SawStop Contractor Saw Review: Is the CNS175 SFA30 a Good Buy?

SawStop is best known for its namesake safety mechanism, a mechanism which is central to every tool the manufacturer produces. The advanced blade stopping technology is once again at the center of their CNS175 contractor saw line. There is no denying that the consumer pays a premium for the peace of mind that fingers will remain attached to their hands, but does the rest of the saw live up to its price tag? We find out in our SawStop contractor saw review.

SawStop CNS175 Series Overview

The SawStop CNS175 is actually a series of saws available in a number of configurations. The base models are the SawStop CNS175 SFA30, the SawStop CNS175 TGP36, and the SawStop CNS175 TGP52. The CNS175 SFA30 is the most affordable option with an aluminum extrusion fence and 30-inch rip capacity. Next up is the CNS TGP36, which offers a T-glide, Biesemeyer-style fence and 36-inch rip capacity. The CNS175 TGP52 features the same fence as the TGP36 but brings with it 52 inches of rip capacity.

All models come stock with pressed steel extension wings and a standard open base design, but SawStop offers several configuration options and add-ons. For an extra cost, buyers can purchase cast iron extension wings, an integrated mobile base,  or even mobile cart for jobsite portability.

Additionally, SawStop offers accessories from a multi-hose dust port adapter to a sliding crosscut table. This makes the CNS175 series a very adaptable line of contractor saws. For those looking to step up to a cabinet saw but intrigued by the safety features offered by SawStop, the PCS series is worth a look.

In this review of the SawStop CNS175  SFA30 we will examine the common features of the CNS175 models as well as some of their points of differentiation.

Specifications

  • 10-inch max blade diameter
  • 5/8-inch arbor size
  • 13/16-inch max dado width
  • Left-tilt blade; 45 degree max tilt
  • 3 1/8-inch max depth of cut @ 90 degrees
  • 2 1/4-inch max depth of cut @ 45 degrees
  • 30 1/2-inch max rip right of blade; 16 1/2 inches left of blade

  • 1.75HP, 60Hz, dual-voltage TEFC induction motor
  • 110-120V, 14A prewired; can be rewired to 208-240V, 7A
  • 3450 RPM
  • V-ribbed belt drive

  • 58 1/2 x 40 x 34 3/4 inches
  • 25 3/4 x 27-inch footprint
  • 245 pounds
  • 34-inch table height
  • 40-inch table width including extension wings
  • 27-inch table depth

  • Aluminum extrusion fence
  • 3/4 x 3/8-inch T-slot mitre slot

  • 10-inch, 40T blade included
  • 0.079-inch blade body thickness
  • 0.120 blade kerf thickness
  • 0.090-inch riving knife and spreader thickness

  • 4-inch dust collection port

Design and Build

The SawStop CNS175 SFA30 can be considered the base package of SawStop’s contractor saw line. Its design and features are at the core of all available models and configurations. The standard CNS175 SFA30 ships with an open-based stand typical of contractor saws (for the not-so-typical, check out our Delta 36 5100 review).

The main body of the saw, comprised of the motor and arbor assembly encased in a steel cabinet and topped with a cast iron table, can optionally be moved to a mobile cart (providing jobsite functionality) or combined with a mobile base (for better maneuverability in the shop). These options along with other add-on accessories allow for a highly configurable saw, but each adds to the overall cost.

Attention and care has gone into the design of the CNS175. This contractor saw features everything from  an innovative insert design that allows for quick removal to access the blade and riving knife or onboard storage for included accessories like the miter gauge and arbor wrench  It’s obvious that the folks at SawStop have done their research and considered the real needs of the hobbyist or home woodworker.

Table Top

SawStop is serious about quality out of the factory as exemplified by a smooth and flat table top. The provided specs promise at most 0.016 inches of deflection across the table top when measured diagonally. Similarly, the miter slots show excellent parallelism. SawStop provides a maximum deflection of 0.010 inches.

