SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw Review: PCS Series Delivers Ultimate Safety and Performance

How much is a finger worth? If SawStop were to answer, they might say the price of the Professional Cabinet Saw. This expertly crafted tool packs all the power and accuracy a woodworker could want with the added bonus of SawStop’s blade brake technology. The full package equates to a saw perfect for the serious hobbyist or small shop professional. The PCS series is examined in detail in this SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw review.

SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw Series Overview

SawStop offers their Professional Cabinet Saw in several configurations. These manage to cover two separate classes of table saw without adding a totally new model to the safety-oriented manufacturer’s lineup. The PCS175 features a 1.75HP motor with 110V operation prewired; a setup akin to the typical hybrid table saw pairing contractor saw power with cabinet saw design. The PCS31230 gets a 3HP, 220V motor. This classes that version of the saw squarely among the pro cabinet saw competition.

In addition to the two motor configurations, each saw is offered with three fence options. The PFA30 models feature a basic aluminum fence with 30-inch rip capacity. The TGP36 and TGP52 models feature a T-Glide fence assembly with 36 and 52-inch rip capacities respectively.

The various builds of the SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw will each appeal to a different style of woodworker. The least expensive version with hybrid saw power and aluminum fence makes sense for a hobbyist seeking to upgrade to a cabinet-style saw. The decked-out 3HP SawStop PCS31230-TGP52 is only surpassed by moving up to SawStop’s Industrial Cabinet Saw line.

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Specifications

  • 10-inch max blade diameter
  • 5/8-inch arbor size
  • 4300 RPM arbor speed
  • 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 / 36 / 52-inch max rip right of blade; 12 inches left of blade

  • 3HP, single-phase TEFC induction motor (1 3/4HP also available)
  • 230V, 60Hz
  • 3450 RPM
  • V-ribbed belt drive
  • Magnetic switch with overload protection

  • 44 x 29  3/4 x 34 inches (saw only)
  • 19 3/8 x 19 3/8-inch footprint
  • 408 pounds
  • 34-inch table height
  • 44-inch table width including extension wings
  • 27-inch table depth

  • T-Glide Fence system (aluminum extrusion fence available)
  • Laminated plywood fence faces
  • 2 5/8-inch fence height
  • 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

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Design & Build

SawStop Professional Mobile Base

SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw with Professional Mobile Base

The SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw is a blueprint for quality design. The craftsmanship is apparent when admiring the subtle curves of the saw’s cabinet. It’s a small detail that is meaningless in terms of performance, but it speaks worlds about the Professional Cabinet Saw’s build. The fact that SawStop chose to pay attention to this detail rather than settle for a boring square box shows the sort of attention that has be paid to every aspect of this saw.

The materials used are quality in every way. Cast iron and powder-coated steel will give this saw a long life in the shop. Solid, 7-inch diameter hand wheels raise and lower the blade smoothly thanks to a gas-assisted lift system. The well-balanced trunnion moves accurately through its angle adjustments, and locking knobs secure the blade in position for precise, repetitive cuts.

SawStop Industrial Mobile Base

SawStop Industrial Mobile Base

SawStop offers two mobility options at an additional cost. The Professional Mobile Base ($199) is raised and lowered by a foot switch and maneuvered on four high quality casters. The system is capable of moving the entire saw, including extension table when attached. The Industrial Mobile Base ($328) is perhaps the pinnacle of cabinet saw mobile bases. It utilizes a piston system for the most luxurious experience in saw mobility. A few pumps of the foot pedal and the is ready to glide smoothly around the shop flour on four large casters.

Table Top

The cast iron table top of the SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw is exceptionally smooth. Some users report a bit of deflection towards the outer edges of the surface, but the majority of the table is within acceptable tolerances.

The PCS series ships with cast iron extension wings, which expand total width from 20 inches to 44 inches. An optional extension table adds 23 3/4 inches to the right of the blade for the model with a 36-inch capacity. The 52-inch capacity rip utilizes a 40 1/8-inch extension table.

One area where the SawStop cabinet saw doesn’t quite stack up to the competition is table depth. While other professional saws utilize as much as 31 inches of depth, SawStop has gone with a 27-inch depth more common of contractor saws.

Assembly & Adjustments

As with other SawStop models, the provided instructions make setup of the saw a breeze. Thank SawStop for color-coded hardware bags and clear directions. The main body of the saw comes preassembled; it doesn’t take long to install the hand wheels and other finishing details such as the extension wings.

