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Thread: Table saw evolution

  1. #1
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    Lightbulb Table saw evolution

    While sitting here waiting for a "blue norther" to blow through, I started thinking about table saws and how little they have evolved since their invention about 150 years ago. I'm using that date as the time the Shaker lady (can't remember her name) came up with the idea of a circle saw blade, since everything really dates from that. I realize that initially that blade was used to replace the pit saw, but it's still where the whole concept started.

    When you really think about it we haven't come very far. Moving the blade to a table, making the table out of cast iron, and adding a fence seem to be evolutionary steps that have produced the Uni Saw and all its imitators. The basic saw, the one that became the Uni, evolved just after the turn of the 20th century. It took a bit longer for it to find its way into the home shop, but then there were not that many home shops until after around 1950.

    Quick note--the temp here has gone from about 70* to 44* since I sat down here an hour or so ago.

    For the past 50 or so years there has been very little movement in TS evolution. I see part of the reason as the "off shore copy" revolution. That is manufacturers going after markets based on price and cheap labor availability. I think everyone is familiar with this, but you have to ask yourself what could have been had companies like Delta sought alternative approaches rather than attempting to go head to head in a price war.

    You have to ask yourself what if Delta (or anyone else) had developed a slider combination, that integrated Saw Stop technology, and other bells and whistles, pattented the bundled technology, and owned the show for the next 18 years or more (they could extend the patten by making timely improvements). When I look at Saw Stop's web site I see they are developing additional products, but most are based on their "one trick pony."

    So what do you think. Did Delta et al miss the boat by a failure to innovate, or did they stay with the traditional saw because their customer base would shy away from innovation? When I look at some of the Saw Stop threads from the past I think the latter. When I see how well thought of SS is by people who voted with their $$ I think the former.

    Let's keep any discussion civil, even though we all know their are some strong feelings about the subject.

  2. #2
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    I don't know why it is, but over and over, we see innovation come from a new company and not from the existing major players in an industry. I suppose it's just part of Schumpeter's "Creative destruction". There are many examples, but a big one is the auto industry where the Japanese came in with better quality and took significant market share.

    I think we'll see the major table saw manufacturers respond to SawStop with innovations of their own soon. I don't know what those innovations will be, but it'll be pretty hard for them to just ignore the threat of SS. They'll have to do something to protect their market share.

    Personally, I look forward to a "table saw war". Those of us who buy and use table saws will benefit.

    Mike
    Ancora imparo
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  3. #3
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    It appears to me that the bulk of inovation of table saws over the last 25 years has happened in Europe. For the most part their saws are safer (e.g. with riving knives) and are easier to use (e.g. with built-in sliders).

    Of course, it is in Europe where most of the tool inovations, not just those for table saws, have happened over the last 25 years.
    Cheers, Frank

  4. #4
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    this is purely my take on this type of subject so take it for what it's worth. I feel that in every area of retail products change and innovation seem to be more driven by competition that anything. there are companies out their who strive day in and day out to better their products and i am thankful for that. Whether the other companies get caught up in just producing a product to make money or what i am not sure. but i for one love it when someone decides to push the envelope and create better and more innovative products.

    i think it would be safer to say that certain companies chose to not improve their versions of the table saw. because when you can buy a saw that has an automatic fence system that moves and sets itself based on numbers you punch in on a key pad. i would have to say there have been many improvements. why some choose not to make these types improvements to their saws is beyond me. granted that example is a little high end. but i was just trying to make a point.

    that's my take on it anyway.

    chris

  5. #5
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    weeelllll, i think that delta started the downhill slide in the 70`s when they turned into a top heavy company.....they closed up the foundrys that they acquired with the rockwell purchase and started outsourcing their large equipment....first( i think?) to italy by having scmi produce the larger stuff....then being as profits weren`t enough to feed the advertising/management they killed that relationship and outsourced to brazil hence the delts/invicta relationship that may have allready soured?
    powermatic on the otherhand kept their foundrys up-n-runnin` in tenn. untill the mid 80`s.....but......had allready begun cheapening their line with tai/chi imports in an attempt to battle price with delta in the 70`s.......wmh took over mid 80`s and promptly shut down US production...
    in the mid 70`s to early 80`s time frame another newbie entered the picture with tai/chi goods and a marketing plan grizzly, at first their tools where identical to the discount houses stuff like harbor freight and the traveling circus but their marketing arm was quickly gaining on delta and powermatic as far as getting pricing in the publics eye......
    meanwhile across the pond europe was passing rules-n-regulations that made osha look tame.....a few companies jumped into the fracus to build equipment compliant with the new regulations...old ones like martin and altendorf and a new player who had just lost a lucritive contract with delta, scmi......... the rest is pretty much recient history.....
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------
    fastforward to today.........delta/powermatic and the other tai/chi marketing arms are struggling to hold a market share......minimal money is being spent on real inovation........they`re all trying to play catch-up to the european market....who by the way has actually grown at a much healthier rate....
    so as things sit now....in the saw market there`s two main camps....the european saws and the tai/chi saws.......sawstop chose to crawl in bed with the tai/chi foundrys, neat but not time-tested technology.......what`s next? who knows.........certainly not i.....but i`ll predict a merging of the tai/chi marketers within the next decade, in an attempt to break into both the european market and to try and take back a segment of the lost american market.........will "they" succeed? i doubt it being as well priced old technology has a limited marketplace and from here i see no real r&d comming from any of the tai/chi marketers.......only time will tell.

    these have been the observations of an old hillbilly woodbutcher .....so any tai/chi marketers who don`t like what i`ve said please remember it`s only my opinion and it`s worth what you`ve paid for it....tod
    [SIZE="1"] associated with several importers and manufacturers.[/SIZE]

  6. #6
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    Wow, you guys really bring more questions up.

