SawStop or not? #4: Ugh--Evil SawStop, and an industry that you think loves you (but they really hate your fingers)

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Blog entry by Rob posted 07-04-2014 01:03 AM 3447 reads 0 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: The cheapest health insurance you can buy? Part 4 of SawStop or not? series no next part

By now everyone knows SawStop has evil lobbyists and lawyers trying to force their technology on us.

Like many people, I was really wrapped up in this lobbying issue. For those who aren’t familiar with the effort, SawStop was trying to push through a government regulation that would require an advanced safety system like SawStop’s brake (oh, how convenient—SawStop makes those!) to be included on all new table saws.

To-date such a feature has not been forced on anyone by the government lobbyists, but the riving knives you find on all modern table saws in the US are the result of other safety regulations that did become law. Despite the lack of a government-enforced regulation requiring a SawStop-like technology, the reality has hit some corporate-owned shops. For example, a major publishing corporation near my hometown replaced all their table saws with SawStop saws after someone had an accident and the corporation’s lawyers found out there was a product on the market that could help prevent or limit the severity of such accidents.

There are always two sides to the coin. SawStop’s recent legal suit against several manufacturers alleges that the industry giants colluded to block the technology from widespread adoption by agreeing not to license it. I also read something recently (maybe in one of the same articles) that a joint industry venture actually did produce an alternative safety system, but that system was never brought to market. Either it wasn’t cost-effective or it just didn’t work…or everyone but SawStop just wants to chop off your fingers. Ironically, if SawStop’s lobbying had been successful, their technology would have some competition, and saws without compliant safety systems would fly off the shelves for months or years until the compliance deadline went into effect, and would continue to sell on eBay long afterward.

I think it’s fair to say that Steven Gass didn’t invent his blade brake with purely altruistic intentions. From an ideological perspective, I personally think if Gass (or at least the SawStop legal counsel) wants to preach about how SawStop only wants to prevent injuries and that the rest of the industry is self-serving and evil, he should give away the technology, as Volvo did with the seatbelt—or make it really cheap. Otherwise he seems disingenuous, at best. But that’s just my opinion. If you check out the SawStop wikipedia page, the Power Tool Institute and its members do seem to have some valid objections to the technology, including some questions about liability, should the braking system fail.

Ultimately we have to make our own decisions for our own reasons, but if I found out tomorrow that Volvo tested their original seatbelt designs by crashing cars filled with baby seals, and that they accepted secret kickbacks from the Swedish Mafia for “giving away” their invention, I would be furious! However, I wouldn’t compromise my own safety on ideological grounds and make a point to buy my next car without seatbelts.

Ok, I’m done for now. Feel free to post additional comments. Or if you’re feeling really constructive, include links to news stories and other SawStop debates on this website and others.

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

21 comments so far

View English's profile


693 posts in 2691 days

#1 posted 07-04-2014 01:21 AM

If you go to any Woodcraft store, They can show you blades and brakes that their customers have brought in when they came to replace them. Some may be misfires from sawing the wrong thing, but mostly what I hear that they say man that thing saved my ”__”

Politics aside the goal is safe woodworking. I feel much safer with my Saw Stop.

-- John, Suffolk Virgina

View emart's profile


445 posts in 3842 days

#2 posted 07-04-2014 02:13 AM

I agree if I could afford it i’d have something like sawstop right now. unfortunately I cant afford sawstop and wish there was competition since it would bring the price of such a device down.

-- tools are only as good as the hands that hold them

View NormG's profile


6508 posts in 4218 days

#3 posted 07-04-2014 05:20 AM

Price is a factor for me also, great technology though

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View NiteWalker's profile


2743 posts in 3791 days

#4 posted 07-04-2014 07:23 AM

Rob, I read through your 4 articles on the sawstop “debate”, and I’m trying to figure out exactly what your intentions are still…

When you keep things simple, it really isn’t much of a debate at all.

