Why I Bought a SawStop

DM SawStop 900I recently bought a SawStop tablesaw. (Is that the sound of applause I’m hearing?) On the one hand, it was an easy decision. Who wouldn’t want the blade brake safety feature only SawStop offers. On the other hand, it wasn’t a snap decision. In fact, years went by between the time I first used a SawStop and when I finally bought one.

I was lucky enough to have hands on experience with a SawStop Industrial saw at a previous job. Recently, I even had the opportunity to write a complete review about the SawStop Contractor’s saw for WWGOA. I even performed the hot dog test myself. There was no doubt in my mind; this was the best table saw on the market and the blade brake was a game changer destined to carve out a big chunk of market share for SawStop.

In hind sight, it seemed like such a no-brainer, yet I hesitated. for years. Those years of procrastination were a huge and unnecessary risk. It’s my hope that my experience will help you cut through the issues and get yourself a saw that may one day save you from a life changing accident.

So, what took me so long? Leaving aside any explanation based on intelligence, there were several reasons:

For starters, I had a perfectly good tablesaw. It was a 1983 Delta / Rockwell Unisaw with a 52″ Biesemeyer and an HTC Brett Guard. It was as safe as I could make it and I had it pretty well rigged up for dust collection. There was nothing to complain about regarding the saw’s performance other than the fact that it was missing a proper riving knife. It cut wood just fine. That’s what table saws are supposed to do. So why spend thousands on a tool that does the same thing? Especially when there are other tools I needed and didn’t have. A SawStop would add no new dimension to my shop, but an oscillating edge sander sure would. I’ve had my eye on one of those machines for a long time. So now I had two voices in my head; one telling me about the safety of owning a SawStop, the other squawking about the cost for a tool that does nothing new.

I could see the benefit, but the cost seemed to loom larger.

Since my cost/benefit analysis couldn’t tip the scales, I moved on to a risk/rewards analysis.

The issue was simple; was the risk I took using my old saw worth the money I save by not buying a SawStop? Again, the two voices chimed in immediately. One asked what would be the cost of dismemberment. While the other would tell me that I’ve worked on table saws for over 30 years and the only accident of consequence resulted in a small scar on my thumb.

My cost/benefit analysis went nowhere.

Next step: I know, I’ll ask my wife. She almost always frowns when I bring up spending money on new woodworking tools but the safety issue would add a whole new angle. She’d be the tie breaker between those two voices in my head and help me decide once and for all. I think I might have stacked the deck a bit when I showed her one of the SawStop ads with a guy holding up his hand graphically displaying a missing finger. Really, I just wanted to clarify the safety side of the equation. One look and she was on board. “You should get that saw.” I dismissed her response as purely emotional.

So now I’m back to the cost/risk/benefit analysis and those two voices that won’t stop arguing in my head.

Then came the straw(s) that broke the camels back. It was a one – two punch.

The first punch came when I heard about a friend’s accident. Like me, he was sitting on 30+ years of woodworking experience when a kickback took off the tips of four fingers. That’s when I knew I was going to buy a SawStop..soon. But despite my renewed determination, the weeks turned into months and I still hadn’t bought the saw.

The second punch came in my own shop. My youngest son, Ben, now in his early 20’s, had taken an interest in woodworking. As we worked together and he became more and more comfortable with the power tools, I decided it was time to let him use the table saw. I gave him my table saw 101 lecture, and supervised his first cuts. All went well until one day as Ben was ripping plywood panels I heard a bang and a thunk. I knew immediately it was a kick back. I’m not sure how it happened, but it did. The board being cut never left his hand but it was thrust back with enough force to yield a pretty colorful bruise on his stomach. It could have been much worse.

That was it. The next day I bought a SawStop Industrial. I have to say that I have absolutely no regrets other than having waited so long.

As of this writing, I have owned my SawStop for a year. The piece of mind this saw gives me is one thing, but SawStop is also a great saw on its own merits. The insert adjusts for height and width so there’s no slop in the fit; the same zero-clearance insert is used for straight or 45-degree cuts; the fence is rock solid and glides like a dream; the over arm blade guard has built-in dust collection to capture the fugitive dust thrown off the blade; the miter gauge bar can be adjusted for a perfect fit and super accurate cuts (no need to buy an aftermarket gauge); in short, it’s as good as a table saw can get.

