Let’s Put a SawStop to This

Lately in construction school, I’ve been working on a side project to build cold frames for my garden, using salvaged windows and cedar planking. I’ve almost finished a prototype, but there’s still one detail that needs to be changed before I embark on making a whole bunch of them. For the frame to slant properly for water runoff, my current design uses a 2×4 ripped with a 15-degree bevel on the table saw.

I hate the table saw.

I wrote about how much I hate the table saw back when I first started construction school. It is terrifying, lethal, and cuts off thousands of fingers annually across the nation.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

There is an amazing alternative to the standard-issue table saw, called the SawStop, which can detect the difference between wood and flesh. When the SawStop blade senses electrical current in skin, it shuts down—instantly.

Our classroom does not have one, though we drooled over the SawStop display at the recent SkillsUSA conference in Louisville. SawStop’s brake technology is not required by OSHA or other regulations. Yesterday, NPR ran a fascinating piece on the efforts of SawStop and victims of table saw injuries to require safety mechanisms on the equipment. I heard the segment in the car on the way to the shop to rip some more 15-degree boards. It made me think twice before continuing with my project.

Watch a SawStop tell the difference between a hot dog and a piece of lumber in this excellent story by Chris Arnold for Morning Edition on NPR.



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