- It’s not just the blade brake technology that makes the sawstop such a popular saw; in fact in most reviews and videos I’ve seen, the blade brake mechanism is usually only mentioned briefly (let’s be real, how many times can one be entertained watching a sawstop cut a hot dog…). What is mentioned in depth, however, is the fit, finish and overall quality of the saw.
- It’s expensive. Of course it is! Look how well designed of a tablesaw it is, even without the blade brake. I think a while back it was estimated that the blade brake adds $300-$500 (IIRC; it’s been a while) to the cost of the saw. That would put the 1.75HP PCS with 36” fence right along the lines of the PM1000 (powermatic’s new 1.75 HP cabinet saw) price-wise. And rightfully so. You pay for quality.
- I’ve NEVER heard of the blade brake failing to fire when it came into contact with flesh. Believe me, that would make the rounds EVERYWHERE. I have, however, heard and seen many instances where the blade brake DID fire as intended, preventing serious injury. Worrying about whether the brake will fire if needed or not is not something I even think about. In all honesty, I hope I NEVER even have the chance to see if the brake fires properly.
- You mention a deductible comparison in your last blog entry; you failed to mention the pain and suffering one would have to go through in a typical table saw accident. That would further prove the case of the sawstop as a better, long-term preventative measure. I’m not saying don’t have health insurance, but I’d rather never have to use that insurance for a serious injury (as in, prevent them from happening).
- The whole “forceful adaptation” attempt by gass has come and gone. Yes, it was grimy, but he’s a lawyer, so it’s half expected. It didn’t pass. When I’m buying a tool, I don’t care about politics. Leave the grimy politics to the grimy politicians. To be honest, I think the addition of riving knives to table saws will prevent a lot more serious table saw injuries than the blade brake anyway.

Just my thoughts…

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View oldguy2's profile


330 posts in 2642 days

#5 posted 07-04-2014 11:47 AM

Wow…You asked for responses.
Let’s think about the non equipped saws. I have one now and have owned three previous.
Accidents. My stitches..6 came from a bandsaw since I had to get the scrap out of the way.
l. First like any untaught…make your list now of those who follow the rule and set the blade 1/4 inch above the board thickness.. we can stop most major major accidents right there. Nope we see no guard and the blade at some full 3 inch because it was easy and ” i am too lazy to crank that gear ” or No body showed me so i just did it like i saw it on TV or Utube. Blade at full height to cut a 3/4 board is just hungry for anything in its path. Read the legal case that was $$$$ bucks…lawyers again…he had the blade up, no guard, and no one showed him how to operate the saw….. and I would have said you sit in the truck, but we don’t give out a table saw test to see are you qualified to use one….. Why don’t you write one…!
2. My first reason to use a guard…oh wait no one showed me I was just doing it like I was seeing. We watch anyone …WE NEED TO FILM WITH THE GUARD ON… A RIP CUT IS A RIP CUT….. back to my story so the small 3 inch block of wood, from a cross cut, jiggled over to the blade and threw back into my chest and luckily hit just there. It was sore for a week. What does a blade guard do….keeps fingers out of the close range… holds small pieces down for a few seconds….. supports those anti kick back pawls…
3. Price…as I have been shopping the contractor price Saw Stop is around $1700 so wow. I am now in the price range of Powermatic, Jet, Delta, .....and with steel top, great fence, appropriate height, real miter gauge,separate motor, and I think a dust chute. Space is my issue but I use all my guards and push sticks.
4. Plastic push sticks…can’t you just see one of those shatter when it hits the blade but we give them out like candy…. and thats why there are so many great wood models

View doitforfun's profile


199 posts in 2822 days

#6 posted 07-04-2014 01:54 PM

All lobbyists and legislators should hang. This is a great product. It can sell itself without a despotic government forcing it down our throats.

-- Brian in Wantagh, NY

View Grumpymike's profile


2497 posts in 3529 days

#7 posted 07-04-2014 05:36 PM

I think that Mark Twain and Will Rogers were right … “The first thing we gotta do is make attorneys illegal” ...

