How To Use SawStop Safety Feature Correctly For Best Results

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It is difficult to talk about table saw safety without mentioning SawStop. SawStop tablesaws are arguably the gold standard for table saw safety. They feature an instant automatic brake system that stops the blade from spinning almost immediately when it comes into contact with your finger or skin.

As a result, the automatic blade stop protects you from suffering deep cuts. It is one of the reasons Sawstop saws are so expensive.

Although this ingenious safety mechanism on SawStop saws is invaluable, it comes at a hefty cost. You must replace the brake system every time it activates so that you can continue to use the saw.

As such, you should prevent the brake mechanism from false triggers. Otherwise, you will be spending at least $200 on a new brake assembly every time it needs to be reset.

So, in this article, we explore how the Sawstop brake system works, what triggers it, and what you can do to avoid activating it by mistake.

You will also learn how to safely use your SawStop saw to cut electrically conductive workpieces such as PT lumber, metal sheets, and carbon fiber among other materials without activating the brake system.

How Does SawStop Brake System Work?

The sawstop safety mechanism uses a simple electromechanical system to stop and retract the spinning blade in order to prevent serious table saw injury. This simple but ingenious safety feature is based on the principle of electrical conductivity.

On the sawstop table saw, there is an electronic circuit that injects a small electrical signal into the spinning blade. The circuit also monitors the charge continuously for any fluctuation.

When the blade comes into contact with your skin, the electrical signal changes due to the conductive nature of the human body. This fluctuation in the signal automatically activates the quick-release brake system, which stops the blade and pulls it under the table.

At the same time, the motor also shuts off immediately. All this happens in under 5 milliseconds, effectively preventing your finger or skin from deep cuts.

What Triggers A SawStop Brake System?

sawstop blade cartridge assembly

Understanding what causes the SawStop to stop is key to avoiding false triggers that could be costly. Contrary to the popular belief that SawStop saws only detect a finger, they actually detect anything that is electrically conductive including the human body, wet lumber, and metal. Even sausage! That’s why most people (and probably you) believe that you cannot cut wet lumber on a SawStop. But it is not true! You can actually cut wet wood on a SawStop in the bypass mode.

How To Enable Bypass Mode on SawStop Saws

sawstop bypass key

If you want to cut any electrically conductive material such as metal, carbon fiber, and wet lumber on a SawStop without activating the safety system you must launch the saw in the bypass operation mode.

The process is the same for all SawStop table saw models except the job site saw (JSS). and you will need a bypass key.

How to Activate Bypass Mode On All SawStop SawsCNS, ICS, and PCS SawStop Models

Apart from SawStop job site saw, this is how to initiate the bypass mode on all the other SawStop table saws including the contractor saw (CNS), industrial cabinet saw (ICS), and professional cabinet saw (PCS).

Step 1: Push the stop-start pedal to the off position

Step 2: Turn ON the main power switch and wait for the system to initialize. The red LED will flash and turn off and a solid green LED will come on to indicate the system is ready.

Step 3: Turn the bypass key clockwise and hold. After about 2 seconds, the red LED will flash once and the green LED will begin to blink slowly.

Step 4: Pull the Start-Stop lever to the ON position within 10 seconds of holding the key to start the blade in bypass mode. The red LED will blink once.

Step 5: Continue holding the key for 2 more seconds and release it. You have successfully disabled the SawStop safety feature. The green LED will continue to flash slowly to indicate that the saw is in bypass mode

The saw will run in the bypass mode until the blade stops. When it stops, the system will exit bypass mode automatically.

The steps are the same for the SawStop job site saw but you will not need a key. Instead, you will use the inbuilt bypass button. These are the steps to follow:

How to Activate Bypass Mode in SawStop Job Site Saw (JSS)

  1. Push the Start-Stop pedal into the off position
  2. Turn on the main power switch.
  3. Wait for the red LED to stop flashing and a solid green LED light.
  4. Press and hold the bypass switch. The red LED will flash once and the green LED will begin to blink slowly.
  5. While holding the bypass switch, pull the Start-Stop trigger to the ON position until the red LED blinks once again.
  6. Release the bypass button.

Now you have successfully initiated your SawStop job site saw in bypass mode. The safety system will remain disabled until you stop the blade by pushing the Start-Stop lever to the off position.

Why Operate SawStop in Bypass Mode?

The purpose of operating a SawStop table saw in bypass mode is to prevent the safety feature from engaging unnecessarily. While the mode is unsafe for you, it prevents the brake system from firing when cutting conductive materials.

In other words, the bypass mode enables you to use a SawStop table saw to cut very wet wood, pressure-treated lumber, metal, and other materials. And to tell how wet the wood is before pushing it through the saw, you can use a wood moisture meter. This little device will help you know when to disable the SawStop safety feature.

In addition, the bypass mode saves you a hefty sum for a brake cartridge replacement. Remember as I mentioned, every time the brake system on the SawStop activates, you must replace it with a new one for the saw to run again.

Also, most of the time the brake system will wreck the blade. So you might need a new blade along with the new SawStop cartridge, which can set you back almost $300 or more.

So, avoid false triggers on your SawStop’s brake system by enabling bypass mode when appropriate. Besides, the cost of a SawStop table saw is already too high. You don’t need additional unnecessary costs!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use SawStop saw to cut wet wood?

You can use any SawStop table saw to cut wet wood and metal successfully if you operate the saw in bypass mode. Bypass mode disables the automatic brake feature.

Is a SawStop worth the price?

SawStop saws are expensive but they feature a safety system that can save your finger from annihilation by the spinning blade. And isn’t saving your finger invaluable? That alone makes sawstop worth the price. Not to mention, SawStop table saws are solid and accurate, and the safety mechanism reduces serious table saw injuries.

Will the SawStop safety feature damage the saw?

When the safety feature on a SawStop activates, it does not damage the saw. But the brake system and perhaps the blade need replacement.


Hey there! I am an field electrical engineer by day, a blogger by night, and DIYer on weekends. Throughout my career, I have used many tools and learned that getting the right tool for the job is the first step to getting the job done right. This is why I write about tools and tests/reviews them on this blog.

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