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Old 09-03-2006, 06:02 PM
Dewey Cheatem Undhow is offline
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Sawstop and Government Safety Regulation


I present for your consideration: the Sawstop. Watch the hot dog video on that site, and be impressed by the power of clever engineering.

The SawStop, for those of you too lazy to follow the link, is a table saw. Specifically, it is a table saw that is designed to save fingers: it runs a slight voltage through the spinning blade; if flesh makes contact, the saw senses the voltage drop caused by the body's capacitance and in the blink of an eye -- faster than a car's airbag -- shuts off the power to the saw and slams a cartridge into the spinning blade to bring it to an immediate halt. The blade also immediately drops below the table's surface. The result, as you can see from the video, is an event that would otherwise lop off fingers only gives you a nick shallow enough to repair with a Band-Aid. It ruins your blade and you need a new cartridge after that ($50-100 for a blade, $69 for the cartridge), but that's cheaper than an ER visit.

I went to a live demo of this sucker a couple of weeks ago, and the video doesn't do it justice. You can almost feel the force of the cartridge slamming into the blade through the floor when you stand next to the saw. It's damned impressive.

A little history: Steven Gass, inventor of the SawStop, holds degrees in physics and law and made his living as a patent attorney. He is also an amateur woodworker. One fine day he set his mind to preventing injuries caused by table saws -- by far the most dangerous machine, statistically speaking, in most woodworking shops. And he came up with the system described above and patented it.

Mr. Gass invested time and effort in developing prototypes and then took his idea to saw manufacturers. To his chagrin, he was rebuffed. No table saw maker wanted to put the device on their saws, mostly out of liability concerns (manufacturers are insulated from liability for most injuries because the saw is "inherently dangerous" -- something that might change if the brake was adopted). Manufacturers also claim Gass wanted too high a royalty for the patent.

Mr. Gass' next step...well, let me get to that in a minute. It's where the controversy arises.

Finally, Mr. Gass decided that the only way to gain acceptance for the idea was to actually build and market a table saw, which he has -- as you can see from the link above. By all accounts, it is an excellent saw even without the saw brake, comparable to the very best table saws from Powermatic and the like. It has to be; it's very expensive. It's been out for over a year now and has garnered numerous awards and has saved many a finger in various pro woodworking shops. The point being: the saw and the saw brake each work, and work very well.

OK, so about that middle step. Gass decided to petition the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to make saw brake technology mandatory on all table saws. For this, he drew the ire of many woodworkers. Being a cantakarous and conservative lot, many of them hate the idea of letting anything but the market sort out whether the technology should be installed. Many say they won't buy the saw on principle, even though they recognize its quality as a saw and the effectiveness of the safety device.

About two months ago, the CPSC agreed to start a rulemaking process on saw brake technology (the linked article, BTW, contains a more detailed history of this saga, and I recommend reading it).

So I'm curious to get this forum's take on the issue. Some of the arguments against making the brake mandatory:

1. It picks a technology winner, and government shouldn't do that because it's bad at it.

2. It effectively mandates payments to a monopoly, since Gass owns the patent.

3. Sawmakers will eventually have to include this technology or something like it anyway, because the existence of the SawStop on the market opens other sawmakers up to lawsuits for failing to include the safety device on their saws. Thus, regulation isn't necessary.

4. "Woodworking is safe if you are careful, and I shouldn't have to subsidize the careless." Essentially, the personal responsibility argument.

5. Government sucks, the free market rules. (The Ayn Rand argument.)

The argument for: there are a metric shitload of fingers that might be saved.

I suggest taking a look at the CPSC briefing package on saw brakes, as it provides some very interesting information. Note that any rulemaking, if undertaken, will not specifically mandate Gass' patented method, but will instead be performance-based -- it would require any method of reducing injury when the sawblade contacts flesh, rather than the Gass technique in particular.

Anyway, I find the whole thing just endlessly fascinating, and am curious as to what the SDMB brain trust will say on the matter. So have at it, folks.
  #2  
Old 09-03-2006, 10:47 PM
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[watches "Why Sawstop?" video]
[privately resolves never, ever to take up woodworking as a hobby]

Anyway...

I don't really have a dog in this fight, but I was curious as to just how many lopped-off fingers per year we're talking about saving here (how many IS a "metric shitload"? ), so I found this, which quotes the CPSC as estimating (in March 2004) that there are 30,000 table saw hand and finger injuries a year requiring hospital visits, and that 3,000 of those injuries require amputation of one or more fingers. So we're talking about implementing mandatory design features in order to save 3,000 fingers a year. Discuss.
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Old 09-03-2006, 10:58 PM
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Works for me. I have a tablesaw that terrifies me but I know that familiarity breeds casual use and it is only because I rarely use it that I'm still scared of it.
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Old 09-03-2006, 11:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Cheatem Undhow
I present for your consideration: the Sawstop. Watch the hot dog video on that site, and be impressed by the power of clever engineering.
I'm very impressed by both the hot dog demo video and the "why sawstop" video.

{lop}

Quote:
It ruins your blade and you need a new cartridge after that ($50-100 for a blade, $69 for the cartridge), but that's cheaper than an ER visit.
Not to mention that you get to keep all your fingers.

{lop}

Quote:
Mr. Gass invested time and effort in developing prototypes and then took his idea to saw manufacturers. To his chagrin, he was rebuffed. No table saw maker wanted to put the device on their saws, mostly out of liability concerns (manufacturers are insulated from liability for most injuries because the saw is "inherently dangerous" -- something that might change if the brake was adopted). Manufacturers also claim Gass wanted too high a royalty for the patent.
I don't know how the manufacturers could determine. I imagine, though, it's probably a pretty mundane thing involving expected income based on sales compared to how much they'd have to pay in royalties. Perhaps the amount he wants is too high to be supported by market.

