Whirlwind – A SawStop Killer?

A recent article on USA Today’s website states that the Consumer Products Safety Commission is on a mission to prevent debilitating tablesaw injuries. The goal? To require saw-makers to include “flesh-detecting technology” in their tablesaws, much like they are now required to include riving knives. The driving force behind all this is Steve Gass, the patent lawyer and inventor of SawStop. Regardless of how one feels about Sawstop, the company or the technology, it seems that most folks view government intervention as a major negative. As responsible saw owners, most of us know that proper training and safe practices are the best way to prevent accidents.

Honestly, this is just another chapter in the saga of SawStop and I am sure most of you are sick of hearing about it. But one of the things that bugs me the most about this situation is the lack of competitive alternatives to SawStop technology. Well, thanks to a link from Jim in the WTO Forum, a potential competitor was brought to my attention and its called Whirlwind. Here’s how it works, according to the website:

“If an operator contacts the proximity sensors in the electronic fence, this triggers the emergency stop. Our latest prototype can stop a typical bench-top saw motor, without damage, in about 1/8 of a second.”

The site features a number of videos but you won’t get to see a great deal of detail. There are, however, a number of intriguing things about this system. First, the brake is triggered BEFORE you touch the blade, which means no stitches and no bandaids. It passes the “hot dog test” without so much as a scratch on the wiener! Second, the braking mechanism does not destroy your blade and doesn’t seem to require replaceable parts. Third, the system incorporates what looks to be flawless dust collection. Not sure how this part works but they seem to push it as a feature.

From what the inventors say, it looks as though they are trying to market the technology directly to tool companies via licensing agreements. Now I won’t pretend to know how well this product works or how realistic it is to think it could effectively be added to current saws at a low cost, but it certainly is intriguing. And it has me thinking about the big picture.

Forgive me for speculating here, but could SawStop’s efforts to force its way into your shop potentially back-fire on them? Right now, they seem to be enjoying a successful run. In fact, I know MANY of you are satisfied SawStop owners. But with increased pressure from not only the marketplace but also the government (potentially), I have to imagine the big tool manufacturers are thinking long and hard about alternative flesh-detecting technologies. And should a competing technology become available as an add-on for every make and model saw on the market, what would happen to SawStop?? We know they make a high quality saw, but would that be enough to survive in an entire market FULL of high quality flesh-detecting saws that have nothing to do with SawStop technology? I don’t know the answer, but the old saying “Be careful what you wish for!” comes to mind.

So what do you folks think about Whirlwind? Could SawStop be shooting itself in the foot by trying to do more than simply sell a great product? With the little info we have, its hard to make a real judgement call here. But do you think an alternative technology is on its way? Could something like that spell the end of a tool company many folks have grown to love? I welcome your opinions, but I do ask that we keep the anti-SawStop and anti-government stuff to a minimum.

Category: Safety


  1. Tim February 4, 2011

    I am, by no means, an anti-SawStop individual. But I agree that, as woodworkers, we have a certain level of responsibility to ourselves and to each other to develop safe habits around our table saws, as well as our other woodworking tools and equipment. No guard or safety mechanism can ever replace common sense and a keen sense of awareness.

    Having said that, SawStop is a brilliant company. They took what is considered to be one of the most dangerous tools in the shop and gave many potential woodworkers peace of mind. That most definitely increased the number of woodworkers here, and bred a new generation of tablesaw users. But this glorious epiphany is like any that dawns upon a brilliant mind. Once it is realized and put into production, it opens the door to competition.

    The Whirlwind seems like a viable competitor to SawStop technology, and it will definitely attract woodworkers that don’t want to destroy blades on their saws. But SawStop has already proven itself with its technology and with its manufacturing quality. Until a more solid footing is gained by Whirlwind or any other blade stopping technology, SawStop will continue to dominate its market.

    So what if the government institutes a new policy on safe table saws, where all saws have blade stopping technology? Then go vintage, and by vintage I mean anything pre-blade stopping technology. Many woodworkers already know the joy of restoring an old plane or chisel to working order. Why not a table saw? More work, sure, but the result is a saw you restored and finished the way you wanted to. If that doesn’t appeal to you, and you don’t want any fancy blade stopping technology, then get really friendly with the table saw you own currently. It may be there for a loooong time.

    • Paul October 9, 2011

      Tim – One only has to look at lawnmowers to find almost all of the answers to the questions you pose. Currently, it is against the law to sell any lawnmower not equipped with the blade brake. What this means is that should you own a machine built before the CSPC mandated blade brakes and you sell it in a yard sale, you’ve broken the law. You can continue to keep and use it, just don’t sell it. Same will go with tablesaws. What will end up happening is many of us will be stuck with old saws we cannot sell.

      • Mark Mueller May 15, 2012

        Paul, regarding lawnmmowers and CPSC requirements. I’ve been in the lawnmower/small engine business for 25+ years. You are correct in that CPSC requires the blade stop turning when the lever is released. There’s 2 ways to accomplish this. Stop the engine via a brake and ignition kill, or a BBC which stands for Blade Brake Clutch. The later diengages the blade from the engine and stops it but allows the engine to continue running. Here’s where the law gets gets a little screwy. While it was illegal for me as a seller to disable any safety device, I was not required to restore safty devices that had been bypassed. If a customer brought in his mower for repair and the blade stopping mechanism had been disabled, I was under no obligation to restore it. To protect us from liability, we had customers sign a form that stated the defect, the hazards that it posed, and that they released us from any and all liability that might arise from said defect. And the law only applies to the original seller of the mower (the retailer, us). Selling your non compliant mower at a garage/yard sale is permitted.

        Now on the topic at hand. I worked for Rockler until last year. I was usually the one who assembled tools due to my mechanical knowledge I’m very familiar with most saws out there. I’m also a contributor to the Old Wood Working Machines (OWWM) web site. When Rockler started selling selling Saw Stop, we had factory sales and service reps. come in and give a training session. Now for me, personally, the first thing I look at on a table saw is the fence and Saw Stops’ is as good as the next guys.Some of the S.S literature stated that after tripping the brake, a good sharpening service could repair the blade. But I watched the super slow motion of of blade being stopped and seeing all the dynamic changes taking place I would NEVER use that again for anything (except installing a clock mechanism and hanging it on the wall) So one strike against S.S. You gotta get a new brake cartridge and blade. Could be expensive depending on the blade. By the way, changing the blade and cartridge is not as quick and simple as they make it out to be. On some our demonstrations we had to pry them off with large screwdrivers. I like the idea the Whirlwind system doesn’t destroy any parts. When it comes to stopping times, there’s no contest. Whirlwind claims 1/8 second to stop. S.S 1/5000 second. The S.S. is lightning fast. ( the first demo. we did a man threw his coffee in the air!) It’s loud! Point for Saw Stop. Whirlwind appears to retrofit older saws. Point to Whirlwind.
        Now a few facts.The table saw is considered the most dangerous power tool based on the number of accidents. It only stands to reason. There are more table saws in use at any given time than any other tool. The law of probability catches says there should be more table saw accidents. Next, most table saw accidents are not blade contact events they are kickback related. And finally, the most serious accidents happen to professional wood workers, not hobbyists/weekend craftsmen. This is due to complacency. The pro. gets too comfortable and lax on safety. I used to tell my customers the most important safety device in your shop.
        I’m glad someone, is working on an alternative to Saw Stop. If the goverment decides to implement mandatory flesh detection, I’d hate to see Saw Stop being the only game in town. As for me, I’m not too concerned. My 55 year ols Unisaw will be going strong when most newer saws are ready for the scrap heap.

        • Chuck Johnson September 13, 2012

          Several people seem impressed with the 1/8 second stopping time.
          Have you done the math?
          A 10″ blade turning 3450 RPM travels 7.1 revolutions in 1/8 second. That’s 288 teeth! Now that’s not a real count if is Whirlwind is decelerating the blade, but it’s a pretty fair bet that at least ONE revolution is involved.
          The SawStop, on the other hand, (and hopefully you still have both hands), stops in 1/5000 second, or ONE HALF of a tooth! THAT’s why you get at most a scratch before the blade disappears.
          I would love to have a SawStop, but for my small garage shop, $3K just isn’t in the budget. I’ll have to resort to working carefully. Whirlwind is on the right track, but 1/8 second is NOT fast enough to make it safe.

        • David November 1, 2012

          Chuck, you are missing a very important detail. Yes the SS works in 1/5000 of a second versus the 1/8 of a second for the Whirlwind. However, Whirlwind does not require blade contact to stop the blade while the SS does. It could very well be a draw!

        • Len Rinzler October 2, 2014

          In the interest of disclosure, I’m a SS user. I purchased a 5 hp cabinet saw in the second year of production. Here are my comments:

          – Re: The expense of replacing brake and blade in the event of an actuation: Remember why you’re considering a SS in the first place: Safety. If your flesh touches the blade and activates the safety mechanism, the cost of blade replacement will be money happily spent. SS will replace the brake at no charge in the event of an actuation. Consider that, with proper safety techniques utilized, you’ll probably never activate the safety system.

          Re: Amount of time required to change brake and blade: I have no idea why the author of this post said that the brake wasn’t as easy/quick to exchange as the SS folks claim. It is incredible fast and easy to swap the brakes, and I bounce back and forth between the standard brake and the dado brake regularly. It takes me less than a minute to remove and replace a brake. How much faster should it be? I’m not in THAT big of a hurry!

          With all that said, I’m opposed to any governmental regulation regarding this technology. Does Sawstop make a great saw? Absolutely. Should their tech be mandated by law? Hell no.

  2. If I were in the market for a new saw, and this system was commercially available, I would definitely consider it. The fact that sawblades don’t get destroyed and there are no replacements needed, is IMO a big plus for the Whirlwind.

    Some time ago, however, I came across this Youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VbYuJYhxLM. It’s about a new(ish) saw from Metabo. While it does look like one of those really cheap tablesaws, I really loved the idea behind it. The motor/saw/height and tilting assembly is mounted on bars inside the cabinet. Instead of moving the workpiece through the saw, you clamp the workpiece to the saw table and move the saw through it, by pulling a lever.

    The user then doesn’t have to put his hands anywhere near the spinning blade, which means that dangerous situations can be avoided altogether. And that’s by far the best safety precaution, right?

    If this idea were “scaled-up” – to the size of a sliding table saw, maybe – I think it could become a serious alternative to the standard table saw. Beside the safety advantage there wold be other advantages, like for instance:
    – Trimming rough edges off boards easily: clamp rough board to table and rip (a laser sight would make this even easier)
    – Far smaller space requirement than a sliding table saw, but similar functionality: when ripping, the board would not have to travel its own length.
    – Easier cross-cutting of long pieces
    – Stopped grooves: clamp workpiece, raise spinning blade, make cut, lower blade, unclamp.
    – When cutting sheet goods: possibility of first scoring with a climb-cut and then cutting through, without the need of a scoring blade.
    – With a locking mechanism it would work the same as a standard tablesaw.
    – etc.

