Canadian Woodworking

SawStop CTS compact table saw

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The SawStop CTS sets the standard for quality, convenience and safety on a jobsite or in a small workshop where floor space is at a premium. It works great, operates smoothly, makes accurate cuts and has the best bevel system on the market. 

Author: Carl Duguay

The saw is light enough for one person to move it around and compact enough that you can store it under a worktable. It offers durable quality, exceptional safety features and the power and precision you need to process stock up to 3-1/8″ thick.

COMPANY: SawStop
MODELCTS-120A60
PRICE: $1149.00 (folding stand CTS-FS, $165.00; brake cartridge TSBC-10R3, $123.00)
MADE IN: USA
SOURCEDealer Locator

 

KEY FEATURES:

Motor: 15 amp, 120V
RPM: 4,000
Blade: 10″
Maximum cut depth: 3-1/8″ (at 0°); 2-1/8″ (at 45°)
Maximum rip width: 24-1/2″
Rack and pinion fence
Riving knife
Weight: 68 lbs.
Includes: brake cartridge, miter gauge, riving knife, 24-tooth rip blade, blade guard & pawls, push stick, table saw insert, wrenches

The SawStop CTS employs a direct drive 15-amp universal motor with a no-load speed of 4,000 RPM. SawStop has chosen not to list the horsepower (HP) rating for the saw, claiming that HP levels can be confusing and misleading. There’s good reason for this. While there is a standard definition to go by (one HP is equal to 745.7 watts or the amount of power used to raise 550 pounds 1 foot in 1 second), the way output is calculated by manufacturers isn’t consistent. And, of course, the quality of the components used in the manufacturing of the motor will affect its efficiency and performance.

It’s not surprising to find SawStop using a direct drive universal motor on the CTS. Direct drive motors transfer energy very efficiently with little energy loss. They also provide large amounts of power in quick bursts with constant torque and at variable speeds. They’re smaller, lighter in weight and generally require less maintenance over the lifespan of the saw. And they cost less to manufacture than belt drive motors – which helps to keep the consumer price lower. One downside is that they’re louder and generally don’t last as long as belt drive motors.

Perhaps as a result of using a direct drive motor, the CTS doesn’t accept a dado set, which is a minor inconvenience, as you can use a router table or handheld router and jig to mill dadoes and grooves.

The CTS weighs in at 68 pounds. With the optional CTS-FS folding stand attached it tops out at 86 pounds. That might seem like a lot but it’s still less than the Bosch and DeWalt (at well over 100 pounds each with stand attached) and a full 27 pounds lighter than the SawStop JSS Pro table saw. Because the CTS is essentially a 2-foot cube it’s compact enough to be moved around by anyone with a strong back.

I shop tested the CTS with the CTS-FS folding stand. For jobsite use the stand is an essential addition. Installing and removing the saw from the stand takes about 10 seconds – you just place the saw atop the stand and flip two locking handles (one on the front of the stand, one on the back). That’s it. One of the legs can be adjusted to accommodate uneven floors. For anyone considering the CTS for use in a workshop I’d recommend building a custom saw stand with an extended work surface. It’ll make cutting larger panels and long stock a tad easier. Plus, it makes optimum use of the space below the table saw.

Sawstop CTS
Locking handles on front and back of the saw stand

The tabletop on the CTS is 22-5/8″ deep and 23″ wide (compared to 27″ deep and 44″ on a standard cabinet saw). The distance from the front of the CYS to the blade is about 7-1/2″.  This makes it a bit awkward when cutting wide stock using the miter gauge. On a jobsite this doesn’t pose much of an issue as we’re often crosscutting narrow dimensional lumber and moulding, and using a circ saw to break down sheet goods. In a workshop setting you’ll want to employ a few handy accessories. Use a sled when crosscutting wide boards. When ripping long boards use a height-adjustable roller stand or sawhorse. Cut large sheets to rough size using a circular saw and a straightedge, then do the final cuts on the table saw. Better yet, if you use a track saw you can cut large sheet goods to final dimension without having to resort to the table saw.

sawstop CTS
Use a crosscut sled for optimal accuracy and safety

The tabletop isn’t made of cast iron, but rather powder coated aluminum, which means you can’t use magnetic accessories with it. And it scratches more easily than a cast iron top. You’ll want to avoid dragging metal encrusted stock over the top.

