This Rigid/Steel City Table Saw Can Kill You

August 23rd, 2009 · 2 Comments · Tools and Tech


This Rigid Model R4511 Table Saw from Home Depot recently was recalled. Apparently, in certain situations the blade comes off and can kill you. Here's the link. Also note that Steel City table saws might use the same parts and factory: owners should contact Steel City. 

So, that said, what's a good table saw these days? I have three recommendations:

1) For the artists who are accident prone (i.e. those of you who generally go too fast, work too late, take risks to get the job done, ignore safety rules and don't use safety devices with table saws), or if you are purchasing a tool that less experienced users will use (like a school shop) then there is only one brand you should consider: SawStop. They are twice as expensive as anything out there and for good reason: if you accidently touch the blade they stop. Really. See the site and the videos on the site. This is a new tool, but one many professionals and universities are trusting. Brace yourself: these are $1700 – $5000.

2) For the artists who follow safety rules (and who recognize that there are many tools that can hurt/kill you: one safer tool doesn't protect you from the others) then our best recommendation is buying a used cabinet saw like a Delta Unisaw or a Powermatic 66 off of CraigsList. We just picked up a 1952 Unisaw in great shape for $300. The trick about large tools is the older ones are built better. The newer ones are built overseas and are designed to save the company money. Further: when you decide to sell it you can get the same price you paid. Be patient, it took us a couple years to find our Unisaw. Get a RSS fishing line going on your local CraigsList.

I should note that there are 3 kinds of table saws: benchtops, contractor style, and cabinet saws. Benchtops are ultra-portable and ultra hard to use on anything larger than 20" or so. Contractor styles are generally full sized, have more stable fences and are cheaper but they generally have the motor hanging out the back. If the motor hits anything than the saw can easily get off alignment. Since the trunnions (the metal that hold the blade and rotating assembly) are mounted to the table on Contractor style saws, it's generally voodoo to align them. Cabinet saws have cabinet mounted trunnions and internally mounted motors but are more expensive. A used cabinet saw is SO MUCH BETTER than a new contractor style.

3) For artists who appreciate safety, are perhaps scared to death of table saws, or use a lot of plywood sheets and don't like wrestling them on a table saw, or don't have a lot of space for a table saw or need a portable and DUST FREE solution we recommend the Festool Plunge Cut Circular Saw and Track System. This is a totally different way to think about cutting wood. It's a circular saw that fits on a track. Put the aluminum track on your plywood and the saw fits snugly on the track and makes a perfect AND EASY cut. CRAZY SAFE. The saw is a plunge cut saw which means that the blade always retracts into a metal shield. This also means you can easily cut a hole in the middle of a sheet. Work with angles? This is your tool. Hook it up to the Festool vacuum and it's almost dust free cutting, perfect for galleries or if you live in your studio. This system can replace a table saw or be a brilliant compliment to a table saw (if you're using a lot of sheets). Brace yourself: this system starts at about $450 and you'll need/want options (like a 107" track for cutting a sheet lengthwise) that drive the final price up towards $600-$900. 

Here's a lower priced competitor to the Festool system that many like as well. It's a $160ish track that works with the circular saw you already own.

Category: Tools and Tech

2 Comments so far ↓

  • Sharon

    HAHAHA… I figured someone will eventually come up with this fear…
    my only suggestion – go read up on some physics, centrifugal, rotational forces – the blade cannot fly out of the saw.
    ever wondered why the arbor nut is always so hard to open on the saw even if you never tighten it THAT hard to begin with? – when the arbor spins, the forces are pulling the nut INWARDS and tightening it up more than what you already did – the same forces are also pulling the blade inwards – not outwards – and definitely not UPWARDS…
    but it is an entertaining concept nonetheless.
    the recall associated with the ridgid/steel city only concerns dado blades when they are fully loading the arbor, and the blade cannot come OUT of the saw, although it is a safety issue that should be – and IS being taken care of by the company (and only for saws that were manufactured within a specific time frame in ’08
    and no – I am not affiliated with any of those companies – I do woodworking as a hobby.

    • Rich

      The hazard is an arbor failure when using stacked dado blades. Think what will happen to the blades when they lose all support in space.

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