Inventor offers blade-braking technology

David Butler, owner of Whirlwind Tool Co. in Cotuit, Mass., has received a patent on a table saw safety product called the Black Box, which features emergency-blade braking technology.

Butler, a woodworking hobbyist with a background in engineering, says the product is currently in a prototype state and is not available for sale, but he does hope to eventually market the design.

The Black Box is a bolt-on, removable device that can be used on an existing saw and other woodworking machines. Once the operator approaches or touches the clear blade guard fence wired to the Black Box, a proximity detector senses flesh and immediately shuts down the saw’s motor. The blade stops in about an eighth of a second without being damaged, according to Butler.

“What my product does is sense the operator touching the outside of the guard before they can get to the saw blade. That can give them a lot more time and can stop the motor and the blade in less than one second, which should be before the operator can get to the blade if they’re doing things properly,” Butler said.

— Jennifer Hicks

Comments (3) Comments are closed
3 Sunday, 06 May 2012 06:09
Bob Fain
It's great to have all these new technological safety gizmos, as long as they remain optional, because you can't beat the best safety tool available which sits between your ears.
2 Thursday, 03 May 2012 00:16
I had heard about this, and thought it would offer good competition to Steve Gass's SawStop. It looked quite good on a video I saw on the web.
1 Wednesday, 02 May 2012 21:24
Well it was only a matter of time before SawStop had competition, and after reviewing the new system, there is going to be a lot of discussion on who is making the proper safety decision. The SawStop people are presuming the operator has already either bypassed or defeated the tablesaw's primary operator protection system, the blade guard. Whirlwind is betting otherwise and is frankly more suited to promoting safety with novice workers as well as protecting your investment in the equipment. Given a choice, the new system is looking like a more intelligent solution to a really complicated problem, providing you are not using the table saw to its full capacity. As a wordworker, I am fortunate to have been trained well in grade school and rarely attempt to "beat the odds." That said, there are many times when you need to use a saw without the full blade guard, especially when making complicated cuts such as tenons and dadoes for joinery. Here's where Whirlwind won't help, and SawStop does the trick. My vote would still be with SawStop, but I can really appreciate the new system as well. In the end, safety with any equipment begins and ends with the operator's concentration and respect for the equipment!