Once you get the knack, you can switch out the riving knife for the blade guard in about a minute, which makes it more likely you’ll end up using the guard. When not in use, the blade guard stores in a compartment at the back of the saw (along with the blade wrenches and miter gauge).

Blade guard is quick to install
Convenient on-bard storage for the blade guard (along with the blade wrenches and miter gauge)

The CTS comes with a 24-tooth rip blade, a good choice for jobsite use. For shop use you’ll likely want to switch it out for a combo blade. Doing so takes about a minute and a half.

 

I checked the CTS for accuracy – tabletop flatness, riving knife alignment to the blade, blade alignment to the right miter slot, rip fence to miter slot, rip fence to tabletop and bevel angle scale. I didn’t bother with the miter gauge. While it’s usable on the job site, it’s largely ineffective in a workshop setting.

While I fully expected that I’d need to do some fine-tuning, I found the CTS ready to rock out of the box. If you do need to make any adjustments the owner’s manual has clearly written instructions that are easy to follow.

I did find a slight dish of .008″ on the upper left side the tabletop – small enough that it doesn’t affect any crosscutting or ripping. More importantly, it was dead flat across the middle of the tabletop.

Sawstop CTS
Flat on both sides across the middle of the saw
Sawstop CTS
Slight dish of .008″ on the top left side

The rip fence was straight along its length but slightly concave (about .005″) across its width (the rails Z-axis) – about the thickness of a sheet of photocopy paper. I’ve not found that this has any adverse effect then ripping stock. 

sawstop cts
Fence is slightly bowed along its Z-axis
Blade is dead square

The rack and pinion fence is fabulous. It slides smoothly, locks firmly in place and is dead parallel to the miter slot and the blade.

sawstop cts
Smooth operating rack and pinion fence system

 

Fence is parallel to the blade
sawstop compact saw
Fence is parallel to miter slot when locked in place

The zero-clearance throat plate, made of a glass-filled plastic, is quite stiff, with no flexing worth mentioning.

No flexing on the ZCI worth noting

There are 3 sets of lugs (3 lugs on both the front and rear rails) that enable you to position the rip fence on the saw. When the fence is positioned on the lugs furthest to the right of the blade you can get 24-1/2″ of rip capacity. The lugs on the left of the blade are used to store the fence during transit.

sawstop CTS
Lugs (circled in red) on the rack and pinion rail
sawstop cts
Fence suspended upside down on the left most set of rail lugs

 

There is a duplex scale on the front rail. You use the top of the scale (black numbers on a silver backing) when the fence is positioned on the lugs to the immediate right of the blade. When you place the fence on the lugs furthest from the blade you’ll read from the lower scale (silver numbers on a black backing). It would have been nice if SawStop had included a magnifier on the clear position indicator lens.

Two easy-to read scales depending on the position of the fence

While the rack and pinion fence is fabulous, the micro-adjust bevel system is outstanding – the best you’ll find on a jobsite saw. There is a single large round handle that controls both blade elevation and bevel adjustment. Pulling the handle forward releases the bevel lock and moves the blade to the middle position. You then turn the wheel to fine-tune the exact bevel angle. It’s super quick to set the bevel angle this way.

 

A feature common to most, if not all portable table saws is the articulating sub-fence. You can use in in the low position when ripping narrow stock, or in the ‘shelf’ position to support wide stock when the fence is moved to the extreme right – this prevents stock from tilting downwards.

sawstop CTS

Moving the fence from low to fence position takes a few seconds.

 

While the miter fence might be usable in a pinch on the jobsite, it’s not overly useful in the shop. It’s flimsy to use and the scale is difficult to read. You’ll want to purchase or conjure up a proper fence.

Small, plastic miter gauge isn’t overly useful
sawstop CTS
Use a proper miter gauge

I have the CTS connected to a 55L CamVac dust collector and an Oneida Dust Deputy. For the type of work I do (and the size of my shop) it’s a very effective dust management system.

