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The MM line of bandsaws are built by Centauro in Italy, for MiniMax. Centauro is, arguably, the best in the world. Agazzani was the only real competitor, but in mid-2012 (with the death of the last of the founding family) Agazzani was sold to Panhans, a reputable German manufacturing company, who is closing the Italian facility and moving the bandsaw manufacturing to their facility in Germany. (Earlier rumors that they were moving to Asia are not true.) As with any major factory move (with new staff and different manufacturing facilities) there is substantial risk, Panhans/Agazzani has to prove itself, in my opinion, but it has the potential to regain it's position.
An expert I respect includes ACM Italy in the group of top bandsaws, as long as you compare the heavier line (BS 540, BS 640, BS 740, etc., rather than the light weight Star 400, Star 500, Star 600, etc. He also noted that the Felder FB series are partially Chinese, and while not a bad saw, won't tension wide blades as high as a Centauro or ACM Heavy.
The MM bandsaws appear to basically be derived from the Centauro "CO" line of saws. In the mid 1990s they were configured with much greater resaw heights, for the marketing "resaw wars" in North America. As they are re-designated with metric based numbers, I can speculate that this large resaw configuration may become available outside the North American market.
All of the equipment weights are taken from MiniMax materials - manuals or web sites. Sometimes the actual weight is significantly different - for example, shipping documents for one person's S600p recently showed 660 pounds rather than the 765 pounds listed by MiniMax for that model. Rather than try to collect shipping data on all the models, I have left the published data on this page, for comparison. Be aware, the actual weight may vary - perhaps as much as 15% or more.
Blade lengths are from various references and discussions. The actual length can vary by a couple inches, which the MiniMax machines can easily handle. Variation may be required to keep the tooth pattern even when welding a blade with only a few teeth per inch.
Starting in mid-late 2013 (about the time of the change from MM to S machine designation) MiniMax converted from the "Euro" blade guide (a flat rotating disc on each side of the blade, with a thrust bearing that was basically the side of a ball bearing) to Carter guides, a popular after-market guide with ball bearings on the sides and a ball bearing thrust bearing. For normal blade widths, both work well - smart people may disagree which is better. But for very narrow blades, a guide on the side of the blade is a challenge. Carter offers a thrust bearing with a groove that supports narrow blades - see the Carter web site.
On the S400p - MM16 Carter apparently provides a single bearing for the side of the blade, recommended for blades from 3/16 to 3/4 inches wide. Carter recommends a double bearing for blades from ½ to 1¼ inches wide. To upgrade to the double bearing order part 528 from Carter. Note that I do not use the Carter guides personally, so cannot comment - I am only passing on information I have heard from others.
The current product has a 4.8 hp motor, and 16 inch resaw capacity. Nominally it uses a blade 154 inches long and up to 1¼ inches wide, but most people max out with a 1 inch carbide blade. The unit weighs 530 pounds. One dealer (that I had never heard of before,) on the web, says the list price is $3,295 but "call for more information and best pricing."
In 2003 and before the MM16 reportedly had a 3.6 hp motor (although I heard the motor was even smaller than that on very early machines). It uses a 148 inch blade up to 1 inch wide, and had a 12.5 inch resaw height. According to an old manual, the unit weighs 451 pounds.
In 2004 (and 2005?) the MM16 had 14 inches resaw height and had been upgraded to the usual MniMax 4.8 hp motor. This was quickly replaced with the current MM16 with the 16 inches resaw height.
Some people curse the mobility kit ($175) on the MM16. The saw normally rests on four screw adjustable leveling posts. To move the saw, a bar with wheels is placed under the brake pedal, which lifts the front of the machine. As it tips back, the wheels behind the machine touch the ground, and the saw can be moved. The battle is that one of those wheels interferes with opening the lower door, when changing blades. But if the saw is positioned correctly for use, the weight should be off the wheels, and the wheel easily pops off. Another solution is to put a shim (¾ inch plywood, for example) between the saw and the rear wheel bar. This moves the wheel out of the way, and lifts the back of the machine higher when it is tipped, which may be an advantage if your floor is uneven.
A few years ago there were reports that bands of Lenox blades (the premiere vendor of carbide tip blades) would fatigue early with a "small" 16 inch wheel. That problem has been corrected by Lenox. There are some non-Lenox blades still that require at least an 18 or 20 inch wheel, and occasional "special deals" with blades made from the old Lenox stock.
The new numbering of machines is coming - the MM16 that is called S400p in Europe (for at least a similar machine), will now have the same number here - note that 16 inches is roughly 400 millimeters.
The current MM20 product has a 4.8 hp motor, and 20 inch resaw capacity. It uses a 171 inch blade, 1/8 to 1½ inches wide. The weight of the unit is 765 pounds. The table height is 35 inches. The dealer on the web (that I had never heard of) says the list price is $4,495, but call...