    Regards from Slovenia,

    • David February 4, 2011

      old shop smith technology, proved to be cumbersome

    • Jim Lynde February 5, 2011

      I am a retired contractor here in Los Angeles, CA (USA)
      Years ago, I used to purchase, domestic and imported, hardwood lumber and paneling from a company here that had a home-made saw set-up
      similar to what you describe.
      They would place the boards or panel flat on the table and the traveling
      table saw underneath would slide on the rails and make the cut.
      Made for a very safe cut. That is the only one I have seen or heard of
      until I read your description.

  3. Bill Akins February 4, 2011

    First and foremost, personal resposibility is the most important thing to consider. More people want to play the blame game now-a-days. I think the technology that SawStop is a wonderful thing. It wouldn’t bother me if all table saws carried this safety feature. If SawStop thinks that all other companies will have to use their technology then they are highly mistaken and they just might shoot themselves in the foot. I’m afraid when the technology goes across the board that, as usual, a lot of the companies will make the cheapest version of flesh detection imaginable. This will result in catastrophic failure and then the 1.5 million lawsuits will be a 1000 fold. Also the personal resposibility level will drop to an all new low.

  4. Stelios L.A. Stavrinides February 4, 2011

    Whirlwind looks very promising, and I know many people would love to see the saw stop monopoly to come to an end. Saw Stop?s marketing sales promotion had made lots of people to react against them. It looks to me that SS is pushing the psychological factor of fear to establish their product in the market ?if you don?t have a SS you may loose a finger?.
    Whirlwind if it makes the market could have an advantage, it will be an additional safety accessory to your TS (no need to change your TS) and if the price is good most woodworkers could go for it. SS advantage is that it will still protects you even without a blade guard, while Whirlwind is a blade guard by its self, what happens when you want to remove it – No protection – In both cases I don?t know how both systems react when using a stacked dado blade. All ads I see are for a single blade, and the momentum of a dado blade is much different than a single blade, what that would do to the motor, will it stop within that frame time? That said I am not sure even if all TS can stop without any damage so fast, if this is true then Whirlwind could have one more advantage here, it could push the product as well into the European market and because of that 10sec low that every blade should stop under 10sec, could made dado blades to be allowed. And open a different market possibility.
    It was about to happen and it will happen, someone will want to take a piece of the pie out of the hands of SS. Personally if Whirlwind makes the market I will go for it, because I would like that safety feature on my TS, and I cannot afford to change my TS.


    • Frank (http://deleted) February 10, 2011

      Sawstop also works for dado stacks. The disadvantage is that you have to remove the blade brake for the single blade and install the dado blade brake-it’s just a thicker brake, but it works just the same. I believe that on their new saws they have incorporated an ability to do this without tools, using some disengaging levers to unlock everything for easier uninstall/reinastall.

  5. Glen February 4, 2011

    Thanks for posting this Marc. Since this has been all over the news recently, as well as several topics a week over at LJs, I thought that it was worth commenting (my first time posting).

    Looks like an interesting alternative to Sawstop, but, like most table saw guard systems, it fails when you take off the guard. I wonder how many table saw accidents occur because the guard was removed? While Sawstop destroys the blade, it does work with, or without a blade guard in place. How often do we take off the guard because it gets in the way or is impractical for the operation that we’re doing?

    Unfortunately, this post will likely start another one of the perpetual ?don?t tread on my? debates. I saw in the news this morning that a 62 year old contractor in the next town lost two and a half fingers in a table saw accident on a jobsite yesterday. It’s a sad state of affairs, but this reminds me, like the Ryobi case, that for the majority of users, perceived cost is the primary driver. And perceived cost depends on the person, and includes all sorts of intangibles. For some people it is the raw cost paid to the store, for others it includes costs for accidents etc. Sawstop/Whirlwind cost money, and thus a lot of people just won’t pay for it. Some people may disguise this as a moral problem with an inventor trying to make money on his invention before his patent expires (that?s business right?), but ultimately it?s the customers choice to buy or not to buy. I think that a fair analogy is car seatbelts. People complain about being forced to wear seatbelts all the time (I remember protests in NH when I was a teenager!), and ideally we shouldn?t need them because we?re all trained to drive correctly. But for that one unforeseen accident caused by a distraction or someone else, they may save your life. If people really have a moral problem with safety equipment being mandated on new equipment, then buy used. The consumer always has a choice, but it may just not be convenient (for example, I can?t think of a non-big box store that cells woodworking machinery within 50 miles of where I live, and I live along the Rte 95 corridor between Philadelphia and NY!).

    I have several friends that have lost fingers (or parts of fingers) in table saw accidents; one is a part-time contractor and the other is a former cabinet makers. So you?d think that since I can technically afford a Sawstop, I would have been a prime candidate to buy one last year when I wanted to replace my portable tablesaw. Alas, no. When selecting my perceived cost, I factored in that a hybrid table saw was safer than the portable saw that I was using (even with added weight it would tip and rock when ripping 2x4s), in addition to the fact that it was for my hobby. I bought the best (hybrid) table saw that I was willing to spend the money on. Would I buy a Sawstop? Conceptually, yes, but not at the moment given the prices. Others may have a different set of values when coming up with their own perceived cost.

  6. runningwood February 4, 2011

    I think this new product is great. Innovation is always welcome and added competition is always good for development of new ideas and for the consumer. I think ultimately this may affect SawStop slightly but they make a great saw even without the stop technology. They however will have to change and come up with new ideas if other products like this come out and possibly develop a product that does not destroy the blade and brake.

    Look at Apple and their first innovation of ( I think it was then called) GUI technology with a mouse. PC companies tried to copy but never quite matched Apples ease of use and the rest is history. Had I only bought Apple stock back then….

  7. MikeD February 4, 2011

    Okay I will bite. I think the government needs to keep their involvement to a minimum. This flesh detecting tech can be a savior I am sure. I wouldn’t buy it. Woodworking in general is not the safest hobby or career choice. I get a splinter almost every time I am in the garage. What is to prevent me of that? Should I wear chainmail gloves when I woodwork. To me paying attention, wearing safety glasses, probably some sort of breathing apparatus, and plain old paying attention to WTH you are doing should keep you 97% healthy.
    Pretty soon, if the safety cops have anything to do with it, we will be woodworking in virtual reality. Anyone see Wall-E?

  8. Will February 4, 2011

    Interesting technology. As a SawStop owner I’ll share a few of my thoughts about the two technologies:

    -it’s a small pain that my SS will destroy a blade if it detects flesh. That said, a) I have yet to trigger the safetey mechanism and b) the change of me triggering it and being out of a blade makes me more careful because having to make a trip to the store to buy a new blade/brake would be a PITA and set me back when my time is limited already. Thus in a way I feel like the way the SS works makes me more careful.

    -a nice feature of the SS system is that it effectively is implemented below the table surface. Notice the Whirlwind requires an alternate more complex mounting mechanism when using a riving knife and sled. I use my cross cutting sled a LOT (I do almost all cross cutting on my table saw, not at the miter saw, since I a zero clearance and better support for chip-out, and since i can make a larger cross cut). I have a SS contractor saw and have not yet spend the $140 or so dollars for their nifty new blade guard with improved kick back paws and dust collection. I suspect the new guard would work nearly as well as the Whirlwind for dust collection and the new kick back paws would be more effective, long term, compared to the Whirlwinds rubber coated paws. While bench cookies hold things initially, after their surface gets a bit dusty they don’t work nearly as well. I’m betting the kick-back paws on the Whirlwind might work similarly.

    -I’m concerned with the effectiveness of the Whirlwind over time since the blade guard, which implements the break mechanism, has to be precisely mounted over the saw blade. In order to accomodate different cuts you might have to switch between mounting methods or when using the alternate method move the strand from the left to the right of the saw. When doing so how easy will it be to maintain the proper location so that the safety mechanism works properly?

    -I love how I can flip up my blade guard on my SS to get complete access to the blade and stock to make sure I’m lined up properly. I dislike the little window the Whirlwind provides. It looks like there is no easy way to get the entire guard quickly out of the way while not screwing up the alignment.

    -It looks like the whirlwind stops the saw blade between 1/8 and 1 second. I believe the SS stops a lot faster. For situations where a hand or finger were to move very quickly into the path of the blade, I wonder if it would be possible to actually touch the blade and get seriously injured. At least with the SS the blade also retracts below the saw.

    The big question is how cheap can they make this. Tool companies can build and include it cheaply it may gain traction, but otherwise I doubt it will. In my opinion the SS, while it destroys your blade and requires a break change, is better technology, but it doesn’t come cheap, hence only SS makes saws with the technology at this time. It will be interesting to see where things go.

    Final comment: I don’t think walking around your saw and completing a cut by pulling the wood at you is such a great idea. Sure he didn’t have kick back but it seems like it would be awfully hard to pull without burning the wood a bit, especially all the burning you’d get just walking around the saw.

  9. Jay February 4, 2011

    I think the American way has always been one of competition.

    If what you write is true, it appears SawStop is trying to push its product in a passive-aggressive yet nefarious way. I do give them a fair amount of credit for using resources at hand to market their product through non-conventional means, but I also think using the Government to do so has a bad smell to it. That is not meant to grind an axe on either organization.

    I have always been impressed with SawStop and had one of their saws on my ‘wishlist’ for some time. I even ordered the DVD and sat down with my wife to watch it. She was impressed. They seem to have a good product on the market and I’m leaving their saw on my list for now.

    Still, if there are other systems out there with a smaller market share at the current time, I hope the legislation for table saw safety fosters competitors to present those alternative systems with a brighter spot light.

    In the end, my hope is not for the success or failure of a particular flesh-detecting hardware company. Instead my hope is this will legislation will foster a great effort from each company to produce options for the consumer or end-user in the form of cost, comfort, usability, et cetera.

  10. Brian February 4, 2011

    I posted this in a message board a while ago . . . I’ll just copy and paste:

    My best friend from high school worked for a small R&D design firm in Silicon Valley a few years ago. He told me that a large number of table saw manufacturers got together and contracted his company to design a similar blade braking technology. They had to do it so as not to infringe on the Sawstop patent. He said they designed a system that stopped the blade quicker and also didn’t destroy it. “Recharging” the system was not going to be too expensive either.

    He said they finished the design and delivered it with the understanding the the companies could use it as a base design and modify it on their own. His belief is that the companies probably would never put it into production. He thought they were just “covering” themselves should they ever be required to implement a braking system. I asked him which companies, and he said “you name it”. Basically all of them.

