It’s coming. Deal with it.

If something is absolutely inevitable, you have two choices: 1) Deal with it like an adult, or 2) Whine, cry, obfuscate and stamp your feet. SawStop opponents have opted for No. 2.

A bill to mandate that new saws include “active injury mitigation technology” will be voted on next month in California (where else?). If it passes, Senate bill AB 2218 would require all new table saws sold in California to have the technology. Sure, there’s still opposition but it will eventually pass in California, and eventually everywhere else. Do not doubt this. It will happen.

I can hear whining already. You’re probably ready to start shouting the same old tired arguments that have been said thousands of times before, so let me save you some trouble.

Waaaah! SawStop won’t prevent kickback! Irrelevant. It’s no more designed to prevent kickback than seatbelts are designed to prevent acne. Two different things.

Waaaah! Steve Gass is a busybody/evil/greedy/an alien/etc.! Irrelevant. If it wasn’t Steve Gass who came up with this, it would have been someone else. In fact, once the law is passed, you’ll find that all the companies who’ve whined and dragged their feet on this will suddenly come up with similar technologies on their own because they’ve already been working on them behind the scenes.

Waaaah! It’s wrong to mandate a specific device! Irrelevant, because no law can or will do that. Plus, see above – when a law is passed, dozens of non-SawStop devices will appear almost overnight.

Waaaah! Government bad! Me no like more government! Irrelevant. Government interferes in our lives in thousands upon thousands of ways, 99.9 percent of which you’re probably perfectly fine with. Government interference stops me from strangling my neighbor, for example. Frustrating, but probably a good thing.

The bottom line is it’s inevitable that new table saws will be required to have a device of this type someday, probably sooner rather than later. I’ll leave you all to whine, cry and spout tired, irrelevant arguments in peace; I have too much work to do on my old table saw.

And when the day comes that I absolutely must buy a new saw, you know what I’ll do? I’ll buy a new saw and get back to work.



  • Anonymous Coward says:


    No law, NONE, can mandate a specific product. Name one for me. Show me ONE law that does this. You’d think that such patriotic rhetoric would come from people who grasped even the basics of US law before they opened their mouths, no?

    I’m taking bets on when certain buzzwords get tossed around. Things that are beyond disrespectful to real victims of repression and genocide. You folks who toss those terms around realize that the people who know better instantly dismiss you as a fanatic, right? Want to be taken seriously? Stop thinking that hyperbole is a valid argument. If you have to resort to it so quickly, maybe your position isn’t as sound as you think.

    I say again, AJ. HEAR HEAR!

  • Mark Slafkes says:

    Thank you for courageous and clear thinking.
    As unpleasant as the idea of creating a so-called monopoly is, are we willing to trade that small possibility for our own well-being and the well-being of our families?
    I don’t use a blade guard because it’s difficult to use with many of the cross-cuts I make on my table saw. I use my band saw for virtually all rips, precisely because it is so much safer.
    We should never stop improving our methods of work or the tools we use in order to be safer when working wood. Isn’t safety the most important issue, after all?

  • DAVE S. says:

    Or, if you’re sly and crafty, you might just remove the device and sell it on E-bay

  • Don says:

    My problem isn’t that safety features are put into tools (I like safety features, aka sawblade stopping technology). My problem is that Gass invented this technology, patented it, tried to get the tablesaw companies to license it and when they didn’t he has done everything to force them to license it and pay him royalties through courts and other government agencies. It is just another way to tax people. Indirectly, but another tax none the less. Gass is the only one who gets to collect this government mandated tax.

    If it was something that companies could design into their products without having to be forced to pay Gass and the government, that would be different. Let purchasers determine if they want to have this technology, not a lawyer.

    Yeh, I know everyone is going to fire back that these types of mandates happen all the time. Like airbags. Ok, but one individual didn’t collect all the royalty money from these. Same with seatbelts, etc. Gass has this invention so locked up in patents that companies will be forced to pay him royalties on the idea. That to me is wrong.

    I hope companies will invent new technology and bypass Gass and not have to pay him any royalties. Yeh, a saw will be a little more expensive but at least the money gets distributed to the employees of a company, not one individual. One of those saws I would invest in.

  • Chuck Riccardo says:

    I am disappointed that all this defeatism comes from a guy that reenacts civil war battles. Shame. Next ‘they’ will require us to have plastic saw blades.

  • Rich Flynn says:

    I’m sorry but you have completely missed the point.

    While flesh sensing technology IS the greatest thing since sliced bread, using regulations to create a monopoly is, in my opinion, borderline unethical. As most of us avoid unethical businesses, most of us will avoid doing business with any manufacturer using unethical practices.

    When I bought my UniSaw, I was disappointed that the flesh sensing technology was not available for my saw. The saws with flesh sensing technology did not meet my other requirements. Unfortunately I have to rely on my safety training to use my UniSaw safely.

