The table saw is almost exactly the same age as the United States.
In 1777, British woodworker and sailmaker Samuel Miller was awarded patent No. 1152 for a table saw. A native of Southampton, he was definitely not the first person to build one, but he was smart enough to patent it. To adjust the depth of cut, one had to raise or lower the entire table. It was essentially a rip saw, and as the blade teeth had no set it’s probable that binding and kickback were issues.
While larger casework manufacturers today tend to use beam saws, panel saws and CNCs to size parts, the table saw is still the central feature in most small- and mid-size woodshops. Both stationary and sliding table saws are now being updated with new safety features, automation, controls and software. And at the other end of the scale, corded and cordless portable units are experiencing a resurgence on jobsites because of advances in both battery and motor technologies.
Mind your fingers
The OWL award recognizes innovation in products, services and processes by companies that are located in one of the major industrial zones in Germany. This year, 85 companies submitted 91 innovations at the 13th annual competition. Altendorf GmbH had a winner in the Industry and Crafts category with its new safety system for sliding table saws. Previous protection systems used technology that relied on the conductivity of skin to detect a hazardous situation, and to then pulsate the saw blade to a stop. The problem was that contact had to take place between the saw blade and a woodworker’s hand for the safety system to kick in. Plus, in some systems the machine’s internal components are damaged during the incident.
Altendorf’s new system relies on the ability to detect the hazard at a very early stage. Two cameras collect data, which is then processed by a powerful hand-detection program. When the system identifies a dangerous situation, the whole saw unit slows down and the saw blade abruptly stops within a quarter of a second. After activation, the machine can immediately go back to work with no damage to the machine or saw blade.
“We’ve always been uneasy about the fact that existing systems only ever kick in after the accident has happened,” says Karl-Friedrich Schröder, head of development at Altendorf. “And they cause damage to parts of the machine as well. We wanted the machine to act sooner, first and foremost to prevent accidents and protect the operator. So, we developed a system that gains us valuable time and lets us disable the danger before contact even happens.”
OWL jury spokesperson Thomas Niehoff added that “this will lead to setting new standards that will improve requirements for worker safety in the woodworking industry and the trades worldwide.”
The system doesn’t destroy the sawblade or require replacing a brake block. It simply stops and drops the blade when a hand is detected. The saw also warns the operator with lights when a hazard is approaching, and then slows the blade so the woodworker feels more resistance and knows something is amiss. Dubbed the “Hand Guard”, it should be available in Europe this spring and will eventually enter the north American market after regulatory benchmarks have been met. Altendorf Group has also recently introduced MAGIS, a new digital graphical operator system that guides users through predefined cutting sequences on table saws to save time and material. The group’s MAGIS Opti is PC and tablet-based optimization software that makes sliding table saw operations more economical.
The Felder Group has also introduced a new safety system for sliding table saws. Called the Preventive Contact System (PCS), it was showcased at the 2019 LIGNA woodworking show in Hannover, Germany. When the risk of an accident (fingers too close to the blade) is detected, PCS triggers the lowering of the saw blade under the table at the speed of light. The saw is immediately ready to use again at the push of a button. The mechanism works damage free and without consumable parts - there’s no need to replace an aluminum block, or the blade. PCS is now available as an option with the Format-4 kappa 550 sliding table panel saw.
Keep in mind that there have been other finger-saving technologies that have not survived the U.S. patent courts, so woodworkers need to do due diligence before investing in one of the new systems.
Shopping for saws
The new Fusion F1, F2 and F3 table saws from California-based Laguna Tools emphasize superior dust collection through over/under collection and sealed bottoms. All of the models are equipped with a riving knife, and the F2 and F3 feature the Hi/Low aluminum fence extrusion found on some European saws. These units have permanently lubricated bearings and Acme screws. The F1 hybrid ($999) features low noise and vibration, a 1.5-hp 110-volt motor, cast iron table and 30” precision T-fence. The F2 ($1,399) has a cabinet-mounted trunnion, and the F3 (which has an optional 52” fence) has a cast-iron trunnion, upgraded handles and miter gauge, an outfield table that is equipped with double miter slots, an extra heavy-duty cabinet and a standard 36” fence. Prices begin at $2,199.
