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Thread: Vintage Martin Saws

  1. #1
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    Vintage Martin Saws

    I realize this will be a slightly focused thread of discussion pertaining to only a few, but its a topic i have growing curiosity towards. For those that have been around these machines, or possibly own them, care to input your opinion? Im specifically talking about pre-1995+/- T-75, T-71, and T-72. I dont have aspirations to buy one just yet--i have a T17 in storage, and it would cramp my single car garage too much to put another saw in there--but i could if the right deal/machine presented itself.

    The T75 has great looks, and certainly a heavy machine. I havent turned my T17 on and used it, but ive monkeyed around with it enough to appreciate the build. However, I am perceptive enough to notice how design has improved since the 1960s. Sure, my Felder KF700 from 2005 isnt nearly as stout, but it does have small design improvements over the 17. This leaves me wondering, is the pre-80s T75 the right full length slider for me? The sliding table is a little short, the outrigger and crosscut fence dont appear to be as refined as contemporary examples. Bevel and height adjustments are in odd places for a slider. From what ive experienced on the T17, you almost have to kneel in front of the machine to make precise bevel adjustments. The spring under tension allows for easy bevel adjustments from about 15° to 45°, but you need to maintain constant tension on the wheel to hold the position with one hand as you lock it in with the other. Maybe i suck, but this seems almost impossible to do from the operator side of a sliding table saw. Finally, these saws seem to be well within my current and future budget. Even adding on a miscellaneous $1,000 for repairs/maintenance, these still arent that expensive.

    I know next to nothing about the T-71 other than it looks like Martin's first ground up panel saw design. The T75 could very well pre-date the T17, but it looks like a solid wood saw bench design(ie the T17) fitted with a longer sliding table for sheet goods. The T-71 does not look like that at all. The rip fence design looks much improved over the T75, and the controls are mostly on the operator side of the saw. With the hydraulic blade adjustments, is it possible to make refined tweaks, or is this more of a macro-adjustment? Are these saws dado capable? Overall the machine looks like an ugly hulking brute, but it appears to be larger than the T75. Sliding table lengths in the 9-12' are also a plus to me. I currently have a 78-80" sliding table saw, so i am VERY familiar with the annoyance of not having enough stroke length. Like the T75, ive seen multiple examples of this saw selling at or under $3,000 in the states the last 12-18 months.

    If i know little about the T71, then i know even less about the T72. This looks pretty similar to the 71, only the outrigger and crosscut fence on some photos make it seem like it is much improved over the 71. Also looks like the rip fence underwent additional improvements and came standard with digital readout. Similar hydraulic controls to the 71, so i hope that means the feature works well and was liked. These seem to list and sell more in the $4500-6,000 range. Assuming the machine doesnt need much work, this is also within budget.

    Finally, is the T72A the beginning of the blue era? From what ive read, post 1995 the sliding table design is similar in design to contemporary versions. I dont know if its the color or if this is truly the defining point in design for Martin, but these machines are easily double the price of the other machines listed above. I think there is a 72A on ebay or craigslist for $11-12,000. This would be a stretch for me budget-wise. My next shop where i could fit these machines would more than likely be a new shop build, which will be $$$$. On top of that, id like to upgrade my taiwanese Powermatic 209 at some point, add a heavy build standalone shaper, and add a moderate build 4x8 CNC. That last item in particular might somewhat negate the need for the greatest slider of all time.

    After about 2000, the saws are expensive, and their reliance on CNC controls turn me off a bit. Its crazy how many times i read on woodweb that these early to mid 2000s martins crap out quite a bit, because of the electronic controls. One shop had gremlins if the shop was under 50°. I think Patrick Walsh's old shop had issues with their newish Martin. By all means, sing the praises of how fantastic these machines are, but buying a saw for $18,000+ and then potentially getting hit with a $3-5,000 tech bill within the year is unthinkable to me.

    Patrick

  2. #2
    Patrick, it sounds to me like maybe you want a Martin more than you want a better slider. Like asking if an International Scout would be a good work truck. Nothing wrong with that but it seems like you already know that it won't dado, will probably require lots of work to get in shape, and that a newer one is not in the budget. Everyone I know who has a vintage Martin seems to have gotten it more as a project than as a means to and end as far as making cabinetry.

    If your current Felder is too short, there should be tons of clean, used 10-foot Italian saws on the market. Just my 2-cents.

    Erik
    Felder USA Territory Representative: Central & South Texas

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erik Loza View Post
    Patrick, it sounds to me like maybe you want a Martin more than you want a better slider. Like asking if an International Scout would be a good work truck. Nothing wrong with that but it seems like you already know that it won't dado, will probably require lots of work to get in shape, and that a newer one is not in the budget. Everyone I know who has a vintage Martin seems to have gotten it more as a project than as a means to and end as far as making cabinetry.

    If your current Felder is too short, there should be tons of clean, used 10-foot Italian saws on the market. Just my 2-cents.

    Erik
    haha i had to look up that vehicle! Before my time, unfortunately.