While the main cast iron top is impressive, the included steel extension wings feel like a let down in comparison. As with most pressed steel extension wings, their tendency to flex makes alignment somewhat difficult during initial setup. This is somewhat less of an issue with the aluminum fence of the CNS175 SFA30. Expect slightly more frustration if upgrading to the T-glide fence and its heavier steel rails.

All three saws in the CNS175 lineup ship with the steel wings as the stock option, which is a bit disappointing. Rather than offering a model that bundles in the cast iron wings for potential cost savings, users must spend an additional $270 to upgrade.

Assembly

The provided instructions and color-coded hardware packs make for one of the most painless assemblies in recent memory. SawStop even includes extra hardware should any be misplaced or break. And breakage of bolts might be an issue; some users have reported snapped bolts during assembly, but we can’t say this was not simply user error in the form of overtightened hardware.

Out of the box the SawStop CNS175 SFA30 needed a bit more adjustment than the average saw, but again the instructions here were top notch. Tuning a saw before use isn’t all that bad a thing, either. It provides a chance to familiarize oneself with the machine and dial in alignment to preferred tolerances. In terms of adjustments, the aluminum fence of the SFA30 is a source of frustration for some users. More on that later.

Cutting Power

The 1.75HP motor is typical of a contractor saw in this range. The motor is prewired for 110V service, which means no need to worry about finding a 220/240V outlet.

Its unfair to compare a 1.75HP contractor saw to a 3HP cabinet saw, but but there is honestly not much of a drop-off when it comes to the CNS175 series. It’s a matter of expectations and familiarity with the tool. Few woods will pose a real challenge for this saw unless feed rate exceeds what the saw can handle.

The smooth, clean operation of the CNS175 SFA30 is impressive. A solid blade mounting system and heavy trunnions help cut back on excessive vibration and provide a solid base for operation.

Included Blade and Replacement Considerations

A 40-tooth combination blade is included with the saw and cuts well enough. Chances are those purchasing this saw will have their own opinions about which blade they will replace it with. But replacing the blade will not be a question.

The included blade features a kerf thickness of 0.120 inches and a blade body thickness of 0.79 inches. A riving knife and splitter thickness of 0.090 means the saw will accept most thin kerf blades. Remember, the blade’s kerf must be wider than the riving knife thickness and the blade body should be thinner.

Fence

SawStop CNS175 SFA30 Fence

The SawStop CNS175 SFA30 ships with a serviceable aluminum fence. There tends to be a bit of flex in both the fence and rail (all components are aluminum) and users complain of difficult adjustments. While clear instructions are provided, it can prove difficult to successfully align the blade so both its front and rear show equal parallelism to the blade.

The fence’s tendency to pinch can pose an increased risk of kickback, and at least one user describes the problem as being nearly impossible to correct due to the limitations of the adjustment mechanisms on the fence.

While we can live with stamped steel extension wings versus cast iron wings, jumping up in price for the T-glide fence system is perhaps the best way to increase the usability of the CNS 175 contractor saw.

Miter Gauge

The included miter gauge is nice and beefy and can carry well-sized stock without crafting an extension fence. Attachment point on the gauge do allow for such an extension to be easily added.

The gauge itself features a range of +/- 60 degrees from square as well as adjustable index stops at 0 degrees and +/- 45 degrees. SawStop promises the stops to be true to within +/- 0.5 degrees, so adjustment, while possible, should not be necessary. We might have liked to see a couple more stop positions on the gauge to allow us to lock in a few more common angles.

The gauge rides in a standard 3/4 x 3/8-inch T-slot. The gauge is assisted by a guide wheel that runs in the slot’s T-track. The miter bar, however, lacks its own adjustments to snug up travel in the slot. Play was not an issue, though.

Safety Features

Safety is truly where the SawStop CNS 175 SFA30 exceeds all expectations. We’d hope so. The SawStop safety system is the main reason this saw exists, after all. While the advanced safety system will get the most attention, SawStop has included other standard safety measures to make operation worry-free.