The new 10-hp, 3-phase, 14” sliding table saw from Grizzly Industrial (model G0853) is listed at $12,500. It has digital controls for main blade tilt from 0–45 degrees, and speed settings at 3,000, 4,000, and 5,000 rpm for various materials and thicknesses. There are also controls for the scoring blade alignment and ripping, thanks to a very accurate motorized fence that can reduce set-up time and cut list errors. The G0853 also has dual operation stations, which allows the operator to be on the rip fence side of the table or take advantage of the full 126” of crosscutting space. It will rip to 51-1⁄4”, and the sliding table handles 126” x 126”. The saw has a 4” depth of cut at 90 degrees and 2-3/4” at 45 degrees (with a 14” blade, but the 1” arbor will also accommodate a 12” one). The table size is 59” x 68” with the included extension wings. There’s an adjustable blade guard, a riving knife/spreader, and both 4” and 5” dust ports.
Woodstock International offers a hybrid table saw, three cabinet saws and a 10” slider, the W1811, which has a scoring blade, 63” crosscut capacity, riving knife and blade guard with integral dust port.
Martin Woodworking Machines in Charlotte, N.C. offers five industrial sliding table saws under its own brand, and three Robland models (one of which is a combination machine). The top end Martin T75 PreX combines a cutting height of more than 200 mm (7.87”) with a swiveling range of 2 x 46 degrees, which the company says is the first time that has been offered anywhere in the world.
Currently scheduled for an April release, the new HW110S-36 from Harvey Industries in Montclair, Calif. is listed at $2,995. It offers 36” rip capacity right of the blade, and there’s a 52” model that’s listed at $3,195. Both saws have a 4 hp, 230-volt, single-phase motor. Named the Alpha Series, these are industrial grade, premium table saws with a 31-1/2” extra-deep cast iron table for increased safety, and permanent PVD coating of the entire table with Titanium Nitride (TiN) for rust prevention and less friction. There’s a newly developed blade guard and a unique dovetail-style cast iron trunnion system for much smoother and more stable operation. There’s also both upper (blade guard) and lower (shroud) dust control. Both models come with Harvey’s innovative Compass miter gauge and an oversized T-square fence system with dual position viewers for the high/low fence.
Speaking of fences, the L5 No Lock Air Lock fence from Northtech Machine in Borden, Ind. took home a Visionary New Product Award at AWFS last summer. The company says it’s the quickest and easiest fence on the market because it eliminates the need for hand wheels and manual locks. A woodworker simply places a hand on the fence to disengage the auto lock, moves it into position, and then removes his/her hand to lock it into the new location. Northtech says that it can be fitted to almost any brand of straight-line rip saw or table saw.
Oliver Machinery in Kent, Wash. offers its Heritage collection for small shops and hobbyists, which includes a 10” jobsite table saw with a folding stand. The company (which may sound familiar as it has been an industry leader since 1890), also manufactures four heavy-duty table saws that range from a 10” model at $1,499 to 12” and 16” saws. The latter starts at $5,299.
Stiles Machinery offers three models in the Ironwood line of sliding table saws, the SL100, SL200 and SL300. They have aircraft-grade aluminum sliding tables that are manufactured in Europe and deliver extremely smooth and precise movement that reduces operator fatigue and is totally maintenance free. Chrome hardened guide rails make sure the sliding carriage has no lateral movement. The SL300 offers a 51” rip capacity, 7.5-hp motor, three blade speeds, and a scoring blade with a separate 1-hp motor.
