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My Thoughts on the SawStop Professional Table Saw

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Review by Rockfoot posted 09-08-2015 02:48 PM 18684 views 0 times favorited 28 comments Add to Favorites Watch
My Thoughts on the SawStop Professional Table Saw My Thoughts on the SawStop Professional Table Saw No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I’ve been woodworking since my 8th grade wood shop class back in 1982, but I didn’t purchase my own table saw until about 12 years ago. I bought a Rigid contractor saw from Home Depot and it served me well for many years. Since then, I’ve added many other large tools like the jointer, planer, bandsaw, router table etc… to complete my shop.

A few months ago, I decided it was time to upgrade my old table saw to a 3HP professional grade cabinet saw. I narrowed down my choices to the Powermatic PM2000 and the SawStop PCS31230 w/mobil base. Without the obvious safety feature, both saws were very close in cost, quality and configuration. I ultimately chose the SawStop because I felt it was every bit as good a saw as the PM2000, but it included the safety feature at no extra cost. In fact, the SawStop was a couple hundred bucks cheaper. I also like the mobile base on the SawStop better. Just a couple foot pumps, and the saw is up on casters and moves easily all over my shop. A light tap of the release leaver and the saw is lowered gently back down and does not move.

The quality of this saw is just as you would expect for a $3000 “professional” saw. The dust collection is pretty good and I think once I get the over head collection on the blade guard, it will improve considerably. The blade guard is very practical and I find that I use it all the time since it’s so easy to remove and reinstall when necessary. The fence works very smoothly and was spot on right out of the box. I never use a ruler to set the fence anymore. The wheels for adjusting the blade height and angle are heavy polished iron, but work incredibly smooth.

With all that being said, there are a couple things that really annoy me about this saw. First, for a “professional” saw at this price point, I should be able to install my dado set and cut dados right out of the box. But instead, I have to buy a $40 insert plate and a $90 brake cartridge for the dado blades. Not a big deal, but I think they could charge an extra $130 for the saw and include them with the saw. It’s just annoying that I have to purchase those separately.

The second and biggest annoyance, is the fact that you can only use a 10” blade (not counting the 8” dado). Because of the breaking feature of this saw, the break has to be between 1/8” and 1/16” from the blade. If it’s too far from the blade, the saw will not start. I build guitars and use a very thin kerf 6” blade to cut the slots in the fret board. To my dismay, when I installed the blade one day to cut some fret boards, the saw would not start. It just blinked at me indicating the break was too far from the blade. You can disable the safety feature temporarily, but the saw still has to be setup correctly. It simply will not start if the break is further than 1/8” from the blade. My only option now is to buy a $200 fret saw and special miter box to cut the fret boards by hand.

Over all, I’m still pleased with my decision. Once I finally break down and buy the dado insert and break cartridge, that minor irritation will be gone. I usually cut dados on my router table anyway. Also cutting fret board slots by hand really doesn’t take much longer than on the table saw and it’s not something I do all the time.

This is my opinion of the SawStop, hope it was helpful. If you need to use a smaller blade and have no other options, you may need to consider a different saw. Otherwise, this is a great saw and I think you will be happy with it.




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Rockfoot

28 posts in 644 days



28 comments so far

View nkawtg's profile

nkawtg

227 posts in 856 days


#1 posted 09-08-2015 06:13 PM

Your Dado insert comment is right on. In fact why table saw makers sell their saws without a ZCI and Dado insert is beyond me.
They’re not that expensive and wouldn’t deter me from purchasing a saw if the cost was a couple bucks more because of the additional inserts.
I get it’s just another revenue stream if they don’t include it.
But for some makers, they seem to spoil things by making a Dado insert, but failing to keep any in stock.

View Julian's profile

Julian

1142 posts in 2295 days


#2 posted 09-08-2015 06:48 PM

Not sure I understood your comment: If you disable the safety feature you still cannot use a dado blade? I am considering purchasing the same saw. When I asked the salesman at a Woodcraft store, he said you just turn off the safety feature and use a dado or any other blade.

-- Julian

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Rockfoot

28 posts in 644 days


#3 posted 09-08-2015 07:57 PM

Julian,

You can use an 8” dado blade if you have the dado brake cartridge installed. You don’t need to disable the brake feature to use the dado.

The saw has a main system power switch that turns on the computer and a Start/Stop paddle that starts and stops the saw. When you turn on the main power, the system goes through it’s checks, and if everything is ok, it gives the green light and you can use the paddle to start/stop the saw. If it finds a problem, it gives you a series of blinking red and green lights. You have to look up the pattern of blinking lights to find out what the problem is and fix it before you can use the saw. You can only start the saw if you have a solid green light. You also can only disable the safety feature if you have a solid green light.