{lop}

Quote:
OK, so about that middle step. Gass decided to petition the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to make saw brake technology mandatory on all table saws. For this, he drew the ire of many woodworkers. Being a cantakarous and conservative lot, many of them hate the idea of letting anything but the market sort out whether the technology should be installed. Many say they won't buy the saw on principle, even though they recognize its quality as a saw and the effectiveness of the safety device.
My guess is that the "cantankerous and conservative lot" are really neither. More likely, IMHO, is that an industry-wide change would probably cost a pretty penny.

{lop}

Quote:
So I'm curious to get this forum's take on the issue. Some of the arguments against making the brake mandatory:

1. It picks a technology winner, and government shouldn't do that because it's bad at it.
I think that's just a truism and voicing it does more damage than help to the argument.

Quote:
2. It effectively mandates payments to a monopoly, since Gass owns the patent.
I've heard before that not all monopolies are bad or even illegal. Perhaps this would be a good indicator of that.

Quote:
3. Sawmakers will eventually have to include this technology or something like it anyway, because the existence of the SawStop on the market opens other sawmakers up to lawsuits for failing to include the safety device on their saws. Thus, regulation isn't necessary.

4. "Woodworking is safe if you are careful, and I shouldn't have to subsidize the careless." Essentially, the personal responsibility argument.
I think we can find a fair number of examples that government safety regulations are required to ensure plenty of industries actually do stuff in a safe manner.

Quote:
5. Government sucks, the free market rules. (The Ayn Rand argument.)
See comment to 1.

Quote:
The argument for: there are a metric shitload of fingers that might be saved.
After seeing the dude with just two fingers on one hand in that video, I think this is by far the more persuasive argument!
  #5  
Old 09-03-2006, 11:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Duck Duck Goose
[watches "Why Sawstop?" video]
[privately resolves never, ever to take up woodworking as a hobby]
I'm with you on that one! Actually, I resolved that quite long ago because I'm very fearful of the consequenses of one distracted moment.

Quote:
{lop} which quotes the CPSC as estimating (in March 2004) that there are 30,000 table saw hand and finger injuries a year requiring hospital visits, and that 3,000 of those injuries require amputation of one or more fingers. So we're talking about implementing mandatory design features in order to save 3,000 fingers a year. Discuss.
I think we're tlaking more than 3,000 saved fingers a year, but I could be wrong. You said those visits require that number of amputations, but how many of those visits involve digits already amputated?

p.s. Yes, I do have a warped sense of humor sometimes, thus the use of {lop} instead of {snip} here.
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Old 09-03-2006, 11:29 PM
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I think what hasn't been mentioned is that it's not 100% reliable; for instance, you can't cut wood that's too moist because it will trip the sensor. A professional shop can't have their blades wrecked and work stopped every few hours or days. If it worked perfectly I think more people would support the idea.
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Old 09-03-2006, 11:30 PM
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American and European table saws are much different. In Europe you must have a blade guard and it is impossible to use a table saw for dadoes. I'd like to see table saws redesigned with things like sliding tables standard. If we had that, we might not need something like blade stop.

I still have all my fingers, but I did have a 1" boad kick back and give me a huge bruise in the groin. An inch or so lower and it would have been really bad.
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Old 09-04-2006, 12:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by riker1384
I think what hasn't been mentioned is that it's not 100% reliable; for instance, you can't cut wood that's too moist because it will trip the sensor. A professional shop can't have their blades wrecked and work stopped every few hours or days. If it worked perfectly I think more people would support the idea.
Couldn't this be countered by having a sensor built into the tabletop in front of the blade that the wood would touch before it reaches the blade, connected to a visible or audible alarm (but not the cartridge) to let you know that the wood is too wet to proceed?
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Old 09-04-2006, 01:08 AM
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I noticed that there is an off switch to disconnect the safety feature if one is cutting "conductive material," which would presumably include wood with a relatively high moisture content.

Moisture meters for measuring moisture content of wood are commonly available, and I'd expect most wood shops would have them. They'd just have to know what the threshold would be to trip the sawstop mechanism.

I'm not sure about the legal ramifications, i.e. regarding government mandates, etc., but I will say this: if I was the owner of any kind of business with a table saw in regular use, after seeing the video, I'd get a Sawstop(s) and sell or scrap the old saw(s) I had.

My dad did a fair amount of woodworking, and had two table saws at one point. He went to the hospital a couple of times after getting his fingers caught in the blade, on one occasion freaking the whole family out (he did it when no one was around, and we found the saw covered with blood and he was no where to be found. Turns out he drove 15 miles to the hospital in our home town, rather than three miles to the hospital near our cottage, where he was working on a project).
We would have made him get one of these things after the first incident if they had been available at the time.

Heck, I have a table saw in my basement now, and the only reason I'm not going to replace it with a Sawstop is that I only use it rarely, and when I do, I am extremely careful about it.
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Old 09-04-2006, 01:49 AM
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Goddamn. I need to show this to my mom. I think I know what we're getting my dad for Christmas.

Wether he wants it or not.
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Old 09-04-2006, 02:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by riker1384
I think what hasn't been mentioned is that it's not 100% reliable; for instance, you can't cut wood that's too moist because it will trip the sensor. A professional shop can't have their blades wrecked and work stopped every few hours or days. If it worked perfectly I think more people would support the idea.
The human body is 50-65% water. Very few shops will be dealing with wood which is anywhere near this green. About the only places I can think of which would be are sawmills, and they don't use 10" table saws.

