Hang around any group of contractors and carpenters and you’re bound to find a few guys missing fingers. Most of those guys thought they knew how to be safe around a table saw, until they weren’t so safe. All kinds of accidents happen around tablesaws, with one of the more common being kickback. One of my first remodeling learning experiences was cutting on an old Makita table saw (without any safety features, other than safety glasses), when the saw caught a small piece of wood and launched it whizzing inches past my head. I got the memo, table saws are not a tool to take lightly. Aside from kickback, I have talked with guys that have cut off one or more fingers on a table saw as well. It’s a traumatizing and sometimes career-ending injury, and it’s one that can be avoided with some clever technology. In this article and video (with slow motion, of course!) we’ll provide a detailed review of the Bosch REAXX they sent to us, along with some thoughts on its marketplace and courtroom rival, SawStop.
Bosch REAXX Setup
The box that the REAXX and Gravity-Rise Stand comes in is massive. It’s big enough that I used it to build a fort for my two daughters. One of them decided it was robust enough to take a nap in. Bosch probably didn’t plan for that, but if you have kids and need a time-out room, or a novel location for napping, the REAXX box is sizable and sturdy. Forts aside, it’s a good idea to allocate a good chunk of time (an hour or two?) for putting the Gravity-Rise together, as well as doing some light assembly on the saw. Most of the assembly involves the Gravity Rise, along with some additional work to remove some of the packaging that secured the saw and its various accessories like the outfeed support and blade guards. Since the saw weighs over 100 pounds, we recommend volunteering a friend to help with assembly.
Bosch REAXX – Fit and Features
When we purchased our first home many moons ago, one of the first tools I purchased was the Bosch 4000 10″ Table Saw with one of the early Gravity Rise stands. It’s been a practical saw and has served me well on projects ranging from installing hardwood flooring, to cutting window sills, to cutting sheet goods down to size. The Bosch 4000 wasn’t amazingly powerful and wasn’t as precise feeling as cabinet table saws, but it cut accurately and reliably and never let me down. The biggest downside to it was a blade guard that was basically all or nothing, unless you wanted to “hack” the safety mechanism into a riving knife only (something that I naturally, would never, ever do or advocate)! By the way, you’ll see video content here showing the saw in action minus some of the factory safety features. We are doing so for demonstrative purposes only, and we recommend you always use the appropriate guard and safety devices the saw manufacturer recommend. To anyone that has used the Bosch 4000, or the more recent 4100 model, the REAXX will seem familiar, yet with some welcome additions. The TS3100 Gravity Rise is also a key accessory for the saw, making it easy to both transport and store.
Bosch REAXX Fence
Bosch did a nice job with the fence that accompanies the REAXX. Its tight tolerances and rock-solid positioning put it in a category of fences I would expect to see on a nice cabinet table saw rather than a portable contractor saw. Like other Bosch table saws before it, the fence on the REAXX sports a magnified window that floats above a scale to give you a quick reference on exactly how wide a piece you will be cutting. It’s quite accurate and can be adjusted if recalibration is needed.
Other Saw Safety Features
Aside from all the fancy-pants Active Response Technology we’ll still be covering in this review, Bosch included some other safety features as well. The Bosch REAXX includes a riving knife, anti-kickback pawls and a blade guard. Unlike my older Bosch 4000 table saw, Bosch made all three of those safety mechanisms easy to adjust and remove. It’s a modular system. As an example, if you’re making dado cuts, you’ll need to remove all the safety mechanisms. On other table saws, this would not be an easy task. On the REAXX, the blade guard and anti-kickback pawls can be removed in just seconds. Similarly, the riving knife has a quick release that enables you to partially or completely lower it.
Not only are these additional safety mechanisms flexible and easy to remove, but Bosch also thoughtfully provided a stowage area on the right side of the saw for you to store the blade guard and pawls when not in use. Once you get the hang of how and where the guard and pawls attach to the riving knife, they’re very easy to remove and reattach. And, thanks to the onboard storage, you’re less likely to lose them and more likely to use them.
Rear Outfeed Support
As someone who rarely works around a crew, the addition of the Rear Outfeed Support on the REAXX is a welcome addition. Rather than MacGyver-ing a support out of a stepladder, or setting up and adjusting a dedicated JawStand, the integrated outfeed on the REAXX is a simple twist of a lock-knob away from action. It’s hardened metal extends 18″ but also retracts back to be very unobtrusive when not in use. For anyone working solo, this outfeed support is not only practical, but also enhances safety by preventing workpieces from tilting off the table and potentially causing unexpected kickback or contact with the spinning blade. A definite thumbs up to Bosch for including this feature.
Bosch REAXX Cutting Performance
To give the Bosch REAXX a nice workout, we put it into the shop of Jake Glerup, Home Fixated contributor and head honcho / woodmaster at Glerup Woodwork & Design. Jake ran a variety of wood through the REAXX and found it cut efficiently and accurately.
