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MsDebbieP's Company Tours #15: Sawstop

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Blog entry by MsDebbieP posted 11-05-2007 02:57 PM 1881 reads 0 times favorited 27 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 14: Oneway Mfg Part 15 of MsDebbieP's Company Tours series Part 16: General »

Last month, while at the Woodstock Wood Show I had the opportunity to check out the SawStop table saw and chat with Eric Gewiss, the Marketing Manager.

The History
Steve Gass, Ph.D., a woodworker himself, invented the SawStop technology in 2000. Mr. Gass met with existing manufacturers to have them include his SawStop in their product lines, but did not have any success. After a couple of years of trying, he, along with David Fulmer and David Fanning, built their own table saw and in 2004 the first product, the Industrial Grade Cabinet Saw was produced. Currently, says Mr. Gewiss, the 10” table saw is the #1 selling cabinet saw in the United States.

The Future
The goal of the company is to offer a complete line of table saws, which will fill the needs of many user types (and price ranges). They are also currently developing technology for band saws and jointers.

At the end of this year, a heavy duty mobile base for the cabinet saw will be available and a SawStop contractor-style table saw will be available through authorized dealers in spring, 2008.

The Technology
The table saw, the product that is produced at this time, includes technology that recognizes the difference between wood and the saw operator. If the saw operator contacts the blade while it is spinning, the safety mechanism is activated and the spinning blade stops and drops below the table surface. This process takes less than 5/1000’s of a second. The resulting injury to the operator is usually a small nick in the flesh that came in contact with the blade as opposed to what might happen in a similar situation with a regular saw.

The SawStop cabinet saw has become recognized as the safest saw on the market and is also earned the reputation of being one of the highest quality saws in North America, as well. In Fine Homebuilding / Fine Woodworking’s latest 2008 Tool Guide, SawStop is recognized as “Editor’s Best Overall Choice” as well “Reader’s Choice” for the highest quality 10” cabinet saw.

If you haven’t watched the “hot dog demonstration” check it out on the Sawstop website.

(Here I am at the wood show with hot dog in hand. I unfortunately did not time my visit with a demonstration time slot and so I did not get to see the saw in action.)

Misconceptions
When asked if there were misconceptions about the saw, Mr. Gewiss wanted to clarify a few of points. One, the technology is available only on the SawStop saw and it cannot be fit onto any other saw. Second, the brake cartridge is similar to an airbag in a car – it’s there when you need it but once it’s deployed it has to be replaced.

A third piece of information that Mr. Gewiss wanted to clarify was that the mechanism does not have false activations. If the cartridge deploys there is a reason for it. It may be human contact and it may also be due to attempting to cut material such as aluminum, carbon fiber or wet pressure treated lumber.

There is a bypass feature which allows the user to temporarily disengage the SawStop safety feature. The bypass mode can be used when cutting a known conductive material or to test the materials to see if they can be cut while in the safe mode.

The final misconception that Mr. Gewiss wanted to correct was that the brake cartridge costs hundreds of dollars to replace. The replacement cartridge costs $69 and it can be replaced in just a few minutes. Work progress is not put on hold for long at all.

Thank You
I’d like to thank Mr. Gewiss for taking the time to chat with me at the woodshow. I look forward to hearing more about the contractor-style saw that will be available in the near future.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)



27 comments so far

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MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2913 days


#1 posted 11-05-2007 02:58 PM

if there are any further questions about the product, please post them and I’ll try and get them answered for you.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Karson's profile

Karson

34916 posts in 3153 days


#2 posted 11-05-2007 03:21 PM

Thanks for the interview Debbie. It’s interesting that they say that they are the #1 seller of saws. I might make the other MFG’s stand up and notice.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware karson_morrison@bigfoot.com †

View Brad_Nailor's profile

Brad_Nailor

2532 posts in 2710 days


#3 posted 11-05-2007 03:32 PM

If you arn’t familliar with this saw you should also know that you will have to replace your blade as well as the cartridge. When it fires it ruins your blade. That would suck if you were using an expensive dado set, but I guess you can’t put a price on your fingers! Nice work Debbie..