    (Keep in mind, I learned this all second hand through my friend, who didn’t actually work on the design . . . others did in his company)

    Take that for what you will . . .


  11. A Burton February 4, 2011

    I was immediately hesitant about the whirlwind since many of the cuts woodworkers make cannot be completed with the guard intact very easily. Cutting tenons, through dados and using a crosscut sled would be difficult as well as quite a few jigs. I’m sure there may be a workaround for quite a few operations though.

    I then watched one of videos and learned they are try to appeal to the construction industry and quite frankly if the guys will use it may be a very good device in that capacity. The Ryobi lawsuit shows us how often standard blade guards are really used in construction on portable saws. I admit I tossed the guard on my cheap portable I use for flooring a general purpose long ago. Then again it was junk.

    I personally think the whirlwind type technology would be a great asset to other tools in the shop like the bandsaw, mitersaw, etc. I don’t worry so much about myself but with a small child at home it would give a small piece of mind and something I might consider paying for at some point.


    For those who might be interested, here are a few comments from David Butler, Whirlwinds inventor:

    Hello woodworkers, I hope this message will clear up some points regarding Whirlwind Tool safety. I do not have, and likely never will have, any hardware to sell. Instead I hope to get the machinery manufacturers interested in Whirlwind as a win-win and I now have five operational prototypes and each new one is an improvement over the previous versions with still more designs cued up here in the shop. Of course the manufacturers will probably not move until my patents issue, but we are getting closer each day.

    My original design goal was to develop a user-controlled and multi-tiered hazard-avoidance system approach with a suitable balance of end-user cost vs.. safety features benefit for the various table saw stakeholders ranging from the machinery manufacturers and retailers to the wide spectrum of table saw operators from the novice to the most advanced users. I hope also to curtail some of the table saw litigation that we see by establishing identifiable responsibility for most table saw related injuries, which I believe is to the benefit of all. To that end I now have five operational prototypes with additional models under development.

    This particular table saw hazard avoidance concept is designed to offer hazard protection through a series of FIVE simple steps:

    First, the operator must easily and conveniently make personal safety-related decisions prior to operation of the saw, by first choosing to use, partially use or to override and even completely remove the hazard avoidance system with the use of a keyed switch.

    Second, if the saw is operated in safe-mode, the operator must quickly and simply acknowledge that safety checks have been completed before each and every start of the machine or the saw will not start. This is not an aircraft-pilot-like pre-flight checklist; instead it is whatever the operator wants it to be ? or not to be. The point is that once the operator pushes the ARM button and arms the flesh-sensing and brake to start the saw, (s)he owns the safety responsibility for the following operation. If there is a resulting injury, there is highly unlikely to be litigation blaming the manufacturer of the saw.

    Third, through electronic flesh-sensing, an extra margin of safety is provided the saw operator by non-destructive blade braking if the operator?s hands enter the ?danger zone? which should always be avoided.

    Fourth, each emergency braking event serves as a learning experience and a warning to novice saw operators that they have crossed into dangerous proximity of the saw blade and must rethink their operating practices to insure their continued personal safety.

    Fifth, if the blade-enclosure hazard avoidance system is used, the dangerous, long-feared, and unpredictable table saw ?kick-back? phenomenon is eliminated.

    Each time the saw is stopped, either through a normal stop or a flesh sensing emergency stop, the saw will revert to the amber light safe condition. The emergency flesh sensing stop is completely non-destructive. Neither the blade, nor the circuitry, nor the saw are damaged during the stop and the operator may simply correct the dangerous condition, rearm the flesh sensing brake circuit and resume sawing. Think safety twice, cut once.


  13. Alan February 4, 2011

    What is ironic – what started all this was a guy filing a lawsuit when he was using the saw improperly.

    It is doubtful that even if multiple technologies were available that he would have purchased or used them.

    The government uses it to argue “safety” reduces health care costs so we all pay more for products to prevent “one” serious accident. Insurance companies use it to keep insurance costs down and sell more insurance. Every day legislation is passed prevent fires, accidents, etc. which adds to the cost of products.

    Having said all that, I am a Sawstop owner. I wanted to upgrade my saw and as I am getting older felt the need to work more safely and appreciated a US company doing some needed innovation.

    Think of it this way – it keeps lots of lawyers, and government workers employed….

    It remains to be seen if the costs are sustainable for the average American in an increasingly global economy!

  14. Hey Marc,

    Being the capitalist I am I love some competition and innovation in the market place. Dewalt copied Festool on the track saw. Good. (When are they gonna make a Domino??) Bosch followed Porter-Cable on routers. Good. Competition is necessary to weed out inferior or poorly made products. It makes those products and for that matter, people strive to be better. Whether a veggie-saw is mandated by law or otherwise is really inconsequential to me. I don?t care that much. I view shop and tool safety the same way I view driving my car. Of course I use safety glasses, respirator, and ear muffs (a.k.a. seat belt, anti-lock brakes, and airbag). I use push blocks, push sticks, and feather boards (good wipers, good tires, and good mirrors). I never free hand on the table saw (drive with my eyes closed), and I always try to work safely (no texting while driving). On a vehicle, most of these devises are required by law. We have become used to having these as a part of our vehicles and we all assume that they will work as intended. I am not sure how these devises have affected our driving habits, but I know that for me, I feel safer when I commute. I don?t think most people intentionally drive more dangerously because they have a safer car. I also don?t think that having a vegetarian saw would cause someone to work sloppier, just because it doesn?t eat meat.

    Now, I wonder what would happen if I removed all safety devices from my car. No seat belt. No air bag. No anti-lock brakes. How would that affect my driving? More than likely, I would slow down, drive more defensibly, and pay more attention. I would anticipate what other drivers were doing. I would watch road conditions and the weather more intently. Now instead of disabling or removing these devises, how about I just assume that they won?t work, and drive safer. No different than a veggie-saw. Has one ever failed? Not that I know of. If I ever get one, by law or otherwise, I am gonna try awful hard not be the one it fails on. I will never assume it will work right. I will continue to work safely, use common sense and no do stupid things to separate me from my digits.

    My 2 cents.

  15. Marc,
    Let me begin by saying that I have witnessed my friend cutting off 2 fingers on the table saw from about 3 foot away. I fully appreciate and value SawStop technology & it will be the cabinet saw I get when I upgrade.

    That said I do not approve of SawStop recent lobbying & I certainly do not believe that Ryobi should be liable for anything in That horrble accident in Boston. Using a table saw with no fence or guide is asking to get hurt. It is not Ryobi’s fault that No one instructed him how to use the saw.

    To get to the point of SawStop vs Whirlwind, I vote SawStop. As a skeptic I don’t trust Wirlwind, and will not until I see 3rd party testing on an actual production model. Assuming it does test true, Sawstop is still better, for how many cuts do you Have to make with the guard off?

  16. Garth February 4, 2011

    The applications that come to mind for this technology are first the schools with there very limited budgets. They can upgrade existing equipment AND get a safety training tool, teaching situational awareness. You may be more aware of the blade because you have to pay for its replacement (with Sawstop) but students don’t think this way.

    The mobile woodworker is not dragging his cabinet saw to the jobsite so Sawstop is not being used in most building construction situations, which I believe is a more dangerous environment than the controlled conditions of the cabinet shop.

    This situation reminds me of Beta vs VHS; Sawstop started the technology, someone else will bring it to the masses. Beta was used in the high end professional video field but the consumers all own VHS.

  17. I saw this technology posted on another forum. There are some definite drawbacks to this design as to compared to the saw stop design. First, it only works well on direct drive table saws. While it does work on belt driven saws, it takes a full second to stop the spinning blade. A lot can happen in that second. Also, this is a good reminder that the saw stop technology is not perfect and it is still possible to get serious injury, such as falling into the spinning blade.

    I have also seen where users of saw stops who have once used safe table saw practices do stuff that many would be consider unsafe such as not using push sticks for narrow cuts.

  18. This is reminding me Micro-Channel Architecture. IBM developed Micro-Channel for PC’s. Remember They wanted everyone to pay heavy licensing fee for use. It was superior to ISA channel, but no one would pay for it. Instead, PCI channel technology was invented by Intel and released it to public domain and MCA disappeared into almost forgotten history.

    Those who forget our past are doomed to repeat it

    • BarryO February 7, 2011


      You forgot the finish of the Microchannel Architecture story. Yea, the PC industry went with PCI. But that was no skin off IBM’s nose, since they held most of the fundamental patents on computer bus technologies, no matter how it was implemented. IBM just set back, let the rest of the industry adopt PCI, and then they went around the industry collecting many million$ in licensing fees on those using those IBM patents in their PCI products.

      So the same here. Those Whirlwind videos have been out for over a year. Has anyone implemented the system? Nope. Wonder why? Well for one, go read the Gass patents. Some claims are broad enough that there’s a good chance that the Whirlwind scheme infringes on them. As it stands now, I doubt this will ever see the light of day. Maybe that would change someday, if the Gass patents actually were written into an industry (ANSI) standard or government regulation, which would require him to license them to all interested parties at a reasonable rate. But until that happens, he can do with them whatever he wants, including keeping them for himself. Given the indications that the power tool manufacturers seemed to have conspired amongst themselves to rebuff Gass as a group (i.e., Big TIme antitrust violation), I wish him well.

      In any case, I think more and more, the “outside world” of ordinary, non-woodworker, people sitting on juries will drive change, rather than gov’t regs.. While we can sit here in our little insular environment and talk about “personal responsibility” and “how else are you going to learn if you don’t lose a body part when you make a mistake”, the Average Joe and Jane are gonna reaction “what!? table saws amputate 3000 fingers every year, and there’s this gizmo that could reduce that to zero, but manufacturers couldn’t be bothered with it?. Can you say ‘Ford Pinto’?”. One way or another, change is coming.

  19. Tadd February 4, 2011

    As a patent attorney, I like to see the system work as it is intended. By explaining his invention to the world, Stephen Gass allowed others to continue innovating and better the safety features of our woodworking equipment. I think the competition was an eventuality regardless of the law suits, but the lawsuits may be some additional motivation for the equipment manufacturers. My hope is that in 10 years it will be near impossilbe to hurt yourself on any woodworking tool — that will make this hobby even that more enjoyable.

  20. MikeD February 4, 2011

    How will they ever protect us from chisels?

  21. Terry Anderson February 4, 2011

    What I need is a chisel-stop.

  22. As I once commented on another forum:

    >Still, there is one thing in the debate about the cost of licensing
    >SawStop’s patents that’s been bothering me ever since I looked it up.
    >US Patent #3785230, filed Nov 8, 1972. With such well-described prior
    >art, the scope of SawStop’s patent is heavily restricted, and any
    >company that wanted to make a similar system could invent their own
    >system and market it without paying SawStop a dime.

