SCM S500P (MM20) Bandsaw Review
On a warm midsummer day, standing in my shop and sipping a glass of chardonnay, my wife asked me what piece of equipment I wanted next. I did not hesitate nor falter; I did not waiver.
“A heavy bandsaw for resawing.”
Her response drifted down on the wings of angels, softly, melodically, beautifully.
“I don’t know what that is, but you have a birthday coming up, why don’t you get it?”
My dream machine happened to be on AWFS show special pricing, so I did.
I felt that I had to do due diligence even though I knew my mind was set on the MM16 Minimax bandsaw from SCM. The through-the-years closest-thing-to-a-consensus was that it was THE bandsaw to have for resawing. SCM bandsaws, with the exception of the S45N, are made by Centauro in Italy. I’ve sold lot’s of them and my customers were, to a person, thrilled with them. I also looked hard at the Laguna LT18, Laguna 18BX (great bang for the buck!) and the Felder FB510 and FB610. All great saws, but I’m at the point where everything I buy, I buy for the last time and don’t look back.
Disclaimer* - I sold SCMI (SCM), Laguna and Felder equipment early on in my career.
Having settled on the MM16 I dug a little deeper online and decided that the 20” model was worth the difference due to the larger wheel diameter = longer blade life on wide resaw blades. Plus, 4” more resaw capacity should I ever need it.
I called Sam Blasco of SCM/Minimax to get a quote. Sam is a terrific guy and a very straight shooter. I also checked online and ultimately ordered from Elite Metal Tools. Same price, but freight paid. SCM quotes FOB destination with “white glove” service, meaning that if there’s any damage in transit, SCM assumes full responsibility - at a $750 up-charge. For the difference I was willing to take the risk and the machine arrived in perfect condition, having been drop-shipped directly from SCM in GA in their “ark of the covenant” crating.
Wow, this thing is heavy. By my best calculated guess, the crate had some 1200 - 1500 nails in it. Not exaggerating. The machine was blocked up solidly and wrapped to protect anything from shifting. 10 out of 10 on packaging.
It took 3 of us two hours to unload it from the trailer, move it through the garage and into the shop.
It took an hour to remove the crate and stand it up. No problems. FWIW, it took another 2 hours to break the crate down for reuse and disposal.
Nothing much to assemble. We hoisted it up off the pallet using the beams in my shop and a come-along. I installed the casters/mobility kit and leveling bolts, scooted it off the pallet, cleaned off the packing oil from the table and waited for my blades to arrive.
I spent my time waiting for the blades to arrive tweaking little things that many would say shouldn’t have to be done, but that from experience I know still do need to be done. More on that below.
Once UPS brought the blades I installed the 1” Lenox carbide tipped resaw blade and used it to adjust the 90 degree stop, set the blade guides, etc. I was surprised, albeit pleasantly surprised to see that the saw has Euro blade guides. Almost all of the info I had read in forums said SCM had switched to Carter guides. In fact, I almost ordered the bandsaw about a year ago and was told that they only shipped with Carter guides, so I held off to look into other saws. Not that Carter guides are poor guides, they’re not, but I prefer Euro style guides.
I contacted Sam again. He said they switched back several years ago from Carter to Euro.
Ready to Run
I’ll break this review down into two main parts. Part 1 is the greatness of the machine and what makes me very glad that I bought it. Part 2 are those little annoyances that I’ve found in most (but not all) equipment I’ve owned that I will soon forget all about.
The saw is a beast. It’s almost scary in its capacity. It has just under 20” of resaw capacity and carries up to a 1 ¼” blade with a 4.8 Hp motor. With it running and the guides all the way up I just find myself thinking, “Don’t trip. Don’t trip.”
The guide post elevation system is the best I’ve come across short of a motorized system. If I set the guides properly all the way at the top I can lower them down the full 20” and they don’t drift front to back or side to side at all once the post is locked. SCM uses a chain and sprocket mechanism that’s independent of the saw body. +1
The wheels are very well balanced and heavy, ½” thick cast iron. They power the blade through anything.
Power - Holy crap.
The brake is very responsive, all things considered. There’s an interconnect to the starter switch, so when pressed it cuts power to the saw. I don’t know what these wheels weigh, but they’re massive. Stops in 1-2 seconds.
The blade guide telescoping cover is great.
As mentioned above, the Euro guides are simple to set without tools. I’ve used lots of different guides over the years, but the side bearing Euro guides I’ve always found to be my preference. If it had come with Laguna style ceramic I’d probably be just as happy, though I’ve found those to be a little trickier to set.
It feeds at 5000 feet per minute. That’s fast. It would be no problem to put a power feed on this machine.
The cut quality with a high quality carbide tipped blade is superb. I would give it one pass through a sander before glueing a veneer down. There is no discernible drift with the 1” blade. SCM touts the industry-only triple-box-beam spine on this saw as being capable of very high blade tension, meaning it cuts straight.
For what this saw is designed to do, it does a great job. One thing to keep in mind is that the minimum blade width (as shipped) is ¼”. Anything smaller requires retrofitting guide blocks in place of the Euro guides.
It seems there are almost always some little annoyances that you notice up front that, over time fade from memory. Here are mine.
Mobility kit sucks on anything other than a flat, flat floor. The casters are too small in diameter for this size and weight of a machine. The J-bar is too light for this size machine. It won't fit through a door and weighs over 200 lbs. more than my Sawstop PCS. The casters on it are too close together and the whole thing feels like it will tip over if you turn it more than a few degrees. I bought a Bora PM-3500 mobile base since…
The doors have to be open 180 degrees to get anything larger than a ¾” blade on. If you have the saw near a wall that’s a problem. They could easily move the hinges to the left an inch and make the doors an inch wider so that opening at 90 degrees would allow access. Solved by the Bora mobile base. Move the saw out from the wall to change blades.
Deafening screech on startup, meaning the motor drive belt/pulley was slipping. I called SCM and was told to give it time to break in. New belt, etc. I did and it didn’t stop. I adjusted the belt tension and problem solved.
Table edges were sharp. Took a file to them. Solved.
Fence was out of perpendicularity to the table +/- 1/64” over 4”. Filed down the landing on the bottom of the fence. Solved.
I’ve read other reviews that find fault with the dust collection. I’m pleasantly surprised that it is as efficient as it is. One complaint I’ve seen more than once is that dust floats down from above like snow. There are two ~2” diameter holes on top of the saw connected by a weldment for lifting the saw. Cover them up. Solved.
If you’re in the market for a premium bandsaw that will resaw whatever you throw at it, this will. I’m very happy with this saw.
* For those familiar with my background, you can skip this. For those who aren’t, I feel pretty qualified to submit this review, having spent my career in the woodworking machinery business, from supplying upscale hobby shops to multi-million dollar production equipment. I’ve also been an off and on (as life permitted) avid woodworking hobbyist for over 50 years.
Any surface stain or dye will darken all the surface to the same degree, so the contrast between heart and sap will remain about the same. There are some chemical reaction methods that MAY darken the heart more, but I have no experience doing so. If you have scraps available to experiment with, you can test the effects of various ph levels, using vinegar, ammonia, or even baking soda solutions. Some light colored species respond more strongly if first treated with dark tea to add tannins.
I have a wood project on which I got birch wood that has very interesting heart wood shapes surrounded by sapwood. I originally got general finishes oil arm r seal but after trying it on a sample I feel the wood is too light in color and the heart wood doesn’t stand out as much as I like it too. I want to darken all the wood while keeping the heart wood shapes darker so the shapes pop or stand out from the rest of the wood. Any input is appreciated since I am new to wood working.