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At under $3,000, the new SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw is aimed squarely at small-shop pros and serious hobbyists. Fence capacities of 36 and 52 in. are available.
This year looks to be a relatively quiet one at AWFS Vegas, but at least one manufacturer has big news for Fine Woodworking readers. Until now if you wanted SawStop’s revolutionary finger-saving tablesaw technology, you had to choose either a $4,000-plus industrial saw or the more recent contractor-style saw, which falls somewhat short of the power and capacity of a true cabinet saw.
I got a sneak preview this morning of SawStop’s new Professional Cabinet Saw, which has been designed to offer just about everything its overbuilt (for most people) big brother has, with the benefit of some recent innovations, for about $2,900. SawStop decided to throw in shipping, too, to make the price even more attractive.
SawStop did a complete redesign for this smaller cabinet saw, from the table (3 inches shorter) to the trunnions (a bit lighter) to the motor (available in 3-hp, single phase only). Basically they built this saw for people who don’t like compromises, but also don’t run the saw all day long the way a huge industrial shop would, beating on it for years on end. I get the sense it has plenty of mass and accuracy for a serious furniture-maker. For example, SawStop kept the true-vertical trunnion elevation, which means the trunnions move straight up and down instead of pivoting to make height changes. Among other things, that means that one turn of the crank moves the blade exactly 1/8 in., from any position.
But the big news with this saw is dust collection. A slick new blade guard accepts a dust hose and teams up with improved dust collection in the cabinet to capture 99% of all dust produced, according to the SawStop guys. You won’t get this new blade cover on the Industrial or Contractor saws, though SawStop plans to roll it out for those models at a later date.
As SawStop’s Mark Pennington told me this morning, “We solved the biggest safety issue–cutting your finger off–but when we visited shops we found wood dust to be the other big issue. Other woodworking tools have made big improvements in how they collect dust, but the tablesaw category has lagged behind.”
Using just a small 120 cfm shop vacuum, Pennington demonstrated how the saw was able to collect almost all the dust when he ripped a piece of MDF, with just a light sprinkle left on the saw table.
The fledgling company has been profitable for some time now–a rare success in these tough economic times–and they used those profits for the R&D on this new-and-improved saw, Pennington said.
More on the AWFS Show
A nicely designed new blade guard grabs almost all of the dust that doesn't get sucked into the cabinet.
In response to user feedback, SawStop built a quick-release handle into its latest throat insert.
Pennington demonstrated the dust-collection efficiency of the new saw by ripping a piece of MDF. Only a very light sprinkle of dust was left on the saw table.
Pennington demonstrated how the anti-kickback pawls can be tucked up and out of the way on the new blade cover. Notice also how the cover rests in the upright position when you need it out of the way to line up a cut, for example.
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"That's the best hand he's ever gonna have". That's what the surgeon said after he managed to save my patient's thumb averting what would have been a bilateral hand amputation (his other hand was removed 1/3 of the way to his elbow). The damage was substantial and if he haden't been able to save the thumb he would have amputated this hand as well.
We worked together the next four months to increase his hand's range of motion, focusing on tasks such as gripping a spoon, fastening buttons, turning doorhandles, and shaving with an electric razor. His other arm would be fitted with a prosthetic and he would eventually learn how to tie shoe laces although he preferred the ease of velcro.
I began to appreciate that in spite of the numerous advances in bioengineering and prosthesis nothing can take the place of your hand's function. Although this example wasn't the result of a woodworking accident (industrial) it's a sobering example of how fast an accident can occur (in spite of years of experience and numerous safety courses) and how lasting the results can be.
The financial arguments are valid, an extra grand for flesh-sensing technology beats a 50K+ bill from the surgeon (although here in socialist Canada my client walked out of the hospital with only a bill for parking. Tommy Douglas, look him up) however the functional argument deserves some attention. We're born with two hands (few exceptions) and two hands are somehow more than twice as good as one. We have the technology to be safer than ever before, why not embrace it?
Sawstop is to woodworking what the HANS device is to Nascar racing. I'm buying one as soon as I can.
My anecdotal observation of a number of forums and my incredibly detailed statistical analysis of the data leads me to suspect that there is no difference in how often an accident occurs for users of SawStops vs other cabinet saws. The consequences vary considerably.
Having just cut off the tip of my thumb recently (see here for fun pictures - http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=522575&id=1597515465 if you are not squeamish) I can state that anybody who somehow thinks losing his Forrest blade and a cartridge is not worth risking has not looked at the matter very hard. I have medical coverage and co-pays add up fast (emergency room; pills (yes, you will need those - turns out there are a hell of a lot of nerves in fingertips and they get quite put out at mistreatment); surgery co-pays are several hundred $ btw - more on my plan than the brake bade combo. I am nervously awaiting further bills - I vaguely recall reading some 80/20 clause in my policy.
