New SawStop owner - first impressions

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Forum topic by gtbuzz posted 04-01-2013 04:39 AM 7037 views 1 time favorited 34 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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427 posts in 2643 days

04-01-2013 04:39 AM

Just bought a new SawStop 3HP PCS (36” fence) and thought I’d share some of my initial impressions. I thought for a second about writing this as a review, but let’s be honest. I’ve only had the saw assembled for less than 48 hours so how can I really write a review based on that? I’ll post a review when I get some actual miles on the tires.

Why I went with SawStop – hopefully this won’t turn into a politics discussion, but I wanted to give some insight into why I went with a SawStop. Can’t say this is going to be the right decision for everyone, but I feel like it was the right one for me.

I went through a trial and error process with some lower end saws that didn’t work out for me (Ridgid R4512, Grizzly G0715P) for various reasons. After getting frustrated by this I decided to just say screw it and buy the best saw I could reasonably afford. At this price point, the other two saws in consideration were the PM 2000 or a Delta Unisaw, but honestly, they weren’t really in contention. My reason for spending this much money was pure and simple – the braking feature. If it weren’t for the braking feature, I probably would have gone with the Grizzly G0690 or G1023.

My rationalization was this – would I pay $2000 for an insurance policy (albeit one that covers only a very narrow set of circumstances) on my fingers? The answer to that was yes. Before everyone jumps on me about that, I realize that I’m more likely to get injured by kickback than I am by slicing my fingers off and the best prevention is always being safe around the saw. But… why chance it? If I can potentially protect myself against a brain fart that I hope to never have, why not? I’ve always tried to take as many safety precautions as I can around my tools, but I know no matter how hard I try to be aware, it can’t guarantee 100% that I won’t screw up one day. Maybe 99.9999% but that 0.0001% chance is still out there.

I don’t think I would have considered this saw if it were just the technology wrapped around a 2nd class saw, but from everything I’ve read it’s really a top notch cabinet saw as well. After just my brief time with it I have no reason to believe otherwise.

Packaging – Saw came very well packed. The saw itself is in a giant cardboard box, lying down on a Styrofoam base, surrounded by all the accessories and packed below another Styrofoam part. It’s laying on its side and sits on the palette that way, so there’s virtually zero chance of it tipping over. When I had the Grizzly G0715P, that was bolted to a palette and strapped to a larger palette, however it still wasn’t wide enough. The cast iron table and motor were so high that the CG was way up there and made the entire assembly very tip-prone. In fact, the UPS Freight guy told me it had tipped over several times. Wonderful. That was UPS’s fault for being careless, but in this instance, the way the SS is packaged it pretty much removes that variable.

The rails came in a separate box, as well as the ICS mobile base, extension table and the fence.

Manual and Assembly – I was originally going to post some pictures of the build process, but after going through the instructions laid out in the manual, I stopped taking pictures and just built the thing. Why? There was no point – the manual really is that good. If you want to see how this saw is unboxed, check the manual. If you want to see each step – check the manual. I’m not talking about just a generic description of “attach the cast iron wings using the supplied bolts”. It’s a fully diagramed illustration that shows you HOW to attach it and exactly where the parts come from in the very well organized parts pack.

I’ve never come across a manual this good. If there ever was a trick in getting a part installed, the SS manual went the extra mile and gave you that trick to install the part rather than like on any other tool I’ve ever assembled, you had to figure it out yourself. As I mentioned briefly before, there’s even a very comprehensive set of instructions that give you step-by-step directions on how to remove the saw from the box. I don’t know if this is what it’s normally like when you buy a $3000 tool, but needless to say, I’m very impressed.

Overall, assembly took about 5-6 hours over the course of 2 days. I was extremely methodical in every step I took so less anal-retentive people will probably get this done a lot faster. There were absolutely zero hiccups during installation as everything was explained so well.

Build Quality / Fit and Finish – My previous table saw (that I didn’t just end up kicking the tires on) was a Ridgid TS2400. Plain jane benchtop table saw but it got the job done for a few years until I started getting more into woodworking. As far as build quality and fit and finish went, the R4512 was a class above that (but had trunnion problems), the G0715 was yet another class above that (trunnion and electrical problems) and this SS is yet another class above that. Kind of hard to explain but it just has a much more “put together” feel to it.

