Safer Saws?

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There is a lot of talk these days about whether or not a certain safety technology should be built into all table saws by mandate. There are a lot of good (and some bad) arguments on both sides of this issue. It's a hot button to push and I am not mentioning any names here even though everyone will know exactly what I am referring to. But I have some thoughts on this subject that I would like to put out there for consideration.

One of the primary arguments against this technology is that it would require a higher price tag on table saws in general. And there is no convincing argument against this. It would add to the cost. Period. This would not really have that much of an effect on professional class machines that sell for several thousand dollars. But the effect on the cheap consumer grade tools sold in hardware stores and home centers for a few hundred bucks would be significant.

I'm wondering if that would be such a bad thing. These machines typically have unsafe built right into them. They are generally direct drive which means that the blade is mounted on the motor shaft itself. Since the motors generally have poor quality bearings (or bushings), there is almost assuredly some runout that cannot be adjusted out. The miter gauge slots are rarely in proper alignment to the blade and, again, no adjustment is possible. There is usually quite a bit of slop in the slots themselves so the flimsy plastic miter gauges will have some side to side play. The fences are usually held in place by weak plastic clamping mechanisms that do not hold securely, allowing the fences to move under load.

Any one of those issues could result in binding and/or kickback. All of them, combined, seem to me to be the definition of an accident waiting to happen. For the most part, these cheap machines are going to be bought and used by novices who probably do not have a clue what the inherent dangers are. Do we really need to be concerned with the extra cost of a safety device on such a tool? I would think that these are exactly the kind of tools that should be required to incorporate the extra protection.

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