A Few Critiques

 The Sawstop,

A Critique:

  • The machine is only available in left tilt. Why not both?

    • Left tilt, as provided, is safer for ripping.
    • Right tilt is safer for crosscutting. With my sled, below, you can turn your saw into a low budget version of a Euro style sliding table saw.
    • Having a shop with both a left and a right tilt saw allows you to do mirror image compound angled crosscuts.
  • The die cast metal miter gauge provided with the saw could be better: it could be machined cast iron, with a face that is actually flat and perpendicular to the saw table.
  • The fence is a copy of the Biesemeyer fence, but more delicate, with a mushy locking lever mechanism. The cam is die cast metal.
  • When production cutting with the saw, you sometimes shut it off, thinking that you have finished a series of cuts. The machine spins down and then you wait for the software to feel safe for the saw to arm again, which allows you to turn the saw back on. This takes ~15 seconds?

    • Why not have an electric brake, stopping the saw, with a non-delayed re-arm, like a European saw, for near instant restarts?
  • The paddle on-off switch is right under the fence bar. Often you hit it with your thigh as you lean into the machine to complete a rip cut. The machine then goes through its wind-down and software lag…..
  • The switch flashing red and green LEDs whose patterns indicate the various faults is an irritation.

    • Why not have an LCD which describes the fault in actual language? 
  • The machine is painted black inside, which makes maintaining the machine difficult, since you cannot see to do any work.
  • The push stick provided is a goofy afterthought: A push stick should allow the operator of the machine to apply a force vector to the workpiece. It should safely allow the work to be pushed down to the table, against the fence and through the blade all at the same time. A thoughtfully designed push stick should allow the application of this force vector, along a diagonal line, forward, down to the table and to the fence, all at once. John Sheridan has a nice push stick design that does this, well.
  • While one, if libertarian, could call the Sawstop a table saw for the nanny state, the pain, emotional trauma, and personal, permanent disabilities which are consequences of a serious tablesaw injury are commendably avoided by the use of this machine. It can, however, be be improved and become a more useful tool.

Sled Article:


© John P. McCormack 4/20/21

Chris’s Bench

A RISD Style Crit

JPM 9/19/19

I TA’d for Seth Stem for two semesters. He could be one of the harshest critics I saw in action at RISD. He could reduce a student to tears. Early on, I often spoke to the student abraded by this criticism and told them not to take it personally, that they had value and were making useful and sometimes lovely things. Later, I would try to shape the crit, asking of the critic to provide useful criticism, something positive that the student could take away and use. If you look at the back panel of the drag version of my Pencil Chair (AKA Monads’ Chair, Reified) one of the greatest hits of the crits is: That’s the ugliest thing I’ve seen in my life”. This was said to an undergrad, angrily.

I do not find such criticism pedagogically useful.

In this instance, I will let the bear out of the cave. 

From a design perspective, The bench is so low and cants back to the point that anyone over 45 could not get out of it. A member of the Bauhaus would ask: What are the dovetailed collars and toes at the head and foot doing? Couldn’t they be gone and the design therefore be simpler, more honest and better? And why does the triangle at the foot point up? Is this a piece of Folsom Street woodworking? (Folsom St. is where all the Gay S&M leather bars are in San Francisco).

From a craftsman’s perspective the thing is ok, but why are the dovetails so large? They look cut by a Keller jig. Why not cut them so that they look like someone did them by hand? Make the pins small. Small pins are pretty. 

In SF on Castro Street years ago, there were antique stores selling British Art Deco furniture (armoires and bureaus of various sorts) from the 20s and 30s. Many of the cases had hand cut dovetails, with pins so small that the saw cuts on the tail boards could not be pared with a chisel after the sawing. This was delicate, lovely and hand done work on pieces of interesting design oriented toward the middle class.

From both design and craft perspectives, this piece is less than successful.

© John P. McCormack 2019 & 2020