SawStop - Contractors saw with 36" T-glide fence (Rating: 5)

This review is for the SawStop contractor's saw equipped with the 36" inch steel rails and "T-glide" fence. And eventually with the cast iron wings.

As a preface let me say that I know that SawStop is controversial among woodworkers. This review is not an argument for or against the SawStop safety system. This review concentrates on its qualities as a table saw, not the safety brake.

I've had this saw for over a year now and I've been extremely pleased with it. It's been a pleasure to use. Almost every aspect of the saw is very high quality. It's solid and tough. All the parts have excellent fit and finish and are solidly made. Adjustments are easy to make, though it hardly needed any adjustments out of the box.

Assembly took some time but was straightforward and was made easy by the excellent instructions. Everything was in plain English with very good diagrams and pictures. The bolts and screws were well packaged and marked. They even included some extra hardware. The fact that I find good instructions and extra bolts noteworthy is perhaps a sad comment on modern power tool quality.

I opted for the 36 inch T-glide fence system as opposed to the standard aluminum fence. I played with the aluminum fence/rails at Rockler and was not impressed. I think the steel rails and fence are a worthwhile upgrade. The rails and fence are solid, accurate, and easy to use.

The saw also comes with a splitter, anti-kickback pawls, blade guard, and separate riving knife. The anti-kickback pawls work. I've never had kickback from the saw if the piece got pushed far enough back to engage the pawls. And they almost never leave marks in the wood, even soft lumber. The pawls hook into the splitter. If you don't want to use the pawls you just flip them up out of the way.

It takes a total of about 5 seconds to remove the splitter if you don't want it on there. Probably about 10 seconds to change to the riving knife. Getting the pawls disengaged from the splitter can be kind of a pain. The blade guard is even easier to use. Getting it off and back on again is instant. The guard almost never gets in the way of my cuts and I leave it on 90% of the time. The zero clearance table insert can be adjusted easily with an allen wrench to lie flat to the table.

Now on to the safety brake… Most of the time you won't notice it's there. I've had no misfires and I still am using the original brake cartridge that came installed on the saw. About the only time you have to deal with it is when you change blades. I've noticed when I change from a Freud blade to another brand of blade I have to adjust the position of the safety brake. It's easy to do with the included gauge and wrench. The gauge is basically a plastic version of a spark plug spacing gauge. It's got a magnet on it that lets you stick it on the side of the saw and grab it whenever you want. I do wish they had included a second brake cartridge gauge. After sticking the guide between the blade and the cartridge enough times the gauge can get worn. The gauge probably costs about half a cent to manufacture.

The saw itself will usually tell you if the brake cartridge is adjusted properly. The status lights on the saw will blink and it won't run if the cartridge is too close to the blade or too far away. Once the light is solid green you're good to go.

I haven't hard the brake cartridge trip yet and hopefully I never will. So I can't say how easy or difficult it is to change the cartridge. If you do trip the brake it will cost you $70 to get a new cartridge. The saw won't work without one. Also, if the brake trips it will almost certainly destroy whatever blade you have in the saw. So a brake trip can be very expensive.

So far I've given you the pros. Here are the cons:

1.) Price. It's a good saw but it is very expensive. Whether it's worth the price is a personal decision. Rockler lists this configuration (without the cast iron wings) is $1,800. Not cheap. Especially for a contractor saw.

2.) The saw comes standard with stamped steel wings. The wings themselves are solid enough but the SawStop logo is stamped/embossed into the wings. This lack of a flat surface is annoying. I had to get the cast iron wings or the stamped steel would have driven me mad. It would be nice if SawStop would simply provide plain, flat, stamped steel wings.

3.) The saw only comes with a one year warranty. I find that kind of shocking at this price point. Because of the build quality I don't expect a problem with the saw. But considering that the much less expensive Ridgid table saw comes with a limited lifetime warranty, the one year warranty on the SawStop seems…. ungenerous. When I got the saw I contacted SawStop by e-mail to find out if I could purchase an extended warranty for the saw. They had no such option for me to purchase.

From a usability standpoint this had been an outstanding saw.