The Day my SawStop Paid for Itself

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Blog entry by Mark Smith posted 12-18-2012 11:41 PM 3160 reads 0 times favorited 53 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Well, looks like I made a good investment when I decided to get the SawStop. Since I managed to fire off a safety cartridge and destroy a sawblade I figure I’ll share with you guys how stupid I was today.

I was cutting a piece of walnut into strips for a cutting board. The cut was 1 1/4 inches wide. The board I was ripping was 3”. The blade safety guard was in place and I was using my plastic push stick. But because the blade guard is so close to the fence, when I get to the end of the piece of wood I had to change the plastic stick out for a long thin wood stick that I use to push the cut piece on past the blade. The stick is long enough to keep my right hand well away from the blade. As always I had my left hand on the piece holding it down to the table so it wouldn’t ride up the blade.

So the rip cut is going fine. I get to the end and switch over to the wood stick and as I start to push the piece all the way through all the sudden I hear the loud bang and then silence from the saw. It didn’t startle me like I thought it would and the bang wasn’t as loud as I thought it would be. So now I’m looking down trying to figure out what just happened. The waste end of the wood (that I had my left hand on) is gone so I figured it must have kicked back, but it didn’t hit me so I didn’t know where it went (later found it on the floor on the outfeed side of the saw). Then I noticed that the saw blade was missing. So now I figured out that the safety had fired off, but I didn’t know why. Then I looked at my left thumb. The blood coming out of the top of my thumb made me realize why the safety cartridge had fired. Somehow I managed to stick my left thumb right into the saw blade. I have no idea how I managed to do it. I’m always so careful around the tools, but clearly, for the second time in two weeks, I messed up. Two weeks ago I had stuck my finger into the running blade on the spindle of my CNC machine. Luckily that just made a minor cut. The SawStop with the safety feature that’s only supposed to leave a little mark, actually took some meat out. Okay, I know you guys like this sort of thing, so I’ll put a photo in:

I made the trip to Urgent Care because it looked like it may need a stitch or two, but the Doc said it couldn’t be stitched because of where it was, and because a chunk of skin was missing about the width of saw blade. So they cleaned it up, put a bandaid on it, gave me a tetnus shot, and that was it.

However I managed to do this, it appears that the sawblade may have hit my thumbnail first and once it cut through the nail and got to flesh the safety fired off. I think that’s probably why it cut as deep as it did. The nail doesn’t conduct electricity so it had to get through the nail first. I just went back to the saw and tried to figure out how I got my thumb in there under the guard and into a position to where it got cut where it did and I can’t figure it out. If anything the blade should have hit the pad of my thumb first and not the nail, but somehow I did it. I think that’s what has me the most mad at myself is I have no idea how I managed to do this.

Here’s the piece I was cutting. You can see I had almost pushed the inside piece almost all the way through the blade. The scrap piece was on the floor on the outfeed side of the saw. I don’t know how it got pushed off the end of the saw unless the blade retracting kicked it off or I somehow pushed it:

And here’s the fired off cartridge and the now ruined saw blade:

53 comments so far

View DIYaholic's profile


19921 posts in 3965 days

#1 posted 12-19-2012 12:05 AM

I’ll bet your thankful for technology!!! Glad there was no serious damage.

SawStop TS: $2000.00
Safety Cartridge & Blade: $200.00+
Still having ten digits: PRICELE$$

Thanks for giving everyone a very VIVID safety reminder!!!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 3297 days

#2 posted 12-19-2012 12:16 AM

Dude! That was scarey just reading about it! The lumber gods were with you today for sure.

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View Mark Smith's profile

Mark Smith

509 posts in 3330 days

#3 posted 12-19-2012 12:16 AM

Well Randy, I’ve read some of the heated SawStop debates on here and I’m now officially a believer. I remember when I first saw the SawStop I knew I’d never buy one of those. My theory was just don’t stick your fingers in the blade. I’ve been woodworking for 40 years and never had so much as a splinter or maybe a small cut or smashed a finger with a hammer. But when I opened a commercial woodshop I figured I’d bite the bullet and get the SawStop because I thought if I ever had employees it would be easier to get workers comp insurance. But it made a believer of me today and it also reinforced something that a pro woodworker told me a few months ago. And that was that it’s usually the pros that get hurt because they are getting into a routine and doing it so often that all it takes is a little slip and the accidents happen. While the casual woodworker isn’t making cuts all day on a table saw so they tend to pay more attention to what they are doing. And that is exactly what has happened to me two times now in two weeks. I wonder if I’ve learned my lesson yet?

