Safety plus performance: SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw
Words: Damion Fauser
Detail photos: Linda Nathan
By now most of you will have heard of, and likely seen, the hot dog video of the flesh-saving tablesaw technology that
was developed a number of years ago. This technology is now incorporated into a line of tablesaws under the label SawStop. I was recently loaned a Professional 3hp cabinet saw for a few weeks to trial and review.
The unit was supplied with a number of accessory options, including a mobile base, sliding table assembly, and an overhead arm for dust extraction.
Sliding table assembly adjusts easily for perfect repetitive cuts.
Clever circuitry allows the spinning blade to detect changes in electrical resistance due to the presence of moisture, for example in stray fingers that may accidentally come into contact with the blade. If the mechanism is triggered, the undertable cartridge drops the blade carriage infrastructure below the table and clamps a large section of aluminium over the blade to stop it, akin to the brake calipers on a vehicle brake rotor. This process takes milliseconds and therefore prevents all bar superficial injury to the errant user. In this case, the cartridge and blade are rendered unusable and therefore must be replaced.
The guard sits flush and gives a clear view.
Having lived and worked in the USA for three years recently, I had already experienced using these saws in some large workshops and so had a head start on what to expect from the machine. Whilst the iconic safety aspect of this saw is hard to ignore completely, my focus was trialling its machining capabilities.
After familiarising myself with the machine, with both a thorough read of the operating manuals and an unplugged walk-around and play, I tested the saw by running a number of long and deep rip cuts through some sections of Tas oak and hoop pine, and then made some crosscuts using the provided sliding table.
Adjustments to blade height and angle are easy to make with the large ergonomic handwheels.
Let me just say this at the outset – this is a very good tablesaw. On the walk-around inspection, it is evident that SawStop have gone to great lengths to make a saw that is solid, powerful, intuitive, ergonomically friendly, easy to adjust and fine-tune, and that has good safety features.
Other than the centerpiece blade-clamping mechanism, this saw has very good safety features. In particular, the overhead guard achieves so much more than others I have seen and used. It provides a clear view of the work and is designed to minimise physical access to the blade by sitting flush on the table and pivoting up just the required amount of clearance when the workpiece is presented to it. Astride the riving knife are two toothed anti-kickback cauls for additional benefit.
The 3hp motor, coupled with quality CMT 250mm blades (which required reducing bushings to secure to the 5/8" arbor on the unit), ran deceptively quietly, and was easily powerful enough to make sustained deep, long cuts with clean results on the cut surfaces.
One 100mm duct handles dust from above and below.
Dust extraction was extremely effective. This was due to a combination of the supplied overhead arm which captured dust produced above the table, and the 100mm outlet at the rear base of the cabinet. Cleverly, SawStop have connected the overhead pipe directly to the primary 100mm outlet, allowing the one 100mm hose/ducting to take the dust from both above and below the table.
Adjustments to blade height and angle are easy to make with the large ergonomic handwheels that have a secondary locking
mechanism to secure the desired setting once achieved. Blade changes are extremely quick and simple with the supplied proprietary spanner.
The rip fence is a robust and solid unit that is easy to move, and once locked, does not budge, allowing for maximum confidence and accuracy. The crosscut fence was a particularly nice feature. It was perfectly horizontally aligned with the primary table surface, slid smoothly along its entire length of travel and the fence and stops were easy to adjust and fine-tune for perfect, repetitively accurate crosscuts. Your woodworking will definitely become more efficient and enjoyable with this addition to your saw.
The mobile base allowed for easy movement of the unit and retracts to allow the machine to rest solidly on the floor, therefore minimising vibration. All the required operating tools, including a narrow riving knife for using thin-kerf blades, are cleverly stored on the saw cabinet.
It must be noted the SawStop circuitry can be adjusted to allow for the additional moisture content in green wood. Also, the circuitry remains active for a few seconds after switching the motor off. Touch the blade while the green light is still flashing and the cartridge will be activated.
For most of you, this will be the last tablesaw you’ll ever need to buy. Iconic safety features aside, this is a very well designed and made machine that will give you a lifetime of powerful and accurate service.
One final word however, please do not fall into the trap of thinking that this technology is a panacea to prevent you from being injured by your machine. Yes, it will stop you being cut if you come into contact with the spinning blade, but it is still a tablesaw and you can still have an accident due to kickback for example. Ensure you protect yourself by operating the unit safely at all times. If unsure about a certain operation, seek out the guidance of a professional woodworking teacher for some training and advice.
Review machine supplied by Carbatec, see www.carbatec.com.au
Damion Fauser is a furniture designer/maker who lives in Brisbane. He teaches woodwork from his Brisbane workshop. See www.damionfauser.com