The CI extension tables are very close to being perfectly aligned with the main table top. If I run my fingers across the seams, I can definitely feel where the seam is and I can tell one side is higher than the other, however if I lay down a feeler gage (in this case 0.0015), it switched which side was higher, meaning there was probably around a 0.00075” difference in height. This was only at one spot. Seems okay in my book. Both extensions were perfectly level without the need for any shims.

SawStop claims their saws are project ready. I tested this out by checking to see how far out of alignment the miter slot was to the blade. I was able to get pretty repeatable measurements of < 0.001” with my dial indicator. No adjustments needed, good to go there.

Customer Service – I had to contact their customer service to get an issue squared away with a missing part (not SawStop’s fault) and I was very impressed with this. The first thing I noticed is that I never had to deal with an automated prompt. A live person picked up the phone every time I called (3 times) and everyone spoke perfect English. Talked to one of the techs briefly and he seemed very knowledgeable and even gave me some tips on installing the PCS saw into the ICS base.

What impressed me even more, however, was my interaction with their sales department. When I spoke to them about my missing part, they immediately knew what it was and without hesitation told me exactly what the packaging looked like and gave me the dimensions. I don’t expect that out of the sales folks, so it was a pleasant surprise. She wasn’t able to ship me a replacement part because my dealer screwed up and was supposed to have ordered one, but she called them on my behalf and got everything straightened out. As soon as I told her where I bought it from, she had the store # as well as the manager’s name already pulled up. Nice touch.

My other interaction with CS was dealing with the rebate for the dust extractor. I submitted the rebate form and 6 business days later, it’s due to arrive, having been shipped from Portland to Atlanta. Again, I’ve never gotten this fast a turnaround with another company.

ICS Mobile Base – I bought the mobile base for the industrial cabinet saw instead of the one that was meant for the professional cabinet saw because it has 4 swivel casters instead of the two for the PCS. I’m very space limited in my shop, so being able to rotate around tight obstacles was pretty important to me.

All I can really say is it’s a very good base. Just 3-4 pumps on the foot pedal and the saw is lifted enough for me to easily wheel it around my shop (what little there is of if). One step on the release lever and it gently sinks back down to the ground. The saw sits on a pair of “skis” which are in direct contact with the ground and have abrasive pads on the bottom to increase friction with the floor surface.

Really my only nit with this base is that it is pretty expensive ($330 including the PCS conversion kit) and it does increase the footprint of the base by quite a bit. It occupies space that wouldn’t have been all that useable, so it’s not a big deal.

Misc – You may have noticed that I didn’t install the table extension or the legs yet. The reason for that is that is that I plan on adding a router table in that space instead and haven’t quite figured out what I want to do yet. I may use the SS extension table or I may custom build something for it, but that’ll just remain a hole until I figure it out. The downside is that it limits the left rip capacity, but it’s not a big deal for me right now.

Purchasing Experience – This was probably the one downer that I had. I bought the saw from Rockler and they were out of stock, so it took about 12 days (4 were weekends though) for it to arrive from across the country. I had expected that since I purchased the ICS base instead of opting for the PCS base, however they ended up screwing up my order. In order to use a PCS saw with the ICS base, there’s a conversion kit that has to be ordered with it. The way Rockler sells this base is as a single SKU (with the cost of the conversion kit built into the price). Also, apparently if you order something in store, the actual order with the vendor takes place at the corporate level. When my order was placed, whoever processed the order saw that they had one conversion kit in a warehouse, so instead of placing the entire order for me, they ordered everything except the conversion kit. Problem was, they neglected to actually ship the conversion kit from their warehouse to the store. This was Rockler’s fault, not SawStop’s.

As a result of this, it took an extra week from when my saw arrived to when I actually got the conversion kit. My saw sat in my garage waiting for this part to arrive. Mistakes happen and in the grand scheme of things this was really inconsequential, but it was annoying that the purchase experience didn’t go smoothly despite having dropped well north of $3000 with them. Honestly when they figured out where it was the right thing to do was to overnight it to my house instead of making me wait for the next shipment to the retail store and for me to have to drive over and get it.

Conclusion – I’ve managed to cut a few pieces of wood using a Irwin Marples 40T combo blade. Can’t really tell much based on just a few cuts, but I’m happy so far.

