I have had a fairly long relationship with table saws, and to be honest, they all scare the heck out of me a little. Second to the chainsaw, no other tool seems so aggressive in its attempts to hurt you. The spinning blade is aimed directly at you, and it has the ability to pull things into its maw. Put your digits too close to the spinning blade, and the potential mayhem that could ensue makes the need for a solution like the one provided by the SawStop Jobsite table saw a very compelling one. In fact this is exactly how I ended up buying a SawStop table saw.
My first table saw was a hand me down from my mother’s soon to be third ex-husband, and it deserves a special hatred. Maybe it was mistreated and misused, but the arbor wobbled enough that it would consistently cut a 5/16-inch dado with an 1/8-inch blade, and the fence was never square to the table (nor was it consistent). On my second cut with the saw, the wood I was cutting got pinched, and it launched the board past me and through the back of my garage. Shaking, I turned the saw off, unplugged it, and cut the power cord. I spent another hour dismantling the saw, and threw the pieces out. Even if you use this table saw safely it was too sketchy to even think of reselling it to someone else.
My next attempt at a table saw came later—a gray and orange Rigid. It had a great cart, sturdy table, and a good fence. The dust collection was ok. This particular table saw didn’t have a soft start. Even though it weighed 104 pounds, it jumped when you turned it on, and it was a bit startling when it spun up. It was also a bit big for a jobsite saw, and when I had to move I sent it to greener pastures.
My Discovery of SawStop
It was during my period in-between saws that I read about SawStop technology and was impressed—despite the SawStop lawsuits and issues with the PTI petition drive to the CPSC to halt a potential technology monopoly. I liked the design, but knew I didn’t have the room for a cabinet saw in my small workshop. In the meantime I picked up a DeWalt DW745 jobsite saw, which is a great little tool. It’s super light, easy to carry, has a dynamite fence, comes with an quick release blade guard and riving knife, and features decent dust collection. In a small shop or a jobsite it’s pretty easy to use. The only downside was that it was so light, pushing the saw hard with heavier stock would allow it to wander—and that’s a bit scary.
One night the saw finally bit me.
It was completely my fault, but I still ended up in the emergency room.
What happened was that I needed to rip some ¼-inch strips. I didn’t have a band saw, so I opted to use the DW745. Since the fence would have needed to be very close to the blade I couldn’t use the guard because there simply wasn’t enough room. Knowing that this was a dumb idea, I adjusted the blade to only have one tooth above the cut. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but I knew I touched the spinning blade. I wrapped my finger in a rag and went out of my basement shop to my wife (who happens to be a nurse).
Buying a SawStop Became the Obvious Choice
I started the conversation with, “I’m ok, but I may need to go to the hospital…” She looked at my thumb and agreed, so off to the emergency room it was. I was lectured at the hospital by seemingly every staff member on how dangerous table saws were. They then had the wound cauterized because the skin that had been there was now gone—there was nothing to sew up. It’s healed well enough—I have a scar, but I still have all of my digits. It was this experience that ultimately had me dropping the hammer on the SawStop Jobsite table saw.
If you use your table saw safely you’ll never need anything more than the safety mechanisms they already provide. But accidents (and bad decisions) happen. It only takes once. For me, the choice was simple. For you—you’ll have to decide. I do see the advantage for small businesses, however, who procure tools for their employees. For subcontractors you’ve got insurance—but it it’s under your supervision, a SawStop or similar safe table saw could mean the difference between some expensive hospital bills and insurance claims (and, unfortunately, even some lawsuits).