    To be a bit more specific, SawStop’s key innovations are the use of an aluminum honeycomb for the blade stop mechanism, and the use of the blade’s own inertia to retract it below table level. Their capacitive sensor is an industry standard, pretty much the same technology as used in the iPod or in a Synaptics touchpad, and the idea of using it to stop a blade, potentially by shoving a stop block into that blade, was quite well described in that (expired) patent that I linked.

    It’s possible, for example, for a system to be devised that directly retracts the blade mechanism, perhaps using springs or compressed gas, upon blade contact detection, while simply disconnecting the power and letting it spin down at normal speed. Completely non-destructive to the blade, and the acceleration required to match SawStop’s safety is achievable.

  23. Markf February 4, 2011

    I recently bought my first table saw and it is a Sawstop. Bought it mostly it’s safety feature but the reviews I read said it was a very good table saw. I could afford the technology at the time but how many people are there that can’t and so take the risk? Much like the governments intervention on airbags in cars, (does anyone remember what airbags used to cost as an option on those car manufacturers that offered it?) If it becomes mandatory, manufacturers will find other flesh saving technology and the prices will go down from what Sawstop gets away with charging today. Although I’m sure the availability of low priced table saws will also diminish. My biggest question is where will it stop? Table saws, band saws, routers, chain saws? The list is endless…

  24. The problem with this sort of discussion is that there are two agendas involved here. The first is the one that has been alluded to by some of the comments so far — that government mandates have no business in our shops. And if that is the issue, that’s fine. We all have our own feelings about that.

    But if the issue is whether a tablesaw without SawStop technology if the operator is aware of his responsibility is just as safe compared to a SawStop tablesaw, that is just flat out wrong. This approach to safety would never fly in any field where safety is a priority. Think of airline pilots, operating rooms, or, to take an example from my day job, physicians ordering chemotherapy — they all have redundant safety mechanisms to catch all the errors that might happen, despite the fact that pilots, surgeons, and pediatric oncologists like myself are vigilant all day long. These environments are very much like the environment where a woodworker is using a tablesaw. Accidents are very infrequent, but when they happen, the results can be catastrophic.

    The model of safe practices that we use is called the “Swiss Cheese” model. The concept is that there are one or more safety measures in place to prevent an accident from happening. For a tablesaw there’s the splitter, blade guard, proper alignment of the fence, and, yes, “responsibility”. But what is inherent in each one of these safety measure is that there are holes in each one of them. The splitter might be not thick enough for the circumstance, the blade guard might be removed, the fence might slip out of alignment, and the woodworker becomes distracted for just a second. Many times the holes in one layer will be blocked by one of the other layers. But if the holes all line up, an accident occurs.

    In none of the fields I mentioned above do we solely rely on “individual responsibility” to provide the desired margin of safety, simply because it doesn’t work. There are holes in that layer of cheese, regardless of how vigilant we all are. That’s why there are backup plans. The SawStop mechanism provides your plan B if for some reason, a slip occurs despite the fact that you were being as responsible as you could. Those slips can and will happen, and the damage can be very great if and when it does.

    So if you don’t want to have a SawStop in your shop because of your feelings of government intervention, that’s fine. But one cannot say that “responsibility” alone will provide the same safety margin that a SawStop provides. Again, that attitude is flat out wrong. Otherwise, pilots would not have their checklists, surgeons would not do an instrument count after an operations, and no one would bother to recheck my chemotherapy orders for my patients.

    • Wilbur, your comment made me smile. In my very early days, I worked in a QC capacity. Wish I had taken out a patent on the “it’s ok now, we learned our lesson” dismissive approach. RED FLAG number 1. I didn’t have “your” developed vocabulary, but made my cases as strong as I could. Seems not too many of our fellows here took your perspective to heart. Mostly sharing their previously held stance. Yes, training and individual responsibility come first. But…

      I sure didn’t like the smell of the infamous lawsuit and SS’s involvement. Have to say that when it comes to workplace safety, the profit motive has historically overridden safety without some very strong outside intervention, be it union or government or populist revolt.

      Hopefully, if we do get government intervention, it will be crafted to allow for innovation rather than restricting it.

      Great to see so many people respond, and to do it in primarily healthy manner. Good job of Marc to remind folks to refrain from general harangues of politics and religion.

  25. AaronC February 4, 2011

    It would be great if every saw out there had some type of safety stop on it. But lets let manufacturers decide to do that on their own because its best for their business, not because big brother told them too.

    • herb fellows February 9, 2011

      While I understand the sentiment, you would not have abs, seatbelts, airbags (need I go on?) if they were not government mandated.
      Virtually every manufacturer was dragged, kicking and screaming, to institute these safety measures.
      There has to be a line drawn between government protecting people and interfering.
      I would draw that line at proven safety techniques.

  26. TomB February 4, 2011

    SawStop killer? not likely, we still haven’t seen a better mousetrap yet. The proximity sensor is a nice idea, but can’t touch SS overall design. people won’t tolerate a higher rate of false positives, destructive or not. it’s also had to compete with a perfect save record.

    I think the solution Gass should take is to say that the tech license is off the table, and then initiate a trade-in program. give discounts to people that trade in their existing saws. Then do something the reward their initial customers. Their margins will decrease, but it’ll be made up with volume.

  27. Jerry S February 4, 2011

    Well, plenty has been said. Don’t think I can really add much to the conversation. But I will jump in with my brief opinion. First, I think the whirlwind is very interesting technology. It has potential, but a very long road ahead. Second, I don’t think SS is shooting itself in the foot. I’m sure Gass knew there whould be (and is) competition. SawStop is an excellent product. Right now they have a superior product, and can demand the price they want. (and probably banking it to handle the lean years after more competion is out there.) The price will come down once there are other choices out there…just like the rest of the comercial world. The Fein Multimaster was very highly priced…now you can get a “knock-off” for pennies in comparison. And Fein dropped their price.
    I am sure there are a bunch of prototypes employing alternate solutions to the safety issues on a table saw. Especially after the ruling in that case. I think this will be an exciting decade for the power tool industry.
    (Interesting that there is such a resurgence back to hand tools. I just bought my third handplane…not really looking at much in the power side of woodworking. Next on my list is a dovetail saw.)

  28. michael February 4, 2011

    people its as simple as this, dont be stupid and cut your finger off. lets face it it hurts and makes us woodworkers look bad. and saw accidents can be fixed by shop safty, regulary cleeaning and tuning ones saw and my favorite brains thats all i got to say

  29. Christopher S. February 4, 2011

    I’m a Wood Shop teacher and have 2 Saw Stop industrial cabinet saws in my shop. The value of these saws and its technology is tremendous. I have in the past had a Delta Unisaw that I loved but when it came to my students using it made me a nervous wreck!
    I don’t take for granted the value of proper work techniques when working with the table saw and I teach my students to have the same respect for what it can do.
    I make it a point to discuss the system and its capabilities but inform my students that I have Know Idea if it works because I have never needed to have had one trigger. (EVER!)
    My wife has even told me that I’m even no longer grinding my teeth at night. (Not kidding)
    I understand the debate about the strength of the Saw Stop patent and the Pros and Cons of the government poking their noses into the mix but I will tell you that if the system prevents one of my Young Lady’s or Gentlemen from being maimed for life I’d pay for it out of my own pocket.
    I don’t view the saw its self to be outstanding over other saws on the market but it is well built and definitely industrial quality.
    I welcome new technology and innovations and hope that the garage inventors and engineers will continue to develop safer tools so I can keep sleeping well at night.


  30. nateswoodworks February 4, 2011

    I am interested for sure. The biggest bonus or this version of skin detection is it could retrofit to older saws with little effort and I hope that is one road I hope they take. That being said I am one who never uses the blade guard but I do Hve two kids that will one day be old enought to learn how to use the TS, I will obviously teach them the safety rules and I never want to raise dumb kids who depend on gimics to keep them safe but I also will want to protect them from a mishap and that is where this comes in.

  31. medfloat February 4, 2011

    Table saw safety starts and ends with the user. That user must be able decide if the additional safety features (i.e. SawStop) are necessary and/or affordable. To say the technology is useless is stubborn and nieve. It works, I have witnessed it in a school and was impressed. Do I have it? No because I cannot afford it. Do I want it? Yes but I cannot afford it. Having said that, I do not believe the Government should dictate the industry safety standards of flesh detecting technology. The industry took care of that itself and will compete for newer, better and more cost effective products. Will SawStop shoot itself in the foot? Only if they rely in their product as is and not improve upon it. If this Whirlwind technology can be made to work without the guard and with a dado stack then SawStop would be forced to make improvements to survive.

    Nothing is safer than a well educated, patient, alert woodworker in the shop. Let’s get back to focusing on that and individual responsiblity.

  32. Kerry K February 4, 2011

    This whirlwind tech is interesting as is the SS. Whether one is better than the other is obviiously highly debateable as is whether the government should be mandating what we use or not.

    My beef has more to do with the seemingly large price premium for the current tech (SS) on the market.

    I was recently at a local shop that sells these saws as well as many others. I looked at the SS they had there as well as the second most expensive saw they had (it was a Powermatic) the price difference was huge. the SS was $3900 while the Powermatic was $2700. $1200 is a huge difference in price no matter how you wish to look at it!

    I looked at both more out of curiousity than any serious thought of buying either one as they are both leagues out of my affordable price range. I also simply don’t have room for a full blown cabinet saw. But what got me was that while both appeared extremely well built as far as fit and finish the Powermatic was still the better purchase in my mind… and here’s why.

    The PM had a larger table surface and full 90 someodd inch fence, the SS was only 50 something. The main table (no extensions) was larger in both directions by several inches on the PM also. The PM had a larger motor by a full horse as well. Seems like you get alot more for your money with the PM.

    That being said I know that some would argue that you don’t need those things, plus you get the added “peace of mind” with the flesh detection tech of the SS. That’s true… to an extent, but why does this “peace of mind” cost $1200 more and give you a less powerful and smaller saw? If they were the same in all regards except the flesh detection bit then I could understand it better. As it stood though it seems that it’s price gouging on a fairly grand scale.

    The SS ads leave a bad taste in my mouth as well. They seem geared to make you believe that if you don’t use their saw your other brand will one day sneak into your bedroom while you’re sleeping and cut you into sushi. I mean really, couldn’t they have taken a higher road than that? Compare features, power, ease of use and adjustability, etc. instead.

    Do I hate the SS saw? Not really. I believe the tech is wonderful in itself. I’m glad it exists and gives people a choice to have it or not.

    Do I dislike it’s inventor? There I would have to say yes. The man took a low road with his marketing of the saw and efforts to force it into everyone’s homes and businesses. That rubs me the wrong way and makes him seem more like one of those slimey lawyers who go after people like the idiot with the ryobi incident (I won’t call it an accident as what he did was downright stupid) to get them to sue companies just to make a buck.