I’ll write a full review after I make a good amount of sawdust and actually get to know the saw, but based on just my very limited experience, I’m very happy with my purchase.

34 replies so far

View GT350's profile


370 posts in 2183 days

#1 posted 04-01-2013 04:59 AM

Nice review, I just picked mine up from the dealer on Friday. I ordered the PCS 1.75 with the 30” fence. I would have ordered the 36” but space was a problem. I am waiting for the mobile base to arrive before I assemble it, did you realize you can get a free mobile base or overarm dust collector if you purchased it between 2/19 and 4/30/2013, info is on saw stops website. I agree with how good saw stops customer service is, I have called them a few times with various questions and they have been great help.

View TomHintz's profile


207 posts in 3599 days

#2 posted 04-01-2013 05:23 AM

I am still very impressed with my SawStop for all the reasons you give and more. i also have the hydraulic mobile base and love it, so easy to use, no bending over and cranking or anything just a few steps on the pump and away it goes.
You are going to love that SawStop. Everythingaroundd the braking system is first rate.

-- Tom Hintz,

View unbob's profile


810 posts in 2105 days

#3 posted 04-01-2013 06:08 AM

I looked at the SS for the first time not long ago at a fellow I met at a wood supply, work shop.
Everything worked nice and smooth.
One thing I just hate on some saws is, when locking and unlocking a handwheel lock, the hand wheel moves!
The SS does not do this at all, you dont have to hold the hand wheel to keep it from moving/moving the blade.

Another interesting feature, the blade moves straight up and down, instead of an arc, as most tilting arbor saws.
This fellow installed a digital read out for blade height, I would find that very useful for many operations I do.

This owner also completely removed the electronic brake stuff, had it go off a few times, and wanted to use other sized blades.

View jonwright's profile


68 posts in 2138 days

#4 posted 04-01-2013 02:04 PM

Your reasoning for buying this saw and experience with other saws matches mine.

I just finished putting in a router plate on my extension table (I have the 52” fence) was a little tricky. Due, no doubt, to the length of the fence/table which amplifies any surface imperfections.

Without really checking my extension table I just drilled a hole near the end of the table for a router. Then when I really checked things out there was a definate bow near the end of the table. Flat across all 70+ inches, until the last 4-6” with a definate and noticeable rise.

I wound up redoing the fence rails. What really helped here is to get the rails parrallel with the table as well – I didn’t do that thinking the bolts would locate the rails. Not really. After resetting the fence rails and legs the table was much better but still not good. But mind you – my table was flat.

I wound up sanding the surface and still have a BIT of a rise at the end of the table. Sanded enough to go through the black melamine (or whatever the surface coating is). I polished working up to 2000 grit paper and wet sanded at 800 up.

Funny thing is, now that I’ve installed the router plate and waxed/polished the table – where I sanded is actually easier to move items than where the surface is shiny. It’s smooth – just a little swirly.

and BTW unbob: I really don’t see the point in owning a SS and uplugging the brake. If it’s going off I’d make a real effort to find out WHY.

View Thalweg's profile


97 posts in 3607 days

#5 posted 04-01-2013 05:15 PM

Your experiences echo mine almost exactly. My reasons for buying it were simple; there are a number of equivelent saws on the market for the same price. I saw no significant performance advantage/disadvantage to them. So, for the same price, why not get the brake. In the year that I’ve owned it, I’ve learned a few things. I got the standard mobile base. With the ability to move the saw, I learned that my floor isn’t flat. So the table extention has to be releveled in different spots in the shop. Otherwise the extention goes out of flat. I have an Incra 1000HD miter gage. One time I forgot to adjust the length of the back when cutting an angle, and the gage touched the blade. I got to buy a new brake and blade. Couldn’t even tell where it touched the gage though. The first few times I swapped brakes for my dado set, I found it to be a rather difficult ten minute process. After practice, now it takes about one minute.

I think you’ll love the saw. It improved my woodworking significantly. I never knew what it was like to have a powerful saw that cut straight with no vibration until I got my Sawstop.