As for me, I'm going to point out the existance of this device to the local theatre groups and use my voice on the community steering committee, which handles the arts center budget, to recommend we replace our current table saw with a Sawstop. We've recently paid off the arts center complex and we have more than enough in the budget to buy this saw, which is mostly used by amateur community volunteers.

Enjoy,
Steven
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Old 09-04-2006, 10:35 AM
Dewey Cheatem Undhow is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by riker1384
I think what hasn't been mentioned is that it's not 100% reliable; for instance, you can't cut wood that's too moist because it will trip the sensor. A professional shop can't have their blades wrecked and work stopped every few hours or days. If it worked perfectly I think more people would support the idea.
The Sawstop people have addressed this. Their saw has a one-time override (ie, the safety feature re-engages when you re-power the saw after an override). Cut your wet wood, and an LED sensor tells you if the brake mechanism would have fired. If it says it wouldn't, continue cutting with the safety engaged. If it says it would, you'll have to do the override for each cut.

However, this is a minimal concern. The brake won't engage unless it hits wood with (IIRC) over 20% moisture content, which is a helluva lot wetter than what woodworkers typically work with.

Also, I'd think your typical pro shop would keep a couple of spare blades and cartridges around.
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Old 09-04-2006, 10:40 AM
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I think it is a great device. When I purchase my next table saw I'm unlikely to consider that saw. It is too expensive. Proper safety procedures are much cheaper.

In the woodworking community people are very upset this guy is trying to force the technology in. He is trying to maximize the amount of money he can get from his invention. I don't totally fault him for that. I feel if he tried to be more reasonable in price(to the other saw manufaturers) and marketing, the product would be doing much better then it is now.

I don't know much about the processes he can use to force this device onto manufacturers. From what I've heard it will take many years and would not be forced on users accross the board. Woodworking business can avoid such a requirement
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Old 09-04-2006, 10:46 AM
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Originally Posted by boytyperanma
... the product would be doing much better then it is now.
Just to clarify, it's apparently doing pretty well on its own.

Sawstop is a private company and thus we can't independently verify their sales figures, but the demo lady said they were actually having a trouble keeping up with unexpectedly large demand. I know, biased source, but it's the only source that has reliable information on their sales.
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Old 09-04-2006, 11:31 AM
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The most perverse thing in this whole story (I've read about it before) is that table saw manufacturers would increase their exposure to liability by making safer saws. That's just fucking ridiculous. It's obviously creating a horrible incentive structure. The stupid thing is that even with Sawstop technology, a table saw is still a dangerous machine. Kickback on the wrong piece of wood can damn near take off your head, and certainly can put out your eye. Only a complete idiot would use a Sawstop table saw without the same level of care as a regular saw (especially given that tripping the safety costs a bunch of money - while not as bad as losing a finger, it's still something you'd prefer to avoid).

So, no comment on government safety regulation, but I think that liability law has clearly been shown by this case to be poorly structured.
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Old 09-04-2006, 12:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gorsnak
The most perverse thing in this whole story (I've read about it before) is that table saw manufacturers would increase their exposure to liability by making safer saws. That's just fucking ridiculous. It's obviously creating a horrible incentive structure. The stupid thing is that even with Sawstop technology, a table saw is still a dangerous machine. Kickback on the wrong piece of wood can damn near take off your head, and certainly can put out your eye. Only a complete idiot would use a Sawstop table saw without the same level of care as a regular saw (especially given that tripping the safety costs a bunch of money - while not as bad as losing a finger, it's still something you'd prefer to avoid).

So, no comment on government safety regulation, but I think that liability law has clearly been shown by this case to be poorly structured.
Hear, hear.

I wish I could be sure there wouldn't be a lawsuit against the Sawstop company from someone who used the saw to trim his hedges or something, and then sued because the warranty said it was 100% safe no matter what.

Regards,
Shodan

PS - As to the OP, I am mostly in the #5 camp - if the technology is succeeding on its own, no government action is required. Unless a law is necessary so that current saw manufacturers don't get socked for not putting this device on all their saws.
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Old 09-04-2006, 12:26 PM
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A small clarification: Was Gass originally seeking a regulation mandating that HIS DEVICE be used on all table saws built after date x, or merely a regulation requiring that all table saws built after date x have some sort of safety device, which might or might not be his, as others might well develop other, possibly cheaper, possibly better systems to achieve the same effect?

One bothers me, the other doesn't.
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Old 09-04-2006, 12:46 PM
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Hmm, if that loud SSSH-BWAK! of the safety startles another worker at the planer into jamming his hand into the blade, could a lawsuit ensue?


Just kidding - that saw is fuckin' cool.
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Old 09-04-2006, 12:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lemur Catta
A small clarification: Was Gass originally seeking a regulation mandating that HIS DEVICE be used on all table saws built after date x, or merely a regulation requiring that all table saws built after date x have some sort of safety device, which might or might not be his, as others might well develop other, possibly cheaper, possibly better systems to achieve the same effect?
The latter, out of necessity, IIRC. Not because he wouldn't like to have his device mandated specifically, but rather because the CPSC only sets out performance-based standards.
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Old 09-04-2006, 12:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lemur Catta
A small clarification: Was Gass originally seeking a regulation mandating that HIS DEVICE be used on all table saws built after date x, or merely a regulation requiring that all table saws built after date x have some sort of safety device, which might or might not be his, as others might well develop other, possibly cheaper, possibly better systems to achieve the same effect?

One bothers me, the other doesn't.
He has been pretty clear he wants his invention to be mandated. He has taken out many patents to prevent companies from making a similar device.

