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A Satisfied SawStop User

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Review by Dave posted 788 days ago 7443 views 6 times favorited 40 comments Add to Favorites Watch
A Satisfied SawStop User No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

Like a lot of woodworkers, buying a cabinet saw was a big commitment for me. It wasn’t just a big financial decision; I also wanted to be sure I was going to have enough time between kids, a career, and other stuff that I’d feel like I really got my money’s worth out of it. My Ridgid contractor’s saw was doing a nice job for me already. But I like to make cabinets and, at the end of the day, it’s just not convenient to break down a 4×8 sheet of plywood with a contractor’s saw, no matter how well it cuts smaller stock.

Needless to say this was a big-deal purchase. I spent a lot of time reading reviews, looking through the comments on this site, and talking to sales folks. I waffled a lot.

Three saws made my short list: Delta, Powermatic, and SawStop. I was impressed by just about every aspect of Delta’s Unisaw. Powermatic also made very high-quality machinery even though its design seemed a bit dated. But, in the end, I decided on the SawStop 3HP Professional Cabinet Saw when I bought last summer. I outfitted it with the Industrial Mobile Base and the 36-inch T-Glide Fence.

This isn’t a review of those other saws but if you’re reading this I’m sure you’re at least thinking about them too so here’s a quick list of the things that tipped the scales for me:

  • Mobility – My shop is in the garage along with our cars, bikes, kids’ stuff, and all the normal garage clutter. Tools get moved around A LOT. The mobility of Saw Stop’s industrial mobile base is superior to almost any other solution I’ve seen (I upgraded, it’s not standard issue on the Professional Cabinet Saw). It seems like it was truly designed to be used daily – not just “every now & then.” Delta’s solution wasn’t bad either. Powermatic’s was clunky if you’re a frequent tool mover.
  • Dust collection – Delta and SawStop both did a very nice job here. SawStop’s above-table solution got a slight edge with me but it wouldn’t have been the deal breaker if everything else had stacked up…
  • Ease of use – Since I’m a hobbyist and my shop time comes in small 1-2 hour chunks, spending a lot of time setting up cuts, changing blades, etc., is a big deal. I was very impressed by the thoughtfulness of SawStop’s design. Riving knives, zero clearance inserts, etc. come on and off quickly and blade changes are fast & convenient. The other two saws seemed like blade changes would be much slower if I consistently used the blade guards.

One last point: Craftsmanship, durability, power, and accuracy are more important than any of these things. But, all three of these saws knocked the ball out of the park on those measures – so it was the smaller stuff that broke my 3-way tie.

The Ownership Experience

Now, I’ve used my SawStop for almost a year on a variety of projects and the excitement of owning a nice cabinet saw has worn off (well, at least enough that I stopped carry pictures of it in my wallet next to the kids’). I’ve also had enough time to experience its true strengths, so here’s a summary:

Overall Design: 5 stars – SawStop’s designers did a lot of thinking about this saw gets used. Everything is where my hands expect it to be and, after I’d used it for a few weeks, I could use the controls without looking or thinking. That’s good for productivity and safety. I don’t want to have to spend time (or my limited supply of concentration) fumbling around for something like the off switch at a critical time.

Power: 5 stars – I have 220V power and, although I considered everything from 1.75HP to 5HP, the experts at Woodcraft recommended 3HP for me as a hobbyist. They were dead right. My experience after a year of using it is that 3HP is all the power I’ll ever need. I can rip 8/4 hard maple fast enough that the limit is my comfort level, not the saw’s motor (and that’s with a combination blade, not a rip blade!). Anything thicker than that, I’ll likely use my bandsaw. I haven’t tried cove cutting yet – and that’s a tough test for a saw – but from what I’ve experienced this saw wouldn’t even flinch.

Quality of Parts and Precision of Assembly: 5 stars – This saw is a manufacturing masterpiece and it was built to last. Fit and finish is excellent right down to the packaging. When you turn it on, it hums quietly with no vibration. The loudest noise – if your dust collection is off – is the high-pitched turbulence making the blade sing as its teeth move through the zero-clearance insert.

Assembly instructions were very clear and, although they don’t recommend it, I was able to easily put this saw together alone. If you do that, though, make sure you use saw horses to support the heavy pieces, take your time, and be smart about using leverage and good form for the frequent heavy lifting.