    Yes and no to the Martin badge. I wont lie, its maybe 15% of the criteria, but im not a fanboy--yet. It would be nice to have the future shop with matching paint jobs, but that is superficial stuff. Dont think for a second that i wouldnt gobble up a griggio/EMA planer over a Martin T41-43 if the price was right. Which, the price is usually right on those former machines compared to the latter.

    I think the T75 is dado capable, but I currently have a T17 that is a capable joinery saw and dado capable. That saw makes it slightly less important that the next machine be dado capable.

    I hear what you are saying, but SCMI models are typically the same price as the vintage martins. Somewhat more chatter on the web about SCMI too. David loves his SI16, and im sure they are more than suitable machines for my hobby. You are in the business so you can probably answer this best, but SCMI outsold/outsells Martin 2,3, 10 to 1? Same for Altendorfs, i havent written them off by any means. This thread is more or less, i have no clue about the specifics of Martin machines. Not only am i clueless, its very difficult to educate yourself on the history of machine specifics. The only way i know how is simply to ask the folks that have been around the machines for years or decades. Simply put, i went out of my way to purchase a Martin T17 purely because i read years of statements from respected machine guys like Mark, Dave, and Joe. Now that i have it in person and ive gone over it 50 times, i can affirm its an extraordinarily well built machine. Extremely heavy, but i am also unbiased that some features are not as refined as contemporary machines. As an example for the purpose of this thread, i purchased that saw for the same price that a running 3 phase Powermatic 72/Rockwell 12/14 would sell for. Having owned a PM72 for 18-24 months and stripping it down completely, i can already tell you the Martin is the significantly better buy. A more capable and feature rich cabinet saw, not to mention the capabilities of a short stroke sliding table adds to the dynamic. All of that before getting to the badge ; )

    With a budget of $5,000-6,000 i can grab a solid 10-15 year old Felder/Minimax user and make plenty of great furniture. Im curious if someone with more experience would call me crazy for doing that when i could have had a T72, for example. I suspect they would.

  4. #4
    Nothing wrong with any of that, Patrick. My assortment of Seiko, Citizen, and G-Shock wristwatches have been super-dependable but I always wondered what it might be like to own an Omega Railmaster. And I may buy one just to find out.

    Erik
    Felder USA Territory Representative: Central & South Texas

  5. #5
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    With vintage anything it is handy if you have access to a good machine shop. Also, frankly it is worth having a well outfitted knee mill to deal with the odd project necessary on these machines.
    Bumbling forward into the unknown.

  6. #6
    I have worked with both an old cast iron T75 and two early 80's T72's. The old machines win on style points but I would rather have a newer model for cabinet work.

    The T75 had just enough travel on the slider to cut through an 8' sheet, but the sheet would not clear the blade. Someone here posted a picture of a 10' T75, but that was a rarity. I don't know if a scoring saw was available, but the throw is not long enough to use it on a full panel. The rip fence is solid but the fine adjuster is not that fine compared to the T72. As you noted,the height and bevel adjustments are awkward to get at.

    The T72's are built with heavy sheet metal with concrete fill and are equally solid saws overall. They are dado capable- you have to remove a flange from the arbor and the table insert to get clearance for the dado stack to the right of the carriage. The foot operated hydraulic height and tilt controls are excellent. About 15 full foot strokes get you the full range of adjustment and fine movements are made with partial strokes. It is faster to drop the blade below the table than to hit the E-stop and wait for the blade to wind down, and it is handy to do panel cutouts with foot control while both hands are on the material. One caveat is that parts may not be available to repair the hydraulic pump if required. The carriage design is essentially the same as that used today and has automatic oiling. The saws I used were strictly analog scales, no dro's. Judging by used machinery postings, Martin made various changes to fences, extension tables, etc to different models through the years.

    My neighbor bought his T72 new in 1984 and still has it today- I think he paid $13k at the time. The shop I used to work at bought theirs used in about 2008 for $8k and traded it in on a new T60C a couple of years ago. They had to replace the arbor bearings and then the motor bearings which made them nervous about relying on the old saw, but I am sure after the dealer fluffed it up it was put back to work and will outlast me. The main improvement in the new unit in my opinion is the rip fence dro and the ability to manually set it from the left side of the carriage, which saves a lot of steps. As far as I am concerned the electronic height and tilt are a liability.

    Besides the Martins I have operated a short stroke SCMI SI12, an old Griggio SC3000 and a Paoloni 250. The Martin is a much better engineered saw than any, but they all are adequate saws within their price ranges. I imagine Altendorf is comparable to Martin, but I have no direct experience.

    If you look hard you should be able to find one of these in working order at a fair price, rather than a project. If the grooves in the slider v-ways are <1mm chances are the saw is in good shape, and the carriage is the one thing that is most difficult to repair. Ed Papa at Simantech was very helpful when we bought our T72- it would be worth getting in touch with him. https://www.simantechinc.com/
    Last edited by Kevin Jenness; 10-26-2020 at 8:30 PM.