Companies like Delta and Powermatic do have the money to develope such devices and could bankrole lawsuits to force their inventions in. They have never seen reason to do so. A table saw has potential to be dangerous as do many other tools in a shop. When used properly it is one of the safest.

The fact of the matter is table saw injuries are hardly a epidemic. I think more people are injured using lawn mowers each year.

I really hate government mandating to me how to safely live my life.
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Old 09-04-2006, 01:16 PM
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Originally Posted by boytyperanma
He has been pretty clear he wants his invention to be mandated. He has taken out many patents to prevent companies from making a similar device.
He has taken out patents on his particular invention. Others are free to invent alternative methods of minimizing flesh-blade contact injuries.

Quote:
Originally Posted by boytyperanma
Companies like Delta and Powermatic do have the money to develope such devices and could bankrole lawsuits to force their inventions in. They have never seen reason to do so.
Not sure how a "lawsuit" by one manufacturer against another could force such a safety invention in.

However, what's galling is precisely the fact that companies like Delta and Powermatic have apparently not made any efforts to add such a safety feature to their products, pretty much solely because it might make saws less "inherently dangerous" and thus might open them up to liability for injuries from table saw accidents.

Quote:
Originally Posted by boytyperanma
A table saw has potential to be dangerous as do many other tools in a shop. When used properly it is one of the safest.
Statistically speaking, it is the most dangerous machine in the shop. And somehow, I doubt all or even most of those injuries resulted from improper use.

Quote:
Originally Posted by boytyperanma
The fact of the matter is table saw injuries are hardly a epidemic. I think more people are injured using lawn mowers each year.
More people use lawnmowers than use table saws, so this would be unsurprising.

What number of injuries are necessary before you think regulation is appropriate?
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Old 09-04-2006, 01:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Cheatem Undhow
However, what's galling is precisely the fact that companies like Delta and Powermatic have apparently not made any efforts to add such a safety feature to their products, pretty much solely because it might make saws less "inherently dangerous" and thus might open them up to liability for injuries from table saw accidents.
Isn't this more the fault of the law than it is of Delta and Powermatic?
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Old 09-04-2006, 01:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Gorsnak
Isn't this more the fault of the law than it is of Delta and Powermatic?
Yes and no, actually.

You need an "inherently dangerous" carveout in the world of products liability because some things simply are inherently dangerous and cannot be made less so. The canonical example is a chef's knife -- it kind of is what it is, and it doesn't make much sense to impose liability on knife makers for every nicked digit in the kitchen.

A problem arises in just this kind of situation, though. What happens when a product previously thought to be inherently dangerous suddenly proves to not be due to advancing technology?

Having said that, even barring CPSC action, the mere existence of the Sawstop on the market is likely to whittle away at that previously-held notion. Inherent dangerousness and much products of liability law is the product of common law, not statute, and its application to a particular product can change with the addition of new facts via product liability lawsuits.

It is entirely plausible that, in the near future, a person injured on a Powermatic saw could sue Powermatic and point to the existence of the Sawstop as proof that table saws are not inherently dangerous and that thus manfuacturers should be held liable for blade-flesh table saw injuries.

I think the manufacturers gambled that Gass was only interested in being an inventor, rather than running a manfacturing operation, and that he would never bring his product to market on his own. They guessed wrong.
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Old 09-04-2006, 02:30 PM
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Well, I don't know the first thing about liability law, but I would think that even "inherently dangerous" devices can be subject to liability. Suppose a table saw ships with a defective blade retention mechanism and the blade flies out and embeds itself in someone's skull. Surely the manufacturer would be liable in such a case. So I am assuming that the added liability manufacturers would be exposed to would be flesh/blade accidents where the brake is determined to be defective. Correct? A manufacturer wouldn't suddenly become liable for kickback accidents by installing these things, would it?

You know, the shop I worked in I don't think we had a single table saw accident. One guy damn near lost a couple fingers to a big radial arm saw. The most accident-prone device by far, though, were the nail guns. Even with safety devices on them, guys still shot themselves. I expect they're "inherently dangerous" too, though, even with the safeties.
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Old 09-04-2006, 03:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gorsnak
Well, I don't know the first thing about liability law, but I would think that even "inherently dangerous" devices can be subject to liability. Suppose a table saw ships with a defective blade retention mechanism and the blade flies out and embeds itself in someone's skull. Surely the manufacturer would be liable in such a case.
Yes, it would be liable in that case. You're describing the difference between a manufacturing defect and a design defect.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gorsnak
So I am assuming that the added liability manufacturers would be exposed to would be flesh/blade accidents where the brake is determined to be defective. Correct?
No. Even Sawstop will be liable if its brake is defective and fails to fire. That's a manufacturing defect -- a "lemon," if you will.

The argument I'm referring to is a design defect -- an argument that a reasonable safety feature should have been included in the product's design, but was not, and that safety feature would have prevented the injury in suit.

This is why, for example, lawnmowers have a trigger handle that shuts off the mower when it is released, making it (mostly) physically impossible to have the motor running while you're doing maintenance on the motor.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gorsnak
A manufacturer wouldn't suddenly become liable for kickback accidents by installing these things, would it?
No, they would only be liable for flesh/blade contact injuries.