Ability to Adjust and Align: 4.5 stars – About the only thing you can’t adjust on this saw is its color. Blade alignment, fence alignment, riving knife position & height, and more. The manual devotes an entire chapter (22 pages!) to adjustments. But, after giving it 5 stars for the flexibility of its adjustments I do have to take off a half a point for this: Some of the less common adjustments on this saw seem like they’d be very tedious. The common ones are all pretty straightforward. The most common are downright easy. But, if you ever decide to re-align the blade tilt axis (which adjusts so that cut measurements on the fence don’t get thrown off as the blade tilts), I wish you all the best. You have more patience than I probably ever will.

Good news, though. All the alignments were spot-on when I put the saw together. I also like knowing I have so much flexibility if I need it. Some saws don’t even give the option of doing these adjustments – and if they’re ever out of whack you WILL be glad you can fix it – so I can’t fault SawStop much for their design decisions here.

SawStop 40 Tooth Combination Blade: 4 stars – Go buy a Forrest Woodworker II blade. It just SINGS with this saw. The standard issue SawStop combination blade is no slouch – it was certainly usable and did just fine on most cuts. I could even cut plywood without tear-out if I did a skim cut first. But, upgrading to a high-end blade made a fantastic saw even better.

T-Glide Fence System: 4 stars – The production quality of the T-glide fence saw is very good and its design is excellent but a minor glitch made this piece MY saw’s weakest link. I don’t think my experience generalizes to other saws – the fences I’ve seen in the stores don’t have the minor issue I’m about to describe: Specifically, one of my phenolic plywood faces bulged out from over-tightening during assembly at the plant. The manual warns against over-tightening if you adjust the faces yourself for exactly this reason.

I believe this contributes to burned rip cuts even though the fence is aligned as well as I can get it with the miter slot/blade (front and back parallel to with 0.0005”). Here’s why: The biggest high spot (which, by the way, is only 0.008 inches), happens to line up with my blade’s leading edge. So, the two points of contact between my wood and the fence are 1) the rearmost edge of the fence and 2) the bulge at the leading edge of the blade. As the wood moves forward past the bulge its front edge continues to move away from the fence ever-so-slightly, making slight contact a second time with the back edge of the blade. The cut itself is still straight – remember we’re talking thousandths of an inch – but it sometimes contributes to burning in harder woods like maple.

Big deal? No way. I could probably fix it by moving the back of the fence a bit further away from the blade. I haven’t even bothered talking to SawStop about it (and from what I’ve heard they’d replace things in a heartbeat if I did). Was it mildly annoying when I first noticed it after spending that much on a saw? Yep. My old Ridgid’s extruded aluminum fence was within 0.0001 of parallel to the miter slot at every point, so I was spoiled.

The fence itself is a pleasure to use. It’s dead square, perpendicular to the table (both are adjustable), and glides smoothly. The phenolic faces are attached with hex-head machine screws that are easy to access. That makes the faces easy to replace if I ever get around to doing it.

Mobile Base: 6 stars (lol) – As I said, this base is simply fantastic. I’d highly recommend the upgrade and I wish I could put one on every tool I own. Having all 4 wheels “steerable” means that I can easily maneuver my saw into tight places. Having the hydraulic lift means it’s easy to raise and it sets itself down ever-so-gently.

Dust Collection: 5 stars – I really like the dust collection design on this saw. It was everything I expected – and my bar was high.

This saw has a typical under-table dust-shroud that pulls dust off the blade and out a 4” port in the back. The above-table collection is what makes it really shine. It performs “sawdust judo” with the 100MPH dust-filled airflow off the front of the blade – sucking it in the direction it’s already moving and then curving it smoothly up and over the blade to exit at the back of the blade guard. Smart.

To take full advantage of this saw’s dust collection I’d recommend a higher-suction airflow (like a shop-vac) for the over-blade port and a second 4” 800+ CFM duct for the under-table port. Since a typical dust collection impeller is designed to get hit by nails, wood shards, etc., it’s not great at producing suction (mine will only suck 9” H2O vs. 99” for my shopvac). That’s why my ideal solution would be a twin-DC approach.

I have a compromise solution right now that runs two 4” hoses from my Delta 50-760. One connects to the bottom port and the other connects through a reducer to the above-table DC. The total flow area of the 2 lines is almost the same as that of the 5” inlet on my DC – so it uses it to its full advantage.

