Most woodworkers are familiar now with the SawStop line of table saws and their patented safety system that stops the blade and retracts it in less than 5 milliseconds when it comes in contact with human skin. SawStop has recently expanded their lineup to include a compact table saw that I’ve been putting through our tests.
I’ll address the elephant in the room right away — yes it is expensive. With that out of the way, you’re not paying a premium solely for the safety technology. SawStop has designed a high-quality saw with thoughtful features that are as good or better as any compact saw on the market today.
Take, for example, the location of the push stick. SawStop could have stuck it anywhere on the saw, maybe down on the right opposite the on/off switch, like some manufacturers do. The exact spot you can’t get to it if you forget to grab it before starting your cut. Instead, it’s nested in the top of the fence, just inches from where your hand will be when you need it.
And speaking of fence, this one is really outstanding. The fence rides on a set of rails attached to a rack and pinion system. Simply pull on the adjustment knob and the fence unlocks. Set your fence distance, then push it in to lock it once it’s set. I went to a hardware store and tried out half a dozen different rack and pinion fence systems on other saws, and not a single one felt as nice or was as intuitive to use as this one. The thoughtfulness carries over to the bevel system, which can be quickly set to the desired angle by squeezing the handle, then micro-adjusted to your exact specifications by rotating it once close.
I’d also be remiss if I failed to mention the storage compartment on the back that holds accessories like the blade guard, wrenches, and (somewhat underwhelmingly-designed) square. Not only does it prevent you from losing those parts in a tool bag, but it also protects them from dust and damage. It’s such a no-brainer that I can’t believe it’s not standard practice across the board.
Performance wise the saw took everything I threw at it, though I was considerate of the fact that it was a compact saw, not a cabinet saw. I found I could cut hardwoods no problem with a fresh blade, but it can’t take a dado stack. Dust collection was great as well, with almost no cleanup needed after the fact. Sawstop does recommend that you use a dust collection system at all times with the saw to reduce buildup of sawdust and debris in the body, which could shorten the life of the motor.
I tested the saw using the CTS-FS folding stand, a $129 addition. It was rock-solid and features the ability to adjust the legs for uneven terrain, but I would have liked wheels to increase the portability factor. With the saw weighing a not-insignificant 68lbs, that little addition would have helped quite a bit.
At $899 the SawStop CTS isn’t going to be in everyone’s budget. But it does get you an excellent table saw that features a level of quality and precision that woodworkers desire. And that’s not even including the potential value of the limb-saving safety system that gives SawStop its name.
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