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You can never go wrong with workshop safety. When you’re working with heavy-duty machinery and sharp objects, it’s always best to think of your wellbeing.
SawStop is a table saw manufacturer that cares about the safety of people. It has been making table saws safe since 2000. Hidden inside these seemingly common-looking table saws is an automatic brake system that activates whenever your skin comes into contact with the blade. Thanks to the current which passes through the blade, any contact with a conductive surface (i.e. your skin) triggers an aluminum brake to halt the blade and stop the motor.
But just how safe is a SawStop table saw? To find it out, woodworker and inventor Jonathan Katz-Moses takes a bunch of Nathan’s hotdogs and drives them through a SawStop. With the aid of some high definition, slow motion cameras, we can see just how a SawStop works and if it really is as safe as they say it is.
For this experiment, Jonathan does nine SawStop activations: six with a 10-inch blade and three with an eight-inch dado blade (which, as he mentions, is illegal in the UK since you need to remove the guard and riving knife in order to use them). He also uses a 5-horsepower table saw, which is one of the more powerful saws SawStop has.
Start With The 10-inch Blade
Before he can get to the illegal blade, Jonathan wants to first test out the 10-inch blade. By propping a hotdog on a piece of wood and carefully passing it through the table saw, you can see how the SawStop tech works.
As soon as the hotdog interrupts the 3-volt current passing through the blade, the computer within sends electricity through a fuse wire which activates the roughly 2-pound aluminum brake inside the table saw. At the same time, the motor powering the sawmill stops and the blade is retracted into the table saw to prevent further injury. Take note that all this happens in a fraction of a second, and without the slow-motion camera, you wouldn’t be able to see any of this at all.
So How’s The Damage?
But seeing the SawStop in action isn’t all we’re here for. What we want to see is if the hotdog suffered any damage.
Apart from a small nick where the blade made contact, the hotdog doesn’t seem any worse for wear. You might get a small cut if this was your finger instead of a ballpark snack, but you’ll live to point at things another day.
But What If You’re Moving At A Faster Pace?
Not content with the results, Jonathan wants to see what would happen if he would push a hotdog at full force towards the saw blade.
The blade cuts deep this time, cutting off a good 1/8th of an inch. While Jonathan mentions that he was giving the push all he had, this would still be a painful experience if it was your finger that was cut. Sure you might recover after a few stitches, but you could still suffer permanent nerve damage from such a cut.
Now For The Illegal Blade
Happy that he has managed to slice some hotdogs with the 10-inch blade, Jonathan can now move to the eight-inch dado blade. For this particular experiment, he uses a bigger aluminum brake to compensate for the more powerful blade. He props a hotdog against a piece of wood, runs it towards the sawblade and…
Wow! The larger brake was so powerful it even broke parts of the dado blade it didn’t come into contact with. This is due to the g-forces the brake had to immediately grind to a halt. You definitely won’t be working with this blade once the aluminum brake is done with it, but you’ll be happy you still have working fingers on your hand.
It’s a shame the dado blade broke, as Jonathan wasn’t able to do a second test in which he rams a hotdog at the blade at full force. Still, it’s nice to know the SawStop safety features work! Just make sure you aren’t running full speed around the workshop when your table saw is turned on.