This compromise does fine as long as the wood I’m cutting is wide enough that the blade guard traps the dust that’s thrown sideways. When I’m sneaking up on a final width, though, things still get dusty. Only one side of the blade guard is contacting the wood and trapping dust like it should. On the other side, the dust sprays out towards the front of the table…taking the path of least resistance. More suction through the blade guard might reduce or eliminate the issue, but it’s got my wheels turning on a better answer…

Blade Brake: 5 stars – This safety feature adds a bit of work to blade changes but after a year of using it I haven’t found it to be a nuisance. After doing a blade change, I do a quick check of the clearance between the brake and the blade (using the included tool which, by the way, holds itself magnetically to the side of the saw when you’re not using it). Changing the gap is quick and easy – and is not always needed.

Installing a dado blade is a little more work because you need to install a different brake. That’s quick and easy. Adjusting the gap – in my case – takes a little longer because my Dado set has a slightly smaller diameter than my combination blade – so it takes a few turns of the clearance bolt every time I put it in before it’s well-aligned.

By the way, I triggered my brake a few weeks ago so I can report on this too. I didn’t use my fingers though. My INCRA miter gauge played that role.

I was doing a 45 degree bevel cut at the end of the day (isn’t that always how these stories go) and, although I adjusted the aluminum back of my miter gauge to be further from the blade, I didn’t TEST the clearance before I made the cut. Well, needless to say, BAM! I blinked, checked my fingers instinctively, then looked. Not even a scratch on the miter gauge. The blade had buried itself nicely into the aluminum brake. To get back to work all I had to do is lower the blade completely to reset the internal mechanism and put in fresh parts. Of course I needed a new brake ($70) but I would have needed a new saw blade (~$100) either way given my boneheaded move. At least I now have a souvenir that’s much cooler than an aluminum miter gauge with a gouge in it so I’m chalking this one up to experience. I’m thankful the safety solution works and extra aware of the fact that mistakes can happen to even paranoid guys like me.

Overall Evaluation: 5 stars

So, all in all, I love this saw. I’d buy it again, I’d outfit it with the same features and I’d defend my decision to give my hard-earned dollars to a company started by a lawyer, lol. I love what the SawStop has done for my productivity, accuracy, confidence, and safety.

-- "I'm not afraid of heights. I'm afraid of widths." - Steven Wright




View Dave's profile

Dave

115 posts in 1822 days



40 comments so far

View OldLarry's profile

OldLarry

18 posts in 788 days


#1 posted 788 days ago

You have a most unusual Saw Stop (Made in USA.) Everyone I’ve seen has been made in Taiwan. I have the “Professional” model 53230, 5 hp, bought in ‘07. Great saw. PM saws have been made in China for many years. They are owned by the same company that owns Jet. I have a PM 26 shaper that I’ve had for a long time. “Assembled in USA from Chinese parts.” At best it could be described as a “hobbiest” level tool. I have a working shop so my views on tools may be different than some on this forum.

I’d just make a new fence face to correct the problem, better than dealing with it.

BTW IWF2012 is coming up in August. Worth the trip to Atlanta if you are into woodworking.

-- Larry, Nebraska

View Dave's profile

Dave

115 posts in 1822 days


#2 posted 788 days ago

Thanks Larry – I had ‘em custom-cast and machine each part right here in Cleveland and then ship it to Oregon for assembly.

Seriously I didn’t realize that it was made overseas. Their website says “100% U.S. owned, operated, and engineered” and my saw was shipped from Oregon so I assumed that was where it was built. I modified the review to fix the error.

I’m with you on the fence face. It doesn’t affect my work much beyond another trip back to the jointer or a bit of sanding after a critical rip – and I’m hoping to build a good solid auxiliary fence (like Tolpin’s?) anyway, so it’ll be a non-issue.

-- "I'm not afraid of heights. I'm afraid of widths." - Steven Wright

View SirFatty's profile

SirFatty

471 posts in 837 days


#3 posted 788 days ago

Dave, glad that you are happy with the new rig. And you should be for the amount of money it set you back!

I too work in the garage and experience all the things you mentioned. And the mobility is a big factor for me as well.

Have fun!

-Dave

-- Visit my blog at dave.spalla.com

View Rick Boyett's profile

Rick Boyett

167 posts in 1837 days


#4 posted 788 days ago

“100% U.S. owned, operated, and engineered” is a correct statement. The engineered part relates strictly to the design and development of the tool. The manufacturing is, of course, Taiwan..

To my knowledge, only the Delta Unisaw is built in the US. IMO it is the only cabinet saw on the market that is better than the Saw Stop when take the flesh sensing technology out of the picture. Saw Stop actually makes a damn good saw.

