Since the first Sawstop table saw debuted in 2004, Sawstop has been the only player in town when it comes to selling table saws with finger-saving technology. There has been plenty of rumor, legal wrangling, and ruminations on what will happen when the Sawstop patent expires. Still, as of today (January 2022), no Sawstop alternative exists on the market.
The idea behind the finger-saving technology on the Sawstop table saw was developed in 1999 by Dr. Steve Glass. Shortly after, the Sawstop company was formed and began shipping out its first table saws in 2004.
Since then, the company has shipped out well over 100,000 table saws and states that their saws have prevented over 6,000 accidents.
In 2017, Sawstop was sold to TTS Tooltechnic Systems. That name may not mean much to anyone, but they are better known as the owners of Festool. There were a lot of rumors at the time that the acquisition would mean Festool would begin integrating the technology into their tools, but other than a few newly filed patents, that has not come to fruition so far.
After almost 20 years of shipping out saws with the technology to prevent life-changing injuries, a lot of woodworkers wonder why this technology isn’t available on any table saws other than those sold by Sawstop.
The short answer is that Sawstop owns the patents to this technology and, to date, have chosen to build their own saws rather than leasing the technology to other tool manufacturers.
There has been plenty written over the years pondering why the technology hasn’t been made available for use by other companies, so that I won’t rehash it here. Needless to say, a lot of folks seem to be unhappy, and the fact that Dr. Gass’ previous career was as a patent attorney doesn’t seem to help quell the rumor mill.
We know that the majority of Sawstop’s patents began expiring in 2021 and will continue to expire through 2024.
We also know that Sawstop owns close to 100 patents on the Sawstop technology. But just because a few patents have expired doesn’t mean there is a legal green light for other companies to start deploying their own finger-sensing table saws.
Because of this, there is somewhat of a legal limbo going on where tool companies may very well have new technology ready to deploy but are just waiting for certain, or all, Sawstop patents to expire before announcing their new tools.
Prior Sawstop Alternatives
The most well-known Sawstop alternative was the Bosch REAXX table saw. This table saw was released in 2015 and featured a similar flesh-sensing technology to the Sawstop. The initial versions of the saw were a job site type table saw and debuted to somewhat mixed reviews.
There were complaints about the cut quality and that the flesh sensing technology was overly sensitive, which led users to override it manually. This kind of defeated the purpose of paying a premium price for the tech if it couldn’t ever be used.
Granted, I’m sure if the saw was able to stick around for more than a year+ in the US markets, we would have seen some pretty big strides in the table saws offered by Bosch.
Unfortunately for consumers, the courts ruled that the technology used by Bosch infringed on the Sawstop patents, and the sale of the Reaxx table was banned.
There are still some markets, namely Canada, where the Reaxx is still sold.
Felder Table Saw
Felder isn’t a widely known name in the hobbyist woodworking community as their machines are typically geared more towards commercial settings. But in 2019, they debuted their version of flesh sensing technology with what they call PCS or Preventative Contact System.
I won’t opine on the status of any outstanding legal fights or what differentiates their technology enough from Sawstop’s that would allow them to market their saws featuring this tech. But, the bottom line is that you can, with enough money, buy a table saw from Felder that will automatically drop the blade if the machine senses that your body is in imminent danger of coming into contact with it.
Currently, the technology is only available on their Kappa 550 sliding table saw. These saws start at a cool $15,000 so, while they are beautiful table saws, they won’t make for a good Sawstop alternative for the average woodworker any time soon.
There is hope that this technology makes its way to their Hammer line of tools which, while still expensive, would be more in the range of possibilities for woodworkers who can afford higher-end tools.
Will We See a Sawstop Alternative in 2022?
Time will tell if we see any new announcements in 2022 for a Sawstop alternative. Bosch could rerelease the REAXX at any time in the US if they feel they have the legal cover to do so.
Felder could make their technology available to other companies, or we could see a wildcard, and a company like Laguna, Powermatic, or Grizzly could announce their version of a Sawstop style table saw.
As a woodworker and consumer, I can certainly hope that new table saws begin showing up over the next few years and drive down costs, as I would love to have one of these saws in my shop.
Sawstop Price Increase for 2022
Sawstop has announced that prices across their entire lineup of table saws will increase by ~$200 on May 3rd, 2022.
Given the global logistic issues and material sourcing issues that all tool manufacturing companies have experienced over the past few years, it is commendable how Sawstop has managed to keep its prices mostly stable. Other manufacturers have been quick to pass these costs on to customers either through extra shipping charges or price increases.
If you’re looking to buy a Sawstop table saw, there is still plenty of inventory at woodworking sites like Rockler or Woodcraft. Amazon has been really hit or miss lately with inventory so I wouldn’t recommend shopping with them if you’re looking to beat the May 3rd date.
You can view Woodcraft’s lineup of Sawstop table saws here.
Derek grew up woodworking in his father’s shop and has since gone on to start up a successful woodworking business on Etsy. In his spare time, you can find him mountain biking, skiing, or writing.