One of the checks it performs, is the distance between the blade and break. If it’s greater than 1/8”, you don’t get a green light and cannot start the saw. If you have a 10” blade installed (or 8” dado blade w/ the dado brake cartridge), then you simple adjust a screw just under the insert plate to get the proper brake clearance.

My problem is, I need to use a special 6” super thin kerf blade. When I install this blade, there is definitely more than 1/8” between the blade and brake, so I don’t get the green light. Since you can only adjust the break by an 1/8 inch or so, I can never get the break set to the proper distance. Even if I were to put the 8” dado cartridge in, there is still 2 inches between the blade and brake and the saw won’t start.

If you only ever use 10” blades and 8” dado sets, then you won’t have a problem. Before buying this saw, I read dozens of reviews and no one ever mentions this issue. Had I known I couldn’t use this blade before hand, I may have chosen a different saw. I just wanted to point it out incase anyone else is in the same boat. Otherwise, it’s a great saw and well worth the price.

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

6542 posts in 1933 days


#4 posted 09-08-2015 11:54 PM

Thanks for the review. I agree that premium saws shouldn’t nickle and dime ya for every “standard” accessory.

Please update after you put some more miles on her and comment on any false or accidental trips.

-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!

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Dark_Lightning

2709 posts in 2713 days


#5 posted 09-09-2015 01:35 AM

Thanks for the review, and I hope that your saw serves you well.

But blinking red and green lights for error codes? If I want to diagnose a problem on my vehicle, I’m reduced to counting pulses or buying a diagnostic tool, neither of which necessarily give a report of the true problem, which is why parts stores in California no longer offer that service. If the SawStop has a computer, maybe it could have a better readout, say an LCD with words? I don’t know what the ultimate solution is, but counting flashes doesn’t strike me as a good one. Maybe it’s just me.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

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Redoak49

2354 posts in 1593 days


#6 posted 09-09-2015 11:59 AM

The technology of using blinking light codes is very common. Yes, it would be nice to have an LED read out but it would add a lot to the price. I have not had any issues counting the blinks on my Sawstop. Typically, I only have run into the one telling me to adjust the blade gap.

I am surprised that the reviewer did not check out the issue of using a smaller blade before he bought the saw. If I am going to do something with a tool that is not totally normal, I would call and ask first before buying.

View Grumpymike's profile

Grumpymike

2034 posts in 1920 days


#7 posted 09-10-2015 01:20 AM

What a honest and fair review of the Saw Stop. I never knew that the changing blades made a difference, but as you explained it, it makes sense.

I also use an ultra thin kerf blade when cutting holly for stringing, so this saw would not have been for me.

I did a blog on buying a new table saw and the choices that I ran into after looking at and comparing 6 popular brands. But never did one of the reps or sales staff that I spoke with, make any comment regarding that only a 10” blade can be used with out purchasing conversion equipment.

I admit that I have not been a great fan of the Saw Stop, But as I have said before it is the saw that keeps on costing.

This all just reaffirms that I made the right choice for my use when I chose another brand.

-- Grumpy old guy, and lookin' good Doin' it. ... Surprise Az.

View OggieOglethorpe's profile

OggieOglethorpe

1275 posts in 1715 days


#8 posted 09-10-2015 02:09 PM

I use a 7-1/4” Freud ultra thin kerf circular saw blade on my SawStop ICS to slice stringing and banding, with all safety features intact.

I am not going to post on the general Internet how I do this, but it is absolutely possible…

About dado inserts… I have one for mine, and I’ve never used it. I prefer to make my own from BB ply, with 1/4-20 set screws to level them. They are reversible end to end, for two sizes on one insert. You’ll need more than 4 leveling screws per insert to do this.

There’s no reason to relieve the bottom of the shop-made insert unless you need to tilt the blade. I can’t remember the last time I tilted a dado, so I don’t worry about it. If I ever do, I’ll use the purchased dado insert for that operation.

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OggieOglethorpe

1275 posts in 1715 days


#9 posted 09-10-2015 02:48 PM

But blinking red and green lights for error codes? ... ...I don’t know what the ultimate solution is, but counting flashes doesn’t strike me as a good one. Maybe it’s just me.

It’s you… ;^) The system is super simple, and the answer key is printed right on the side of the switch. It uses dashes and dots of both colors, there is no difficult counting. It’s not much more difficult that DeWalt’s battery charger LED’s. If you can understand that, you’re good to go with SawStop.

