Racine, WI, US
I would suggest that everyone go to Inc. Magazine's web site and read this article (http://www.inc.com/magazine/20050701/disruptor-gass_pagen_3.html). If you do only a modicum of "reading between the lines" it will help you to better understand and put this all into perspective.
It is quite impossible to be in the heart or mind of another individual, and I would never profess to be able to accomplish that. However, it is interesting to consider issues from different perspectives, and one of those perspectives could allow one to clearly hypothesize that the evolution of SawStop was a licensing scheme from the beginning.
To set the perspective... a lawyer comes up with the idea, and three more lawyers invest. They assure adequate patent protection, and then try to license the technology. So far, so good, but it seemed there were no "takers."
Manufacturers cited "unproven" technology and too many "false trips" of the safety system. Perhaps more importantly, manufacturers may have had the very real concern of potentially greater litigation if it could be shown that users were "lulled" into a false sense of security by the technology. In a perverse sort of logic only an attorney could really appreciate, the argument "I thought it was safe so I was careless and cut myself, so now you owe me money" is a very real concern to manufacturers.
So we have an inventor/lawyer who wants to license his "flesh-sensing" technology, per the article's author Melba Newsome, to everyone. Newsome writes, "It could potentially boost the safety of all power saws, including band saws and circular saws, as well as nail guns, lawn mowers, and other products."
No doubt, visions of fully intact sugarplums and fat royalty checks were dancing in the heads of the angel investors that saw the scheme. But alas, even after petitioning the Consumer Product Safety Commission to make SawStop-like technology standard on all table saws, there were still no takers. So what's a guy to do? Well, being a lawyer, the founder of the company undoubtedly knows his law, and the Inc. article quotes him as saying "The legal standard says you have to make a product as safe as you reasonably can, and if you fail to do that, you're going to be responsible."
The only way to show the manufacturing world that there is a safer way to make a saw is to, well, make a saw. So that's what SawStop did.
Now I am no conspiracy theorist, but let's imagine that I invented a new safety iron for clothes. The hot platen of the iron would be covered instantly by a flesh-sensing technology that would prevent me from ironing over my hand, leg, or other sensitive body part. Unfortunately, no manufacturer wants to license the technology because they are concerned that the customers' false sense of security might give rise to even more lawsuits, not to mention that a $20 iron would subsequently have to sell for many times that price.
What could possibly stimulate these reluctant manufacturers to incorporate my "safe" iron technology into their products? How about a nice big fat juicy personal injury award to some hapless ironer? Even juicier would be the knowledge that I had built a couple of my "StupidStop" irons and demonstrated that there was a way to build a "safe" iron. Manufacturers of irons would be forced to beat a path to my licensing door or stop making irons.
Well, you can read the Inc. article yourself, and form your own judgement, but for me, the decision to not buy a SawStop saw was made when I read the last three sentences of the last paragraph of the Inc. article. The author states, "Indeed, Gass still dreams of getting out of manufacturing altogether. He really doesn't want to make the power tools we buy. He just wants to make the power tools we buy better."
At this point, I am rather unwilling to plop down thousands of dollars with a manufacturer who, by his own admission, "dreams of getting out of manufacturing altogether." The prospect of product upgrades, continuity of warranty, parts availability,and even, yes, even liability responsibility seem slim, at best for a company whose leader expresses that sentiment.
Last year I got a gift card, but, alas, no woodworking gifts this year. This may be attributable to the fact that my tastes in tools is growing exponentially more expensive as I learn that high quality (hand) tools really DO make a difference. My Dad used to say "Blame the craftsman, not the tools." Apparently he never tried to smooth a board with a cheap plane and then got a chance to try it with a Veritas. Good tools make a difference, excellent tools make a HUGE difference.
Sometimes you just want everyone to leave you alone. A [bench] cookie would cheer me up.
There have been debates in the past about which power tool should form the cornerstone of a shop... it appears that most lean toward the table saw as the first and most important stationery tool. If you fall in this category, exercise caution in selecting a bench top or portable table saw, carefully analyze the "total cost of ownership," and consider the types of cuts you will most routinely make.
For me, and the projects I do, it would be difficult to say whether the jointer or the band saw is the "cornerstone" or "can't live without" tool, but every time I power up the big Rikon band saw or hear the silky smooth, vibration-free purring of the Powermatic 54A, I think, "This is my favorite tool."
Are these really my most important tools, or are they my favorites because of their smoothness, accuracy, safety, and reliability? Perhaps I have subconsciously convinced myself these tools are my cornerstones because of the sheer quality. These thoughts, and my Bosch 4100 portable table saw, continually reinforce a lesson that I have learned (and re-learned) repeatedly --- buy the best, buy it once, take care of it, and be done with it!
This is not to say the Bosch is not a fine little saw. It is --- and it may be one of the best of the breed. However, it is not a long term table saw for a woodworker that considers the table saw as the center of his/her woodworking universe.
For me, the saw works, but it is noisy, it vibrates, and even with the best blade and most meticulous set-up, its cuts are inferior to those that can be achieved with a cabinet saw. The noise, lack of power, insufficient in-feed room, undersized table, weak fence, and virtually non-existent dust collection make it my "tool of last resort" rather than my "go-to" tool. I am more likely to rip 8/4 maple on my band saw slightly oversize and then true the edges than to attempt a rip cut like this on the Bosch. Again, let me restate, for the genre, this is possibly the best portable saw, but it is not a substitute for a cabinet saw. If you need a table saw to make accurate cross cuts, it will also require that you build a sled or purchase an after-market unit (calculate that in to the total cost of ownership, and add $100+ for a decent blade, too). I use an old, heavy, finely made, finely tuned radial arm saw for dead-on cross cuts, so this is not an issue in my shop.
Discretionary funds for a hobbyist like me are always an issue, and there are always so many beautiful pieces of wood and must-have tools to buy, that a new table saw gets consistently "back-burnered." Someday my lust for a new Delta or SawStop or some as-yet-determined new breakthrough will push me to the tool-buying edge, but until then, I will take very good care of my band saw, my jointer, my old radial arm saw, and yes, my trusty little Bosch.
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