    After saying all that I must add that if people buy a SS after seeing the “hot dog” videos and such thinking they will be completely safe I feel I should say that I have seen evidence to the contrary. While I was looking at these saws a gentleman had come in to get a new brake for his SS. He’d tripped it with his hand. That trip had cost him 3 stitches! Yes you read it correct.

    I talked to him a little to find out the story behind it. Basically he was making repetive cuts on the saw and his mind wandered a moment because of the boredom (sound famaliar to anyone out there?). When that happened his hand drifted over a little to far and into the path of the blade and bam! The saw did what it was supposed to but not before the blade managed to cut clear to the bone on his right hand index finger. Just goes to show that those who think the tech will keep them from all harm are decieving themselves and that it’s not an excuse to be sloppy with your safety pratices. He also said that while he was glad he had the SS, as it obviously could’ve been much worse, he thought that it would’ve only caused a small cut (i.e something you could stick a band-aid on and be done with it). That to me is a product of SS’s adverts also (use our saw and nothing can happen to you).

    I strongly believe that other forms of this tech will begin to surface in the next few years and that will be a good thing as it will not only improve upon what is available now but also give people more choices as to which one they want to use (whether or not the government forces it on us or not). That will drive down prices eventually and at that point you could at least make a buying choice based on other things such as size, power, etc. and not just whether it will keep your hands and fingers from being sliced off.

    Having said all that and sounding like I have a vendetta against SS and want to see them go out of business or something I should add that I would buy a SS myself if I had the room for a large tablesaw and could afford one. I just don’t agree with their advertising strategies and prices. The prices I can somewhat swallow at least as they do have a monoply at the moment. I sincerly hope to see that change though.

  33. Mike February 5, 2011

    I am a Saw Stop owner, and I do have some thoughts on this subject. I am a conservative person, and I generally believe that the less government intrusion the better. I think it certainly applies here, and the government probably has no business telling saw owners that the only saw they can buy will be one with these safety features.

    We are all adults, and we make decisions every day that could impact the rest of our lives. I personally picked the Saw Stop because I have a young son and I want to be able to teach him how to work with wood. I am not willing to put my son in any greater danger than necessary. Sure, I have a band saw, I have a router table, and I know quite well that I could loose a finger just as easily. I can only do what is possible, including using my Saw Stop to stay safe. Nothing is absolute, and I know that whether I am teaching my son or doing it myself, I still need to practice basic safety techniques on all my equipment.

    As a final word about Saw Stop, I am very happy with the saw itself. It is a high quality tool and the fact that it has these safety features does not make it any less precise than any other saws. I have not tripped the sensor as of yet because I am careful. I don’t treat the safety feature as a way for me to let down my guard. If nothing else, I don’t really want to find out if it will work using my finger, and I don’t want to have to go buy a new blade either!

  34. I believe it comes down to our individual feelings of how much government intervention is a good thing. Personally, I get OSHA requirements for job sites, etc. But, I have a hard time when the government starts getting into the private sector. Skin sensing technology is a must in a school environment if I’m employ workers in a production shop. But, what I do in my own private shop, should be left up to my discretion. But, again, that is my individual feelings on the matter. If the insurance industries want to charge me more for having less safety points in my shop, I get that. But, that would be more of a market transformational edict that I would be OK with. I say let the market decide. I definitely feel the market as a whole is hearing loud and clear that this technology is a good thing and, if left alone, competition will bring on more and more alternatives at competitive pricing.

  35. Peter February 5, 2011

    The Whirlwind looks very interesting.
    I would definitely pick one up if they came out with one for a Steel City 3hp Table Saw. I am curious as to the mechanism they use to stop the blade. It must be some kind of caliper system like disc brakes on a car.


  36. Theater Guy February 5, 2011

    As the technical director of a school theater, I think SS or other flesh-detecting technologies are a must. Our school can’t afford a new saw with such safety measures, which means that if I need five sheets of plywood ripped in half to build a set, I have to do it myself — I can’t use the TS as a teaching tool and the kids miss out on the opportunity to learn a crucial part of scenic construction (not to mention the extra work for me).

    Having more options for flesh-detecting safety devices would most certainly bring prices into a range that my school could manage.

  37. Alan M February 5, 2011

    hi all . from my understanding this has to be wired into the motor and act like an elictronic brake . this is done by forceing the motor to turn one way when it is turning it the other. i feel this could be bad for the life of the motor but it is better than no hand. i would consider one of these for my saw as a after market feature if it wasnt to dear.

    • Bob February 13, 2011

      First you need a reversible motor. Electric gates are normally equiped with instantly reversbile motors. Electric braking by reversing the motor is known as plug stopping. That is normally used in industrial applications on 3 phase motors. I think it would be very simple to put it to use on a table saw.

  38. Tom Collins February 5, 2011

    Competition is great. It will improve the technology and lower the price. I hope to see a system on the market that can be retrofitted to existing saws at a reasonable price. Sawstop was a great first step, but there is a lot of room for improvement. As more people enter the market I hope to see further advancements without the huge price tag.

  39. Jeremy February 6, 2011

    I think all the comments around the negative impact of having to replace parts if what ever flesh detecting technology is activated on your saw is that it will only happen if it has stopped you having an accident and more importantly stopped you have something removed that there is no replacement part for, namely a finger, hand or at the very least a bad disfiguring scar.

    Whatever technology you choose I think the cost of any re-build that may be required is a small price to pay for a keeping yourself or a member of your staff or family intact.

  40. Geir February 6, 2011

    I think these “technologies” are attacking the problem from the wrong end.
    Let me first say that I am sure the SawStop is a fine saw, no doubt about that.
    When I was a chemical health and safety professional our priorities when dealling with a potential danger was 1-substitute, 2-separate, 3-personal protective equipment. The SS-technology can be said to be on level three here. Going straight to 3 when trying to solve a safety issue is what I mean by attacking the problem from the wrong end.
    If we apply this principle to table saws the first thing you do is substitute the TS for a bandsaw as much as you can. No 2 separate means to separate the spinning blade from your fingers. A push stick or cross-cut sled is a way of 2-separating. Another say is with European saws with sliding tables.
    So a lot can be done before flesh-sensing, which at best is a very last line of defence.

  41. Ron Y February 6, 2011

    Even with the saw stop or similar technology, we still need to practice safe use of our tools. If it becomes a requirement, others will try to develope technologies to do the same thing, Thus possibly hurting saw stops business, as they would not be the only ones out there.

  42. Tyler C February 6, 2011

    I am a little confused by the fact that so many people get put off by the price of SS. You can purchase a 3hp professional Sawstop with 52″ rails for almost the same price as a Delta Unisaw with the same rails and fence. The Sawstop is a great saw, I have used one for the last 2 years and have no complaints. I know that I am just as safe with it as I am with my old Delta contractor saw. I think the sawstop mechanism is an added bonus because no matter how safe you are accidents happen. Push blocks and sticks can break or slip. People can trip over their own two feet. I am happy to see that their are others out there trying to make their own safety devices but please stop complaining that Sawstop is trying to infringe on your hobby or profession.

    • herb fellows February 9, 2011

      I don’t think people who can afford one or the other are put off by the price, but I’m guessing (purely a guess, I don’t know if figures are available or what they would say if they were) at least 60% of table saws are in the $100-$300 category, and these people cannot afford 2k for a saw.
      Just to play devil’s advocate for a moment;
      If it is only on expensive saws, then we are saying only ‘wealthy’ people deserve to be protected.
      If the government mandates it, then everybody is ‘equal’, ar least as far as how valuable their hands are considered. Where does equality end and government interference begin?

  43. Alan M February 6, 2011

    if the saw stop technology only worked when you flesh was being cut then i would have no problem replacing parts. the problem is that i have read on several forums about people cutting spalted wood and wet wood etc that have triggered the technology , destroying the blade

  44. Brad L February 7, 2011

    Product evolution is an interesting cycle. If Saw Stop was to just sit on it?s design, then yes they are going to see the beginning of the end. Just like a car manufacturer, if they never changed the designs to better the product, then we would still be driving Model Fords.

    I personally think that the innovation that Saw Stop created is a good one. However, I also believe that they are looking a other ways to stop a blade and not destroy it.

    The real question here will be how the current saw manufacturers are going to react. Let?s face it, they blew it when the inventor of saw stop approached them in the first place.

    As far as government intervention, I hope not! Knowing how they take on issues that they don?t understand, we might end up with Anti-Locking saw blades! Or better yet, they will include it in the next Health Care reform.

    Happy sawing!! I?ve truly enjoyed reading this thread.

  45. Dave February 7, 2011

    When will the government realize that they can’t protect every individual from every possible misfortune, and more importantly, that it’s not their job to do so? People must be allowed, maybe even forced, to take a certain level of personal responsibility otherwise we risk even more complacency as people learn to depend on Big Brother to do everything for them.

  46. Scott February 7, 2011

    I cut my right hand on the same saw that won the lawsuit. Did I sue, no! Why? It was user error!!! I was lucky enough to have my two fingers reattached. I was young, just starting to get into woodworking. The saw was within my meager budget at the time. I was trying to resaw a small board, the saw bound and bounced, sending my hand into the blade. It ruined a perfectly good afternoon. lol

    My mistake was not using a zero clearance insert. Which as a young woodworker I knew nothing about. I now have a collection of inserts. In my opinion using Saw Stop saws may be safer, but you may get more relaxed around the blade, thus making it dangerous. I have since upgraded ALL of my light, inexpensive tools. I now have Delta hybrid saw. You might think that after such a horrific ordeal I would have purchased a SS saw. It is not the saw that makes woodworking safer, it is the user. I have studied more, practiced and watched masters like Norm, Marc, and David. There is nothing more important than safety. But lets be realistic if you make a mistake around your tools you should get hurt. How else are you going to learn?!

    • Frank (http://deleted) February 10, 2011

      Agreed. Wholeheartedly.

    • Frank (http://deleted) February 10, 2011

      By the way, how do you like your Delta Hybrid? I have been looking at one and thinking that maybe this should be the first TS I would buy for myself. I first saw it at Woodcraft Raleigh, NC. I’m not sure if they make more than one model of that saw right now.

  47. CJ February 7, 2011

    The introduction of other flesh detecting technology is great. It only helps us the consumer. The more competition, equals lower price. But after watching the whirwind video for a few seconds i new I would never use the thing. I know when you watch these guys that do educational videos they all saw that the table saw guard is removed for teaching purposes. But my question is how many of you guys use these. In my case its now a stupidity thing. I simply feel safer without them. I get nrvous when I cant see what im doing. That is why I dont use my guard. So even though the whirwind doesnt ruin the blade when it stops it if I were going for the technology, I would still lean towards the saw stop

  48. jHop February 8, 2011

    there are good sides and bad sides to every argument. And every invention.