One of the major advantages of any SawStop table saw is the patented blade braking system, which stops the blade within milliseconds on contact with skin to prevent serious injury. This feature alone makes the saw well worth the investment. The CTS comes with a brake cartridge installed. I suggest you go out and buy a spare, because if you do inadvertently trip the brake you won’t be able to use the saw until a new cartridge is installed. I found the cartridge easy enough to remove, but finicky to install – patience is the byword here.

Brake cartridge is a bit finicky to install

I can make precise repetitive crosscuts and rip cuts and can easily cut 4′ by 4′ panels to size on the CTS. And there’s been no drop in power ripping 2″ ash. For large panels and long wide boards I cut the stock down using a track saw before going to the table saw.

The SawStop CTS sets the standard for quality, convenience and safety on a jobsite or in a small workshop where floor space is at a premium. It works great, operates smoothly, makes accurate cuts and has the best bevel system on the market.

Likes

  • Super compact design
  • SawStop patented braking system
  • Direct drive motor
  • Superb rack and pinion fence
  • Precise micro-adjust bevel system
  • Includes a zero-clearance insert
  • On-board tool and accessory storage

Dislikes

  • Doesn’t accept dado sets
  • No extension wings
  • Inoperable if brake cartridge not installed
  • Can’t use magnetic accessories

 

 

Published:
Last modified: October 30, 2023

Carl Duguay - [email protected]

Carl is a Victoria-based furniture maker and the web editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.


6 Comments

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  2. Carl, this a very helpful assessment of the CTS. I am a stave drum maker (snares, kits) with very limited shop space, and I am currently struggling with whether to go for the new Festool table saw (CSC SYS 50) or the Sawstop CTS. I would buy a Sawstop cabinet saw in a moment, but it would not fit my shop. My main issue is accuracy. I need bevel rip accuracy on 60″ hardwood stock as close to 0.1 degree as possible (9. 12.5 and 15 degrees) or the drum won’t fit together properly and up to $100 of expensive hardwoods are wasted. Have done hands on testing with both saws, using a square and a very good digital inclinometer. Really like the Festool digital capacity, but have not been completely convinced of its accuracy. The demo saw may not have been dialed in, but each time I set the digital readout to an angle, it was out by 0.1. I am also concerned about the life of the servo motors, the lack of manual options, and it being a 1st generation model. With the mechanical set up on the CTS, I managed with the micro adjust to get it to the above angles relative to a ‘zeroed’ 90 degree angle, but then wondered about the accuracy of my starting point. Neither saw has a particularly robust fence, and I’m ignoring the miter gauge on both as basically disposable in favour of my Jessem. Right now, I’m leaning towards the CTS to fill the gap until model 2 of the Festool comes out, but was wondering if you had some perspective and advice on my dilemma. Either way, both saws have a good resale value, and I could always return either to Lee Valley after 30 days of use if they don’t work out. Please let me know your thoughts when you have a moment. Thx

    1. Hi Chris: They’re both great compact saws and as you’ve intimated, choosing one over the other is a challenge. I’m surprised to hear of your experience with the Festool being out by 0.1°. I found the bevel angle adjustment to be perfect (and haven’t heard of a similar issue from other Festool users). I would hazard a guess that the saw wasn’t correctly set up. Your mitre fence won’t fit on the Festool though it will on the SawStop. My feeling at this stage is that the SawStop will have greater appeal for contractors, renovators, installers – especially with the much wider rip capacity and greater cut depth. Furniture and craft makers (and drum makers!) will likely find the high level of accuracy on the Festool a big draw. (I can’t let the cat out of the bag yet, but in the next issue of our magazine there is a review of the Festool CSC SYS 50). All the best, Carl

  3. I found your article very helpful. I purchased the CTS for my small garage shop and it works well for my needs. I am impressed with your sled and wonder if you have any plans that I could use to make one for my CTS. The sled I had with my old unisaw will not work well on the smaller CTS.

    1. Thanks Keith. I don’t have plans for the sled I use, but it’s quick and easy to make. Here is a link to a sled I made almost 20 years ago that you may find useful. Stay safe.

  4. Just wanted to say that this is one of the most comprehensive and useful reviews of the Sawstop CTS that I have read anywhere. Thanks Carl!

    1. Thanks for your kind words Chris. It really is a great jobsite saw (and a perfect shop saw for anyone with a small workshop). It’s one smooth operator!

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