Steve Gass is one and spends a great deal of his time as most attorneys do, figuring out how to get a large chunk of our money.

NiteWalker is on the right track but quite conservative in his estimated cost of the saw brake. In actuality, If we all had to have the “Gass brake”, the cost of the saws would go up $1000 to $1200 per saw.

I did a study here on LJ’s comparing a Group of the most popular saws in the under $3500 range to assist myself and others in buying or upgrading their saws. I found that the Saw Stop to be a good saw but greatly over priced for what it really is.

I compared the saws as an “out the door” price, not the advertised deflated price.
The SawStop would cost right around $3200 bucks, depending on the accessory package chosen, was at the high end; where Grizzley was at the low end with a delivered cost of right at $900 … with a 2 HP motor, (the SS is 1.75.)

I also looked at a lot of the accidents on table saws and the majority were caused by doing things unsafely in the first place … not keeping the work piece tight against the fence or not watching the kerf as it closed and pinched the blade … Kick back… Riving knife will reduce these. ... I saw a lot of small pieces being cut with out the use of a sled … and the blood the followed. ... ripping a 2 inch piece off a 3 inch board with out a push stick … and so on and on. Old guy shows an example with his 3 inch block in the post above.

So the bottom line here is that Steve Gass’ Brake will not stop most of the oopsies that we cause, but it will stop a hot dog from being cut.
I saved the $2000 and bought a bunch of wood and other tools with it.
That’s my 2 cents worth and it is my opinion.

-- Grumpy old guy, and lookin' good Doin' it. ... Surprise Az.

View NiteWalker's profile


2743 posts in 3791 days

#8 posted 07-04-2014 09:39 PM

”NiteWalker is on the right track but quite conservative in his estimated cost of the saw brake. In actuality, If we all had to have the “Gass brake”, the cost of the saws would go up $1000 to $1200 per saw.”
Like I said, it was a while back; inflation, etc.

I do disagree about the sawstop not being a good value though. If it wasn’t built and designed so well, sure. But it’s a world class saw, and has the reputation from actual users to prove it.

”I saved the $2000 and bought a bunch of wood and other tools with it.”
That’s a viable option for most users; $2000 is a lot of change and will buy a lot of wood and other tools.
Some consider a premium tool like the sawstop a luxury, while some buy it for the blade brake. I’m extremely careful at the table saw, so I’m buying it mostly for the build quality, level of service form the manufacturer and because I do make some of my money with my woodworking. But I like having the blade brake should I ever have a momentary lapse in judgement, or if something out of my control that causes me to lose focus on what I’m doing should happen (stung by a wasp while ripping, etc.).

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View ibewjon's profile


2601 posts in 4007 days

#9 posted 07-05-2014 02:46 AM

i think that all saw makers should be forced to make a blade brake and riving knife and easy on off guard available for their recent [less than 20 year old] saws. i love my yellow dewalt table saw with the sliding table, which last i saw, ss did not offer. i would buy these SAFTEY add ons for my saw immediately, but i can not afford a new sawstop machine. I LOVE MY FINGERS, and being careful is one thing, but there will always be ACCIDENTS.

View Rob's profile


704 posts in 4285 days

#10 posted 07-05-2014 04:45 AM

NightCrawler has hit the nail on the head on pretty much all points except one. The only way you can “keep things simple” is if you’re already looking at saws in the $2000-$3000 range. If you’re looking to buy a saw for $1000 or less, simplicity goes out the window because you’re not comparing saws with similar build quality or similar prices once you throw SawStop into the mix. The reason why many people say they can’t afford a SawStop is because they went through a process something like this:

1. start looking at table saws
2. set a rough budget
3. do a lot of research on saws within that budget and find a couple favorites
4. maybe adjust the budget and do even more research
5. ask for recommendations, either to choose the best out of two choices, or as a final sanity check before making the purchase