View Gator's profile


383 posts in 3877 days

#6 posted 04-01-2013 05:26 PM

I used my Sawstop table extension for my router table. I machined the hole for my router plate, and then added a couple strips of hardwood between the support braces on the bottom just to give it a little more support, and it works great – no issues.
You will be very happy with your purchase. I have had mine for a couple of years now, and still run my hand across it when walking by it, and stop to wipe any dust that may have settled on the table – is that wrong to love a piece of equipment…LOL


-- Master designer of precision sawdust and one of a kind slivers.

View moke's profile


1268 posts in 2978 days

#7 posted 04-01-2013 05:33 PM

I too, have the same saw, except mine is the 52” table. I pretty much agreed with everything said with the exception that I had some experience with it. I had used a friends SS and had loved it, then a woodworker lost some fingers. He was a very saftey concious person….his deductable portion of the bill was almost 9K….I bought one the next day.

I have never looked back and have always appreciated the quality of the saw.

-- Mike

View a1Jim's profile


117328 posts in 3778 days

#8 posted 04-01-2013 05:46 PM

Great to hear more positive things about SS’s I don’t own one but use one in the shop I use to teach my classes.
These are quality machines plus the safety factor really eliminates any idea of buying any of the competitors saw IMO, besides what the anti-SS set says.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View TheDane's profile


5550 posts in 3864 days

#9 posted 04-01-2013 05:53 PM

Yup … the SawStop PCS was one of the best investments I have made in the shop. Quality, rock solid machine.

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

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


1276 posts in 2311 days

#10 posted 04-01-2013 07:27 PM

I’ve been using an ICS for 14-15 months, and it’s a great tool.

Mine replaced a 1999 General 650. I bought mine after using three other examples in schools.

View NiteWalker's profile


2738 posts in 2778 days

#11 posted 04-01-2013 07:31 PM

Great review.
I’ll have mine by the end of the year. :-)

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View MrRon's profile


5193 posts in 3445 days

#12 posted 04-01-2013 07:47 PM

I’m not a SS owner, nor will I ever be, but I want to congratulate you on your purchase and satisfaction. I appreciate your unbiased view that should go a long way in helping people make up their minds on purchasing a SS or other saw. Yours was a useful review, unlike the other like/hate opinions. I can’t see how someone can have a negative opinion on something they don’t own or even used. It’s like someone saying “I don’t like fish” when they never tried it. Kinda childish sounding don’t you think?
P.S. I won’t buy a SS because at 78, I don’t think i’ll have enough time to use it. If it had been available 30 years ago, I might have. I’ve been skating on thin ice for a long time now; no reason to change.

View jonwright's profile


68 posts in 2138 days

#13 posted 04-01-2013 10:11 PM

Quote: You will be very happy with your purchase. I have had mine for a couple of years now, and still run my hand across it when walking by it, and stop to wipe any dust that may have settled on the table – is that wrong to love a piece of equipment…LOL



nah. Black machines are just sexy…...

View MrRon's profile


5193 posts in 3445 days

#14 posted 04-01-2013 10:27 PM

gtbuzz, I must also praise you on your writing skill; very well organized. Are you a technical writer, an engineer or just well educated? It’s a pleasure to read posts when they are well written.

View gtbuzz's profile


427 posts in 2643 days

#15 posted 04-02-2013 03:26 AM

Glad some people found my musings useful. I know everyone’s situation/opinions/experiences are different, however it’s always good to have an extra data point out there.

@GT350 – I really would have preferred the 30” model, but it didn’t come with the nicer fence. Really wished SS offered the 30” rails with the upgraded fence, but in the end, the 36” model only takes up an extra 10” so I can make it work. Also, in regards to the upgrade promo, I was aware, however I chose the overarm dust extractor because I really wanted the ICS mobile base. It would have been better had they given me a $200 rebate towards the ICS base instead of the dust extractor since I’m sure I could make one for cheaper, but hey, free is free so why complain?

@TomHintz – Your video review of the SS is what convinced me to get the ICS base. Perhaps, they owe you a commission???

@jonwright – Personally, as a Georgia Tech grad, the red and black color scheme bugs me a LOT more than the politics of SS does. If I can get past that, anyone can =)

@MrRon – I do happen to be an engineer by day. Tech writers are kind of the opposite end of the spectrum from us though; it’s their job to protect normal people (read: the general population) from our random stream of consciousness! Thank you for the compliment.

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