In my company, Great Lakes Builders, we were early adopters of the SawStop safety system, and we bought one of JSS Job Site Saws as soon as they became available. Like most small businesses, safety is a big concern, and we strive to make our workplace as safe as we can. Having a safe table saw – one that shuts down the instant the blade comes in contact with skin – certainly helps lower the risk.
Small, compact table saws certainly have a place on the job site. They’re light and easy to maneuver, and that is the reason my crew has been after me to buy one. We do a lot of work in areas with tight access, and a smaller saw – one that one person can easily move – offers a clear advantage. I dragged my feet on this request until SawStop recently released the CTS Compact Table Saw; then I jumped at it.
The SawStop CTS is a premium offering with a price to match: $899 at the time of publication. In my opinion the safety advantage alone is worth this high price tag, but I was pleased to find the build quality to be quite good compared to other compact models on the market.
Pros: These are some of the quality features offered that we liked a lot:
- The CTS still runs a 10-inch blade, compared to a 8-1/4-inch blades found on many other compact saws.
- It has a rack-and-pinion fence that holds the fence square to the blade. This has proved very reliable and looks like it will stay that way for the life of the saw. The fence has what SawStop calls a “high and low face,” which means the fence includes a “low face” spacer that separates the material you are cutting from the “high face” (main body) of the fence, giving you more room for your hand or a push stick between the blade and the fence. This also helps reduce the chances of material binding between the blade and the fence.
- SawStop offers a well-thought-out folding stand for the CTS. This retails for an additional $130, which I would recommend. The simple quick-release connectors (one at the front, one at the back) that secure the saw housing to this stand make for an especially easy setup and breakdown.
- Dust collection appears to be better than any other compact saw we have run in the past. The port pulls air and dust from directly below the blade. This is a vast improvement over many saws that simply have a port coming out the back of the housing.
- The motor easily handled cutting 2x SPF and Doug-fir stock, along with ripping ¾-inch CDX and OSB sheet material. Run-out from the direct drive motor seems to be non-existent.
Limitations: Other than the obvious limitations that come with using a compact table saw, regardless of brand, these are a few things to consider:
- The CTS currently only comes with a cord, which isn’t a big issue if you’re like me and regularly run a vacuum on your tools. We have to run an extension cord for the vac anyway, and can simply plug the saw into the automatic-on switch on the vac.
- The CTS is not designed to run a dado blade. This isn't a huge deal, but worth a mention for those looking for that. For us, the JSS model does allow for an 8-inch stacked dado blade, so for the few times we might need this, we’re covered.
- The saw has a side handle and is designed to be carried like a briefcase (including a safe way to lock the fence in position under the table for storage). We tried this way of transporting the saw, but it makes it awkward to get in and out of the truck and on and off the stand. We found it much more natural to lift it from the tabletop. This is not so much a limitation as it is a comment on a feature that isn't of much help.
- The CTS uses a new version of the brake cartridge (TSBC-10R3). If you're already part of the SawStop family, this cartridge is compatible with the rest of the table saws in the SawStop lineup. However, any older cartridges you might have on hand may not fit.
Cons. There was only one minor thing that bugged me:
You need to deactivate the SawStop safety brake to cut wet lumber. That in itself is not the problem; it's that putting the saw in this bypass mode requires two hands (see photo at left). As an employer, I found this problematic, because the guys were putting the wood on the ground to deactivate the safety system. Or even worse, they were deactivating the saw, then walking away from the saw while it was running to grab the material to cut. I would prefer a simple on-off switch. The onboard warning lights on the saw make it clear that the brake system is deactivated, so you're not likely to forget you turned it off. And when the saw is switched off, it automatically returns with the brake system activated.
One thing I would like to see in the future would be an accessory outfeed table that can be clipped on to the back of the table. This is needed on any compact table saw, in my opinion, because with a limited table area for holding material, it's easy for large stock to fall out of balance. This can easily cause a kickback when the unbalanced material binds the blade. For a saw like the CTS, which is designed to improve user safety, a smart outfeed system would be is a natural improvement.