Then some jerks have to throw a monkey wrench into the decision-making process by suggesting SawStop, knowing full well that the cheapest SawStop model that isn’t a step down from the original favorite(s) is at least $1000 over budget. The price gap is even greater if the person was looking at a used saw. This is exactly what three of us did in a thread a few days ago. In this case, it’s not such a simple decision because now the person has to come up with another $1000+ (or in the case of that particular thread, more like an extra $2300). Unless you’ve got money to burn, going so far over budget is a tough pill to swallow. The only options are to not buy anything, go with the cheaper saw anyway, or convince yourself that you need to raise your budget. At that point, you can look at the problem from many different angles. This is where the paralysis by analysis comes in. All I can suggest at this point is that you choose just the one line of reasoning that best applies to you.

For me, it was this:
1. I have 30+ years until retirement
2. I’ve caught myself realizing after-the-fact that I just did something dangerous, and it’s only by dumb luck that I wasn’t seriously injured
3. 30+ years is a long time to live with the regret that a paltry $1000-$2000 possibly could have saved me from a serious injury

Yeah, that’s right. I said $1000 was a paltry sum of money. It’s not because $1000 isn’t a lot of money to me. I can think of so many things I could accomplish with an extra $1000, but in the grand scheme of things, $1000 is a tiny fraction of what I’m going to earn in my lifetime.

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

View Rob's profile


704 posts in 4285 days

#11 posted 07-05-2014 06:35 AM

Oops, sorry, that would be NiteWalker, not NightCrawler!

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

View Bill7255's profile


428 posts in 3499 days

#12 posted 07-05-2014 03:41 PM

I just bought a new cabinet saw. I looked at all the major brands. I ended up buying the SawStop because of the high quality rating and the technology. So many are saying I don’t want this technology “forced” on me by Mr. Glass. Well I don’t want the PTI deciding that I don’t need it. I am glad to have the choice. Why doesn’t Delta or PM make it an option? I guess they feel they are admitting it is a worthwhile technology and possibility be open to liability since they did not incorporate it when introduced. The PTI has made some improvements in blade guards and the incorporation of riving knives. Eventually I would think the market will drive the PTI to do something based on saw sales. Just as many say Mr. Glass is greedy. All these companies are greedy and one no more than the other. I don’t share the same perspective in buying a $1,000 worth of wood and tools if you have the money to buy a SawStop. I can make money, but can’t grow fingers. No one really knows what the increase of price will be as the larger the quantity the less the cost. The saws most affected are the $200-$400 price range saws and not the quality cabinet saws.

-- Bill R

View Grumpymike's profile


2497 posts in 3529 days

#13 posted 07-05-2014 05:52 PM

I wish I knew how to post a link to the blog I wrote … In my comparison of saws in that article and here, I never said that the SS was not a good saw, I did say that I oppose Mr. Gass’s attempt to jamb his pricey product down our throats. And I oppose his trying to force other manufacturers to buy, via license, his pricey product or force them to develop a system of their own.

I dislike those who try to dictate what I should have or not have and that is why I will never spend my money on Mr. Gass’ product.

Mr. Gass has crusaded a great advertising campaign making folks think that they are safe and won’t get hurt. ... Well that false sense of security is leading you into a disaster.
But … The fact remains, that it is a good saw.

Oh, by the way, have you read about the many, many false firings of the Saw Stop Brake? Yep, its $80+ for a new brake plus the cost of a new blade … $100+ for the Woodworker II that many of us use, add shipping and you are over $200 and not even a saved hot dog.

Like I said earlier, that is my opinion.

-- Grumpy old guy, and lookin' good Doin' it. ... Surprise Az.

View ChuckV's profile


3432 posts in 4741 days

#14 posted 07-05-2014 07:01 PM


Is this the link you wanted to post?

-- "Join the chorus if you can. It'll make of you an honest man." - I. Anderson

View Rob's profile


704 posts in 4285 days

#15 posted 07-08-2014 07:24 PM

Looks like SawStop’s most recent antitrust suit against other manufacturers has been dismissed.

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

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