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Thread: Sawstop ICS Problems and Support

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2021
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    Sawstop ICS Problems and Support

    Disclaimer: I want to be up front with the fact that this is going to be a less than favorable view on Sawstop. However, my intent is not to go ranting on the forums about Sawstop being a terrible company. I have a very significant issue with my brand new saw, and I'm sharing this mainly due to safety concerns. With that, I'll admit I'm frustrated and this write up is also going to reflect some customer service issues I encountered.

    Getting machines since covid started has been a nightmare. I think we can all agree to that. I was looking for a sliding table saw when I found myself in a bind and had to make a last minute purchase for a new saw. I called my local vendor who just happened to have a 5hp 52" fence Sawstop ICS on hand that someone backed out on just before they received it. If I wanted it, the delivery could happen immediately. I'm saying this purely to share that this saw was acquired due to an urgent need for work and that I didn't pick the specs at all, it was this, or nothing (I'm a full time owner/operator carpenter and can't be without).

    2 main issues with the saw were noticeable early on:

    1. The table was out of flat. It was clear during assembly that there was a significant droop in the table on the right infeed side. This made attaching the table extension without a large belly impossible.

    2. Kickbacks. I noticed early on that this saw was having kickback issues with the offcuts when I would make bevel cuts. The first few were mild, but the problem seemed to be getting worse quickly, and I started having offcuts violently thrown/lodged into the wall behind me. I intended to contact my vendor and tech support at this point, but I received a package in the mail the next morning that altered the plan.

    3. New issue. I received a letter in the mail with two brake cartridges. The summary of the letter was that there appeared to be a problem with ICS saws that had specific serial numbers. The arbor may be faulty and the brake would not work correctly on these saws. Mine may be affected and I needed to stop using the old cartridges immediately. I was instructed to call in if I had an old dado cartridge and that it would be replaced as well. I called the next day.

    I'm going to summarize everything in the next few paragraphs, but this all took place over a 2 week period and it resulted in a progressive decline in my trust of Sawstop.

    Table Testing: I was asked to test the table for flatness at least 5 times over. Every time I tested the table, it was out by nearly double their tolerance. They asked me to repeat the test over and over again, even getting to a point where they were sending me instructions of how to hold a straightedge and not skew the results. I was even instructed to stop using my woodpeckers straight edges, go to home depot, buy new straight edges with the intent of returning them, and repeat the test. I refused at this point and the technician got angry and yelled at me over the phone that fine, they would accept my measurement and replace the table, but that the labor was my responsibility unless I can prove I am physically incapable of doing the work myself.

    Hotdog Testing: To this day, I can rotate the blade with my fingers, and push my fingers into the teeth and shoulders of the teeth as hard as I can without the saw red safety light flashing. If I barely touch the blade with a hotdog, it immediately flashes. If I touch the blade with my fingers, it doesn't flash. No one has been able to explain this to me and it doesn't inspire confidence.

    Kickback Testing: I was informed that the white oak I was cutting likely had too much tension in it and was causing the kickbacks. This was all kiln dried and then milled into flooring and sitting indoors in a clients house for about a year. It was 2-4" wide pieces that were no thicker than .75" at any point. I was instructed to use 1/4" plywood to try and recreate the kickbacks to prove that it wasn't the fault of my wood. I again, pointed out that the kickbacks were getting worse and that I was concerned about the safety of trying to intentionally do this. "Leadership wants you to do it, and stand to the side while doing it." On the 8th strip of 1/4" ply with the blade beveled for this experiment I experienced the worst kickback of my life. The cutoff was violently ripped free from the main board just before the cut was complete. This pulled the main board to the right of the blade up onto the riving knife and almost onto the top of the blade. This is the most dangerous thing I've ever done with power tools and it scared the hell out of me.

    Saw Health Testing: This is a simple test. You use a stick of wood to turn the blade slowly. The green light is supposed to flash or briefly dim approximately once per rotation. On mine, the red light flashed. I was also asked to do this test repeatedly. The saw failed the same way every time. The first three times I performed this test a tech told me it was strange that the saw was still working despite failing this test. The forth time I performed this test, the tech who yelled at me about the table flatness (you can talk to numerous techs) instantly told me that the arbor and arbor block has to be replaced on my saw. The fifth time I performed this test a different tech told me that this failed test, meant that the original concern about arbor problems was likely the cause of my kickback issues. Essentially, the arbor is wobbling resulting in pinches happening between the table and blade when in a beveled position. It also decreases the quality of any straight cut.