However, the CPSC is starting to require riving knives on all US saws, effective in the next several years (the Sawstop and the Powermatic 2000 already have them). One could theoretically proceed on the same theory to recover on a kickback injury that occurred on a saw without a riving knife.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gorsnak
You know, the shop I worked in I don't think we had a single table saw accident. One guy damn near lost a couple fingers to a big radial arm saw.
As I recall, the radial arm saw is the next-most-dangerous woodshop tool, although it is dropping because the RAS is largely being replaced with compound miter saws.
  #26  
Old 09-04-2006, 03:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Dewey Cheatem Undhow
As I recall, the radial arm saw is the next-most-dangerous woodshop tool, although it is dropping because the RAS is largely being replaced with compound miter saws.
It won't be replacing the sort of saw I'm talking about - blade about 2' in diameter, can cut through a half dozen 2x4s stacked together almost without slowing down. Compound miter saws are great, but they just don't have the capacity of these things.

It looks from what you've said, though, that the other saw manufacturers are out of luck. Doesn't the mere existence of this technology make failure to include it a "design flaw"?
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Old 09-04-2006, 03:32 PM
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I've gotta think if I ran a shop that used table saws, I'd rather spring for the $170 or so to get the saw back in running order than have to train someone to take the place of the guy that loses his digits. The CPSC could mandate that a system be used on all table saws, not necessarily this system. Perhaps someone comes up with an alternative mechanism that doesn't wreck the blade. It just seems to me that if we know how to make it so that 3000 people per year won't lose fingers, and the cost of mandating the device isn't excessive, then it should be mandated. If this is "nanny government", so be it.
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Old 09-04-2006, 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Gorsnak
It looks from what you've said, though, that the other saw manufacturers are out of luck. Doesn't the mere existence of this technology make failure to include it a "design flaw"?
Quite possibly, although as with any prediction of rules derived from litigation, who knows?

That's why I think the manufacturers were banking on Gass not actually going into the manufacturing business. They lost that bet.
  #29  
Old 09-05-2006, 06:05 AM
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I think the safety feature should be mandated by the CPSC. If you want the freedom to cut off your own fingers, go for it, but I see no reason why other users should risk serious injury because the owner of the saw was too cheap to buy a modern saw. I can still remember my junior high school shop teachers and their missing fingers.
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Old 09-05-2006, 12:51 PM
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Ah, the American Dream. You build a better mousetrap and then lobby (or bribe) the government into making it mandatory for people to use it.

I'm a woodworker. I saw an article for this device several years ago. I thought, then, that if works as well as described, it would be showing up on power tools (not just table saws) soon. It hasn't.

That leads me to ask questions: Does it cost too much, or does it not work as well as advertised? From some of the previous posts, I would tend to believe it costs too much. Delta, Jet, et al are fairly quick adapters. If they thought for a minute that they could gain a market advantage, their saws would have this device.

So here we have an inventor that wants to use the capitalism to make money (nothing wrong with that), but doesn't want to play by the rules of capitalism and price his product according to what the market will bear. Instead, he wants to play on the socialist aspect of the government and get laws past that mandate his profits.

Sorry, no sympathy from me.

By the way, I've taken most of the safety devices off of my table saw because they eventually got in the way. I found that I pay more attention to my work without them. I realize this is a fallacy, but it's my saw and my fingers.
  #31  
Old 09-05-2006, 02:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Monty
I{lop}



My guess is that the "cantankerous and conservative lot" are really neither. More likely, IMHO, is that an industry-wide change would probably cost a pretty penny.

{lop}


You have no idea how freaking cantankerous woodworkers can be. There's a huge running debate (on pretty much any woodworking forum) whether to even use blade guards on table saws. Myself, I think it's idiotic to run one without a guard and a splitter but there's a large contigent that just rips off all the safety equipment and tosses it in the corner when a new saw arrives. (It's not dissimilar to the seat belt debate for cars, or helmet laws for motorcycles.)

So I think it's pretty much a doomed idea to mandate putting a sawstop on every tablesaw. Especially because then you'd probably have to mandate putting one on every router, planer, and chop saw as well. That said, it's a pretty clever idea -- too bad the guy's being somewhat of a jerk about it.
  #32  
Old 09-05-2006, 03:07 PM
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I do not plan to buy a table saw as I have a good Radial Arm Saw, Band saw, Scroll saw and a crappy Chop saw. If I were going to buy one, I would resent this inventor for trying to impose his costly addition to the price of my purchase. There are many safety issues that could be fixed by throwing money at them; this does not seem like a vital one. I am still not overjoyed with Airbags, and they save lives, so I guess fingers are not a high priority to me. I am extremely careful with my Radial Arm Saw, which I use often. Helmets and seatbelts are cheap. Cheaper than the related cost to society for caring for those, that choose not to use them. Airbags might fit this condition, I do not know. A blade wrecking brake might save 3000 fingers per year. What does it cost, $20 to $50, maybe. If it will add $170 per saw, I do not think it is worth it.

Jim
  #33  
Old 09-05-2006, 05:18 PM
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Is the SawStop technology and licensing expensive enough so that, if mandated, it would eliminate the lowest price point from the table saw market? That might be another explanation for the opposition - reduced sales due to higher prices.
  #34  
Old 09-05-2006, 05:19 PM
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[Cantankerous woodworker] I can count on one hand the number of reasons to buy this newfangled contraption. See? Zero! [/CW]
  #35  
Old 09-06-2006, 01:06 AM
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I thought, then, that if works as well as described, it would be showing up on power tools (not just table saws) soon. It hasn't.
Check the 3rd sentence of the 5th paragraph of the OP.
  #36  
Old 09-06-2006, 09:49 AM
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Is the SawStop technology and licensing expensive enough so that, if mandated, it would eliminate the lowest price point from the table saw market? That might be another explanation for the opposition - reduced sales due to higher prices.
This is an interesting point; IIRC, estimates point to the cost to the consumer of adding the brake at around $100-150. That would effectively double the cost of the el-cheapo benchtop table saws that you can buy at Home Depot. It's obviously a much smaller deal for a high-end cabinet saw that already costs $2,500 plus.