    The good side of both ideas is that you still keep your fingers. While most of us are careful, and do not always need reminding about fingers and thumbs (Thanks, Matt), there are going to be moments when something happens that you need that protection. That’s why they are called ‘accidents.’

    The bad side: we become so dependent on other technology to do our thinking and safety for us, we become little more than automatons, wearing whatever color we are told to, or buying one colored product over another.

    Remember the outrage over the McDonald’s lawsuits? The end result: warning labels on pretty much everything. Like you can’t tell the cup is hot just by feeling it, but because there’s no warning not to do something not recommended, you get rewarded financially. There are now warning labels in microprint, because everybody is terrified of being sued due to a lack of common sense.

    Will this prevent flesh detection technology from blossoming? Hardly. Competition is good for everybody. One product gets ‘stale,’ and you get complacent. Not having seen the Whirlwind in action (yet), I can’t say my opinion of the technology, but improvements breed more improvements.

    I agree with the issues regarding SawStop, in the destruction of equipment to save your limbs. Namely, it’s breeding a mentality of using the cheapest approach to a happy end result. I see this attitude around a lot, in that (in my opinion) we have entered a society where it is better to be disposable than maintain a quality product. Take car parts: sixty years ago, cars were built to last for a long time, but now parts are practically engineered for a break-down time.

    This does, however, present us with an opportunity that we should consider seriously. This allows us the opportunity to upgrade individual components, instead of the whole product. We rebuild old tools, refurbishing them and using new technology to make them better. Perhaps the next level of flesh detection technology will be a retrofit, so I can plug the detection unit into my Delta contractor saw, the Delta Unisaw my Uncle used in Virginia, or the Powermatic saw my cousin uses now. Maybe it will even be as common as replacing the blade, tailoring it for the type of cut you want to make.

    Will this new product derail SawStop’s attempt to ram legislation through the government? Only time will tell. I personally think that the government will pass legislation on whatever they want, whether or not it is in the best interest of the informed user, because they think they are doing what’s best for the common majority. Having kids who are accident prone, I’m grateful that the option is there. Having kids, I don’t have the budget to just get these options when I want.

    It may be that SawStop is pushing too hard to have the legislation passed, that all the companies use flesh detection technology. I’m personally thrilled that this is an option. I might disagree that my version of a solution is not what someone else’s version of a solution is. I don’t think that every saw should be a SawStop, but I think every manufacturer should offer a model or three that have a variation of this technology. Mandating it by the government is not the best option.

    But I’m always thrilled for progress. Corporate measures, government mandates, common sense, whatever. If it makes my life better, I’m thrilled with it. Remember, though, as technology improves some things, other things need to be developed as well.

  49. Chet February 8, 2011

    Hey Marc,
    You know me, I’m a big SawStop proponent. I think the SawStop cabinet saw is the best saw out there with or without the brake feature. I think it has done great things for the industry. Delta was forced to do its first redesign on the UniSaw in over 40 years because it was getting outsold by SawStop. The WhirlWind seems to be a direct response to SawStop. My opinion it is a win/win/win for us woodworkers. I?m very happy to see additional technology come out. If SawStop needs to react to the change in the market they will, or they will get out competed by those who do, again it?s a win for us woodworkers.

    I do think Whirlwind has set itself up for failure in the way they have applied for their patent. By including the dust collection technology in the same patent application as their flesh sensing technology, I don?t think it can be granted to them. (Now I admit I?m no patent attorney) Their sensing technology may be unique. (Although, I?m not sure it is, if you see the electric safety fence on any modern punch press machine.) Their dust collection is definitely not unique.

    They claim they are using the spinning blade?s wind plus a shop vac to suck up dust. Thus the Whirlwind name. I?ve seen that exact method used several times in commercially available as well as shop designed table saw fixtures. Shopnotes had a design that claimed to do EXACTLY that very thing with a shop-made table saw dust collector close to ten years ago.

    I think that if Whirlwind wants to win their patent, they are going to have to drop the idea that their dust collection is revolutionary and just try to win the patent on a new use for electric sensing technology. Again, I could be wrong. I?m not a patent attorney. Maybe one of your viewers/readers is and can shed more light on this, but that was the first thing that went through my head when I read their patent application. Which may explain why they haven?t been granted the patent yet even though the website states that they expected the patents to be in place by now.

  50. herb fellows February 9, 2011

    Because we are not privy to the conversations that went on between Gass and the companies, nobody will ever truly know who the ‘villain’ was here. It could have easily been either side, depending on exactly what was said and done.

    Steve had better get ready for some competition though, it was inevitable that it would happen.
    Bottom line, I agree with Chet above; any competition helps woodworkers.
    If you put aside intentions and focus on results, we will all be winners here.

  51. Walnut Weasel February 9, 2011

    I am no fan of government regulations in most cases, including this one. But regardless of if the government steps in or not AND regardless of what happens to the Sawstop makers as a result, we should all be thankful that someone out there had the guts to create and push innovation. Let’s face it, all of the safety measures in the world do not prevent one day’s worth of absentmindedness. Your mind drifts for just a split second and you are left without a finger. In fact I am disheartened that no other large manufacture has not yet stepped up to the plate to make a competitive model. It would drive down the cost of the technology and make us all safer in the process.

  52. Jerry S February 9, 2011

    Just some additional thoughts about this particular case. I think the main reason this lawsuit turned out this way was because of the fact that Ryobi had signed a contract with the sawstop technology…and then allegedly didn’t follow through. So the fact that the contractor didn’t do anything “correct” while using the saw really didn’t matter to this case. It was the fact that they failed to follow through with the contract. If they had, then the saw he was using was suposed to have the flesh-sensing technology on it. I do not think this is, by any stretch, the government wanting to force manufacturers to use a specific safety device. The jury was asked to decide whether or not Ryobi followed through on their contract…they decided no. And because of that “Breach of Contract” the man was awarded some money. Just my 2 cents.

  53. Wayne Cole February 10, 2011

    The owners of SawStop better call there wyers off AND clarify their advertising and tell the prospective buyers how much it costs to replace the parts when they cut a weiner/finger

  54. Keith February 10, 2011

    I honestly don’t know why woodworkers are so crazy about not wanting braking systems on a table saw. No one complains about air bags in a car. They certainly make it more expensive and make your steering wheel bulkier as well as use up dashboard space.
    And to not like it because there is a small amount (1 or 2) folks/companies with this device. The reason being is it was very niche. I think making the saws safer. (how many complained about the addition of riving knives ?

    And a market will mean competition, and competition will breed better safer products. have one or two means you’re stuck with what you’re given. And personally if Mr. Gass makes a billion dollars from his invention, I don’t care, safer useable tools means more folks able to count to 10 on their hands.


  55. Frank (http://deleted) February 10, 2011

    In honor of Marc I’m going to try to keep the anti government stuff to a minimum. I have only been woodworking since January of 2009, and the only table saw I have ever used is Sawstop. The shop where do most of my woodworking has a two early models, a contractor saw and a cabinet saw. I realize that I don’t have much experience, but I think the saws themselves are great. I know that the company has made many improvements and upgrades, and I would like someday to use them and see how they work, but even without them I think they make a great saw. The blade brake mechanism I am glad to say I have never had the opportunity to see in action, except on the Sawstop website and on TV. They are more expensive, and it is a personal decision to buy one or not. Some places, like school wood shops or hobby shops where lots of different people are using the machinery, may decide that it is a necessary and affordable purchase for them. The particular hobby shop that I use has a simple policy in place: you use the blade brake, you replace the blade brake and the blade. In the last two years there haven’t been any incidents, but they have had a couple in the past, including one where the hobby shop manager severely injured his fingers, prompting him to purchase on of the saws in the first place. The first and last safety mechanism anyone should be worried about is themselves. Everything else is just a tool in the toolbox which may or may not work effectively. All in all, I think the government should butt out; its role should be limited. If the Sawstop guy is being underhanded in his attempts to get everyone to buy his technology then shame on him, but if the government simply ignored him then it wouldn’t matter anyway. I’m a big believer in the free market. If the people want what Sawstop offers, then the people will buy it, and everyone else will use initiative and innovation and creativity to be able to compete. Maybe somebody should be pushing for tort reform when it comes to liability lawsuits against table saw manufacturers?

    • Frank (http://deleted) February 10, 2011

      And having said all that I still think the first table saw I buy for my own home shop will be a Delta Hybrid.

  56. Tommyt654 February 10, 2011

    I really have to admire the fact someone has come up with another idea to help save us all from ourselves. The greatest threat to us all is our inability to properly use the tools we have and execute proper safety techniques. All this hulabaloo about Gass and Sawstop is just icing on the cake for a tool thats relatively unproven. He makes wildly unjust claims about his tool line yet it can and will fail eventually (its electrical and computer controlled) yet when you buy one you agree to his terms that he’s held unaccountable for its failure. Gimme a break willya. He’s headed down the path of another finished failed business and taking folks who bought this overpriced taiwanese junk with him. Where will they be in 5-10 yrs when Sawstop is no more and they cannot get parts. I’ll be standing in my door laughing at them while polishing my Unisaw:)

  57. Mike S. February 10, 2011

    I think that the Whirlwinds biggest potential is as an aftermarket retrofit. How many shop classrooms (in schools that still have shop class) would buy these as opposed to entirely new saws. Whirlwind needes to market these to insurance carriers who will motivate school districts and maybe commercial cabinet shops to use them via reduced premiums. Plus (and I’m making an assumption here) schools and commercial shops probably aren’t using tenoning jigs and cross cut sleds that much. Forget about the government regulation aspect…For any tool manufacturer to not offer the state of the art technology available for me to choose is really insulting, it’s just like in that movie “Tucker” when they said that the major car manufacturers didn’t want to offer safety features like seat belts because they would remind people that you could get into a car accident. It’s my understanding that the Saw Stop inventor tried to pitch the licensing angle to the major manufacturers and they weren’t interested, so he started making his own saws.

    I think the Saw Stop technology should be the standard moving forward. My wife and I recently watched a live demonstration at Rockler and were very impressed. My wife asked me how much the Freud blade that I used would cost to replace if I did have a mis-hap. I told her that the replacement cartridge and a new blade would probably about $120-$150, which is probably the bottom end of the cost spectrum if I didn’t go to the emergency room but rather the clinic and just got a couple of stitches. The dream injury situation isn’t even realistic because there is little chance of a table saw injury with only one or two stitches! I know of one local cabinet builder shredded his hand when he slipped and “caught himself” by reaching his hand out to a running table saw (I don’t know if he had removed a guard , had a dado set installed etc). The Saw Stop would have helped him save lots of time, pain and money whereas he might not have even bothered with the Whirlwind.

