Comparing Sliding Table Saws

A discussion of the merits of competing brands of sliders. July 28, 2012

Martin T73 Basic versus Atendorf F45. Both models cost very close to 15K, both models manufactured in 2002.

I am very familiar with the Altendorf, but not at all with the Martin. I understand that some Martins have a parallelogram table/fence. Sounds cool if so. This Altendorf model has the angle attachment rather than the movable CC fence. Help please. 15K is a lot of money for me. We do only custom work, by the way.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor K:
I haven't worked on an Altendorf, and they have a great reputation, but you can't go wrong with a Martin. I use a 27 year old T71 daily, and it has stayed dialed in since we got it 3 years ago. One nice thing about the Martin is the hydraulic foot pedal control of the blade height - you can disappear the blade in a couple of seconds without letting go of the work piece.

From contributor M:
I don't think you could go wrong with either machine. I have an Altendorf F45 and couldn't ask for any better. Never used a Martin, but understand they are just as good. 15K is a lot, but it will make you money every day, not like a car or truck that will be worn out in 10 years and cost you money.

From contributor S:
Not sure if you've ever run one of these types of saw. Things to look for include the following.

How far do you have to lean to make contact with the front beam on the slide table? There are many times when you will be up against this when cross cutting smaller parts. This is not a problem on our Altendorf, but on an SCM it can be quite a reach. This is a bigger deal if a smaller person is driving the saw.

What does the top of sliding beam look like? When you go to tug it back, what do you have to grab?

How is the arbor held constant when changing the blade? Older Altendorfs have a pin that drops in from top of table. On some SCM saws, you depress a button with your thumb. This leaves a hole in your table immediately to the right of the blade that is big enough to trap your thumb if you end up pushing wood without a push stick. Not a deal breaker, but another potential for injury.

Would stay away from electronic fences that ship with the saw. All electronics eventually fail. The best solution is an aftermarket Tiger fence on both sides of the blade. They fail also, but when they do, you can put your analog fence back on in a couple of hours while you are waiting for a solution to arrive. This can keep you in business.

Older Altendorfs are built like a tank. Newer Altendorfs not so much. I love my Altendorf, but if I was buying again today, it would be a Martin.

Don't pay any attention to the scoring ability of either brand. With proper tooling you won't need scoring. Sheetgoods are not flat enough intrinsically to properly engage with a scoring blade anyway. We cut pre-finished maple plywood all day long without fuzzy cuts. Haven't run the scoring blade in ten years or more.

From the original questioner:
I'm now leaning towards Martin… Ugh - now we are at more like 18-20K used.

From contributor S:
Go for the Martin. It will only cost you a couple more cabinets.

From contributor K:
If you are looking for an accurate smooth running saw without electronic positioning or readouts on a small budget, there are Martin T71s on the market for less than $10k, and many more Altendorf F45's. I'm not sure what a 2002 model T73 Basic offers over a T71, aside from less mileage and possibly better parts availability. It's rare for any parts to be needed unless abused on these older manual machines. I'm confident that our 1984 Martin will still be running smoothly for another 10 years, probably much longer as long as parts are still available for the hydraulics and the lubrication schedule is kept up. The main thing to look for on an old Martin is wear on the carriage. If the grooves on the ways are under 1/16" wide and the crosscut table can be adjusted to stay in plane with the main table throughout its stroke, it has seen low use and/or has been well maintained. It would be worthwhile to call Martin USA to see if they have any info on a particular machine you are considering, and get their input on the features and parts availability on different models.

From contributor B:
I have a Martin T73 CNC, 2005, and the electronics are not what they should have been. It ran well for the first 6 years, but then gremlins started popping up - intermittent no-starts, other electric issues. And we had a major failure of the blade tilt mechanism last year. It cost me $3500 for the replacement part and the technician. The CNC is a very tricked out model, but still. That saw cost me $51,000. And the Martin service has not been that great. When it works it's awesome. Wish it was as good as was promised.

From the original questioner:
That is more than disheartening... Rather disturbing actually. Since this morning I have had Martin on the brain. Having used an Altendorf F45 for 4 years (back in 2002) I thought I'd go with that, but I was swayed. Now I'm back to why not just get a Porsche, a comb-over and a mid 30's billionaire that I will pick up at the yacht club?

From contributor Y:
I have a 2003 Martin T73 CNC. Great saw when I am not waiting for electronic controllers from Germany at 1,800 bucks a shot (used). Endless electronic issues mainly caused by the B&R controller.

We keep a gas fired heater next to the saw and have to heat up the control cabinet to get the saw to run in the mornings. Martin USA is great but waiting on Germany for parts and answers is a joke. I will say the build quality of the hard parts is the best by far of any slider out there, but the electrics are the weak link. Maybe better now - I don't know. If I had to do it again I would by an Altendorf.

I would definitely have bought a beam saw instead of a slider in hindsight. We bought a Holzma HPP350 last year and the Martin is now obsolete, along with a second slider which we recently sold because it was nothing more than a work bench. Once you witness the shear precision and ease of use with a beam saw, the slider seems like a hatchet in comparison. Beam saws are now mainstream as manufacturers are building them for the needs of smaller shops, plus a 3200mm machine really doesn't take up that much more room in comparison to a slider. A used HPL or Sigma would be a far better choice in my opinion.

From contributor G:
Love my '98 Altendorf F-45. Solid, dependable, great support. I'm sure it'll still be running strong when I'm worm food.

From the original questioner:
So, the electronics are lacking where? The motor raise/drop/tilt, the touch screen, or the fences?

From contributor Y:

The controller is a B&R and is junk. Maybe they use a better one now - I would ask Dan at Martin about it. A T73 Basic may be fine. Mine is a T73 CNC with PLC 3 axis control.

From contributor E:
I have a 2007 T 74 Classic that has performed flawlessly. The only issues I've ever had were the occasional total shutdown to reboot the computer to get it acting right again. As for the saw itself, the Martin is much more solid than the A-Dorf. The rollers that support the carriage eventually wear and will always need attention to keep the table in the correct trajectory. I suppose it's not really that important if the table sags a little at the end of the stroke, but I like the fact mine doesn't. Maybe it's not that important that the extension tables to the right of the blade are extrusions, but I sure do like having cast iron tops. 5 years of daily use and never had to make an adjustment to it. It's one of those machines that is just a pleasure to use every day.

From the original questioner:
Well, I guess Martin wins, but it sure seems like the Altendorf has less glitches with the computer side (in my experience). I worked in -10 degree weather (cold shop, yes?) in Germany for 4 years and never had a problem with the F45. Now I'm in California and below 42 degrees is just unheard of in my present shop here in the Bay area, so it's Martin I guess. Thanks all. By the way, I am told the new saws have new controllers.