I have seen discussion/questions about the height of this machine. Apparently it is 84 inches tall on Zambus casters (which would make it about 80¾ inches tall without the casters. However, at full resaw height (from 15+ to 20 inches) the blade guide rises about 4 inches above the machine, which may create a challenge in a shop with a 7 foot ceiling. If the saw were in a fixed position, only a small hole in the ceiling would be required for the guide when resawing maximum height.
The older MM20 has a max cutting height of 16 inches, according to a manual I have. This model takes a 168 inch blade, up to 1 3/8 inches wide. It has the usual 4.8 hp motor, and according to my old bandsaw manual weights 568 pounds. This appears to be much like a MM16 stretched for larger wheels and resaw height.
At least one person with a MM20 reports that the wheel on the mobility kit can interfere with opening the door enough to change a wide blade, similar to the MM16. Far fewer comments about the MM20 on the forums, but if it is true, the solution is the same.
The new metric numbers are arriving - the S500p is the same machine. Note that 500 mm is about 20 inches.
The current MM24 has - surprise - a 24 inch resaw height. So that the machine fits in a normal ceiling height, the table is lower. Blade length is 196 inches, from .25 to 1.5 inches wide, and the single phase motor is 4.8 hp. There is also an optional 3 phase motor at the same price, at 7.5 hp. This unit weighs 1003 pounds. The dealer with prices on the web says list price is $5,695 but call.... A few of these machines were shipped with a 4.8 hp 3 phase motor - so when they hit the used market, you will not be able to assume that all three phase motors are 7.5 hp. The table is a large 23x32 inches.
The older MM24 has almost 15 inches resaw height (I would have called it just under 14 inches on my old MM24 saw), with 4.8 hp motor. It takes a 178 inch blade. Overall weight is 650 pounds, according to a user manual. This is occasionally found on the used marked, often a three phase version for under $2,000.
One of the active forum users was planning to get a MM20, but at the last moment switched to the MM24. He describes the MM24 as the smallest of the "large chassis" Centauro bandsaws, with larger tables, heavier construction, etc. (It is made from 6mm thick steel - 1/4 inch thick) I am only reporting what I heard - I don't disagree, but I haven't done the comparison myself. There is a substantial weight difference between the MM20 and MM24, with the weight of the MM24 much closer to the weight of the larger saws.
In the metric numbering game this saw will be called S600p, as it is in Europe, since 600 mm is about 24 inches.
By the time we reach the MM28 and above, the resaw height marketing war no longer applies - each of these machines has a reasonable resaw height, a very large table, at normal bandsaw table height of 37-38 inches, with a fairly normal wood cutting blade speed of about 5000 feet per minute (about 4-6 blade revolutions per second). I expect they normally come with a 7.5 or 9 hp 3 phase motor, and can probably be special ordered with a 4.8 hp single phase motor.
The MM28 takes a ¼ to 1½ inch blade, 201 inches long. The maximum resaw height is 17¾ inches, and the unit weight 1085 pounds. It has been a while since I heard the cost was about $6100. Will this be the S700p?
The MM32 takes a blade from ¼" to 1¾" wide and 221 inches long. The maximum resaw height is 19¾ inches, and the unit weighs 1,368 lbs. It has been a while since I heard that the cost was about $8,000. Will this be the S800p?
The MM36 takes a blade from ½" to 2" inches wide, and 244 inches long. The maximum resaw height is 21½" and the unit weighs 1,584 lbs. It has been a while since I heard the cost was about $9,500
The E16 bandsaw is no longer in the product line, but it was made by Centauro, apparently based on their low-end SP400. Everyone agreed that it was a good machine, but far less than a MM16. It has a 12 inch resaw, and a 2.5 hp motor.
The S15/S16 bandsaw was very similar to the E16, but was made by Meber, and was also sold by Laguna with their label and number. I found hard evidence of an S16 sold by MM in 2004 for $1,300 to $1,600, and another that was sold by MiniMax with the Meber label rather than MiniMax labeling. It had a 1.8 KW motor (about 2.5 hp). A user reports that it is smooth running, quiet, and cuts very nicely, but the table is low and small, the table angle is awkward to adjust (requires a wrench), the fence is clunky, no foot brake, no rack and pinion on the guide post adjustment, and sub-par dust collection (he is upgrading to a MM16).
The S15 bandsaw may have been a typo based on where I harvested the information, or may have been a different or earlier model.
The S14 bandsaw was only in the MiniMax product line briefly around 2005. It had 14 inch wheels, 8 inch resaw, and a 3/4 hp motor. It reportedly was a decent machine, made by "OAV Equipment&Tools" in Taiwan. MiniMax no longer supports this machine, but it apparently is still being made by OAV for other vendors.