    Like you, my next saw will have flesh sensing technology except that the brand will not be Saw Stop. It isn’t that many more years before the flesh sensing technology patent expires.

  • Frank says:

    A.J. I have to agree with you. I followed the many comments and opinions about the SawStop for quite awhile. When it became clear that most of the comments were whining, or big companies trying to protect their profit margin, I tuned them out.

    After another accident with my two year old cabinet saw (thankfully minor)and the memory of how long the recovery period was from an accident many years ago, I sold my saw and bought the SawStop. I don’t feel like I succumbed to the hype and advertising. I simply want to work as safely as possible and keep all the fingers I have left. The cost of a new saw is irrelavent compared to losing fingers and my ability to work.

  • Dennis Hokel says:

    Mr. Hamler,
    I value freedom. I don’t give a rat’s ass what the product is or does, if it is mandated only to protect me from myself, that kind of government intrusion is WRONG! 99.9% of the time. If you think this is the end of this kind of mandating you are sorely mistaken. The people at the Consumer Products Safety Commission will only be emboldened to go beyond this, it’s what they do for a living! There is no reason to believe miter saws won’t be next. Than what powered hand saws, band saws, any thing capable of cutting you could use this technology and don’t say “don’t be ridicules they wouldn’t do that”, that is exactly what they will be doing and we will be wishing we had done more to stop it. So you go ahead and put your head back in the sand, I mean go back to work, those of us who care will work toward defeating these intrusions into our civil liberties.
    And by the way, I generally enjoy your column and probably would enjoy talking to you but don’t call me a crybaby as you essentially have. I get angry but I don’t cry, as you would know if you knew me at all.
    Dennis Hokel

  • Wow, finally someone has something worthwhile to say regarding this topic! Thanks A.J., for some common sense. So many seem to be blinded by hopping on the “hate band wagon” for Sawstop. As an owner of a 5HP Industrial model of the Sawstop, it is one fine saw and I would have bought it vs the competition even without the stopping tech. But, that is the icing on the cake. No longer do I have to worry about myself or one of my employees going through a traumatic injury.

    I think it is mainly the hobby woodworkers who are against this legislation, vs the professional.

    AJ Coholic

  • Ed Crowell says:

    Yep. I am one of those who believe people prosper best without a government nanny looking into our every affair. Sort of like those upstart founders like Sam Adams, Mr. Franklin, etc. And you are quite correct again, this sort of stuff is indeed hard to resist, it creeps on and on. More government, all the time. To bad that those with actual first hand knowledge of the end results seem to be so concerned. Ask nearly anyone from the former east block countries how they feel about the trend here.
    There is a very good reason why California is falling off the fiscal cliff, and they have a net outflow of businesses. It directly related to this sort of meddling. In everything.
    And to be perfectly clear, most of the obfuscation I have seen in regard to this issue, is from the advocates of the nanny state.- as in “wah, wah, you don’t care about safety!. You want widows and orphans to all lose their fingers!” Etc.
    My case is clear. My fingers are irrelevant. What I object to is the creeping, nonstop nanny state interference in my life. This saw stop issue is just a single point of reference-there hundreds of thousands of them, and they all point toward one conclusion- someday, we are not going to be able to run a shop -at all.
    Who is going to whine then?

  • Ken Haubrich says:

    I guess it is inevitable that the SawStop device will become commonplace in the consummer market because California says it will be. Back in the sixties California’s smog control laws demanded that all cars, new and old, meet their standards. I remember a 1953 Plymouth being retro-fitted with smog control systems. No one had a clue whether it worked but it was the law. Certainly there are some very dangerous machines in the workplace that require highly trained craftsmen to operate but is the next step to have a SawStop device on every machine in the shop, new or old???? I just can’t imagine stopping a 1 1/4 “arbour 7.5 hp shaper with a 3 lb cutter doing 7000 rpm in time to stop injury… I would suggest that stopping it that fast might produce results beyond their wildest dreams like the cutter shears from the arbour and becomes a un-controled flying object. Imagine stopping a five head moulder the moment the cover is lifted or stopping a three head sander when there might appear to be a problem… I don’t think that the jury who was on this law suit had a clue about what they were deliberating and unfortunately it will come down on us, the small business owner.

  • Jon Walpole says:

    I have a SawStop 3hp Professional Cabinet Saw and I like it. It replaced a Delta Unisaw that I also liked for the 15 years that I used it. My wife urged me to upgrade to the SawStop and she didn’t need to twist my arm. I’ve had a few problems with the saw but the SawStop people have been MORE than helpful in getting ALL issues resolved. I also wear a helmet while riding my motorcycle in a state that doesn’t require it. I don’t like government telling me what to do but sometimes it makes sense to comply.

  • A J,

    Right on!