SCM Group offers 15 sliding table saws in four brands that range from small to large – Minimax, Nova, Classic si and L’invincibile. The new entry-level Minimax sc 2c has a small footprint but can handle large jobs. It comes standard with scoring, can accommodate a 12” blade and its 5.5’ crosscut capacity is ideal for processing panels. At the other end of the range, the flagship L’invincibile six has a 550mm blade that can tilt in both directions, uses arch-ground steel slideways so the carriage will never require adjustment, and comes with a state-of-the-art 12” touchscreen.
Cantek America carries five table saws and six sliders. The choices begin with the P30 slider (12” standard diameter blade with an option for 14” max) that has 5-hp main motor with a 3/4-hp scoring motor. The largest unit is the D405ANC, a 14” saw that can be equipped with an optional digital fence. It comes with a 7.5-hp main motor and a 1-hp scoring motor, a 51” ball screw guided and programmable rip capacity, and three speeds.
JPW’s Powermatic division lists 17 table saws in its catalog – everything from a 1-3/4-hp 30” model with a riving knife to the superbly engineered 3000B that has a 7.5-hp, 3-phase motor, 14” blade and 50” of rip capacity. And JPW’s JET Tools division currently lists 13 saws in the contractor, hybrid and small table saw fields. Many of these are variations of the standard 1-3/4-hp saw with 115- and 230-volt motors, and various rip capacities. At the top end are four versions of the Deluxe Xacta saw (3- and 5-hp) that deliver either 30” or 50” ripping. These machines have a quick-release riving knife. And the top of the line saw is the 12” diameter JTAS-12-DX that has a 5-hp, single-phase motor and a full 80” width of solid cast iron table. And JPW’s Baileigh Industrial also has a full catalog of hybrid, cabinet and sliding panel saws.
Rikon offers two contractor saws (1-1/2 and 1-3/4 hp), and the 11-315X which is a 12″ sliding panel saw with a 5.5 hp main motor and a 1-hp scoring motor. The 11-315X runs at 4,000 rpm, has a sliding beam capacity of 126”, and weighs in at 1,230 lbs. It’s listed by Rockler for $7,999.
New CNC in Holland, Mich. is known for routers but also offers an industrial sliding table saw with dual speed (3,800/5,200 rpm) and a 7.5-hp main blade with motorized lift. It’s available with front and rear load options.
And JLK Machinery in Brighton, Mich. sells the 9-hp Casadei SC400 NC sliding table saw, which can handle up to a 400 mm (15-3/4”) main blade and has a separately powered scoring blade, an aluminum carriage with high-precision steel guides, and an NC (numerically controllable) fence and main blade projection.
Last September, SawStop announced a new version of its portable table saw. The Jobsite Saw Pro features the company’s contact detection technology and a host of other features including one-turn elevation, a squeeze-to-tilt balanced trunnion and an onboard accessory storage drawer. There’s a dust collection blade guard, 24-1/2” deep table surface and quick-change High/Low T-Glide fence face. USD retail is $1,399 and the Canadian MSRP is $1,850. Festool now owns SawStop so it is introducing a new mini table saw (the TKS) with that safety equipment on board. There are currently no plans to bring it to North America because the company says a version of it is already available here from SawStop.
Coming soon from Bosch Tools is the 4100XC-10, which is a 10” worksite table saw with a Gravity-Rise wheeled stand. It has a 15-amp, 4-hp motor with soft-start and Constant Response circuitry to help maintain speed under load There’s a standard fence, and an auxiliary fence for narrow workpieces. The stand has 8” rubber-composite tires and the saw has a three-position adjustable riving knife. The 4100XC-10 has a 30” x 22-1/2” tabletop with a 30” rip capacity.
For installers researching their options in small jobsite saws, Delta, DeWalt, Hitachi/Metabo, Makita, Maksiwa, General International, Ridgid, Grizzly Industrial, Rockwell, and Skilsaw all offer corded versions, and both DeWalt and Milwaukee also have cordless versions.
This article originally appeared in the April 2020 issue.