SawStop Safety System

The SawStop safety system is a truly remarkable advancement. The proprietary system uses an electrical charge to sense when conductive material (as in skin) comes into contact with the saw blade. Upon contact, a fuse-fired blade brake stops saw motion in mere milliseconds (3–5 milliseconds to be exact). While there is no avoiding a minor cut in most cases, it sure beats losing a finger or two.

SawStop explains the user should experience a cut no deeper than 1/16th of an inch when the hand is moving at 1 foot per second. A hand moving faster toward the blade will experience a deeper cut and potentially a more serious injury, but provided the brake is installed correctly an a proper blade is in place the result should not be catastrophic.

The safety system is backed up by an integral power switch system that continually runs diagnostics and displays error warning should something with the blade brake run amiss. The power controls feature a main switch for enabling general power to the saw and a separate switch to spin up the saw blade. A key can lock out the saw altogether. Should a user need to cut a conductive material like aluminum, the safety system can be temporarily disengaged.

Perhaps the only downside of the system is that the blade brake is one-time use and destroys the saw blade in the process of firing. Both must be replaced, and the brake cartridge and a good blade aren’t cheap. I think we can all agree that saving a finger is worth the extra cost.

Riving Knife and Blade Guard

Beyond the advanced blade braking safety system, SawStop continues its commitment to safety with “old school” features that help cut down kickback and prevent accidental contact with the moving blade. These come in the form of a riving knife and separate splitter and blade guard assembly as well as anti-kickback pawls.

The blade guard features transparent plastic wings that move independently to accommodate varying work pieces and cutting procedures. The design is fairly unobtrusive in terms of limiting view of the blade as well as maneuvering stock. It adjusts along with the blade height making wood thickness a moot point. Anti-kickback pawls prevent wood from launching back at the user, but can be locked out of the way when working with delicate species.

When a non-through cut operation is necessary, the splitter and guard can be quickly swapped out for a standard riving blade. The riving knife is an essential component in reducing binding and all but eliminating kickback. It is not recommended to ever operate the SawStop CNS175 SFA30 (or any other saw) without at least utilizing the riving knife.

Dust Collection

Dust collection on the CNS175 SFA30 is a bit of a mixed bag. A shroud helps direct dust straight to the 4-inch port that comes stock with the saw, but that port is a bit hard to reach. Instead of extending to the outside cabinet of the saw, it is accessed from beneath. At an extra cost, users have the option to purchase a dust port adapter panel that moves the port to a more convenient location and allows for the connection of both 4-inch and 2 1/2-inch dust hoses.

Because of the dust shroud, it’s nearly a must to operate the saw only with some form of dust collection. The shroud has a tendency to allow dust to collect in and around the blade and arbor assembly. This has potential to gunk up the works and hamper operation.

SawStop again offers users options in the form of an upgraded blade guard with build-in dust collection and overarm dust collection system. These further improve the saw’s dust collection capabilities, but when added the price tag continues to climb.

SawStop Contractor Saw Review: The Verdict

The SawStop CNS175 SFA30 is an all-around solid contractor saw, but it only realizes its full potential when the user invests in a number of upgrades like cast iron wings, improved dust collection, and integrated mobile base. A move up to another member of the CNS175 line offers an arguably superior rip fence to that of the SFA30. All-in-all, the CNS175 series  is impressive for its solid build and thoughtful design.

The enhanced safety features also go a long way in providing peace of mind. While these features equate to a premium price (a hybrid or cabinet-style saw is reasonably within the same price range as SawStop’s contractor saw), many would consider the CNS175 SFA30 a great investment for the safety features alone.

8.5 Total Score
Safety First

The SawStop CNS175 SFA30 puts safety above all else with a blade stopping system that might just save a finger. It's no slouch in terms of power and operation, either.

Design and Build
9
Cutting Power
8.5
Rip Fence
7.5
Miter Gauge
8
Safety Features
9.5
Dust Collection
7.5
PROS
  • World-class safety system stops blade in mere milliseconds
  • Plenty of cutting power for the home woodworker
  • Solid build and easy assembly
CONS
  • Steel extension wings are a bit flimsy
  • Aluminum fence adjustments can prove difficult
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