-- http://www.facebook.com/pages/DSO-Designs/297237806954248

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MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2913 days


#4 posted 11-05-2007 03:44 PM

true—both to Karson and Brad.

re: a $$$ dado set.. it would be bothersome but when you look at your fingers and hand still in tact… I think the replacement costs would be a lot easier to swallow.
I think we envision the cost as an ongoing expense of the machine. Hopefully the mechanism would never have to be used. The expense would only come when it saved you from a traumatic “accident”.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 2627 days


#5 posted 11-05-2007 03:45 PM

You know, I really like the idea of the SawStop. I’d sure consider one if I had that kind of budget for a saw. But I really have a problem with a company that says to it’s users “Nothing can go wrong, and if it does, it’s your falut, not ours.” But some form of that statment is made in every interview I’ve read. One of the woodworking magazines I subscribe to tested the SawStop and had it deploy into their dado blade part way through a cut (hard to get your fingers in that!). According to the review, SawStop told them they must have done something wrong, but none of the errors that SawStop suggested applied to their situation. And that points to my second gripe with SawStop – they ignore the cost of the blade. They should say that your cost is $69 plus the cost of the blade which is still totaly more economical than a trip to the hospital, but I’ve never seen them mention the cost of the blade, which seems a little deceptive. Especially if they are going to wind up blaming me for a false deployment into my rather expensive dado blade!

-- http://www.peteroxley.com -- http://north40studios.etsy.com --

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MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2913 days


#6 posted 11-05-2007 03:52 PM

really good points Peter.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

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Thos. Angle

4438 posts in 2715 days


#7 posted 11-05-2007 04:08 PM

Hopefully the folks at SawStop are reading this blog. The points made are all valid and should be addressed. These and the cost, plus the fact that my saw is only 2 years old are the reasons I don’t have a SawShop. However, Peter, if you want to look at one and try it they have one in the shop at the Woodcraft in Boise. I’m sure Monte would let us play with it as long as we don’t trip the trigger on the danged thing.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Fingersleft's profile

Fingersleft

71 posts in 2649 days


#8 posted 11-05-2007 05:44 PM

Hi Debbie,

First of all, thanks for the great writeup.

I had the opportunity to spend about an hour using SawStop at one of their local distributors. A couple of weeks later, I got into quite a debate with a couple of woodworking friends of mine. Here’s a very brief summary of the “give and take”.

For of all:

Quality – INHO SawStop is as good or better than a number of saws in their price catagory. Fit and finish is first rate. and accuracy appeared to be as good as it needs to be, given the price tag. It appeared to me that a lot of thought went into the performance design and features.

The Safety Mechanism – Now to the meat and potatoes of what makes SawStop unique. Again, IMHO, hats off to these folks. They’ve come a long way in addessing the #1 safety issue we all seem to have with table saws, that is GETTING CUT. I would have expected this kind of thing to come out of one of the hundred year old tool manufacturers’ R&D shops.

The only time I’ve cut myself on a spinning blade is after I switched te power off. It was a minor cut (luckily) and I spent enough time with my finger bandaged to think about all of the safety lessons I already knew. Plus the fact that I scared the hell out of myself. I understand that the SawStop STOP mechansim will trigger even when the power is off. Good thinking guys!

Now to the debate I had with my buddies. Both of them believe that SawStop will foster carelessness in TS operation. My reaction is non-sense! Anyone who stops paying careful attention to their digits, based upon the notion that the saw will save them, is going to find a way to get themselves hurt anyway . . . on some tool. Their brain simply isn’t engaged. The other debate was based upon price. As far as I’m concerned, if I were in the market for a top quality TS, I would certainly consider SawStop. I might even be pursuaded to pay the premium.

However, I do echo Thomas’ concern. It’s only out a couple of years. And with all of the electronics and sensors driving this thing, I can only wonder how it will perform when it is 10 years only and full of dust and lubricants that may have been sprayed on it. I’m sure these units have gone through testing. But still, time will tell the tale.

-- Bob

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Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 2627 days


#9 posted 11-05-2007 05:52 PM

I had never considered the carelessness angle. Interestingly, cars with airbags are more likely to be involved in front-end collisions than cars without airbags. Makes you think.

