000.00, and everybody tells me how great their saws are. But unless I can try the saw out or even see the saw in person, what do I look for before I buy? Its a question of quality versus price.

I know this is an investment so price is not my main concern. But I don't what to go broke buying a Martin. I am a one man shop looking to upgrade from a Model #66 with 50" Biesmeyer which I will keep. I would like to hear the pros and cons of various saws and prices, and if you think you should have bought a different brand or upgraded to a better series.

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From contributor A:
If a saw dealer is unable to take you to a shop that has his sliders in operation to see it, make a few test cuts, provide you with the names of his customers to contact and ask about the quality and the after sales service, then you should not buy his saw. I forgot to add that you will get what you pay for. There is simply no comparison between a Grizzly and a Martin.

From contributor B:
Don't skimp on the price of the saw, you will be living with it for a long time. My advice is to look for a good used one. I bought an Altendorf some years ago and have never been sorry. When I bought mine I wouldn't have paid for an automatic fence - now I have an aftermarket one and it is nice, and makes me wish I had the factory one. If you are not going to get a totally automated Altendorf, go for the used one, and you still won't be sorry. In a few years you may get a flatbed CNC and won't have so much money wrapped up in an automatic saw. The best saw will never go out of style.

From contributor C:
I purchased a used Altendorf and am very happy with it. It is built like a tank. Martins are also very good. SCMI and Holz-Her are nice saws too. I never used a Grizzly saw.

From contributor D:
I was in a similar position a few years ago. I upgraded from a Delta contractors saw to a used Martin slider that was manufactured in 1978. I cannot explain the difference - there is just no comparison - ease of use, increase in accuracy, huge increase in productivity, jointing boards, angled cuts, etc. If you are shopping, consider a used quality name. The saw will pay for itself within a couple of jobs.

From contributor D:
The main difference between a Grizzly and an Altendorf, Martin etc. is quality. I'm another Altendorf user (now on my second, both second-hand) and what you get with a saw like that is accuracy, reliability and ease of use. Cheap panel saws have cheap guides and bearings, and worst of all cheap flimsy inaccurate fences and rules - a real irritant if you are using the machine to make a living. If in doubt, go use one and see what we mean.

From the original questioner:
I realize that the Grizzly and Martins are not comparable. What I want to know is what others own and why they went with their saw. I have looked at many used saws such as Altendorfs, but theyre still very pricey. I 'm seriously looking at the Powermatic #hps126 saw that is made in Belguim by Robland. I can purchase this saw new for $9000.00. Does anybody have any experience with this saw?

From contributor E:
I'm on my fourth panel saw and my second Altendorf. Not one has been new. What you get with Altendorf and Martin is accuracy and longevity. SCMs tend to die because the carriage bearings go, and the cheaper copies of the Altendorf (Egurko/Ortza, Magic, Griggio, etc) that I've seen and tried all seem to be a bit rough around the edges with questions over resale value and future parts availability, whereas the German saws are always saleable and serviceable, even at 20 years of age. From inspection, Felder looks to be a well designed range, especially the new Format 4 units, but they are as almost as expensive as an Altendorf.

I looked at the Robland Z3200 a few years back when I bought my present F45. Sure it has all the bells and whistles, but the carriage and fence seemed a bit lighter and the tape measures weren't a patch in terms of accuracy and quality - nasty yellow screen printed stick-on tapes. Minor, I know, but I could afford either a new Z3200 or a secondhand F45. For me it was a no brainer.

If you are looking at a saw of this type I'd look at going to a 3.2 meter saw over the 2.5 meter one. You might be dealing with 8 x 4 plywood now, but if you do go into kitchens the extra size of a 3.2m saw means you can handle 10 x 5s - with a little help. This is almost impossible to do on a 2.5m saw.

From contributor C:
For $9,000.00 you can get a decent Altendorf, used. I got my Altendorf F45 on EBay of all places. I paid $5,000.00 plus $1,400 shipping. It was the best buy I made in a long time. It was made in 1983 and cuts great! I shopped for a while too. You can also lease with a $1.00 buy out after 3-5 years depending on what lease you get. It is a very good tax write off also. I came very close to a new lease.

From contributor F:
I have owned both a Holz-Her and an Altendorf. Both were acquired new. I did not, however, purchase the Altendorf - rather I won it in a Stiles Machinery contest. I was happy with the Holz-Her (it was a great saw) and I am thrilled with the Altendorf. My advice to you is to purchase the best you can comfortably afford. Any one of the saws mentioned in this thread will change your life.

The objective of the purchase should be to make you more money, not just to pay for itself. In a one-person shop, this will be far more challenging than in a shop with six or more employees. I don't know what other equipment you have, or what type of work you do, but if you can afford a 30k saw, can you afford a 10k saw and a widebelt sander or an edgebander? These machines combined can give you far greater throughput than a single machine at the same cost.

From contributor A:
We have a Felder KF700 saw/shaper bought 4 years ago when I was working out of my garage. It is severely handicapped by the short 6-1/2' slider We still use it as a table saw and to crosscut faceframe parts and to cut the occasional miters and bevels in sheet goods.

When we moved to a commercial shop we went the vertical route with a Striebig Optisaw II and never looked back. Even the small Striebig Compact at about $16K will cut more square cabinet parts more accurately and cleaner with less operator fatigue than any slider with less than half the footprint required for a full size slider and I would urge you to consider one if you are keeping your PM66.