The S45N bandsaw is the current "light weight" bandsaw, manufactured by MiniMax (not Centauro), in various versions since the 1980s. The 45 apparently refers to the wheel diameter in centimeters, which is almost 18 inches. The resaw height is 12 inches, the blade size is 1/8" to 1". The unit weighs 390 pounds with a 2.5 hp motor. This saw has urethane tires, which may suggest crown tires (like most hobby bandsaws), rather than flat hard rubber industrial tires on most or all of the MM saws. It has sealed bearings in the blade guides, so they should not be soaked like the maintenance tricks for MM series saws. The dealer on the web says the list price is $3,195 but call.... (Even though this is an 18 inch bandsaw, that price surprises me, being so close to the price of a MM16. Traditionally this machine was about 20% less than the MM16.
The MM16 - S400p is an exceptional bandsaw - the machines that were really competitive cost several hundred dollars more, which is apparently why SCM raised the prices in 2014. So why buy a MM20 - or a MM36? The answer is largely subjective (and budgetary) - so this is my opinion, not a lab analysis.
In terms of resaw height, my old style MM24 has about 14 inches, and I rarely wish for more (less than once per year). I make furniture, so my resawing is limited to an occasional veneer (I primarily use commercial veneer), and cutting lumber to 1/4 or 3/8 inch thick, rather than planing it with excess waste, noise, and effort. If your use is like mine, then any of the MM saws are great.
Some people primarily resaw - making musical instruments blanks or veneer from super expensive exotic woods, where they expect their cuts to be within 0.2mm (far less than the thickness of a sheet of paper). If that is your use, I suggest going to the MM24 or larger (either new or old model), since that is a heavier frame, the larger wheels are better flywheels, you may want a blade 1.5 or more inches wide, etc. As one of the MM forum users (who did a detailed analysis) concluded, the MM16 and 20 are very similar, the MM24 is the smallest of the "large frame" bandsaws that are similar from MM24 to MM36.
The other big factor is the blade stress. For many years, Lenox (the primary vendor of carbide blades) required a minimum of 18-20 inch wheels for the 1 inch carbide blades. Many other vendors still require an 18 inch or larger wheel for a 1 inch carbide band. Several years ago Lenox changed the steel in their bands, so there is no problem using their 1 inch blade on a 16 inch wheel, but recognize that you are flexing it to the limit - a strong argument for taking the tension off the blade most of the time. (With the larger bandsaws, most of us are casual about de-tensioning - I know an owner of a MM36 who never de-tensions the blade). The wheel diameter, not the resaw height, led me to put the MM20 on my wish list, and I jumped at the opportunity when a rebuilt MM24 became available.
The standard MiniMax mobility kit (the same for all MM saws) consists of a pair of wheels that mount on the back of the saw with M12x1.75 bolts, and a bar with wheels that goes into a hole in the brake pedal. With the bar in place the front of the saw is raised significantly, tipping the saw back onto the plastic wheels at the back of the saw. Works fine as long as the floor is level. And the rear wheel may interfere with opening the bottom door wide enough to mount some blades (although the saw should be on the leveling bolts, so no weight on the wheel, which is then easily removed). One solution is to move the wheels back - perhaps with a 3/4 inch plywood spacer. A discussion of other options is available on the main page.
A very high blade tension is often used in these professional quality machines, especially with wide carbide-tip blades. (See the page on resawing for a discussion on setting and measuring tension). The discussion then becomes, do you have to release the tension when the saw is not in use? The owner's manual (which applies to many different saws) suggests that the saw should always be detensioned when not in use. David Marks has a MM36 and is reported to "never" release tension. I only release tension on my MM24 when I will not be in the shop for an extended period (vacation trip or something). Finally I heard a discussion that makes sense. A 16 inch wheel is considered very small for a 1 inch carbide tip blade - the band is flexed to the limit (in fact a few years ago, the minimum wheel size for that blade was 18-20 inches). So if you have a 36 inch saw, the blade isn't under much bending stress because of the large wheel, and perhaps detensioning is less important. If you have a 16 inch saw, the blade is bent to the limit. Maybe detensioning the blade will increase the life of the blade, when it is bent to the limit on smaller wheels.
Why should we invest in a "good" bandsaw? Recently I hired a full time professional woodworker to cut some inlays for me on his CNC. He cut one (basically resawed 1/8 inch thick) off the piece of maple. Later I cut the others off... and was shocked with the difference in quality. He has a high end 18" Jet bandsaw. He is a full time professional who knows how to use and maintain his equipment. I have a MM24. I am only a part time semi-pro woodworker. No special tuning or adjustment was made for this cut - I just walked over and used my saw as it happened to be. The left half is from his Jet bandsaw. The right half is from my old model MM24 bandsaw, with a relatively cheap Lenox Woodmaster CT carbide blade. In real life, the difference is even greater than appears in this picture.
Not limited to MiniMax - applies to any bandsaw - this website offers a tutorial on configuring and tuning a bandsaw for resawing.
I need your help. I am a happy MiniMax user, but not a MiniMax employee, and have not used all the different equipment. I do not have special access to official information. If you have additions or corrections to this information on MiniMax products, please share it. Please email your MiniMax info to me.
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