-- http://www.peteroxley.com -- http://north40studios.etsy.com --

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2913 days


#10 posted 11-05-2007 05:53 PM

a nice “hands on” review. Thanks.

the “carelessness” debate – yikes! Does that mean that they are careless when the guards are on their other equipment? Maybe that’s where the cost of replacement parts and blades will make them reconsider safety precautions.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

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MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2913 days


#11 posted 11-05-2007 05:56 PM

if we want to compare airbags to the sawstop, for me it would be that I’d forget about the options after a brief time of having it available. I never think about the airbag in my vehicle.

Maybe the types of people buying the vehicles with airbags are different than the types of people who buy airbags without? Maybe… maybe.. maybe.. oh the possibilities are endless!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 2627 days


#12 posted 11-05-2007 06:05 PM

Maybe!

You certainly can’t call it a perfect comparison. There could be a lot of factors that affect the airbag statistics (people in rural areas are more likely to drive older cars which don’t have airbags, and there are fewer accidents in rural areas … maybe). But it still makes you think – well, it makes me think … I think.

I think with the SawStop, it would be harder to forget than an airbag. First of all, your car doesn’t say ”AirBag” on the side! Also, you have to turn the SawStop device on and off for different materials. I used to have a pickup that allowed you to turn off the passenger airbag – off for the kids in the morning, on for the co-worker at lunch time, off for the kids in the afternoon. I thought about it when I got in. Happily, no collisions of any sort.

-- http://www.peteroxley.com -- http://north40studios.etsy.com --

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2913 days


#13 posted 11-05-2007 06:08 PM

good points.

lol I’m just thinking: “Phew.. good thing I’m using a SawStop.. now I can put my fingers right onto that spinning metal-toothed blade while I’m cutting wood. Nah nah nah nah nah”

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View cheller's profile

cheller

254 posts in 2862 days


#14 posted 11-05-2007 08:03 PM

This saw is definitely on my list for when I finally get a tablesaw of my very own. I’ve seen the aftermath of a tablesaw accident up close and personal. My grandfather trimmed the ends off three fingers when I was in high school.

I hadn’t thought about the reliability down the road – thanks Fingersleft. That’s definitely something to consider. I know someone had mentioned several months ago (can’t remember his name – real estate guy from Utah putting together a really well outfitted shop, who has a friend in the tool sales business) that a lot of high schools were getting rid of their tablesaws and replacing them with SawStops for insurance reasons. I’d love to see the statistics on how these saws are faring after the schools have had them a couple of years. The class I take is an open woodshop class taught at a local high school. The equipment takes quite a beating between the high school kids and the couple of adult ed classes which use it. I’d think that the machines probably get the equivalent of a couple of years of home shop use in the course of one year of school use.

As for safety. There are two rooms with equipment and the instructor can only be in one place at a time. There are table saws in both rooms – two European multi-machines in the quieter room, which don’t get a lot of use, and one massive tablesaw in the other room. There are no guards on either of the machines. The only machine with a funtioning guard is the jointer. Everyone in the class is supposedly aware of the inherent dangers of the machines – we have to sign a waiver saying that at the start of each term. (Funny aside being a wood shop there is rarely a pen around so we all sign in pencil. I often wonder how that would stand up in court “Well yes I did sign but it’s only in pencil so it doesn’t really count.”) The instructor and I have a running list of the class members most likely to lose a digit. It’s not funny but no matter how many times you tell someone not to do a task a particular way because it’s dangerous it doesn’t make a difference. With at least a few of these guys (I’m not being sexist with this. Most of the women in the class are much more cautious than the men.) it would take a 2×4 to the head, or a serious accident to change their behavior. The good news is that in the nearly 10 years I’ve been taking the class no one has had a major injury. I don’t think a SawStop would make any of these people more careless, but it would let them keep their appendages.

-- Chelle http://artsgranddaughter.blogspot.com

View Brad_Nailor's profile

Brad_Nailor

2532 posts in 2710 days


#15 posted 11-05-2007 09:09 PM

I don’t care what kind of saw I am using, when I turn on that power switch, I am thinking of nothing but the cut I am making and where my hands and fingers are at in relation to the blade. Having a Saw Stop wouldn’t change that for me, but would cover that gray area known as S**T happens! No matter how carefull you are you cant control everything…

-- http://www.facebook.com/pages/DSO-Designs/297237806954248

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