    Mike, your example of the auto industry is really appropriate. Do you find it interesting that the Japanese took Deming's SQC and made a winner after Detroit rejected the idea? What about the transistor and fax machine. Did we (US companies) fail to have any innovative vision of the product?

    Tod and Frank, you seem to represent a wide background group (IBM guy and Hillbilly Woodbutcher) What do you think about the driver for the development of European tools. We see so much resistance to OHSA here, and grouse about Govt. regulations, and yet that is what led (directly or indirectly) to the development of Mini-Max, Robland etc. So in light of what Chris said, is it going to take some new Govt. regulation to drive innovation here, or some guy who just wants to invent a better mouse trap?

  7. #7
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    I think there are two issues at work here...the lack of critical thinking skills of people in general and companies bottom line.

    In my industry we are really suffering from the lack of critical thinkers. I can't even compare what my generation learned about solving problems and what is out there today. If you knew what is going on you would be shocked. We figured things out by thinking...nowadays if it's not in writing...it can't be done. Documenting against supidity is more profitable than creating good products.

    Then there's the bottom line...profit...which has become greed. Companies are run to make profit...and in general it's not profitable to be innovative...unless it's focused on being less expensive. How many times have you been asked where can something for less not if there is something better? The companies are always trying to make things less expensive attempting to get a piece of the pie.

    So if you combine the two problems...you force people to spend all their time making things most people will buy...for cost...not for innovative ideas...because people have no idea what innovation is. Most people don't even know how to open the hood of car anymore...and only worry about how pretty it is or much it costs monthly. My dad used to drool over a nice watch...very few people even know what a nice watch is...and don't care. A 10 dollar piece of junk tells time right? Just look at things like air bags...seltbelts...safety glass...they were a longer time coming because they thought people would balk at the price. The only way they would take it on is if the government forced it on them...then they could blame the government...while making a profit. Safety or innovation is always a compromise with cost.

    Sorry...it's a daily discussion where I work...and I think we are in big trouble over it.

  8. #8
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    Interesting subject. I use a 1947 model saw and I pretty well pleased with it. I think the issue is that there is has not been a big problem that needed fixing or improving. Except for kickback maybe.

    Now I love the idea of the riving knife. That is one I wish I could adapt to my old saw and would love to see on new ones. Other than that I don't see anything that really needs improving.

    Sliding table would nice when I was ripping down 4 x 8 sheets. I don't think I really need one.

    Sawstop is great idea but again, I don't think there was a huge problem to start with. It appears to me that table saws just do the job they are meant for very well and relatively safely. Most improvements are driven by need and there just isn't that much that needs improving on the current design.

  9. #9
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    cecil, it`s going to take several things happening to change the american saw market......the sawstop folks have opened up legislators eyes as to the "hazzards" of saws.......knowing how our government works they`ll spew forth some type of legislation in the next few terms that`ll most likely affect small businesses and tool manufacturers......joe in his garage will be unaffected other than his ability to go buy a cheap saw new....as long as the american market is driven by price there will be little or no improvement in quality.....my bet is that out of 100 new tablesaws sold in the usa 90 of them sell for below 1k today.....who but tai/chi importers can or would compete for that market? and what type of innovation can we as consumers honestly expect from a product designed and marketed to meet a price point? in order for there to be any actual innovation in the consumer type saws first the public is going to have to be willing to pay for it......and it seems they are with sawstop....and second business will have to show a profit bringing innovation to market..........with our "wal-mart" mentality in this country i don`t know if the day will come.........tod
    [SIZE="1"] associated with several importers and manufacturers.[/SIZE]

  10. #10
    Interesting thread. I guess one question that must be asked is "what are ways that a company can significantly improve upon basic woodworking functions? And I'll approach it from the home hobbyist perspective since that is what I am! In the final analysis I doubt that there are many new ways to cut/shape/route/sand/finish a piece of wood. We can talk about doing it safer (saw stop, sliders, riving knife, dust collection, guided saw systems)
    more accurately (laser setup, higher quality measuring systems) or with new technology (laser cutting, computer controlled systems)

    So if a company is going to stay competitive it has to find a way to manufacture an existing non differentiated product more inexpensively (tai chi Tod!) , or up the quality (L-N or Veritas anyone?) All in all, I think these trends to benefit the hobbyists. I picked up a woodworking book written in the early 80s in a used bookstore over the weekend. The "professional" tools cited in the book look like toys compared to the capability that is available to us now at a very reasonable price. I think, for example, that my Grizzly 8" parallelogram jointer is easily equal to its higher priced DJ20 competitor. If Delta doesn't find a way to create added value, the price of its equipment eventually will fall to meet the competition.

    It seems to me that some people got all bent out of shape when SawStop tried to get the government to pass a standard requiring the new technology. Well, that is exactly what happened to require the installation of seat belts in cars. The Federal government mandated their installation (along with safety glass, airbags, etc.

    Frankly, I"m looking forward to evaluating the new SawStop contractor saw when it goes on the market next spring. If it reduces the risk of using a table saw it is worth it in my opinion. With that and my Festool stuff I think I"ll have a safer workplace.

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