    Jus tmy thoughts…

  58. Ben February 10, 2011

    A little back-of-the-napkin here: A 10″, 40T blade spinning at 3450 RPM means that in one second 72,254 teeth will pass any given point (e.g. your finger). At normal speed in 0.125 seconds you have about 9,000 teeth passing your finger. Adjusting that down by half to account for deceleration introduced by the system, you still have 4,500 finger-slicing sawteeth whizzing by in that 0.125 seconds, plenty enough to cause serious traumatic injury.

    Based on the super-slow motion YouTube videos of SawStop technology, it appears that not even one saw tooth passes through the plane of the finger after the mechanism is tripped. I’d say based on that, this (and any other new technologies) have a very high standard to meet to even be close to competitive.

    Honestly rather than whining about the cost of SawStop I think as a country and community we should be supporting people who have recognized a big problem, devised a good solution and successfully brought it to market. It takes a huge investment of time and money to start from nothing but an idea and build a successful product line. I feel like the person who undertakes that risk should be rewarded, not the jerks who eventually figure out how to copy/steal by making trivial modifications to it and undercut the cost by shipping production overseas.

  59. The obvious advantage of the whirlwind is that it is resettable and non-destructive of the blade or an expensive brake. I like that and don’t like that sawstop is proprietary and I have to buy their saw to get the technology, so bravo for other options. I hope it becomes available.

    Having said that, if it is made available even on an aftermarket basis, then it becomes like any other safety device. You may use it or remove it.

    Those who buy it are likely to need it the least, like safe drivers buying Volvos.

  60. Bob Dennison (http://-0-) February 10, 2011

    What I am lobbying for is a Federal Edict that will totally prevent any and all
    tiny wood splinters from entering my cutaneous appendages.

    I need monetary support to hire one of those bleeding heart guys to represent me. Just email the money to me !


  61. Sternberg February 11, 2011

    Saw stop works on the same technology as those touch base lamps. I have several of those, and they do not always work, if your hands are dirty, for example.
    I would not want to bet my hands on one of those circuits working correctly everytime. I have a paper shredder that uses the same circuit, and it doesn’t work half the time. There is no “failsafe” to this. Failures will occur and they will be catostrophic.

    • Keith February 14, 2011

      Using resistance to trigger a circuit is not new and this technology while in theory is the same as a touch lamp it is a little different, the resistence level measuring is much more sensitive and detects it much easier. Why your lamp costs less than a saw stop. :) Also most saw stop saves result in a nick of the tissue, in this case dirt and grease and grime are not present after about 45 microns so the saw will see the change in the electrical field and go into action.

      Will it work 100% of the time ? No all mechanical things fail at some point, they are build by man. But to discourage the devices usefulness because it may someday/somewhere/somehow fail, is crazy. If this were true. Then I would not buy an automobile as a key component may fail and you might lose your life.

      Nothing is foolproof as fools are too ingenious.


  62. Chris February 12, 2011

    Ben, your math is wrong. If the blade is spinning at 3450 revolutions per minute, then in one minute 40 x 3450 = 138000 teeth pass by for a 40T blade. Divide by 60 to get the number that pass by in one second, or 2300 teeth. In 0.125 secs, that is 287.5 teeth. Using your estimate of adjusting by 1/2 to account for deceleration, then that is 143.75 teeth.

    But all that math is irrelevant. The real issue is this: the saw stops in about 1/8 of a second. Can a finger realistically move from the point where the Whirlwind detects it to the blade in that 1/8 second. Under normal circumstances, my guess is probably not. It might be possible if the person was swinging their hand toward the blade at high speed, but then the guard should come into play to help slow it down.

    There is something also highly appealing about a safety system that actuates BEFORE your hand is actually in harms way. And the design is such that you can periodically test that the electronics and mechanical parts are all working correctly without destroying the blade/brake or putting one’s fingers in actual harm’s way.

    The real drawback to the Whirlwind is that there are situations where use of a blade guard limits the types of cuts that one can perform. Removal of the guard then offers no protection to the woodworker.

    At least with the Sawstop, even without a blade guard, there is still some measure of protection. But that protection should not be over-estimated in such situations. It does seem like its effectiveness will depend on how your hand comes in contact the blade. If the blade guard were removed and your hand comes straight down on top at a fast rate, then your hand may remain in contact with the rapidly decelerating blade for the entire time that the blade is retracting. Perhaps not enough to cut off digits, but probably enough to give more than a nick. There is, at least, one anecdotal story above where a guy got cut down to the bone with a Sawstop, so it would appear that it is possible.

    • Keith February 14, 2011

      3-5 milliseconds of detection. Not measured tenths of a second. Also when the device triggers the blade is stopped BEFORE the arbor drops so the idea of ‘following’ the spinning blade down into the saw is very improbable.

  63. Jim February 12, 2011

    I didn’t think posting that link to Whirlwind would cause this level of reaction.

    Anyway, honestly I’m all for safety stuff but I have to wonder why SawStop didn’t just make plate that’s welded to the arbor and have the stop slam into that while the blade is dropping? Same thing with the cartridges, it’s a electomagnetic spring, is there some reason it can’t be re tensioned and put a new aluminum block on the end? I mean really. it’s an industrial design that’s been in use for at least 50 years in all kinds of manufacturing. There you go, I just designed the SawStop 2.0 and addressed the main issues (consumable cartridges and wrecked blades) :)

    I think the answer to why they didn’t is because once you sell a tablesaw, how much business do you get from that customer? Sure maybe a accessory or two but really it’s a one purchase thing. SawStop is setup so you pretty much have to keep buying stuff from them (Cartridges). Also, how many folks bought a couple of cartridges extra right off the bat? How about a dado cartridge too? That’s called value added sales right there. I’ve even read that folks have hotdog parties where they trigger the mechanism to show their friends how it works.

    All that said, It’d still be on the list of tablesaws to check out if I were buying right now. If the Whirlwind had a retrofit to a TS for $500 or so, I’d really be thinking hard about that. If there were a Grizzly Hybrid with the Whirlwind coming in at $1500 it would give the SawStop at $2200 a definite run for my money.

    If I were the Whirlwind guy, I’d try to get some accessory maker to buy the device to perfect and market it if he’s not willing or able to do so. Heck, ask Grizzly…

    Just some random neurons firing…

    • Keith February 14, 2011

      Actually the saw stop is not an electromagnetic spring, it is a heavy duty spring held in place by a high resist fuse wire, when contact is detected a surge of electricty from a capacitor burns the fusewire and the spring is release and the AL block is pushed into the blade, detection happens in milliseconds (around 3-5) not in tenths of a second. if it were in tenths of a second, you’d still be picking up your finger tip from your saw AND replacing a blade and brake. :) As for replacement, perhaps SAWStop could buy back and refurb, but with the burning of a fuse wireI would imagine the circuit is pretty much fried.


      • Jim February 14, 2011

        Funny I blow a fuse in my truck and it costs 50 cents to replace it. I still can’t see the reason why it can’t trigger by fuse and have the spring reset by a electromagnetic reset switch. This is still very old technology. Heck, it’s a mousetrap you can’t reset if you really want to think about it that way.

        And as far as mandating for the schools, see my story above on something simple and cheap like hand sanitizer. I can see some folks saying, must be a cheap school district, nope upper middle of the bunch here in NJ. Most of the high end school districts phased out woodshop, metalshop and automotive classes a long time ago so pretty much the districts that could afford SawStops don’t need them.

        As far as it being government money, come pay some property taxes in NJ and tell me that again. The schools here are primarily funded by property taxes (highest in the nation). Even when the Federal government mandates something, only sometimes do they pay for part of the initial outlay but upkeep and maintenance is all on the municipalities so the difficulty remains.

        And for the record, I am not down on SawStop. They make a nice saw regardless of the brake, however it is a first generation product and even if it always works and is a brick, I am just saying it needs to evolve for the technology to be accepted by everyone. That fact that there is this much controversy just shows that fact.

        I just pointed out a couple of ways off the top of my head to do so and I’m not a mechanical engineer and can see some potential solutions. (Free of charge if anyone from SawStop is reading this) :-)


        • keith February 15, 2011


          I hope you didn’t take my comments personal, none of my comments are meant as an attack on the OP. I am merely clearing up some misconceptions surrounding the saw stop. Having been an electrical engineer, I love the tech in this device. However the fuse in question is much different than a car fuse and the timing/amps needed to ‘blow’ the wire are much lower. fast blow _vs_ slow blow fuses. This is the first generation, I would expect to see changes in the next generation devices and hopefully some alternatives. Adoption of these devices means someone will see a market and want it and development will begin, no market, no choices.

          I live in Md and the taxes here are crazy too, but I think schools are a perfect place for this technology. If they save 1 child from growing up missing or reattached an appendage then more power to them. And I am sure there is special pricing for government/schools, there always is. The way to increase your market share is to get the word out there. what a better way for a principal or school board to make parents feel a little safer for their children. And maybe have some parent let then children attend woodshop in school. And the more that get to experience wood working the more of us there will be. :)

      • Keith February 17, 2011

        Here is a link to give you an idea how fast milliseconds are.


        Just interesting stuff.

  64. Jim February 12, 2011

    One more thing, I see a lot of folks saying SawStops should be used in schools. I agree, to a point.

    The local school system purchased several hundred infrared hand sensor type anti-bacterial hand sanitizers last year to put in all the schools. They don’t have the budget to purchase the hand sanitizer refills this year so all those nice, new several thousand dollars worth of infrared sensor hand sanitizing units are sitting in the schools empty and useless.

    Any idea what will happen when the SawStop is triggered and they don’t have budget for new cartridges and blades? Woodshop is rare enough in the schools and they have trouble getting budgets for wood and glue, how about 10 SawStop cartridges and blades a year? (We all know some kids are just going to trigger it to watch it happen so I’m being generous and saying 10) not to mention the initial outlay of the SawStop saws which is significant. If there is government mandate that they must be used in the schools, the pessimist in me says woodshop will be completely gone in all schools within a very short time.

    I’m just saying… there are things that have to be thought through.

    • Frank Kovach February 13, 2011

      I was one of those who mentioned the Sawstop being good for a school, but I wanted to make it clear that I in no way think there should be a government mandate for it. I just think that if you could afford it, it would be a good choice for that type of environment. And I would hold kids responsible for immature behavior.

  65. Alan M February 13, 2011

    that a very good idea for the saw stop mark 2.

  66. Keith February 14, 2011

    I do not work for SAW STOP, heck I don’t even own one, I have a DW746. But to stop all the guessing and supposition. Take a look at this.


    This is how it happens, wanna know how many teeth come in contact with the skin? watch and count.