The is superbly setup from the factory. Tolerances are all but perfect across the board. If anything is know to give the user a bit of trouble it is the fence adjustment for parallel to the miter slot. Other users sporadically report alignment issues when checking the blade for parallelism to the miter slot. A one-wrench adjustment system eliminates the hassle normally associated with aligning table top and trunnion assembly.

One adjustment not typical of other saws is the spacing between blade and the blade brake of the SawStop Safety System. This is a vital alignment that will insure proper function of the saw and prevent interference of the braking system.

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Cutting Power

Depending on the operator’s needs (and budget), SawStop’s 1.75HP and 3HP Professional Cabinet Saw models will meet the needs of just about any woodworker. However, despite a $430 premium, the 3HP model is worth serious consideration from anyone considering the SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw for their shop.

Two ribbed V-belts transfer power to the saw blade. The belt connected to the arbor is static dissipative. While this doesn’t enhance performance, it is vital in dampening electrical interference that could hamper the SawStop Safety System.

The result is smooth and quiet operation without sacrificing cutting efficiency. While SawStop’s 5HP Industrial Cabinet Saw might be tempting, unless planned for use in a production environment, 3HP should provide all the cutting strength needed. Whatever is fed across the blade is ripped without any apparent stress to the Professional Cabinet Saw’s drive system. The blade starts and stops quickly every time.

Included Blade & Replacement Options

As with the attention and care put into other elements, the SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw includes a carbide-tipped combination blade that is, in general, better than the average bade included with most saws from the factory. It does an adequate job of cutting and ripping a variety of materials.

Still, a blade upgrade is always warranted with any pro saw. The inclusion of a 0.090-inch riving knife makes blade selection for the SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw interesting. This thickness isn’t quite thin enough to comfortably allow the use of thin kerf blades, but still shy of standard full kerf riving knife thickness. When buying a blade, attention must be paid to make sure the blade’s kerf thickness is greater than 0.090 inches while the blade body must be thinner than 0.090 inches.

Blade replacement can bit a bit of a chore compared to other modern saws with arbor lock functionality. Blade changes on the SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw are still a two-wrench affair. Most woodworkers dread this potential knuckle-busting experience. The process is made slightly less frustrating by the quick-release table insert. The insert can be conveniently removed without the need to pull the blade guard assembly from the table.

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Fence Options: Aluminum Extrusion Fence vs. T-Glide

SawStop PCS Review Premium Aluminum Fence

Premium Aluminum Extrusion fence

The SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw is offered with two fence options. A 30-inch capacity aluminum extrusion fence and a professional T-Glide system in 36 and 52-inch rip capacities. As with the 3HP motor, the saw simply performs better with the T-Glide fence (add-on pricing starts at $170).

The steel-railed T-Glide system is yet another Biesemeyer-esque T-square fence. The fence not only offers wider rip capacities, but it also provides large fence faces to guide stock of varying sizes along the blade’s path. The faces are laminated plywood with a height of 2 5/8 inches, which is slightly taller than the more standard 2 1/5-inch faces of other common fences.

The fence offers exceptional tolerances and easy adjustments with set screws machined into the foot of the fence. Adjustable, magnified cursor lenses on either side of the fence body make for easy position both left and right of the blade. The locking system pulls tight and accurate to the blade with little effort and stays put even with pressure on the fence face.

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Miter Gauge

The included miter gauge is perhaps one area SawStop could have provided a bit more value. The gauge is fairly typical of a stock option. It is accurate and fits snugly in the saw’s 3/4 x 3/8-inch miter slot. Adjustments are easy and the overall experience is satisfying.

While the gauge does utilize built-in stops, it stops short of surpassing most aftermarket options. It would have been appreciated had SawStop included a miter fence to accommodate larger stock for crosscutting operations. This is easily remedied by a true piece of wood and some screws (easily attached to the miter gauge).

The miter slots themselves accept standard accessories and cutting aids. They also feature a T-slot design for added functionality.

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Safety Features

While safety is at the center of the SawStop brand, unlike some of their earlier saws and lower priced models, the Professional Cabinet Saw does not simply feel like an expensive safety system packaged within a mediocre saw. Still, it would be silly to talk about any SawStop saw without spending some time examining the ingenious, finger-saving blade braking system.

