Buying a Used Beamsaw

Input from users and maintenance techs on what to watch out for when buying a pre-owned beamsaw, and advice about teardown, transport, and re-assembly.July 29, 2011

We are looking into buying a beam saw and don't know which one to get. What do we need to look for in a used machine? I know not to buy a used edgebander, but I don't know if a saw is as temperamental.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor E:
I don't own one, but I do operate one. Take a good look at the bearings above the saw and motor. The one that's bearing all the weight - move it back and forth. Look for gouges on the rails that support the carriage. Look at the rack and pinion gears - should have all of its teeth. These items are part of a list of things to look at, but they will cost you plenty if they are not in good shape.

From contributor A:
You will need a saw that can communicate with the software you are using. Most likely this will mean it needs to support at least a CPOUT II or PTX file (Homag).

An older saw requires lots of potential repair. We did about 12k in repairs to our saw last fall, then replaced it in December. You can buy beat up saws at live auctions as low as 3-5k. The better saws are more.

You want a well maintained saw, preferably one you can see in action or one that has videos or records. Footprint, power requirements and dust collection need to be considered. You may want to work with a local dealer. You can also search the auctions and eBay.

At some point it doesn't make sense to buy a used saw if you factor in the difference in tax savings on new equipment versus used equipment.

From contributor L:
The real killer with any used equipment is the electronics. Often proprietary and therefore very expensive. Also not supported by some manufacturers after 10 years.

A long time ago we bought a 2 year old Schelling from the importer. They had checked it out and installed new wiring that runs in the tray. It's been a great machine and so has the service. We do careful maintenance and after 10 years of running it, we had the flex wiring and air lines all replaced by a Schelling tech. The thing is built like a tank. Sooner or later the computer that controls it will fail, probably $14K worth. Then what?

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the info. Are there any particular brands or models that I should look for or stay away from?

From contributor J:
Everything I have seen here is sound advice. I am a service technician and I can tell you, it is the cost of parts that will kill any "good" deal you get.

A few things to consider, aside from the actual machine:
1) Tear down
2) Relocation
3) Re-assembly
4) Training
5) Support

As a technician, I must be biased and tell you to hire a professional. It is not as easy to properly disassemble and pack a machine as one may think. Improper teardown added about 15 hours to an install that I performed. Proper packing of the machine will make the relocation of the machine so much easier, and easier is cheaper. Re-assembly of the machine is just as important to the machine's life as any other consideration. There are so many factors, I can't post them all here. Whoever assembles the machine needs to know what they are doing.

Training is so critical. The technology changes so fast that no one tech can keep up. If they say they can, I would be leery of them. If you purchase a used machine, check with the seller; maybe you can hire the former operator to teach you. Assuming they actually know the machine and they are not just a button pusher.

Beyond that, it may be best to have a certified manufacturer tech come in. Which takes us to support. When a machine breaks, and it will, who will fix it? Several of the manufacture reps here in the US now charge for phone support if you did not have them perform the install. It is not in their financial interest to help you.

On the issue of the electronics, these can get real expensive real fast.

From contributor A:
There are specific pick points that you use to load the saw onto a truck, so you just can't lift it on and off without risking damaging the beam.

From the original questioner:
I appreciate the help. I will get someone experienced to break down and set the saw back up if I buy used. Right now we are cutting square parts on a vertical and machined parts on a router. I had thought about getting another router but I think a beam saw will out cut a router 3 to 1. I haven't had any experience with a beam saw. How many sheets can you average in an 8 hour day cutting three sheets at a time?

From contributor L:
We've got both a beam saw and a nested router. If all you are doing is cutting rectangular parts that will not get more machining on the face, the beam saw wins when it can stack cut three or more sheets. When it is single sheet cutting, the router wins even if it is just rectangular, no detail. If you are cutting on the saw then need to detail, there are better machines than a nested router. There are both vertical and horizontal versions that will detail parts including some routing. Some are very fast - blanks go in one end and detailed parts come out the other. I think prices start at $60K+-.

Stack cutting is great where you have lots of repetitive rectangles. If the sheets are pre-finished and you are using a front loader, there can be problems with dragging one sheet over another. A rear loading saw is a better solution if you can get enough work for it. Since we already have a front loader, and don't do big quantities of the same pattern, I'm near setting up a bridge crane and vacuum lift that will have access to 6 units of our most commonly used material and be able to gently stack sheets on an air table for the saw and be able to load the router. All I need now is money for the crane! Got the vacuum lift. Now that work is picking up, I also have to finance that work, so no money for shop projects - yet. I'm currently looking for two more employees, so that will also drain the available money supply. Getting over those humps, it will then be time to consider another faster nested router or the vertical part processing machine. Arguments can be made both ways.

Think I'll go to Las Vegas to look over the options. My business is a gamble - don't need to do it on the strip!

From contributor A:
We purchased a Selco EB108 Twin Pusher. It is a fast saw and does well with complex patterns.

Our new saw is about 30% faster and more efficient than our old saw, so the long term labor savings will add up.

From contributor R:
I am also a tech and install quite a few beam saws (two in the last 3 weeks). I will echo what contributor J said. You will definitely want to have an experienced tech tear down and set up your saw. You may want to have one inspect your potential saw prior to buying it. I've had to completely reset saws that were improperly installed to ensure squareness and to ensure the saw would not wear mechanical parts prematurely.

Prior to starting my company I worked as a maintenance manager for a fairly large company here in Ohio. When making equipment recommendations I took into account the cost of replacement parts. Eventually you will replace moving items on your saw that are subject to wear and tear and you can count on the fact that some distributors mark their proprietary and hard to find or identify parts up ridiculous amounts. I've purchased new parts as low as $20 that distributors were asking over $300 for. I would suggest calling the parts department and pricing out the saw arbor, rack and pinions, saw carriage and pusher rollers, and phenolic/plastic plates that sit along the saw line.