    And if the government mandates a technology like saw stop of saw stops in schools then I say go for it, public schools are paid for with government money.

  67. Alex February 14, 2011

    A few musings from a part time professional:

    I use a Delta contractor saw. It?s a great saw with a horrible blade guard that I don’t like at all. However, the only time that I don’t use it when it is physically not possible to perform the operation without it. The result, no kickback, no cut fingers (nor hotdogs) and reasonable cost. Whenever I perform any operation where the guard cannot be used my first thought is whether there is another machine that I could use instead. If that’s a no go I can often modify the operation or add some auxillary guard to make the operation less hazardous.

    Regarding competition for Saw Stop just consider. Have you ever read a bad review of the saw itself? I have not. The manufacturer could have put out a saw that relies on safety benefits alone, but choose instead to manufacture a quality product with a great safety feature.

    When it comes time to replace this saw I will consider the Saw Stop or one that offers the same features.

    The next time you think to complain about the government mandating table saw safety, turn on the television and see how many woodworking shows are teaching new woodworkers how to work safely? The culture created by the “we only removed the blade for clarity” bunch have had as much with bringing us to where we are as product liability lawyers.

    Whatever happens, the primary responsibility for safety begins with the woodworker.

  68. Mike S. February 14, 2011

    As for the cost of replacement cartridges…according to the Rockler store manager that I saw give a Saw Stop demonstration, whenever a cartrdige is used, return it to the manufacturer. Apparently there is information saved in the cartridge and if it is determined that it was a flesh/skin triggered incident they will reimburse you for or replace the catridge (not the blade replacement though).

    There is a test/bypass mode to allow you to cut wet or pressure treated wood by simply turning a key in the access panel.

  69. Jed February 15, 2011

    The article and the discussions are a little misrepresentative. It should be noted that Steve Gass had no plans to build saws. He invented the Sawstop technology, and tried to license it to existing commercial manufacturers, and they weren’t interested.

    While you could say that the problem was that his cost was too high, he did offer them a solution, which he will again if a competitor comes out. At this point, I don’t think anyone knows what the licensing cost of Whirlwind will be to any of the manufacturers, so it’s speculative at best to assume that one technology would dominate over another.

    • Keith February 16, 2011


      I agree, he did first start out attempting to get presetn manufacturers to apply his device. And they didn’t want to redesign their saws. But maybe just maybe since he has everyone’s attention, manufacturers will be taking a hard look at this type of safety feature.


  70. Alan M February 16, 2011

    i would imagine the manufacturers would adopt the whirlwind technology first as it is only a bolt on and only needs to be wire in. to put in the saw stop technilogy a complete redesign of the saw would be needed

  71. Jeff M February 16, 2011

    I am a Cabinetmaking and Building Trades teacher of 19 years and would like to address some of the comments about the SawStop in schools. Starting with Jim’s comment about the budgets and replacing 10 cartridges and blades per year. To that I would simply say that instead of replacing the cartridges, they should consider replacing the instructor. We have had 3 SawStops for 7 years and have set off the break a total of 1 time…. not due to any misuse of the saw or its technology, but simply because we were cutting a piece of treated lumber and didn’t turn off the safety. Kid’s get a bad rap because of the idiots we put in charge of watching them. I don’t know of any kid that would put their hand into a spinning table saw blade hoping that the safety will work and stop the blade just for kicks….knowing all along that they might lose part of their hand and it will definitely cost them a couple hundred bucks to replace the blade and break.

    As far as the government mandates for this type of safety in the schools….most schools and instructors with any sense will not need them, they’ll see the value in spending a few thousand dollars to keep their kids safe and avoid a million dollar lawsuit. But, I do say that if the government wants to push some of the wasteful stimulus money towards the vocational programs to upgrade to this technology, I would be for it. With a mandate should come assistance for struggling school systems.
    As far as the saw goes, I have one in my home shop as well simply because it is the best saw available regardless of the safety mechanism.

    Speaking of the Whirlwind, I really don’t see the value in the system with the safety feature coming from the blade guard. We constantly have to remove the guard to do narrow rips, grooves, dados and other operations that can’t be done with the guard. My students are still safe with the guard removed. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am constantly touching our safety guard when it is on the saw. Is that possible with the Whirlwind??

    • Jim February 18, 2011

      Note I never said kids would stick their hand in the blade, I said they would trigger the mechanism. Could mean a nail in a board or hitting it with a miter gauge.

      I distinctly remember doing and seeing very stupid stuff done in wood and metal shop in high school. I doubt kids have gotten less goofy in the last 20 years. Of course our shop teacher would say we never did anything bad in our class either because it always happened when his back was turned and there were never any serious injuries (minor burns, scrapes, etc)

      If the guard is above the table, do you really need to remove it to do dados or rabbits? I have to remove mine because it’s attached to a splitter but if the guard was suspended above the blade, I don’t see a reason why I would need to remove it for those cuts. Even using a crosscut sled would be workable if you can pull the blade guard up 6 inches off the table or so and keep your hands to the right and left of the guard….

      Again, I’m not saying SawStop is a bad thing, I’m just saying there are other aspects to be thought about and as much as no one wants to say it, there is always a cost factor involved. It’s all well and good to say it’s cheaper then a hospital visit but that’s not generally how budgets are made otherwise we all would have bought european style saws a long time ago and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

      Maybe the answer for schools is to just have non-powered hand tool shops only (I’m really thinking it’s a better way to learn woodworking anyway after going the power tool route for most of my life, I’m learning much more about wood while I try to learn hand tools then I ever knew when making stuff with power tools) I’m sure someone will complain about chisel injuries or something though :)

      Lots of good stuff in this discussion. Lots of differing viewpoints and that’s good. Keeps it interesting…

  72. Jeff M February 16, 2011

    Just another quick note defending SawStop and the brake cartridge. I may have read this in another post but just wanted to reinforce that SawStop will replace your brake free of charge if you come in contact with the blade. In fact, you are urged to send in your tripped cartridge for a free replacement in the manual.
    I think if the company was planning on getting rich off of the cartridges they will be starving. They are not set off on a regular basis as some of you have stated above. As I said above…..4 saws for 6 or 7 years and one brake replaced. That’s a long stretch for 69 bucks!!

  73. Greg February 17, 2011

    I have read a few of the opinions of cabinet saw users. I must agree that safety is paramount; however, it seems strange that this individual in Massachusetts was able to not only obtain the owner of Sawstop, but to also discover the owner was an attorney.

    I had predicted that the larger organizations would respond to new technology. It is very unlikely that they will stand for a company to walk over them due to a safety discovery.
    In response to the driving safer if there were no seatbelts and airbags etc. is just a dream. Years ago vehicles without this equipment were driven in the same fashion as they are currently with the safety equipment.

    When it comes to airbags there is a discrepancy about their benefits. I have responded to many accidents where had the passanger not had their feet on the dashboard thier hiip would have not been dislodged by a 200 mile an hour airbag. The broken arms, burns and brioken noses may not have been an issue if not for the airbag.

    I got off of the topic a bit, but I feel that this is an attorney who will stop at nothing to make his fortune on the backs of those who fall for his tactics.

    In reference to the case in Massachusetts the victim was going to sue the business owner (his boss) but he did not have enough money to pay the employee (victim). So once again he went after deep pockets. The portion of this case that was so disturbing was the fact that safety equipment was removed from the saw prior to it’s use. If the SawStop preventive equipment is shut off and the operator cuts himself or herself… who is responsible? I feel there is a discrepancy here. This is another hot coffee in the lap of the customer at McDonalds.

    I predicted about 2 years ago that a competitive company would find another alternative to this technology. One that would not cause damage to the blade by allowing it to drop into the base of the saw and continue spinning. If the blade is encased and continues to spin in the base of the tool there should be no safety issue, so long as it is fast enough.

    I am also certain that those who had accidents with equipment were acting in a safe manner and did not wish to end with the negative results. I don’t think their attention was on the cost of a piece of equipment, but the safety for themselves and others around.

    I do not know the owner of Sawstop; however, I have worked with attorneys whose only wish while defending a victim, or suspect, was to obtain as much money as they could. Note: I did not say earn… I said charge.

    While in all fields there are good and bad, I am very suspicious when the CEO just happens to be at trial of a poor victim who injured himself. Especially when the benefit is to help his company sell more product. Was there really concern for the operator of the saw? I’m not certain.

    I will not comment on the law making government as you have requested we not, but I have my feelings on that subject also.

    I hope the other large companies respond soon with their own version of electronic safety. The patient owned by SawStop, I would think, cannot include all electronics.

  74. Keith February 17, 2011

    I like the good hearty diiscussion on this topic. This is the kind of thing that helps ‘get stuff done’ it shows we’re thinking about it.

    I must admit though, I am rather surprised at some of the reason folks dislike this type of tech in their equipment, and or for Mr Gass. But as with anything we all have our reasons.

  75. Rick February 17, 2011

    Microsoft disproved that “only the best survive”. What they DID prove is that if you find a way to make your product usable for the vast majority of people, you will succeed.

    Apple and Linux proved that competition can make good things better, and whoever purchases an industry’s products will decide who survives (all things being equal and management not screwing things up).

    Laws should only require that companies be honest and play fair. That means fair OPPORTUNITY – not equal OUTCOME.

    May the chips fall where they may and may we benefit by having the best products to choose from. But most of all, may we all USE OUR HEADS. I’ve cut my finger on a sharp chisel, too. So it’s not just power tools.

    • Keith February 17, 2011


      I agree, competition is a good thing, but before competition there needs to be acceptance. And I completely agree that using our heads is the best method and practicing good safety should be paramount to even the best safety features. However, for those ‘moments’ when we make a bad choice or ‘it’s a simple cut’ even though I’m tired. it will be nice to have backup. We are only human after all.

      I mostly need a splinter stop. LOL.

      • Rick February 17, 2011

        I doubt any of us would debate the backup. My take was purely on the nature of a “SawStop Killer?” title. Again, I doubt few would debate that competition is good.

        Guess my bottom line is that just because SawStop was first, doesn’t mean it will be best.

        I saw several references to seat belts, and the like, as safety gear. I didn’t use safety belts until my friend said, “Don’t you love your family enough to help ensure you get home to them every night? Do you think it’s fair to leave them without you because you think a seat belt is uncomfortable?” I’ve rarely been in a car without using them since. He wasn’t even talking about me – he was telling me a story about someone else!

        But had I been driving a car that didn’t have seat belts, I doubt I would have just bought a new car I couldn’t afford to get them.

        Competition improves functionality and brings down cost. Until we can all afford one, I only hope we all keep our wits.

        If you find a splinter stop – let me know. Unless, of course, it’s a plastic bubble around all wood. We’d have to start this debate all over again ! ;-)

    • Frank (http://deleted) February 23, 2011

      Well said.

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