    While I’ve grumbled some myself about this I can’t make an intelligent argument for not having some sort of Saw Stop like device on a table saw. I’ve got a friend in England who is a furniture maker like myself and he told me that all of the stationary machinery sold in England must have a braking device to stop blades, belts etc within a couple seconds, and he will tell you that while this is not as complete as a flesh sensing technology, it has eliminated untold thousands of accidental injuries. So we have something even better coming down the pipeline and that has to be a good thing!

    My only question is what the heck do I do with my good old soon to be obsolete cabinet saw when I upgrade to a new safer cabinet saw? Do I have any liability for selling a noncompliant saw to some poor unsuspecting naysayer?

    Great blog entry!


  • Dezri Dean says:

    Really does not matter to me in that I will probably never buy another tablesaw! I already have two, an older Rockwell/Delta 5hp and a newer Bosch bench top. I doubt if either will wear out before I die (or get too crippled to use them!)

  • Glenn Warner says:

    Your opinion makes me appreciate what I pay for a copy of Woodshop News. Nothing.

  • Dan Hergott says:

    So how one rip material that has a high moisture content or wet with a Saw Stop?

    I some time rip PT material for deck work on my T.S. ahead of time before I go to the job site. I like the saw stop feature, but having to cut PT has stopped me from considering purchasing one.

    Does the Saw Stop have a by-pass mode for cutting in the above situations?


  • Great, insightful, and gutsy comments. I’m one of those who truly regrets the increasing intrusion of government into our lives, but your approach is the best answer I’ve heard to the question of “what do we do now?”.

    Thanks for sticking your neck out on this!

  • ken kayser says:

    This device is undoubtedly covered by strong patents. Copying features may be difficult.

  • DAVE S. says:

    Dan Hergott has a valid question about the moisture content in wood and a design to bypass the safety device IS in place in that system…

  • Chuck Riccardo says:



  • Anonymous Coward says:

    So … nobody else is creative enough to come up with a solution that doesn’t compete with Gass? Really? That’s your idea of American Spirit? It’s quite a leap to go from mandating safety standards to a single guy on the planet getting all the revenue from such a “tax” – and if you don’t see that, you’re missing a lot more than just this point.

    Nanny state, eh? Since there are people out there who can’t get through their own heads to make safe decisions, they should all just be free to chop themselves up? Seems civilized people would take care of their own – like we did 230+ years ago when we decided that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few on things that affect more than just a sole person. The resistance to evolving into a better society is astounding in arguments like this.

    Kickback? Did you miss the previous mandate that addresses kickback DIRECTLY? Are you that out of touch or selective of the facts that you completely missed that kickback has been addressed by another device? What you’re saying is that kickback somehow determines the validity of a flesh-sensing device – that’s an absurd argument on its face. The requirement of a riving knife ended the kickback argument so you can stuff that debate point and move on with relevant points instead, Okay?

    Defeatist … that’s funny. The majority has already spoken – pro-flesh sensing technology advocates have actually won – it’s going to be mandated. How is that defeatist?

    I don’t – and won’t – own a Sawstop for many of the reasons folks have listed here. But Sawstop isn’t pertinent in this discussion. It isn’t the only game in town, and if you think it is – if you think Steve Gass, the guy you speak about so vehemently, is so good that nobody will be able to meet a safety mandate without paying him a royalty, you must really think highly of the guy. Personally, I think he’s just another entrepreneur who figured out how to build a better mouse trap – a trap I don’t want because of his marketing tactics. But to say that this guy is the best we have is very defeatist – you’re saying he’s won and we’re all screwed if we are forced to comply with something his product already does. Are you naive or just selective thinkers?

    Yeah … it’s coming. Safety is better than not. People do dumb crap sometimes – aren’t you glad we all MUST have cars that break within a certain distance? Have the stop lights and stop signs in your neighborhood conflicted with your world view, too? Civil liberty arguments must be made with the widest minds possible. Narrow minded ignorance has no place in this discussion.

  • Don Davis says:

    We recently replaced our old Powermatic 66 with a SawStop cabinet saw. The 66 was, and is a fine machine, but the SawStop is also well built and performs well in our high production shop. We’ve yet to trigger the cartridge,and I hope we never do, but if we do the replacement cost of the cartridge (and possibly a blade) will cost us much less than an L&I claim. To say nothing of the impact on one of our valued employees.

  • Tim Neun says:

    Obviously this conversation goes far beyond the saw itself but I’ll limit my comments. I was skeptical of Saw Stops technology and the quality of the saw itself. I use a Powermatic 66 in my own studio, it is a fine saw and all my fingers are still firmly attached. I also work at the University of Oregon and we have 4 Saw Stops–there may be more–it’s a big place. Over the last year we’ve had 7 incidents that triggered the brake. 5 of them would have removed a finger or 6. 95% of the students have no wood shop experience. In a school situation I think the Saw Stop is a no brainer. It is also a very well made.

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