    As of this morning my situation is:
    The saw cannot be considered safe for use in a beveled position.
    The saw should not be trusted for high accuracy straight cuts with the blade at 90 to the table.
    Parts are unavailable for the repair right now, but expected by January 15th.
    Sawstop initially refused to cover labor for the arbor, arbor block, and table replacement. They have now backed off (my vendor got involved) and agreed to pay for the labor on these repairs.

    Summary:
    I'm pretty upset that I was treated more like a liar, than a concerned customer through most of the process. I was told several times that I needed to "prove it" because "Sawstop has been burned before" and asked to repeatedly take pictures from different angles to prove I wasn't skewing results or making things up. I don't have any idea what I would have to gain by calling in with a fake claim of kickbacks. I'm also, quite honestly, angry I was instructed to try and cause a kickback when a simple rotation of the blade test would have proved this was a problem, especially since they are in the middle of acknowledging they may have sent out wobbling arbors. Last, IMO it's incredibly important that you take good notes and fill in the tech on the phone every time you call in. Despite many notes on my file now, each tech seemed completely oblivious that tests had already been completed or that there was more than one problem being reported. Even at the end of the two week period, techs were still saying things like "oh that's the first we've heard of this." It seemed like they are trained to quickly direct you to videos to make adjustments yourself, but not necessarily trouble shoot unique scenarios.

    So, again, my intent in writing this isn't to openly bash and discredit this company. As far as I know, they have never had an issue like this and my vendor said the same thing. I think the average person, on an average day, would likely have no issues with their saw or their customer service. However, if you find yourself with a serious issue, and the techs are not trained for it, I would strongly encourage you to take notes, stand up for yourself, and refuse to do anything that is unsafe.

  2. #2
    Thanks for posting this. It's unsettling to me as I pick up my PCS next week. Yes, we've come to expect failures and DOA's in everything we purchase these days for obvious reasons. However, the way you were treated is unacceptable! Your restraint is admirable because as soon as the tech yelled at me it would've been game over....I would have contacted/written their highest ranking management and dropped the saw off on vendors doorstep. You should have been sent a new saw on Sawstops dime immediately.

    You qualified your post by saying you're giving a "less than favorable" review, or you're not bashing the company. If you are posting facts we need to know about it. Admins can correct me if I'm wrong, but part of the reason this forums exist is for us to share honest experiences. We need to know how products perform and how these companies treat their customers so we can make informed decisions on who we give our business.

    I'm about to plunk down over $3k and now worried I'm about buying the PCS. I can also walk away as I've no deposit down with Woodcraft. Woodcraft put my name on the saw and told me if I change my mind just call them. I have to think this trough....
    Thanks,
    Fred

    Seasoned professional possessing unremarkable proficiency at innumerable skills.

  3. #3
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    This is really too bad and not like what what has been normal for SawStop. I have had my PCS for a number of years with no issues of any kind. Typically, I have heard very few complaints concerning SawStop. I do not doubt the reported problems but what has changed. I wonder if this has anything to do with SawStop being purchased by another company.

    I hope that your problems can be resolved. When a company ships a defective product, I think it is their responsibility to fix it rather than just send me parts and have me fix it.
    Last edited by Larry Frank; 12-30-2021 at 8:14 PM.

  4. #4
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    Brian, I'm sorry you have had this problem (I'm in no way connected with Sawstop by the way).
    I would also be irate if I had been treated like you say you were; Yes, I also might have asked for a supervisor.
    I wonder if there is a small bit of out-of-alignment issue you are experiencing, as well as some case hardening regarding the kickback.
    In my case, I've discovered my almost new Sawstop needs to have adjustments done because the blade is slightly not parallel with the blade. It might be possible the 45 deg. setting is also "out", and these setting adjustments are detailed in the manual.
    That does NOT mean everything else about the machine is not EXACTLY like you described.
    I've only had one interaction with the company, and I had to email them because they don't have a 1-800 number accessible from Canada.
    Please, please report back what happens.
    Young enough to remember doing it;
    Old enough to wish I could do it again.

  5. #5
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    You'll never know, but I wonder if the 1st guy backed out because he got wind of manufacturing problems. Brian
    Brian

  6. #6
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    Apr 2008
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    Edmonton, Canada
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    I have had my ICS for over 12 years and have dealt with Sawstop a few times. Their customer service IMO has been up there among the bests (like LV or beyond) and I am not easy to please. I probably have documented a few instances of my interactions with them early on. They are typically knowledgeable and have taken care of me beyond warranty.
    Having said that I can feel how irritating your experience has been.
    - regarding the table, is it the main table top that is off or an extension wing? and how much off we are talking about? I had to play with one wing to get it perfectly flat at the joint. Cast Iron does bend a bit (it's not as rigid as many think). Clamps and then tightening the bolts helps.

