A tablesaw that will save your fingers

This nifty device will stop a saw blade in its tracks -- before you lose a digit

By Michael Campen

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A look at the new SawStop contractor tablesaw wouldn’t be complete without a test of its legendary digit-saving technology. I opted to use a hotdog to test the safety mechanism.

To feed the hotdog into the blade, I placed it on a piece of wood and used the mitre gauge to move it forward. The blade cut into the wood, and the instant it touched the meat, a brake within the tablesaw activated with a loud bang and the blade dropped into the machine.

hotdog1All of this happened so fast that there was nobreaking of the outside casing of the hotdog. Had this been my digit, I would have happily replaced the cartridge and blade instead of having my wife drive me to the hospital with my finger on ice in a little bag.

When the hotdog touched the carbide teeth, it changed the electrical signal that the machine runs through the blade. This change caused the computer to spring an aluminum brake into the blade (main image, top). After the brake has gone off, removing the cartridge is simple: take off the arbor nut and washer on the blade and the retaining pin on the brake cartridge. Replace the damaged blade and install a new cartridge, and you are back to work in less than 10 minutes.

If you set the brake off and send it back to SawStop, the company will plug it into a system to analyze the data. If it confirms that the cartridge went off as a result of contact with a body part, it will replace the cartridge at no cost.

The price tag of the SawStop’s cabinet saw, which is more than $4,000, puts it out of the reach of most casual woodworkers, so I wanted to see if this contractor saw could be equipped similarly to the two-year-old Unisaw I use every day. I added the extra cast-iron extension wings and upgraded to the 52″ T-glide fence. Equipped this way, the SawStop proved itself just as capable as my Unisaw. The upgrades bring the price of the machine to roughly $2,200, a figure that would get you into cabinet saw territory. But, no matter how you slice it, recovery costs from a tablesaw accident will outstrip any cost savings you may realize by purchasing a saw without these impressive safety features.

For more information, call 866-729-7867 or visit www.sawstop.com.

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