View michelletwo's profile

michelletwo

2222 posts in 1640 days


#5 posted 787 days ago

thanks for the well done review. I can’t afford one, but it’s nice to know about it, IF my ship ever comes in! I have only one nit to pick. As a hobbiest, I really doubt you need 3 hsp…I’ve been a pro for almost 30 yrs and have survived easily with a delta contractor at 1.5. Just a nit..and an opinion. Glad you got the saw of your dreams. It should last ‘til the cows come home!Have fun!

-- We call the destruction of replaceable human made items vandalism, while the destruction of irreplaceable natural resources is called development.

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6646 posts in 2604 days


#6 posted 787 days ago

Hi Dave;

Great review. People might not like their politics, but you can’t beat their saw.

If I were to ever have to replace my unisaw, that’s the saw it would be for me too.

Lee

-- by Lee A. Jesberger http://www.prowoodworkingtips.com http://www.ezee-feed.com

View helluvawreck's profile

helluvawreck

15582 posts in 1491 days


#7 posted 787 days ago

Thanks for an excellent review.

helluvawreck aka Charles
http://woodworkingexpo.wordpress.com

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View mchuray's profile

mchuray

81 posts in 1623 days


#8 posted 786 days ago

Thank for the excellent review. It is definately on my list.
Mark

View TheDane's profile

TheDane

3719 posts in 2288 days


#9 posted 785 days ago

Dave—I just bought a SawStop PCS-175 for my new shop, and couldn’t be happier.

Since my grandsons (10 and 12) will be doing some stuff in my shop, I chose SawStop for the safety feature.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I had purchased a world-class piece of machinery as well!

—Gerry

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Grampa_Doodie's profile

Grampa_Doodie

148 posts in 923 days


#10 posted 779 days ago

I’m in the market for a 3HP SawStop as well. Great review Dave. I do believe you’ve locked in my decision.

Gramps.

-- If at first you don't succeed...DO NOT try skydiving.

View CyberDyneSystems's profile

CyberDyneSystems

106 posts in 813 days


#11 posted 771 days ago

Superb review, and other my own lack of need for a mobile base, I agree 100% with your assessments.

If I could afford such a thing for home use, I’d have one of these in the basement. ( I do have a fine 1940’s vintage Unisaw down there, so no complaints!)

I am in charge of these decisions at work though, where we have been happily using the industrial model 5HP with 52” fence for about 6 months now. Best purchase I have ever made.

It is a dream machine to be sure!

View agallant's profile

agallant

427 posts in 1511 days


#12 posted 769 days ago

So do you find your self turing off the brake often? That was my issue, I always turned it off because I did not want to trip it.

View OldLarry's profile

OldLarry

18 posts in 788 days


#13 posted 769 days ago

We’ve had ours 5 years and it’s been tripped twice by metal and twice by a hand. Why did you buy it if you aren’t going to use it’s reason of being? The only time ours is turned off is when metal, usually aluminum or metallic laminates, are being cut. It’s used as a misc. saw in the assembly area, not for production cutting, so it’s used often and by most everyone in the shop. (15 man shop)

-- Larry, Nebraska

View Dave's profile

Dave

115 posts in 1822 days


#14 posted 768 days ago

@agallant: I don’t turn the brake off. After reading the reviews here I did, though, think about the fact that it might be tripped by things that weren’t permanently attached to my hand. I decided that was an acceptable ongoing cost to get everything else I liked about the saw.

When I tripped the brake it cost about $170 for a new brake cartridge and a new Forrest Woodworker II (an upgraded blade in my view). If I hadn’t had the brake I’d still have needed to sharpen or replace the damaged blade anyway, and I may have needed new parts for the miter gauge it hit. So the real cost was driven by my inattention, not just the saw.

I’d advise hobbyists to bank on spending $200-$300 or so each year on blades and brakes. You may never spend it but if the thought of doing that influences your decision to buy the saw, that’s worth knowing BEFORE you plunk down thousands of dollars.

So, to sum up, If you’re a commercial venture I bet the cost of the false trips pay for itself in retained fingers and avoided lawsuits. If you’re a hobbyist, my advice is: don’t assume you’ll never trip the brake. Accidents happen.

-- "I'm not afraid of heights. I'm afraid of widths." - Steven Wright

View Bertha's profile

Bertha

12951 posts in 1318 days


#15 posted 768 days ago

I don’t like SawStop but I really like this review. It contains some compelling information for those interested in this saw. Thanks for posting.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

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