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post-sawstop2.jpgWe mentioned SawStop’s skin-sensing auto-stop table saws a while back, but we weren’t aware of the ongoing legal wranglings in the industry as a result of their product introduction until today.

According to this article in Design News:

Vindication arrived for Stephen Gass on the afternoon of June 28, 2006, when someone finally agreed with him. It had been nearly seven years since Gass invented his skin-sensing table saw, and in that time he’d begun to wonder if anyone would truly see the wisdom behind his device. Over the years, the responses he received from the power tool industry graduated from indifference to hostility. He’d gone from being a rejected outsider to a festering industry sore. And by 2006, Gass himself had considered quitting many times.

But on that June day, everything changed. Someone understood. Acting on a petition from Gass, engineers at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommended that the government begin a “rulemaking process” that could result in mandatory safety standards for table saws. Days later, the agency’s commissioners shocked the power tool industry by concurring with the recommendation. They saw the wisdom in his petition. Suddenly, the ultimate outsider joined the game, and now he was holding a strong hand.

We were under the impression that high cost and lack of brand-recognition was limiting SawStop’s sales, and we wondered why other more notable manufacturers hadn’t licensed the technology.  Apparently liability concerns — and, of course, Gass’ request for an eight percent royalty on each mechanism — factor into the equation.

Now it seems each side is seeking federal legislation to require/not-require the safety technology on all applicable products.  Design News’ writers suggest that such regulation may mean little to SawStop in the short run, but could help to firmly polarize the industry toward developing or not developing the technology.

Personally, we’d like to see SawStop’s gear — or a similar, non-patented technology — made widely available.  Maybe our kids’ll grow up to believe shop teachers really do have 10 fingers.

“Man on a Mission” [Design News via Slashdot]

From Reader Comments: Michael, a cabinet maker, points out that he sometimes cuts wet wood on his saw, which would trigger the SawStop.  (And as the SawStop’s cartridge has to be replaced after each incident, that’d get expensive.)  He also sagely points out, “Nothing will compensate for lack of common sense on the part of the operator.”


8 Responses to SawStop vs. “The Industry”

  1. Michael says:

    It’s an interesting technology, but as someone who cuts wet wood occasionally on my saw, I wouldn’t buy it. The costs to replace the blade and cartridge are high. Fine if it saves a digit, but high if it goes off accidently. Nothing will compensate for common sense on the part of the operator.
    Gass might have had a better result if he hadn’t approached the manufacturers the way he had, and an 8% royalty is high. the fact that he’s trying to make it illegal for someone to sell a saw without technology like this is pretty rank. Although the market for second hand saws from private sellers will probably go through the roof.
    I am a furniture and cabinet maker, who also does restoration work on houses. I know quite a few guys who use tablesaws, none who have lost digits. The statistcs state that 3000 people a year are injured. What’s the breakdown of users from that? What were the circumstances?

  2. James says:

    I read recently, in a review of the saw (Fine Woodworking 184), that the majority of table saw injuries are actually due to kickback, not blade contact. If you want a safer saw, you should be looking at the anti-kickback features like riving knives and you should keep the blade guard on when possible. Of course, no matter what saw you have, you should make sure that your fence is aligned and that you’re using it properly.

    Interestingly, the article did give the SawStop top marks, along with the Powermatic PM2000, and it pointed out that the brake costs about $80. However, the saw itself is about $1200 more than the PM2000.

  3. Michael says:

    $80 (plus your blade cost, as it appears to destroy the blade) is cheap versus a trip to the emergency room, but like I said before, costly if it fires off accidently.
    I do think that the saw is attractive to guys that have employees as it lessens the chance of paying for someone elses’ hospital costs and the associated responsibilities that come with an injured employee.
    It’s just not a good fit for me, or my shop.
    I’ll readily admit that I’m not an “average” shop owner though.

  4. Andy says:

    I work in theatre, and we’ve had a LOT of discussion about the SawStop on an industry mailing list I’m a member of over the last few years. When the issue of wet wood came up, it was quickly noted that there would be a bypass switch to temporarily disarm the brake while cutting wet wood, which would otherwise set it off.

    I believe I’d read that it doesn’t destroy the blade, but I could be wrong. Do you have any information supporting that, or are you just guessing (it sounds like a guess from your saying “it appears to”, and to muddy something like this up with guesses isn’t the best way to form a good opinion about it 🙂 Again, I could be wrong about the blade thing, too, but we should find the real answer before arguing about that!

  5. Chris says:

    O.k. first off, every shop is different so no one saw is going to work for everyone but that said there is a huge range in training and ability when it comes to woodworkers. We have been using two SawStop for over a year now at school, in a learning enviroment it easily pays for itself. One has gone off once by accident, yeah it was $80 but did not ruin the blade. Like someone already mentioned, $1200 + $80 for the occasional misfire is less than a trip to the emergency room.

  6. I have a customer that asked about the wet wood issue. I spouted the retoric from the manufacturer, and the customer took me to task. He uses only self cut wood, and sent me samples ranging from 1 day cut to 1 year cut.
    The SawStop Saw worked beautifuly. SawStop safety cartridges WILL NOT FIRE until you get up to approx. %50 saturation (THAT IS A BUNCH OF WATER). At approx 40%-50% (STILL A BUNCH OF WATER) the power to the motor will stop without break activation.
    You are correct about the bypass mode, if there is ever a question about your material. Run one piece in bypass and the SawStop Saw will tell you if the break would have fired.

    I have sold many of these saws without a single complaint, it is by far the best made saw on the market and does infact come with a European style riving knife and the most useable blade guard I have ever encountered.

    Reliability is higher than any other brand we sell. SawStop is a first class company that thus far has supplied any improvements at no cost to every owner (that of course is subject to change). Everybody at SawStop will always answer the phone and there is none of the push this button or that button nonsense. FIRST CLASS all the way.

    The idea is hopefully you will never have to replace a cartridge…..but wouldn’t be nice to know that if you slip (short board kicks up and you hand keeps going…into the blade) that technology is there as a safe guard.

    Buster- Dealer NC

  7. Dick says:

    We purchased the saw about a year ago. I got my fingers into a blade a couple of years ago (didn’t lose any) when a piece of wood shifted suddenly. We built a full enclosure blade guard. When I saw this innovation, there was no question. With employees, I never want to get the call! I don’t care whose fault it is! We have replaced FOUR cartridges so far…VERY expensive…two because of operator error cutting metal laminate, and two appeared to malfunction (cartridge fired, but blade was not spinning, or not very fast). Mfg replaced first one. Well built saw. Piece of mind is worth the price if you have workers!

  8. John Schutz says:

    Right now I am rehabing a nearly severed left thumb….I am definately interested in the Saw Stop. $35,000 dollars worth of surgery and hospitol bills tell me that it is a good investment. It’s an expensive saw, but a lot cheaper than getting your hand mangled.

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