OTOH, there are reasons to doubt those estimates. Sawstop is apparently working on a contractor's saw (the middle ground between a benchtop model and a cabinet model) that they say will be very close in price to other good-quality contractor's saws. They haven't delivered a model yet -- apparently, there have been many difficulties in bringing production on-line -- but it does mean that saws may not be priced out of the market.

And there's also a time component: the longer the technology is used, the cheaper it gets to implement. It may cost a lot to implement the brake today, but it may not cost that much tomorrow. That may make a tiered approach to requiring the brake sensible.
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Old 09-06-2006, 09:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Finagle
You have no idea how freaking cantankerous woodworkers can be.
Quoted for truth!

Seriously, the Sawstop/CPSC issue regularly causes the equivelant of global thermonuclear war on woodworking message boards.
  #38  
Old 09-06-2006, 01:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Cheatem Undhow
This is an interesting point; IIRC, estimates point to the cost to the consumer of adding the brake at around $100-150. That would effectively double the cost of the el-cheapo benchtop table saws that you can buy at Home Depot. It's obviously a much smaller deal for a high-end cabinet saw that already costs $2,500 plus.

OTOH, there are reasons to doubt those estimates. Sawstop is apparently working on a contractor's saw (the middle ground between a benchtop model and a cabinet model) that they say will be very close in price to other good-quality contractor's saws. They haven't delivered a model yet -- apparently, there have been many difficulties in bringing production on-line -- but it does mean that saws may not be priced out of the market.

And there's also a time component: the longer the technology is used, the cheaper it gets to implement. It may cost a lot to implement the brake today, but it may not cost that much tomorrow. That may make a tiered approach to requiring the brake sensible.
I've been involved in some standards activity, and my sense has been that standards try to follow, not lead the market. (And also not to grant one company a de facto monopoly - an issue in the RamBus situation.) So, I can see a standards body or regulator waiting until the technology is feasible for all price points, which I agree will surely happen. I can't see how they could justify a safety standard that applies only to high-end saws. That the inventors are having trouble hitting a lower price point is more evidence that a bit of delay might be reasonable.

I'd be willing to bet that within 20 years all saws will have this.
  #39  
Old 09-06-2006, 08:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Dewey Cheatem Undhow
I present for your consideration: the Sawstop. Watch the hot dog video on that site, and be impressed by the power of clever engineering.
The SawStop, for those of you too lazy to follow the link, is a table saw. Specifically, it is a table saw that is designed to save fingers: it runs a slight voltage through the spinning blade; if flesh makes contact, the saw senses the voltage drop caused by the body's capacitance and in the blink of an eye -- faster than a car's airbag -- shuts off the power to the saw and slams a cartridge into the spinning blade to bring it to an immediate halt. The blade also immediately drops below the table's surface. The result, as you can see from the video, is an event that would otherwise lop off fingers only gives you a nick shallow enough to repair with a Band-Aid. It ruins your blade and you need a new cartridge after that ($50-100 for a blade, $69 for the cartridge), but that's cheaper than an ER visit.
I went to a live demo of this sucker a couple of weeks ago, and the video doesn't do it justice. You can almost feel the force of the cartridge slamming into the blade through the floor when you stand next to the saw. It's damned impressive.
A little history: Steven Gass, inventor of the SawStop, holds degrees in physics and law and made his living as a patent attorney. He is also an amateur woodworker. One fine day he set his mind to preventing injuries caused by table saws -- by far the most dangerous machine, statistically speaking, in most woodworking shops. And he came up with the system described above and patented it.
Mr. Gass invested time and effort in developing prototypes and then took his idea to saw manufacturers. To his chagrin, he was rebuffed. No table saw maker wanted to put the device on their saws, mostly out of liability concerns (manufacturers are insulated from liability for most injuries because the saw is "inherently dangerous" -- something that might change if the brake was adopted). Manufacturers also claim Gass wanted too high a royalty for the patent.
Mr. Gass' next step...well, let me get to that in a minute. It's where the controversy arises.
Finally, Mr. Gass decided that the only way to gain acceptance for the idea was to actually build and market a table saw, which he has -- as you can see from the link above. By all accounts, it is an excellent saw even without the saw brake, comparable to the very best table saws from Powermatic and the like. It has to be; it's very expensive. It's been out for over a year now and has garnered numerous awards and has saved many a finger in various pro woodworking shops. The point being: the saw and the saw brake each work, and work very well.
OK, so about that middle step. Gass decided to petition the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to make saw brake technology mandatory on all table saws. For this, he drew the ire of many woodworkers. Being a cantakarous and conservative lot, many of them hate the idea of letting anything but the market sort out whether the technology should be installed. Many say they won't buy the saw on principle, even though they recognize its quality as a saw and the effectiveness of the safety device.
About two months ago, the CPSC agreed to start a rulemaking process on saw brake technology (the linked article, BTW, contains a more detailed history of this saga, and I recommend reading it).
So I'm curious to get this forum's take on the issue. Some of the arguments against making the brake mandatory:
1. It picks a technology winner, and government shouldn't do that because it's bad at it.
2. It effectively mandates payments to a monopoly, since Gass owns the patent.
3. Sawmakers will eventually have to include this technology or something like it anyway, because the existence of the SawStop on the market opens other sawmakers up to lawsuits for failing to include the safety device on their saws. Thus, regulation isn't necessary.
4. "Woodworking is safe if you are careful, and I shouldn't have to subsidize the careless." Essentially, the personal responsibility argument.
5. Government sucks, the free market rules. (The Ayn Rand argument.)
The argument for: there are a metric shitload of fingers that might be saved.
I suggest taking a look at the CPSC briefing package on saw brakes, as it provides some very interesting information. Note that any rulemaking, if undertaken, will not specifically mandate Gass' patented method, but will instead be performance-based -- it would require any method of reducing injury when the sawblade contacts flesh, rather than the Gass technique in particular.
Anyway, I find the whole thing just endlessly fascinating, and am curious as to what the SDMB brain trust will say on the matter. So have at it, folks.
In my opinion, due to length and detail of post it smacks of rank commercialism.
Having watched the videos it appears to be a great and useful product. But there is/was no information as to sizes and costs of one of these table saws which you term 'very expensive.' Oh but of course we are waiting for the gov't to make the rules for testing, safety, approvals etc. etc. Mass production will reduce prices?
PS I have no fear of, but a very healthy respect for any fast moving cutting edge or multiples thereof. Been there, but didn't do that cut-off finger thing!
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  #40  
Old 09-06-2006, 08:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Finagle
You have no idea how freaking cantankerous woodworkers can be.
Maybe, maybe not. What I do have an idea of is what a sweeping statement is. And, IMHO, using one for support of one's assertion isn't all that helpful.
  #41  
Old 09-07-2006, 10:10 AM
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Excuse me for just glossing over the first forty posts in this thread, but I'm in a hurry.
Is ths question about mandatory Sawstops on every table saw, or just the ones in a professional setting? I can see regulating to make workers and the workplace safer. But if Joe Blow doesn't care about his fingers, why should he be forced to pay a higher price just to protect them?