    - The kickback you are describing at bevel cuts sounds an out of alignment issue. Sawstop has an excellent set of instructions to adjust the saw and in particular how to adjust it for bevel cuts. Have you gone through those steps? I have taken my saw apart a few times (moving from basement shop....) and put it back and have gone through the adjustment.

    - The issue of the blade not detecting your finger: many people don't fully understand how the saw actually detects fingers. The original owner (Gass?) once answered that question on this forum as I had the same experience. The saw has two mechanism for detecting a finger touch, I forgot the terms but if you touch the the tip of the carbides with a (dry?) finger it wont easily detect it. If you touch the side of the blade it detects it but in a different way. To detect your finger touching the tip of the carbide it needs a bit of moist that might not be on the skin but if it breaks the skin it will immediately detect. I had noticed this and it was explained many years ago (should dig to find the thread). So the short answer is almost surely your saw is not faulty. There hasn't been a false-negative regarding sawstops AFAIK.

    - Having manufacturing issue with some brakes and asking you to swap them shouldn't shake your confidence in the product or company. The fact that they are pro-active and contact/follow up to remedy this is actually a good sign. I have had one of the original saws that had a different cartridge. They changed their system after a few years later to a more improved one. In a phone call I had with them on a different issue they punched my serial number and noticed it and they offered to me to change the mechanism to the new one and sent me new brake cartridges too (all free of charge!).

    I hope you can sort out your issues (perhaps they are not as deep as you might think) and enjoy your saw.

  7. #7
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    Brian,

    Major bummer to get a lemon, especially when buying under pressure. Also sorry to hear about the less than satisfactory response from SS, though perhaps not surprising given all the strain on everything, including the service sector.

    Regardless, I presume you checked the arbor runout and alignment to the miter slot, and alignment of the fence to the blade etc? Sorry if I'm asking an obvious question, but one dope with a forklift can quickly put the alignment of a table saw out of wack regardless of how it left the factory.

    Hoping you get it sorted to your satisfaction.

    Best,
    Chris
    "You can observe a lot just by watching."
    --Yogi Berra

  8. #8
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    May 2021
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    Bryan, all of these problems apart from the table flatness may be related. As I understand it, the SawStop detection circuit has two stationary plates that are capacitively coupled through the saw blade. The saw blade is electrically isolated from the saw. A signal is transmitted between the plates via the blade with the blade being the DC blocking capacitor in the capacitive coupling circuit. Electrical coupling of the blade with a hot dog or person, among other things, will cause the hot dog or person to become part of the DC blocking capacitor in the circuit and thus change the capacitance, which is detected as a change in the output signal. The capacitive coupling is also a function of the distance between the plates and the blade. There will presumably be a calibration for variations in that distance. The excessive arbor eccentricity of your saw may be causing havoc with that calibration and the sensitivity of the detection system by causing variations in the distance between the plates and blade. Just a WAG.

  9. #9
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    I've had three occasions to contact SS customer service, and was satisfied 2 out of 3 times. Maybe it exists somewhere of which I am unaware, but a SS owners' forum would be really helpful.
    Hobbyist

  10. #10
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    Can you return it? That would be a real consideration. Even if your business needs a saw, it doesn't sound like sinking a ton of time into this saw is a profitable endeavor.

  11. #11
    Not associated with saw stop (though I do own one) but I have a theory based on a life time of experience with dealing with companies and hopefully my thoughts may help you, or at least explain why some companies do stuff like this.

    Your problems are an outlier. I have never seen anyone with a SawStop that bad out of box and I suspect the company is feeling the same. As an outlier they are dubious because they just don’t see these kind of failures. I don’t know that’s true but dealing with companies that make quality products I can tell what is a common and what is a rare problem. If they say, “yep, we know, here’s the replacement part” then it’s common. If it starts with a WTF moment then it’s rare.

    That said, I’ve found that enough customers have no clue and a video goes a LONG way. A pleasant attitude of “sure, let me make you a video” can go a long way. For example, when saying, “I laid a flat edge on it” is nowhere near as effective as a video showing 2 straight edges flat against each other, then reversing one to prove the straight edges are flat, then putting it on the table and using a gapper (for measuring spark plugs) to show the exact gap between the table and the straight edge.

