If you are serious about your woodwork, and serious about your safety, the SawStop CNS175-SFA30 Contractor Saw deserves serious consideration. It comes with a serious price tag, however, and some important accessories and add-ons drive the price even higher.
It keeps up with the best. Reviewers largely agree that the SawStop CNS175-SFA30 Contractor Saw delivers some of the best performance from a table saw that money can buy. Reviews report that the SawStop runs smooth and vibration-free, though most also test the saw with optional cast iron wings (the wings on the 30-inch base model are stamped steel), a $190 add-on. The SawStop contractor saw can handle even tough jobs, experts agree. "The 1.75 HP, 15-amp, 120-volt motor cut through 8/4″ maple with ease," notes David Munkittrick at the Woodworkers Guild of America. Munkittrick adds that while contractor saws are typically challenged when it comes to making bevel cuts, that's not the case with the SawStop. "The saw made perfectly clean 45-degree bevel cuts even in burn-prone cherry," he adds.
Lots of great features, most cost extra. The number one feature of the SawStop CNS175-SFA30 Contractor Saw is its unsurpassed finger, hand and arm-saving safety, and that's covered in the next section. Other than that, however, most extras also cost extra, potentially driving the price of this saw into the stratosphere if you don't pick and choose wisely. For example, the above the table dust collection system works well, but to get it you need to opt for overarm dust collection (Est. $200), a dust port adapter (Est. $50) and a dust collection blade guard (Est. $140). The base version has a 30-inch rip capacity, but you can opt for 36-inch or 52-inch rip capacities (and an additional $200 or $300, respectively). The table saw comes with a fixed base, but you can add a mobile base (Est. $160) or a jobsite cart (Est. $200). The terms "easy assembly" and "contractor saw" are rarely found in the same sentence, but multiple reports indicate that putting together the SawStop contractor is free of the typical frustrations, although it's not exactly a pleasure. "The saw went together easily, and the assembly and operating instructions are the best I've seen for a woodworking machine," says John White at Fine Homebuilding.
The safest contractor table saw money can buy. The SawStop CNS175-SFA30 performs on a par with other high-quality contractor saws, but costs substantially more. The reason most buy it is for its revolutionary and proprietary technology that detects the presence of skin and stops the blade completely before serious injury can occur. This technology has been tested by reviewers and shown to work reliably. White tests it on hot dogs and reports that with a regular blade and a dado-blade set, the hot dogs survived with only the tiniest of scratches visible on the skin. However, when the system fires, you will need to replace a cartridge at a cost of around $80 or so, and get a new blade as the process inevitably damages the one being used. The SawStop Contractor Saw also has a riving knife and an excellent blade guard, similar to the ones used on current table saws that meet voluntary UL standards for table-saw safety.
1. Popular Woodworking
This detailed review praises the 36-inch version of the SawStop Contractor Saw from start (easy setup, near-perfect fit and finish) to finish -- with kudos for "all but non-existent" vibration, quiet 81-decibel running and excellent dust collection. Huey recommends opting for the cast iron to get that high freedom from vibration. He also notes that this was the easiest table saw he'd ever assembled.
Review: SawStop, Glen D. Huey, Feb. 10, 2009
2. Fine Woodworking
John White praises the SawStop Contractor Saw not only for its superb safety features, but also for its smooth adjustments, easy assembly, fine fit and finish and overall great performance. He tests the blade break mechanism on a pair of hot dogs; both survive with just a small scratch, but the blades needed to be replaced.
Review: Editor's Review: The Safest Contractor's Saw, John White, July 1, 2008
3. Woodworkers Guild of America
In this well-illustrated review of the SawStop Contractor Saw (upgraded to a 36-inch version with T-glide fence and cast-iron wings), a woodworker who's accustomed to using a cabinet saw reports surprise at this contractor saw's low vibration and excellent cutting ability (testing it on hard maple and with bevel cuts on "burn-prone" cherry). He recommends the 30-inch model and jobsite cart for portable or small shop use or, if there's space in the shop, the 52-inch fence.
Review: The SawStop Contractor Saw, David Munkittrick, May 2009
The SawStop Contractor Saw earns a perfect 5-star rating, based on tests. Chris Baylor, About.com's guide to woodworking, praises the instruction manual, reporting that it took about four hours to set up and tune his new saw. Opting for cast-iron wings and the T-glide fence, he found the saw's performance excellent: "Once the fence was adjusted to be square to the table, it remained true no matter where I placed it. The 1-3/4 HP motor handled any task that I threw at it while set to 110-volt power and with the included 10" blade." A disappointed reader warns that using a dado on this saw is inconvenient, and that cutting damp pressure-treated wood requires disabling the blade sensor.
Review: SawStop Contractor Saw Review, Chris Baylor, Not Dated
5. Wood Magazine
A former shop teacher and woodworking magazine editor gives the SawStop Contractor Saw a perfect 5-star rating. He tests it with both the aluminum and Biesemeyer-style fences and with both stamped-steel and cast-iron extension wings (recommending the cast iron). The review praises the SawStop for its heavy-duty cast-iron trunnions and good dust collection, as well as for its riving knife and flesh-sensing blade brake.
Review: SawStop Safety Available in a Sub-$2,000 Saw, Doug Hicks, July 2009