David Frane

Late last year SawStop announced its first portable model and unveiled it at JLC Live. I was at the show, where I witnessed several demonstrations of the safety mechanism and was able to play with the controls. But that’s not the same as using the saw, so asked the manufacturer to send one for testing. The Saw arrived in early March and after using it for a while I decided to do a video review because video reveals things that are hard to explain in photos and words (video below).

A few of the things I learned from using the saw are worth mentioning here because they contradict rumors that have been floating around for years about the possibility of there being a portable SawStop and how it might function:

  • A portable saw can withstand the force of a blade being stopped by SawStop technology. I set off the brake on three occasions—twice on purpose and once by accident. The saw wasn’t destroyed or damaged and worked fine after I replaced the cartridge and blade.
  • Nails and staples don’t automatically trigger the brake; I ripped nail embedded wood without setting it off.
  • Wet lumber doesn’t necessarily trigger the brake. I ripped wet redwood without any problem. It was at least 36% moisture content, which is as high as my moisture meter will measure.
  • Wet pressure-treated lumber will set off the brake, but not every time—and there are ways to avoid it.
  • Triggering the brake won’t necessarily destroy the blade. The blade will almost certainly lose two or three tips, but if it’s valuable and the plate isn’t bent you can have the sharpening service braze new ones on.

This saw is more complicated than standard models. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to operate it but you do need to learn certain functions and be aware at all times of what you are cutting.

[The video below was revised on 4/15/15. The original version showed an incorrect—more difficult—method of resetting the blade assembly. This version shows the recommended method]