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I remember the first time I ever heard of a table saw that would stop a spinning blade the instant it started to cut a finger (or as they show in their demos, a wiener). I instantly understood the technology because it was similar to what we were using in a different industry at that time. But I recall being impressed that someone could move those principals to another industry and make a working product. And so began the Saw Stop. Our evaluation of this product was pretty much what we expected and what we have heard about the saw from on-line videos and demonstrations and talks at wood shows. But there were still some surprises for us. First of all, we were very impressed with the actual quality of the the saws. We found them to be very well made and well put together, all powder coated to a durable finish. All of these saws are well built with a variety of up-to-date innovations and working features (some of which are also found on other similar saws).
After giving the saw a good look over in terms of design and finish. The first thing we always look at is the fence system because table saws are primarily designed for ripping wood. That is their main woodworking role. The Saw Stop Contractors Saw has a very well designed fence that is easy to read and easy to adjust and will make minor adjustments with ease. We found the scale easy to ready and the fence locked solid when engaged. We liked that the Plexiglas scale adjusts slightly so that each time you switch to a different blade, if you take a moment to adjust the scale you will absolutely accurate cuts without having to measure and mark each piece. A very nice feature. We felt that for most woodworkers the 1.75 horsepower motor would be adequate and was nicely helped by the “poly ribbed V-Belt” system.
The Saw Stop people talk about the “stability” of their saws and yes, they are that. Part of this is due to the fact they weigh so much, which is a result of the actual stopping mechanism built into each saw. The riving knife system on the saw is easy to remove without any special tools, a real plus for those “other cuts” we always seem to be making. This combined with the left tilting feature makes the Saw Stop a very, very competitive saw. OK, so the way this saw works under normal conditions is that when cutting typical dry wood (kiln dried, sun dried or otherwise dried) the saw works perfectly, slamming the brakes quickly as soon as the spinning blades come into contact with.
The tougher question, is what are the drawbacks to the system, and yes, like all good things there are pros and cons. The cons – the design of the braking system means that when the blade touches anything that is a bit damp, like a human finger or hand, the brakes are applied immediately. Depending on the blade you are using at the time, this will do one of two things, either damage the blade beyond any further use, or render the blade dysfunctional, but at least repairable. That's right, repairable (hopefully). If you are cutting any piece of wood that happens to have a high moisture content, or has some dampness on it, there is every possibility that the Saw Stop will clamp the breaks and stop the blade because it has detected moisture. That is what actually stops the saw blade, when it detects a small bit of moisture, such as what would get on a finger, a hand or, some moisture on the wood you are cutting.
The braking mechanism is triggered by a certain amount of moisture. If you happen to be using a thin kerf blade, you can pretty much kiss it good bye. If it is an “industrial” type saw, with a thick wall, the blade may survive a clamping but will need to be checked at the very least. The good new is this braking mechanism can be disabled, which would need to do if you were cutting green or wet lumber.
So, at the end of the day, is this saw any good. Our answer is absolutely YES, if you can afford this saw and are aware that damp and green lumber can set it off, the Saw Stop shops are an excellent, long term investment. The Saw Stops are all high quality saws, very safe to use with their stop features.