Note that while I have never heard of a case of an accidental firing, SawStop will replace at least the cartridge (not sure about the blade) if that occurs. When last did your airbag misfire? I do not somehow think that a $200 sting for touching a spinning blade is going to make me irresponsibly try grabbing the blade.
In my case, a moments carelessness was the cause, but I think that implying that 'only careless idiots get into tablesaw accidents' is a bit offensive. Yes, many retire with all 10 fingers, but many are victims of bad luck - heck, I live in CA - I'm sure there are some folks out there who have lost fingers in earthquakes.
My regret is not buying one sooner. Any macho men out there want to buy a used Steel City cabinet saw?
I like the tacit recognition by SawStop that sawdust is also a danger. Much research has and is coming out about the risks associated with breathing in micron-level dusts. Besides, anything that helps keep my cramped basement shop a little cleaner is welcome by both myself and my spouse.
Nice innovation, SawStop.
I'm curious if anyone running a woodworking business has asked their insurance agent if replacing a standard table saw with a sawstop table saw would reduce their insurance rates. Anyone?
mstrrktek's argument is getting old already. The web fora were full of contrarians like him when the SawStop first hit the market. Them are people that find joy in arguing just for the sake of not going with the flow.
I bet he is probably still driving an old car without airbags because they would make him less careful and they would have to be replaced in the event of a crash.
And though, I don't see people constantly crashing carelessly into walls just because they have airbags and don't care anymore for they safety. How bizarre...
Me? I know my next TS will be a SawStop, no doubt about it.
And by the way, SawStop offers a EU version on their website so no excuses there.
I have been using a table saw for 30 years or more and have never had a blade to hand encounter. However, I have a 8 year old son now who enjoys helping me in my shop. The thought of him losing part of a hand on my saw is hard to face. I would go through any number of saw blades and stop units to prevent him from getting hurt. The idea of being able to upgrade my saw to a cabinet saw and get one that is much safer is very appealing. I have not ordered on yet, but the operative word is yet.
As a "careful" woodworker remembering the kickback accident 2 years ago that took off the end of one finger and cut another to the bone, I am dismayed at the comments assuming that one will be less careful with a Sawstop. Do you drive more recklessly and leave the seatbelts off for comfort just because you have car and health insurance? I think not. No one plans a self-amputation, but it happens. I have my pre-order in for the Sawstop Professional. Neither my wife or I want to worry about going through that again.
Those concerned with cost might want to re-evaluate. After 30 years, I finally had my accident last year. The blade was only up 1/2" and I was cutting a groove in a 1 1/2" thick board. With no hint of trouble, the kickback occurred as the leading edge exited the cut causing the board to flip back over the blade causing me to lose half of my right index finger and do serious damage to my middle finger. By the time my hand surgeon and I finally parted ways $45,000 had changed hands (no pun intended). Knowing what I know now, I'd be ecstatic that I had to replace a cartridge and blade. Not only would it be cheaper, it’d be easier.
By the way, I’m still in the shop “making sawdust” as my Dad used to say.
I still use my Powermatic 66 I purchased some 20 years ago and it still performs flawlessly. I recently acquired a full on panel saw,so I'm not likely to purchase a Saw Stop any time soon. Although if I were in need of a new cabinet saw it would definitely being under serious consideration, although not exclusively because of it's unique safety devise. I would consider it more for it's quality of construction and the refined features the designers have incorporated into it's design. It's refreshing to see tool companies being progressive and innovative in their design, when for so many, many years tools like table saws saw little improvement.
I just may have to get a SawStop now that the price is going down. I was thinking about it before but I just could not justify the cost. My wife loves working in the shop but the table saw really scares her so I would make most of the cuts on the the tablesaw. To mstrrktek's comments about the price of the stop units and replacement blades, if you are careful (and lucky, accidents happen) you will never have to replace them. But I don't want my wife terrified to use any tool in the shop plus I kind of like her with all of her fingers and thumbs. I have taught her and others that the tablesaw can be dangerous, but if you are careful and watch what you are doing it can be a wonderful tool. I don't think that we will be any less careful knowing that the saw will stop if her finger touches the blade, we won't want to spend the money to replace the stop and blade either. I think I know what I will get my wife for her birthday now.
I really cannot believe that a safety device makes one less careful in the shop. That just doesn't make any sense to me. As a semi-pro cabinet and furniture maker I have spent a number of hours at a ICS 5hp 3 phase saw. Trust me I am no less careful that I was when I am using a contractor saw.