If you are considering only a slider then the best 2 sliders on the market are the Martin T73 and the Altendorf F45 with Martin having a slight edge in my opinion. Both are as heavy duty as they come - machines built like a tank - and you will find no compromises and no flimsy parts or short cuts taken. Either will work non stop 3 shifts a day for 50 years and take the abuse of hired hands and still run like a champ and that is what you pay for.

From the original questioner:
I have changed my mind and I'm looking at the Felder 975 Professional. It is the cheapest fully automatic saw I have found for around $13,000.00. The Format-4 saw is $26,000.00 for the same features. I called a few owners and they said that they where very happy with the 975. Just about every saw on the market that is fully automatic is over $25,000.00. A new Altendorf Select is about $35,000.00 which I'm sure is well worth it but I don't want to spend that much. Let's face it - we would all like to drive a Lexus but a Ford will do the same thing. Any comments on Felder and the #975 saw?

From contributor G:
I've had the Felder K 975 for a year and a half now, and it has held all its adjustments just fine. By all means, find the extra money and buy the Felder rather then the import you were thinking about.

From contributor L:

I recently upgraded my 6 man shop from a Powermatic 66 w/ 50" Biesmeyer. I paid $8,000 for a 1995 Altendorf F45. I needed more versatility than a vertical saw. We build furniture as opposed to a straight cabinet box. I considered new but I'm glad I went used. It works as good as a new $25,000 one. This saw will always have a place in my shop. It takes some getting used to - you have to learn to dance with it. Now when I need to cross cut a table top glue-up, no problem. I cut down the fence on my Powermatic and now use it for ripping solid wood only. It's better for that than the Altendorf. I don't have to change blades now either. I will spend my savings (from not buying a new one) on a CNC router in the not too distant future. If not for the plan to get a CNC I would have to add power fences on the Altendorf to really make me happy.

From contributor B:
I added a Tiger fence to my Altendorf - it might not be as good as a factory fence but works well and I don't have to walk around the saw to set it. It is something you can add at any time when the need arises and you have money.

From contributor C:
That is a great price for the Altendorf. I paid $5100 for a 1983 the best money I ever spent.

From contributor H:
I have been working with an Altendorf for the past 4 years. It is a marvelous piece of machinery. However, now Im starting my own business and I wondered if anyone could give me any advice on a cheaper model, until I can afford an Altendorf.

From contributor I:
I have a MiniMax Formula S35. While it is not an automated saw, which I did not want, it is a seriously accurate heavy duty saw. MiniMax Formula is made by SCM. I would seriously look at MiniMax or SCM also as I noticed many things I did not like on the Felders.

From contributor J:
Im also in the market for the same equipment for my two-man, 3000 sq. ft. shop where we make furniture. Does anyone have experience w/ a T75 Martin? I should further say that this saw is a T75L made about 1979 and I am also looking at a Hammer K3 sliding table saw (sub line of Felder).

From contributor C:
Martins are built like tanks too. They last for years. Altendorf and Martin are the two top saws in the sliding saw industry.

From contributor G:
If the Martin is in good working condition and it's the same price or lower then the Hammer, by all means go with the Martin. There is no comparison. The Hammer would be OK for a hobbyist working out of his garage, but I don't see it holding up in a commercial shop.

From contributor I:
I have seen the Hammers. They are made to meet a price point cheap - and that is exactly what they are. I doubt they would even last a year in your shop. I was surprised to learn the old Martins have a weird blade angle set up. There are two knobs to release and then the whole thing is free. You turn the wheel to tilt it and you have to tighten the knob to hold it there (as it is free to fall). It is straight gears, not a 90d gear box.

From contributor K:
I just sold my 1966 T75 a couple weeks ago to a neighboring furniture maker. In my opinion they are a great saw and would be better than any new economy slider. No electronic bells and whistles on these solid cast iron masterpieces but you will find everything works - marked angles are accurate and can be adjusted if not; rip fence is accurate and stops and measuring tape on the cross slide can be adjusted with a gauge to whatever blade thickness you are using. Ours did not have scoring but with a good blade we never had any trouble with melamine or plywood. It is very smooth running. It served as a power fed rip saw in our shop for the last 4 years. I just helped the new owner set it up and the sliding table is still accurate.

The saw blade angle is counterbalanced straight gears. If clean and lubed the angle adjustment is effortless. You do have to hold it while tightening then walk around and tighten the back. The only trouble we had with ours was the up down blade movement being sticky. Martin USA found out from an old factory tech what needed cleaning and lubed to free that up. These saws have a lot of lube points inside that need attention once a year. They should be able to get you a manual.

Look at the sliding ways on the carriage. There will be a little indented groove from the ball bearings. Ours was about wide and the table had no play. Ive been told if this groove is or more the table will have play. The sliding table needs a shot of oil once a week. If the groove is small it means the saw was well maintained.

Aside from being a panel saw, the T75 makes a great joinery saw also. The beam of the carriage can be adjusted lengthwise and flush with the table so it is easy to walk around with the fence in rear position. You can also put a wide dado blade, groover or profile cutter in the arbor because this beam can be adjusted away from the table, about 1- to 2, I think.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor P:
I have owned the Powermatic HPS126 for about three years now. Overall, I am satisfied with the saw. The measuring tapes for the crosscut and rip fence are not stick-on as was suggested. They are adjustable with a set screw for different width blades. I have added an Accurate Technology digital pro-scale for my crosscut fence. The saw is rugged, and will hold all its adjustments reliably. The fit and finish is excellent. I bought the saw when it was first introduced and got a really good price, and I have no regrets for purchasing it.