By the way, this is a very cool device, and I think it will sell very well on its own without the government forcing people to buy it.
  #42  
Old 09-07-2006, 03:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Dewey Cheatem Undhow
So I'm curious to get this forum's take on the issue. Some of the arguments against making the brake mandatory:

1. It picks a technology winner, and government shouldn't do that because it's bad at it.
Two points here. The government is not picking a specific technology, as per this quote further down in your post.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Cheatem Undhow
I suggest taking a look at the CPSC briefing package on saw brakes, as it provides some very interesting information. Note that any rulemaking, if undertaken, will not specifically mandate Gass' patented method, but will instead be performance-based -- it would require any method of reducing injury when the sawblade contacts flesh, rather than the Gass technique in particular.
Secondly, the government has a long history of mandating various safety features on everything from cars(seat belts, airbags) to industrial machinery(mining safety regulations, oil rigs, etc.) and evidence of market disruption due to said regulations is weak at best. Restrictions often breed creativity and niches open up in the market for new entrepeneurs who are interested in starting safety-based companies. Seat belt dummy manufacturing and analysis labs. Safety equipment manufacturers/testers/underwriters. The costs imposed by regulation and the loss in one company's profits become some other company's profits and the consumer, while paying an increased price for the product, also receives a safer product.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Cheatem Undhow
2. It effectively mandates payments to a monopoly, since Gass owns the patent.
Another point undercut by the above note about any effective technique being acceptable under the letter of the regulations. This point gets into hair splitting between legalities and realities. The legalities seem to be written in manner which does not mandate a particular approach, and thus technically no one is forced, under penalty of law, to license the technology from Gass. On the other hand, the reality is Gass has developed the most mature and proven methodology to date and the R&D costs of implementing an alternative may be higher than licensing from Gass. Market realities meet legal technicalities and the actualities fall as they may.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Cheatem Undhow
3. Sawmakers will eventually have to include this technology or something like it anyway, because the existence of the SawStop on the market opens other sawmakers up to lawsuits for failing to include the safety device on their saws. Thus, regulation isn't necessary.
The downside of this arguement is twofold. Firstly it isn't just the manufacturers who will face lawsuits. It is small business owners and shop owners for failing to buy the safer saws. The shops who invest in safer equipment will subsidize shops who don't by having higher insurance premiums and worker's comp taxes than they should because they're all part of the same pool as the shops without safer equipment. So giving the market time to sort this out has the unintended consequences of punishing the early adopters by keeping their insurance and tax rates higher than they should be given the acutal state of their safety equipment in the shop. It becomes a disincentive to purchase these saws because you're going to increase your operating costs(by purchasing a more expensive saw) but at the same time bear the burden of subsidizing insurance rates for those who do not upgrade.

Secondly, this approach is every bit as market-distorting as regulation because it's going to be forcing the companies at lawyer-point to convert their shops. Some shops are going to be absolutely ruined by a huge lawsuit and manufacturers are going to feel it too. Just wait till someone sues Home Depot.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Cheatem Undhow
4. "Woodworking is safe if you are careful, and I shouldn't have to subsidize the careless." Essentially, the personal responsibility argument.
This arguement did not hold water with seat belts and air bags. A person can be responsible. People can not. The biggest strike against this arguement is the fact that most injuries are to professionals in professional settings with training and safety procedures. The idea that these professionals are not careful or work safely just doesn't hold water. The "personal responsibility" arguement and the "inherently dangerous" status of table saws are in obvious conflict. No matter how responsible you are the inherently dangerous nature of the device/operation are going to cause issues when the number of operators/operations is scaled up.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Cheatem Undhow
5. Government sucks, the free market rules. (The Ayn Rand argument.)
I fail to see a difference between this one and number 1. What is the distinction?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Cheatem Undhow
The argument for: there are a metric shitload of fingers that might be saved.
So what's a finger worth? The "Why Sawstop" video has some numbers. Up to $400,000 in medical bills, lost wages, and lost productivity from the loss of a finger over a worker's lifetime. It is literally a life-changing injury in many cases. Insurance claims/costs of $4,000 to $9,000 for initial treatment of an amputation.