As a part-time employee of Woodcraft I can tell you that we are not only selling the ICS (we don't have the PCS in stock yet) to a wide range of customers. We have hobbyists, pros, industrial arts and fine arts programs and just about everyone else who buy them. Yes at $4K+ most have to think about it. But they buy them anyway. While all love the safety features most just love the saw. It is rock solid with an awesome fence. The quality is very good with very few reported problems. Oh, for the record a new cartridge is about $60 and you can get a tooth brazed on for about $10.
Stop thinking about it as a safety device with a saw blade and think about it as a terrific saw that will last a lifetime that just happens to have the best safety feature in the marketplace.
Every saws scare me. Even the scroll saw. But saying that a Sawstop might lower my level of attention - I don't think so. A $400.00 bill that follows a mistake might still remind me that this tool is a sharp, fast and dumb cutting device!
The safety issues are nice, but like everyone else I hope through care it never is needed. What impresses me most is the dust collection. I've really struggled to get my dust collector to work effectively with my old cabinet table saw, with only partial success. The article in FWW a few months ago talked about this, but even trying all of those ideas, I'm still only catching about 80% of the dust. It would be nice to have a saw that is solid, safe, and clean. I'm intrigued!
After 42 years working in the building trades, I had my first TS incident last fall. It was relatively minor, but the trip to the ER for stitches, X-rays, and the like came to just under $2,000. In terms of economics alone, that starts to make the SawStop look a little more attractive. It also makes mstrrktek's concern about the cost of a new cartridge and blade pale by comparison. Unless you've got a $200-300 deductible on your medical insurance, the cost of even minor medical treatment is many times that of a new cartridge and blade.
While I applaud SawStop for their invention and I would definitely retool if I were a pro and NOT the only one in my shop using the tool. However, I think of this the same way I do bumpers on cars as idiot proofing devices. Mark Twain said it best, "There is no such thing as an accident but rather the unhappy confluence of poor decisions made by one or more parties."
Still, I dig the hot dog test.
"I have yet to understand why people are opposed to technology that can prevent potentially severe and crippling injury."
I agree. I remember all the disagreement in the forums as well when sawstop first came out. I own one now and I'm no less careful than I was with any other tablesaw. Seems like somehow just the fact that Sawstop is on the market it's taken as some sort of a slam against careful woodworkers who don't own one. Lost fingers are accidents, no one goes to the shop to intentionally cut off a finger. Sawstop is a good quality saw with another safety feature.
I sure hope you don't live to regret that statement. I own a Sawstop and I think twice about using a non Sawstop tablesaw any more. I am no less cautious on my Sawstop than I was before but now I know that should an accident happen then I have a measure of protection. My dad and grandfather drove their cars for many years without seatbelts and they never had an accident, but I buckle mine every time I get in the car, even though my car has air bags which increased the cost of the car and tha cost of the repair should I have an accident.
I know one guy who in the last cut he was making on a Sunday evening grabbed a flopping piece of 1/4 " plywood to steady it, but the blade caught the piece pulling the plywood and his thumb through the blade. I also know a guitar player who after a SawStop tablesaw accident could not play the guitar.... for about two weeks because the strings kept getting caught in the nick on his callouse. I think either of these guys would gladly pay for just one cartridge and one new Forrest blade. The even sadder part of this is the guy who cut off his thumb gave up woodworking alltogether.
I have yet to understand why people are opposed to technology that can prevent potentially severe and crippling injury.
SawStop - a great product, IF it came with a lifetime supply of Stop units; and, of my $100 plus Forrest Blades! I understand institutions wanting this, perhaps a business - though it would seem this would be a real costly item for a business. Perhaps the lower cost in insurance would make up for it?
But I'm going to go the route here of we never had this before, why now? Are we becoming more careless in the wood shop?
Does the SawStop make us MORE careful, or less?
Does the SawStop in generally provide more operational pluses that say Delta's new saw (at less cost) does?
Unless SawStop indeed provided me with a lifetime of Stop Units; and, the blades it ruins, I will opt to just be very careful as I use my saw.
Perhaps I will regret this statement one day, but my dad, and my grandfather were avid woodworkers and they passed away with all 10 digits and no close run-ins with the saw. They were mindful, respectful, and careful while using the table saw ..... and similar.
It seems we are being bombarded with new and innovative tools these days. Some great, but how in the world have we gotten along without them? ....... Just fine!
Sorry SawStop. You've come up with a great "invention", but a perhaps costly one that makes us LESS careful in the wood shop.
That's my two cents ..... and a ruined blade to go with it!
Great news for all woodworkers. It's a pity, that only for the ones living in the U.S. Us, Europeans, still have to look after our fingers ;) I hope some day it will change...
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