Whirlwind – a New SawStop?

At first glance, and from the initial videos I wasn’t too impressed with this competing product to the SawStop technology, but going a bit deeper there seems to be some significant advantages.

The Whirlwind is another flesh-detecting technology to render woodworking a safer pursuit, but almost immediately the differences come in.  This isn’t a copy of the Sawstop, it is a very different approach, based (loosely) around the common 6″ rule (don’t put you hands closer than 6″ to the blade!)

For one, the original videos I watched gave a blade-stop time of around 1 second.  This has been improved to around 0.25 second which is still a completely different ballpark to the 0.005 second of the SawStop.  However.  The Whirlwind does not require skin contact with the blade to activate, meaning the blade has still stopped well before the hand can reach the blade at normal operating conditions, is non-destructive (vs ongoing false (and real) trigger costs, replacement blades, and brakes of the SawStop), and retrofittable to different saws (which is awesome).

The thing that I found I liked was not the splitter-mounted version of the guard (which has the flesh-proximity detector incorporated), but the overhead version which makes it (in my opinion) compatible with a Suva Guard – a popular and universally usable aftermarket blade guard system.

Suva Guard

(Available from Carbatec fwiw $269)

Back to one point – this is a non-destructive system.  The blade is stopped before the hand can get close enough to the blade, and then the operator can reset the system and restart the saw without having to replace anything.

The lights you see are to focus the operator on the job at hand, and specifically the point where their attention should be.  Dust extraction is integral to the Whirlwind as well (again, visions of the Suva guard)

There are still features of the SawStop that I really like, but in one respect given that I already own a tablesaw that won’t be getting replaced any time soon, the possibility of a retrofittable safety flesh-detecting system is rather appealing.

Unfortunately, the product is not yet available – the company is seeking to partner up with a manufacturer, but at least it seems that it may be a product that will be on the market in the near(ish) future.

6 Responses

  1. I hav a saw stop which I love. This is an intresting looking idea. I wonder however if visibility of the cut is limited? I like to see what I am cutting.


  2. Hello woodworkers, I hope this message will clear up some points regarding Whirlwind safety. I do not have, and likely never will have, any hardware to sell. Instead I hope to get the machinery manufacturers interested in Whirlwind as a win-win and I now have five operational prototypes and each new one is an improvement over the previous versions with still more designs cued up here in the shop. Of course the manufacturers will probably not move until my patents issue, but we are getting closer each day.

    My original design goal was to develop a user-controlled and multi-tiered hazard-avoidance system approach with a suitable balance of end-user cost vs. safety features benefit for the various table saw stakeholders ranging from the machinery manufacturers and retailers to the wide spectrum of table saw operators from the novice to the most advanced users. I hope also to curtail some of the table saw litigation that we see by establishing identifiable responsibility for most table saw related injuries, which I believe is to the benefit of all. To that end I now have five operational prototypes with additional models under development.

    This particular table saw hazard avoidance concept is designed to offer hazard protection through a series of FIVE simple steps:

    First, the operator must easily and conveniently make personal safety-related decisions prior to operation of the saw, by first choosing to use, partially use or to override and even remove the hazard avoidance system with the use of a keyed switch.

    Second, if the saw is operated in safe-mode, the operator must quickly and simply acknowledge that safety checks have been completed before each and every start of the machine or the saw will not start.

    Third, through electronic flesh-sensing, an extra margin of safety is provided the saw operator by non-destructive blade braking if the operator’s hands enter the “danger zone” which should always be avoided.

    Fourth, each emergency braking event serves as a learning experience and a warning to novice saw operators that they have crossed into dangerous proximity of the saw blade and must rethink their operating practices to insure their personal safety.

    Fifth, if the blade-enclosure hazard avoidance system is used, the dangerous, long-feared, and unpredictable table saw “kick-back” phenomenon is eliminated.

    Each time the saw is stopped, either through a normal stop or a flesh sensing emergency stop, the saw will revert to the amber light safe condition. The emergency flesh sensing stop is completely non-destructive. Neither the blade, nor the circuitry, nor the saw are damaged during the stop and the operator may simply correct the dangerous condition, rearm the flesh sensing brake circuit and resume sawing. Think safety twice, cut once.


  3. Hi David,

    It looks like a promising product that you are working with there. The five simple steps outlined above make it very clear why this is a good product/idea. I like the idea that you can be doing something wrong, have the machine stop (without damage to machine, blade or work) then you are given the opportunity to take a step back to reconsider what you were doing wrong and then start again (hopefully avoiding the same situation in the future).

    Being retrofitted to existing saws is a huge plus. The only things I am not so keen on are the name and the appearance of the prototypes at this stage. Obviously when all of the technical components have been worked through the design can be tweeked and you will have a very good product.

    I will be keen in the future to see the costings. Whilst particularly hobby woodworkers could see the benefits it is often difficult to justify the cost of products like “Sawstop” (yes saving one finger has saved the cost of the technology but for the backyard woodworker the upfront $5k+ to remove the risk is very difficult to come up with).

    The key for the hobby market would be to keep the cost down and you will sell plenty (ie more units sold at lower profit). If the cost is too high unfortunately many will put it on the “it would be nice list” which may improve profit margins per unit but will not move too many.

    Best of luck and keep us updated.



  4. Are there any other products out there right now like sawstop or this product that can be retrofitted to an exisiting saw?

  5. This cannot compete with Sawstop. The safety is in the guard and we all know that you can’t make every cut you need to with the guard installed. What happens when your hand gets pulled into the back of the blade…this thing doesn’t stop fast enough, plain and simple. I applaud the effort, but it’s not nearly as versatile as a Sawstop which is active at all times with our without the guard unless it is intentionally switched off.

    • Hi Jeff,
      I don’t disagree with your input here – the SawStop is still the premiere product on the market for flesh sensing safety for tablesaw operation.

      Despite this article being 2 1/2 years old now, I still haven’t seen any movement from Whirlwind on progress getting their product to market.

      I would guess that the overall size of their “Black Box” would be refined down in time, but at this stage, the real “Black Box” I would prefer to see in the workshop is the SawStop Cabinet Saw itself.

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