    If the arbor is wobbly then take a video of a micrometer against the blade and rotate through it. Show on the video how much the wobble is.

    Anyway, I feel for you. Good luck.

  12. #12
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    To answer a few questions and fill in the blanks:

    I did a bunch of tests and measurements to make sure the blade was correctly calibrated. The only thing that was obviously off what the riving knife, it was aligned to the left of the blade, instead of the center/right of the blade like the wanted. The zero clearance plate gives interesting feedback. As the blade is raised and lowered the blade moves left to right. This is part of why accuracy can't be guaranteed. The fence can only be calibrated to a single blade height. It looks like the blade is moving left to right about 1/16th of an inch depending on the height of the blade.

    I did send them a bunch of pictures and videos. I got more frustrated when they kept asking for repeat photos and videos from different angles and perspectives. The reason this is frustrating is this: I'm not a fool, and I pointed out a lack of any scientific testing or documentation from the start. I formerly did bridge and dam testing where we used micrometers to test the stresses on steel. When this process with sawstop started I pointed out that they weren't asking for photos or precise measurements, and they told me to not worry about it. When the tests failed, they then wanted more documentation. The test fails again, they want it redone with different photos. The test fails again, they want it done with different tools. The time wasted sitting on hold, repeating tests, uploading photos, writing emails, this is significant. If you want test results that are accurate, start with asking for them in an accurate way. Don't ask the client to repeat the test over and over again with progressively tighter tolerances.

    Then, when I'm actually on the phone with a tech and he's asking me to do the table flatness test and give him measurements: I tell him I'm using a .010 (their tolerance) feeler gauge and I can rock the straightedge up and down due to the size of gap. He asks "how big do you think the gap actually is? .012?" I responded that I'll check and get him an exact number. He asks again ".015?" I respond again, just a second I'm going through the feeler gauges. That's when I got yelled at "FINE STOP. JUST STOP I GET IT. STOP THE TEST I'LL GIVE YOU A TABLE." (Diagonally the table is out .019. From left to right it's out .070).

    So, SS terminated the test before I could even give the actual numbers. It doesn't add up to me. You want photos of everything, from every angle, multiple times. You want proof of the quality of my measuring tooling. You want proof of how I'm holding the tooling. You want me to replace my measuring tooling with items from home depot. Then, when I've passed through the gauntlet you have a blow up and refuse to get the actual test results?

    As far as returning and/or exchanging the tool goes: As best I can tell every new saw is affected by this issue. They have nothing to exchange my saw with. Returning: I haven't asked because I don't have a backup plan. I have a dewalt jobsite saw.... but the idea of building out my work log of 50k in cabinets/builtins on that saw makes me sick.

    If the saw still has issues after the repair (not expected) then I think discussing a return is reasonable. I'm not pleased with their CS, but I also want to avoid knee jerk reactions and abandoning all hope. There's a TON of bad manufacturing since COVID hit. I don't want to think this is the new norm, but I am starting to think that's the case.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bryan Hall View Post
    To answer a few questions and fill in the blanks:

    I did a bunch of tests and measurements to make sure the blade was correctly calibrated. The only thing that was obviously off what the riving knife, it was aligned to the left of the blade, instead of the center/right of the blade like the wanted. The zero clearance plate gives interesting feedback. As the blade is raised and lowered the blade moves left to right. This is part of why accuracy can't be guaranteed. The fence can only be calibrated to a single blade height. It looks like the blade is moving left to right about 1/16th of an inch depending on the height of the blade.
    Pardon me if this is trivial but how do you measure the blade moves left/right when you raise it? Do you measure with a fixed dial indicator or do you test it against the fence? The laminate face of fence is known to to be not 100% flat. That's the biggest issue I have had with the fence system (others report it too) but the fence itself can be adjusted to satisfaction. If the blade moves left/right with moving up/down that's a very strange case indeed.

  14. #14
    How is the saw the problem when bevel drop offs are being kicked back?

  15. #15
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    This saw sounds to have so many significant problems you are having trouble getting people to believe it. And it seems pretty clear the various people you have spoken to don't share information. That's not good.

    There is no way the blade should move sideways by anything near 1/16" relative to the insert as you raise the blade. That alone would be enough to return it. If it wobbles that much in use, that would explain the kickback, and make the saw unusable.

    I would take it back. I can't believe you can't find something that works.

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