What is the actual price delta for a Sawstop versus a comprable quality table saw? Sawstop costs 2,799 and is a 3HP, 10" cabinet saw operating on 230 volts. A Froogle search for "table saw 230 volts 3 hp -band"(-band eliminates band saws) comes up with a few saws but all of them are in the $1,000+ range(except some used ones on eBay). So we're talking about a price delta of ~$1,500 if you're buying the cheapest saw you can find with comprable stats. Many saws are over the price of the Sawstop. A single insurance claim of $4,000 to $9,000 would pay for this delta two to six times over.

I think the market will move this direction, at least for professional shops, but like seat belts I'm not sure this should be "optional". I'd be fine with regulation in this area.

Enjoy,
Steven
  #43  
Old 09-07-2006, 06:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mtgman
The shops who invest in safer equipment will subsidize shops who don't by having higher insurance premiums and worker's comp taxes than they should because they're all part of the same pool as the shops without safer equipment. So giving the market time to sort this out has the unintended consequences of punishing the early adopters by keeping their insurance and tax rates higher than they should be given the acutal state of their safety equipment in the shop.
I don't have a problem with your post as a whole, but I'm not sure this comment stacks up. I saw a post on a woodworking forum I post on from a Canadian guy who has a large professional shop. He said they were changing over to sawstops as fast as their cashflow would allow, because it made financial sense. He said there was already heavy recognition by his insurers of the benefits of sawstops, and consequently his insurers gave him a big discount in proportion to the number of sawstops vs ordinary table saws in his shop. He had done the sums and come to the conclusion that the sawstops paid for themselves, particularly when he considered the money that he'd lose (due to sick pay, insurance deductibles, medicals, lost time, re-training etc) if there was an injury, multiplied by the odds there'd be one.
  #44  
Old 09-07-2006, 07:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Mtgman

Secondly, this approach is every bit as market-distorting as regulation because it's going to be forcing the companies at lawyer-point to convert their shops. Some shops are going to be absolutely ruined by a huge lawsuit and manufacturers are going to feel it too. Just wait till someone sues Home Depot.
I'm not sure I agree with this point. A small business has some, fairly small, chance that an employee would get injured badly from a saw using the old technology. Thus a small business owner might wish to bet that he could save money by not using the Sawstop and not be hurt. My understanding is that small shops cut corners (for instance removing safety equipment that hurts productivity) all the time.

Manufacturers would figure, however, that they will always have someone hurt by their machines, because of the volume. If it becomes a no-brainer that the cost in lost market share is less than the cost of lawsuits, I don't see how this would be market distorting. If the manufacturers colluded to offer the technology exclusively I could see market distortion. (Or colluded to get the government to issue regulations.) But the argument seems to be that lawsuits (which are part of the market) will force adoption.
  #45  
Old 09-08-2006, 09:35 AM
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In my opinion, due to length and detail of post it smacks of rank commercialism.
Uh...what?

FTR, I have no connection to the Sawstop company. They did give me a nice baseball cap at the product demo, though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Monty
Maybe, maybe not. What I do have an idea of is what a sweeping statement is. And, IMHO, using one for support of one's assertion isn't all that helpful.
Monty, the original assertion was thus: "For this, he drew the ire of many woodworkers. Being a cantakarous and conservative lot, many of them hate the idea of letting anything but the market sort out whether the technology should be installed. Many say they won't buy the saw on principle, even though they recognize its quality as a saw and the effectiveness of the safety device."

Are you seriously objecting to that formulation?
  #46  
Old 09-08-2006, 09:40 AM
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The shops who invest in safer equipment will subsidize shops who don't by having higher insurance premiums and worker's comp taxes than they should because they're all part of the same pool as the shops without safer equipment.
I'm not sure this is the case. One would imagine that purchasing safety equipment would push premiums down, for the same reason homeowner's insurance is cheaper if you have a burglar alarm installed.
  #47  
Old 09-08-2006, 09:44 AM
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What is the actual price delta for a Sawstop versus a comprable quality table saw?
Also, your Froogle search is a poor way of establishing this delta, because it picks up contractor's saws in addition to cabinent saws. The motor/trunion mechanism between the two are quite different.

If you want a comparable saw, Froogle the Powermatic 2000, which is a cabinet saw of comparable quality, including a true riving knife
  #48  
Old 09-08-2006, 05:42 PM
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Sorry about the brief hijack, but could you explain the US terminology, "cabinet saw" and "contractor's saw"?

Thanks
  #49  
Old 09-08-2006, 05:56 PM
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Contractors saw= 10" table saw with formed sheet steel base that is usually about 45cm tall with provisions to mounting to a permanent base. It's designed to be carried in a truck, set up on a job site and used for rough work although with some care and setup, it can be used cabinet making work.

Cabinet saw= 10" table saw that is floor mounted, sits ~80cm tall and is generally much heacier and mroe stable. They both can have cast iron mounting brackets but the better cabinet saws have cast iron housings. This makes for a much smoother cutting tool which can be more pwerful as well. They are well suited for making precision cuts needed in cabinet and furniture making work.
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Old 09-08-2006, 11:47 PM
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The chief difference is in how the motor is mounted to the saw. In a contractor's saw, the motor assembly sort of hangs out the back. It can be easily removed, which makes the saw a little more portable -- the two pieces are much ligher separately and can be easily placed in truck or van.

In a cabinet saw, the motor assembly is housed within an enclosed cabinent (hence the name) and is much heavier.

Wikipedia's "table saw" entry has a good breakdown on the differences between the three classes of table saw (benchtop. contractor's and cabinet).
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