In my case, I sometimes shut the saw off with the wrong switch, and when I power the ECU back on, the paddle is still on. The saw won’t pass POST, or start, if powered up with the paddle on, so it tells you what’s wrong by wig-wagging the green and red LED’s. It’s all very simple…

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KerwinLumpkins

12 posts in 626 days


#10 posted 09-10-2015 03:18 PM

I have a Saw Stop and I love it. I did buy the cartridge for dado blades and I have used it many times. Sure it’s extra cost, but if cost was my first and foremost concern, I wouldn’t have bought Saw Stop :). As far as Saw Stop charging extra for accessories… well, that’s life isn’t it? Powermatic charges extra for bits for its mortiser (and they’re great by the way). Should Saw Stop and other manufacturers just include everything at one cost? In my opinion, no. There are accessories that I don’t need and would rather not pay for. Should Saw Stop just give away those accessories? Yay, great! Except, as a small company owner myself, my response to a suggestion to give away stuff (and just eat the cost) is a smile and a polite “no thanks”. So I don’t think it’s realistic to expect Saw Stop to make a dado blade cartridge and give it away. Besides, would you really want to trust an accessory that you got for free? Something complicated like the saw stop safety cartridge?

This discussion thread has been about cost of accessories with the Saw Stop. I’d like to add that the Saw Stop is not just incredibly safe, it’s incredibly accurate. It is a fantastic piece of equipment. Rock solid, and it holds accuracy without need for constant adjustment. Dust collection is excellent. I’ve used Powermatic Saws and I love them. Also rock solid, exceptionally well made. But every time I turn on my Saw Stop, though I treat that spinning blade with complete respect, in the back of my mind I know that it’s much safer than any other saw out there.

View abie's profile

abie

842 posts in 3375 days


#11 posted 09-10-2015 04:43 PM

Rockfoot: Why not get a thin kerf 10 inch blade for your saw? Our Shop has two Saw Stops, we are all over 55 and mostly retired ( Tired too)
Have only had one scratch in four years, have replaced the cartridge too many times to count and any one who sets it off has to pay for a new one.
Love both of them.

-- Bruce. a mind is like a book it is only useful when open.

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Rockfoot

28 posts in 644 days


#12 posted 09-10-2015 06:42 PM

abie – A normal thin kerf blade is about .095”. The blade I use to cut fret board slots is just .023” thick, which is why it’s only 6” in diameter.

KerwinLumpkins- I’m not saying SawStop should give away accessories. But, every single other table saw you can buy, you can install your dado set and cut dados right out of the box. I just think it would be nice for SawStop to include the dado brake and insert with the saw and raise the cost of the saw to cover it.

View OggieOglethorpe's profile

OggieOglethorpe

1275 posts in 1715 days


#13 posted 09-10-2015 07:09 PM

Rock…

Not all thin kerf blades are .093, 10” blades, for example a Tenryu I’ve used belonging to someone else, and the 7 1/4” blades I use to slice shop-made banding and stringing are 1/16” (.0625) kerf.

Your .023” kerf 6” blade is such a specialty item that I don’t think it’s realistic to expect most woodworkers to know what it is, or machine manufacturers to expect anyone will use one. SawStop clearly states they only support 8” dado stacks several times in the online FAQ.

For less than $200, and an hour’s work, you could probably set up the 6” blade in a used jobsite saw and build an MDF sled to carry your fretboards accurately across the blade.

View Jeff Mazur's profile

Jeff Mazur

93 posts in 908 days


#14 posted 09-10-2015 08:20 PM

My two cents’ worth: thumbs up on the observation about the blade clearance – an available override for that particular check would be useful and well-received. Not too sure about your gripe regarding what they package as extras. My experience with customers of any product or system is that you just can’t win, that is, for every person who wants the items they, and perhaps many others, want to be standard, there’s another coming along who doesn’t want to pay for something they “don’t need”. If it were my choice, I think I’d leave the dado stuff optional as Sawstop did – there are a LOT of people who make such cuts with routers or hand tools, reserving the table saw for long rips.

Given that the saw you bought was a couple hundred dollars less than your other choice, you made out OK IMO. Enjoy it – wish I could afford one! (two Ivy League daughters tend to limit one’s options for furnishing the shop :)

-- Woodworking is a beautiful, physical, cerebral, and noble art.

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brtech

967 posts in 2527 days


#15 posted 09-11-2015 01:53 PM

I have the PCS and love it. I knew about the dado cartridge and bought it with my initial purchase. There is an aftermarket throat plate with removeable/replaceable inserts, and you can make your own inserts for it. This allows you to have ZCI for thin and thick kerf and any number of dado openings you care to make ZCI. It’s made by Colli-Beck and sold primarily by Infiniti Tools.

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