The SawStop Safety System

SawStop’s blade brake uses electrical currents to detect blade contact instantaneously, channeling this signal toward a one-use, fuse-triggered blade brake. The brake, when deployed, can bring a saw blade from full speed to a dead stop in a promised 3-5 milliseconds.

For a hand moving at a speed of 1 foot per second, the exact depth of any potential cut can be calculated to be about 1/16 inches. All injury is unavoidable, but a 1/16-inch knick is preferable to a severed finger.

While the safety system is invaluable for what it provides, there are a few minor drawbacks. Because it operates by sensing electrical current, damp wood or conductive materials (such as aluminum) can falsely trigger the blade brake. SawStop has taken measures to help prevent this, including a pretty serious diagnostic system that displays potential errors and warning through a series of LEDs on the power switch.

If and when the blade brake does fire, it is a one-time use affair. The user must purchase a new brake and likely a new blade (the brake destroys at least some of the blade’s teeth in the process of stopping it). Likewise, the user must purchase and install a separate brake cartridge for dado use, which cuts back a bit on the saw’s versatility.

Smart Power Switch

SawStop PCS Review Power Switch

The power switch itself has numerous safety features built in that work in conjunction with the blade brake. Aside from the aforementioned diagnostic system, a key can lock out power to the machine entirely.

The saw powers up in two stages. A general power switch starts up the saw’s safety systems and electronics, while a second spins up the blade. In combination, this has the unique benefit of not allowing power to the motor if a problem is detected with the safety mechanism.

If the blade brake is not desirable for a particular cutting operation, it can be temporarily disengaged through the power switch. This is only recommended when absolutely necessary.

Riving Knife and Blade Guard

The SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw includes both a splitter and blade guard assembly as well as riving knife. Both feature a thickness of 0.090 inches. These UL-standard safety features provide further protection from accidental contact with the saw blade. They also cut down on kickback, a hazard that the marvelous SawStop Safety System is unable to address.

Two blade guard options come standard depending on the model saw. The PCS175 ships with the micro blade guard. This guard features three independent side guards on each side of the blade that pivot freely on the top guard. The front of the top guard acts as a wood stop to prevent lumber too thick to fit the blade guard from passing through. The PCS31230 features a beefier dust collection blade guard, which operates similarly to the micro blade guard in terms of safety. More on the dust collection later.

Both blade guard styles can be move up and out of the way for blade changes. Combined with the quick change table insert, there is virtually no reason to remove the blade guard. One downside of the separate guard and riving knife is that the included anti-kickback pawls can only be paired with the splitter assembly. However, the riving knife will mostly be used with non-through cut operations that would not accomodate the use of the pawls.

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Dust Collection

At its base, the SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw makes use of an efficient blade shroud design which channels dust through a flexible hose out to a 4-inch dust port. Alone, this setup should be pretty effective at knocking down dust and keep the saw clean. When upgrading to a 3HP model, the included dust collection blade guard offers an addition tier of dust collection without the need to run any additional duct work in the shop.

Saw Stop PCS Review Dust Collection

The design of the blade guard takes advantage of the natural force of the saw to fling dust into a collecting hose. This hose routes around the table and hooks into the main 4-inch dust port. The result is two points of dust collection with only one connection from a dust collection system.

The dual collection methods are enough to eliminate over 99% of dust produced by the saw, making for a cleaner, healthier shop environment.

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SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw Review: The Verdict

SawStop PCS Review

With the Professional Cabinet Saw, SawStop has managed to craft a machine with the quality, power, and stability to do justice to their trademark safety system. SawStop’s blade brake technology typically comes as an added expense. In the case of the PCS series, however, SawStop has managed to price their cabinet saw competitively within its cohort while offering a design and features that alone justify a price starting in the low $2000s (depending on configuration). While the SawStop brand might not hold the legendary status of other manufacturers,  they just might have managed to create a saw that gives them all a run for their money.

9.3 Total Score
Safe and Sound

The SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw is far more than just a safe option for the cautious woodworker. It's a serious machine that can handle all the tasks of a professional woodworking shop.

Design & Build
9.5
Cutting Power
9
Fence
9
Miter Gauge
8
Safety Features
9.5
Dust Collection
9.5
PROS
  • Excellent craftsmanship and design
  • Blade brake is a finger saver
  • Dual dust collection system leaves shop clean
CONS
  • Table depth shorter than competitors
  • Miter gauge is average
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