So, if you’re sitting on the fence about a SawStop, don’t do what I did. My advice is to get off that fence and do what just about every school and commercial shop in the nation is doing; get a SawStop now. Any model will do. Trust me, you won’t ever be sorry.

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44 Responses to “Why I Bought a SawStop”

  1. Brian Brookheart

    I am not a woodworker. I am a contractor. I needed to rip a mile of 2X6s for a project. I wanted a powerful saw. I walked into a name brand woodworking store and told them about the mile of wood, on a job site and that I wanted a saw that would make short work, with a big motor. They sold me a $3500.00 SawStop. I thought they would steer my in the right direction. All of the safety features have to be turned off to rip my treated lumber. The saw shuts down and won't start 4 or 5 times a day. It is quite frustrating. All I wanted to do was cut wood and the saw is programmed to shut down at every little nuance. And, the 1.75 HP engine is worthless because the blade stops turning and gets stuck just like a cheap little saw would. After 2 days of living with this saw, I am regretting it. At 400 pounds, it should be a brute. But, it is so polite, it keeps shutting down and wasting my time. Not what I paid $3500. for. Warning: Don't take one of these to a job site. It will shut down and drive you up a wall. B

  2. Mike Dickson

    Best safety i've ever seen.

  3. Danny Hardy

    Did I buy a "saw stop"? I understand it is a good tool to have on the saw. I just don't remember doing it. Please put my money back in my account. If I do want it I will buy again. Just not now.

  4. DAN

    I'm taking the story a little differently than have some of you. I took it that the author knows that a SawStop has no magic which prevents kickback. I think he had connections to bad outcomes which emphasized that the tablesaw is a very dangerous piece of equipment and mistakes or accidents can happen which can result in expensive, painful, and sometimes permanent functional damage. This led him to buy a piece of equipment which has an uncommon safety feature. I'd really like to get a SawStop. I don't have the money for that as of yet but when I've the money for something better than my jobsite tablesaw, the SawStop will be of major interest.

  5. Kathy McWhorter

    Buying it so stop would wipe out my savings, but so word dismemberment. I’m 65-year-old moderately experienced woodworker and I live alone. Every time I use power equipment, I wonder if I’ll be able to call someone if something goes wrong. I think the peace of mind factor is at the top of the list for me.

  6. Steve

    Only a numbty would use a panel saw without a riving knife in place or top/crown guard.These are demanded in factory laws for the operators safety .Think saftety keep your fingers,be safe

  7. Anthony Parker

    I am very interested in acquiring a SawStop.

  8. Mike Shove

    Good article, BUT you state that "no other saw has the blade break", You'd better take a closer look at Porter Cable, as they have a blade break that senses the hot dog, and does not destroy your blade when activated. As you were speaking about kickback, I got the impression that you feel the Saw Stop won't kick back ... Well they will ... Any table saw will kick back, it's the nature of the beast. I'm very against the Saw stop brand because Steve (the inventor) tried to get Legislation passed that would make it illegal to own and operate, any saw, with out his very costly safety devise. In my book a very unfair business practice. I agree that it is a very good safety product, but forcing every saw owner to own one just because he makes a pocket full of money on each sale? nope not fair.

  9. Karl Janzen

    I've had one for a year now and my fears are being realized. The mechanism is becoming really annoying. The saw does its own safety check each time you turn it on but now, it trips on a regular basis (not the brake, just the controls) and, so far, I haven't been able to find the problem.

  10. clayton lemieux

    you new saw stop will not stop a kick back 100 % if its still in the blade and did not reach riving knife, if the wood bins its coming back at you Saw stop or Delta. I bought my table saw when I was 24 now 60 and I have all my fingers never had a cut, I love my saw its the go to tool most used offend among all other power tools I own, and I would not think of trading for a new Saw stop No way in my life time, if you treat the saw with respect it is safe and no need for a sensor saw that will never go off with your Delta experience so why waste money on a new saw