  7. #7
    I bought this one a decade or so ago. It had come from a large commercial shop where it worked two shifts a day for a couple of decades. It performed flawlessly. Cut within a 16th of inch square over 10 feet. You couldn't knock the fencer out of square if you tried. It didn't tilt (not something I do with a format saw). It didn't have any fancy electronics. It did have a nifty foot operated blade height adjustment that worked well. I sold it a few years back and it's still cutting wood in a commercial environment. It weighed in at almost 3000 lbs. I'd get another in a heartbeat if I was looking for another slider. I can't rave enough about the build quality. It literally felt like a tank.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  8. #8
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    I think you have it summed up pretty well. The build quality of the old Martin, Bauerle, Yates, Wadkin ( Robinson is even better ) and some others is fascinating to see and rehabbed, those old machines can be brought back to better than new. It is a labor of love because the decision is more emotional than financially logical. I bought two SI16 for under 5K total because they are cheap, only one tier down from the Martin, and two gets you most of the parts you need to make one complete. I figure $1500 minimum for repair and replacement on a used SCM ( Griggio, Holz Her, SAC, etc ) slider and 2500 for any Martin. Nothing is cheap or easy when fixing a Martin. you grin every time you fire it up, but I also grin when I use Mac's clamps or a digital fence, or other stuff I could get with the money saved. I've made emotional decisions on machines i enjoy, but I also appreciate the logical choices. I don't have the time or energy for every machine to be " special " so pick what is important to you.

    The T75 is a saw I'd love to have but it's claim to fame is to allow the subtable assembly to be pushed flush with the front of the machine. That makes it a perfect one saw in a shop machine. With two saws, I'd prefer a 10' - 12' slider and a short stroke like a PK, Robinson, or whitney ( not in that order ). Condition is a big deal as a slider can easily end up taking months- and months - to sort out. good luck. Dave

  9. #9
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    I’m pretty much on the same page as Kevin about these saws. I went from a brand new SCM SI 16 to a used T75 in 1980. The T75 was better in all functions, don’t remember any issues cutting 8’ sheets on that saw with the fence in front. In 1999 I bought a brand new T72A. That one has digital readout but otherwise not too electronic. It’s been a workhorse for 20 years and better in all functions than the old T75. Except how the dado and shaper blades went in the T75 with the table cranking out. The T72 will take 35mm of dado or shaper cutters but a 15 minute job to remove the table inserts and spacer flange.

    Features I like about the T72 are the Hydro tilt and rise fall with foot pedal,(they have a fine adjust feature) rip fence control by handwheel from operator side. The parallelogram miter fence that is very accurate and easy to set. The next generation of Martin manual cross fences is better than the 2 point fence that came on this saw. And I like the double miter option I added for accurate cutting of short pieces. The newer Martin saws will have more convenience features but of course more electronics.

    Looking to possibly downsize in the future I picked up a 1977 T17 short stroke slider. This is a pretty nice saw but would say the larger stroke T72 will do everything this saw does and better for solid wood joinery. The exception would be freehand ripping. Something about a solid cast iron saw that just feels and sounds good though. This saw has the blade away from the slider and prefer slider next to blade. It is quick to put a dado or shaper cutter in this this type. And there are some operations where it is advantageous to have a flat table on both sides of the blade. All 3 Martins I have owned maintained square easily on the sliding tables without checking much and all the other functions solid and repeatable.

    For a short stroke slider my dream vintage saw would be a Altendorf TKR 45. Pretty rare to see in the US. I had a chance to use one of these while setting up the Bhutan shop. Not solid cast but heavy built with hydro tilt and raise. Just a nice functional saw.
    854C35E9-3D8E-4741-B591-10C9FF7F4761.jpg
    CC9DE542-27E4-4B54-8837-B083AC06D7F2.jpg

  10. #10
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    I would also add that restoring old iron is a labor of love and more of a hobby thing. I restored the T23 shaper, enjoyed it but was probably the worst business machinery purchase I have ever done. The hours of labor add up in a hurry.

  11. #11
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    Thanks for the feedback. Sounds like the 72 is worth the extra price of admission. Has anyone used a t71? Also, is the t72A a huge upgrade over the T72?

    Just saw a t75 sell in Long Island for $2,000. Those saws seem to sell pretty inexpensively for how much guys love them.

  12. #12
    From what Joe said above his T72A has the rip fence adjustable from the left side of the carriage. That in itself is a huge upgrade.

  13. #13
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    Patrick, the T72 was a long running design. With the T72A came the handwheel controlled rip fence, the advanced miter cross fence and a few other things. You can look at the WoodTec Pedia to get a idea of the evolution of the saws.
    The fence that came with my T17 has been a mystery to me. It is a 2 point fence similar to what is on my T72A. All the T75s and T17s from this era usually had the single point fence with the wood piece under. Looking at the Pedia the T76 has this same fence and later evolved into what is on my T72.

  14. #14
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    Well that is a fantastic resource! Never heard of it, but it sounds exactly like what I need. I’m going to check it out now.

    My t17 doesn’t have the crosscut extrusion. That is something I will need to buy after market. Looks like it will probably be a Felder fence. Do you have a preference for the two points of contact versus a straight fence?

  15. #15
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    My old T75 had the straight fence. I prefer the straight type. I get that the 2 point is probably more accurate in some situations and preferred by many.

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