It’s been almost 38 years since I last made contact with a spinning blade. Nonetheless, I bought a Sawstop table saw several years ago, thinking that no one is perfect. Even professionals make mistakes. Lack of concentration can happen to anyone, anytime. Monday morning I had my second encounter with a spinning blade. There was a bang, and the saw stopped. I didn’t know what happened until I noticed blood on the saw table: a small nick on the end of my middle finger, left hand. Nothing major, the Sawstop safety system worked perfectly. The nick was so small that now, four days later, I’m typing (gently) with this finger.
Here is how it works: Dry wood is an insulator, while water is a conductor. A micro-current runs through the blade, and when the computer detects a current drop, the safety system engages: a heavy spring drives an aluminum pawl into the spinning blade, the current to the motor is cut and the entire saw blade drops below the table, all in a millisecond. The technology has been available for several years, yet the other saw manufacturers refused it. In my opinion that is criminal, considering the 3,000 to 4,000 amputated fingers and hands (estimated to cost about $2 billion in lost time and medical bills) as a result of table saw accidents. A new brake cartridge costs $70., and the blade may have to have a few teeth replaced. Most schools and many wood shops now have Sawstops. It is only a matter of time before the insurance companies will mandate this technology, even if OSHA won’t. And, yes, I still have all my digits. C. H. Becksvoort © 2011