View Mark Smith's profile

Mark Smith

509 posts in 3330 days

#4 posted 12-19-2012 12:19 AM

You know what I just figured out? I have a security camera in my shop. I’ll have this on video. It won’t be clear video because the camera is on the other side of the shop, but it may show how I did this. I’ll have to go look.

View Manitario's profile


2818 posts in 4173 days

#5 posted 12-19-2012 12:38 AM

glad that you weren’t hurt any worse!

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View Mark Smith's profile

Mark Smith

509 posts in 3330 days

#6 posted 12-19-2012 12:42 AM

Interesting, I do have it on video. In watching the video I can sort of see what happened, but still can’t figure out why. Also I don’t recall even jerking my hand back and thought it was longer before I realized what I had done, but per the video I jerked my hand back behind me and then almost immediately looked at it. All I can tell is I was pushing the piece through and clearly paying attention to keep my left hand outside the blade guard. When I switched over from the plastic push stick to the wood stick, it looks like something slipped, I can’t see what, and I can clearly see I move my hand to the right into the blade and immediately jerked it back out.

View DIYaholic's profile


19921 posts in 3965 days

#7 posted 12-19-2012 12:51 AM

Again, I’m glad you weren’t seriously hurt!!!

That may be a good video to post. Not too many accidents are “caught on tape”!!! I can understand if you don’t, just a thought.

I hope your wound (and pride) heal quickly!!!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View Mark Smith's profile

Mark Smith

509 posts in 3330 days

#8 posted 12-19-2012 12:56 AM

I’m debating whether to post it or not. It’s on my security system DVR now and it only downloads in 30 minute blocks and I don’t currently have any video editing software. I don’t want to put 30 minutes of video up.

View live4ever's profile


983 posts in 4301 days

#9 posted 12-19-2012 12:58 AM

Wow, glad it saved your finger from worse damage. Remember that sending in the fired brake to Sawstop for diagnostics gets you a free brake (if it’s determined that it fired from flesh contact, which I think in this case is a safe bet).

I have wondered about how much damage the blade will cause before firing – especially on nail and callous contact. I can touch the calloused tips of my fingers to the [stopped] blade and not get flashing lights unless I touch harder. Makes me think it would take more than a scratch at the tips of the fingers to fire off the brake, which your story kind of proves.

Either way, glad this decision paid off for you.

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

View Mark Smith's profile

Mark Smith

509 posts in 3330 days

#10 posted 12-19-2012 01:20 AM

Well it was far more than the nick that SawStop talks about, but it was a whole lot less than slicing my thumb off like could have happened with a regular table saw. Anything you can fix with a bandaid is a minor wound in my book.

View Mark Smith's profile

Mark Smith

509 posts in 3330 days

#11 posted 12-19-2012 01:21 AM

And thanks for the info on getting the free brake. I do have the spare that came with the saw, but I’ll send this one in to get another. Too bad they won’t replace the blade too, it cost more than the brake.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30651 posts in 3629 days

#12 posted 12-19-2012 01:44 AM

Extremely glad you’re alright. Makes me shiver just to think about it.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Mark Smith's profile

Mark Smith

509 posts in 3330 days

#13 posted 12-19-2012 02:07 AM

I was just looking at the saw again and if you look real close at the saw fence in photo above, just below the A in saw at the bottom of the fence is a little speck. That’s the missing skin from my thumb. :)

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3981 days

#14 posted 12-19-2012 02:09 AM

Damn, that was scary! Glad you survived with no worse injury. You need to look at my hand held featherboard/holddown I posted in the safety forum a while back (to prevent just this kind of injury). Sorry I don’t know how to post a link to it but I’ll bet you can find it.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 4261 days

#15 posted 12-19-2012 02:35 AM

Are you sure the blade is trash?

I have heard, for instance, that Forrest will evaluate their blades and replace teeth if needed and resharpen, essentially rebuild a blade after a SawStop brake activation. And this is done for much less than a new blade.

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