A fifty-year old Tannewitz table saw swinging a 16″ blade without a riving knife, electronic sensors, blade guard, and what-have-you is absolutely just as safe as a top-end Sawstop with all of those things (and a government-mandated, UN-certified nanny) if you hew faithfully to a few cast-iron rules: Know your equipment — its limitations as well as its capabilities. Don’t ask the machine to do something it isn’t meant to do. Know your personal limitations — if you’re unfamiliar with a particular machine or method ask for help from someone who does. Don’t be a dumbass. Safety depends on your being focused on what you’re doing. Alcohol and drugs (legal or otherwise) don’t belong in the shop. On the range we say that “slow is fast, fast is slow.” Be deliberate in your pace. Rushing a job usually results in wasted material, crappy craftsmanship, and injury. Now… having written all that, let me be perfectly clear: I use guards whenever possible. I use a riving knife on my tablesaw whenever possible. There isn’t a safety gizmo or super-whammydyne whatchamacallit that I’m keen to learn about (and find a way to finance). These are all positive advancements. HOWEVER, a common human tendency is to sloth. New folks coming into the craft will tend to be over-reliant on whizz-bangs rather than their own brainpower. That’s not a good thing.
So Which Table Saw Is Best?
The best table saw is the one that you can afford, and the one that does most things you want to do. The capacity and intent will vary wildly depending on what you are doing. On site and in shop are two totally different ball games. In mass production and garage as well. On site, you will want a saw that compacts well and holds decently true despite being moved around like a jobsite table saw. I like Festool, but it’s pricey. And may be unnecessary if you hardly use it/use it for crude cutting/can’t afford it. Plenty of people get along with a Dewalt or Bosch just fine. As for in shop, Delta is dandy. Reliable, built for the abuse of chronic use, and well supported as a product. If you have more budget, a Sawstop is great, as it stops for fingers. But not everyone can afford it, and I get that. Now, to cheat a bit, as it’s a sliding panel saw, but the best damned saw I’ve ever used… The Altendorf WA 80. In a mass-producing millwork shop, I’ve seen these saws completely replace table saws.