At the time of the REAXX testing, Jake was in the process of fabricating a car frame for a vintage car restoration project. Yes, the vehicle’s frame was originally wood, and Jake was brought in to recreate the now worn, rotted and cracked frame. As you can see in the video below, some of that frame started as massive 8/4 (aka 2″) white oak. Jake entrusted the REAXX with some rip cuts that would be near the extreme of what you might use a contractor table saw for. Jake said that while the REAXX clearly didn’t live up to the power he was used to on his Delta Unisaw, as long as he adjusted the feed rate the REAXX could take this dense chunk of wood. You can see the cut in action in our Bosch REAXX video a few paragraphs below.
It’s worth noting that our friends over at ToolBoxBuzz.com had an issue with ripping 2x material. The feedback they reported from Bosch was that a portion of the initial REAXX saws required a firmware update to address this power fluctuation on thicker materials. If you own an early REAXX saw and you feel it’s bogging down on thicker stock, you can find more details on this here.
In our experience with the saw, we found the Bosch REAXX to perform remarkably well for a contractor table saw. It performed comparably to the Bosch 4000 and 4100 series saws, with one notable exception: Active Response Technology. This safety technology is not only what sets it light years ahead of prior Bosch saws, but it also puts it ahead of almost all the other table saws on the market in terms of operator safety.
Active Response Technology – Does This Safety Technology Work?
In a word, YES! The Active Response Technology is what promises to save countless fingers in the construction community. First, let me set your mind at ease by letting you know that no bratwursts were harmed in the making of this review. We’ll talk more about the Active Response Technology below, but in the meantime – if a picture is worth a thousand words, then the video below should be worth many more. Check out our video of the Bosch REAXX to get an overview of the saw and to see both realtime and slow motion video of the Active Response Technology in action – it’s pretty amazing.
Bosch REAXX Video
Despite attempting to feed the bratwurst into the spinning blade we struggled to find any sign of damage to the bratwurst. Even upon close examination, the bratwurst looked untouched. When the Active Response Technology fired, the blade dropped incredibly quickly. When it fires, it sounds a bit like a very muffled gunshot. It definitely gets your attention, but also is not terribly loud. The activated cartridge fires a piston which rapidly forces the spinning blade below the surface of the table saw. We were extremely impressed by quickly and effectively the blade is withdrawn.
Bosch REAXX – Changing the Cartridge After an Activation
The REAXX features a dual-activation cartridge unit – two single-shot cylinders for two separate activations with each cartridge. This means that on your first activation, you can simply remove and rotate the cartridge so the the unused side is ready for action. Getting back in business after an activation is something you can easily do in under 2 minutes, and with a little practice, it’s doable in less than a minute. Because the Active Response Technology does not damage the blade, the current cost per activation is about $50 (the dual cartridge retails for about $99 at the time of this review). The end of the video above shows the steps involved after a cartridge fires (naturally, you’ll want to unplug the saw prior to doing all that). My pace was around one minute 10 seconds. Bosch advises that if your saw manages to accumulate 25 Active Response activations, you’ll need to take it into a Bosch service center for service. If you hit 25 activations in less than a few years, it’s probably a good reminder to reevaluate your table saw cutting procedures and safety!
While the process to switch out the activated cartridge is easy, one minor improvement would be a more robust wiring harness clip. When removing the wire harness from the activated cartridge you need to depress two very small tabs. If you have meaty fingers, or enormous Trump-sized hands, pushing those little tabs in can be a little finicky. It’s a minor quibble for an otherwise streamlined process.
One of the final steps in getting the saw ready to rock n’ roll again is to use the blade wrench to yank the blade / arm assembly back into position. When I first setup the saw I wasn’t completely sure I was doing this correctly because the assembly doesn’t completely lock into place. After you give it a little yank into position, applying force down on the blade or arm assembly will cause it to drop. This is actually by design (it’s what allows the Active Response Technology to fire the blade downward). We naturally did not experience the blade dropping under normal operations.
Enabling Bypass Mode to Prevent False Triggers
The Bosch REAXX features a bypass mode which enables you to cut hot dogs, bratwursts and even your fingers, or (much more preferably): materials that contain metal like metal-veneered plywood or wet pressure treated lumber. If you plan to cut any building materials that will trigger the safety cartridge, don’t forget to enable the bypass mode (which you’ll see indicated by a yellow indicator light on the information panel). The bypass mode is enabled by pushing in and holding down the bypass paddle to the left of the control panel and then powering on the saw. Once the yellow light comes on the control panel, you’re in bypass mode. When you power off the saw, the next time you power it back on it will automatically switch back to the green ready state (with the Active Response Technology armed and ready to fire).
Aside from the false triggers and bypass mode mentioned above, there are a couple other potential triggers to be aware of. One suggestion Bosch makes (which is good advice in general) is to NOT touch the blade before it stops spinning. According to Bosch, the Active Response Technology is armed as long as the blade is spinning at greater than 240 RPM (or the saw is in bypass mode). Unless you want to risk cutting your finger or $50 worth of activation, don’t touch the blade when it’s rotating at any speed. The safest approach is to not touch the blade at all unless the power cord is completely unplugged.
We also discovered a more unusual way to trigger the Active Response Technology. One safety feature built into the saw is that if the power source is disconnected while the power switch is on (and the blade is spinning), when you plug the saw back in it won’t immediately start the blade spinning again. You have to push the paddle to off and then switch it on again. When we went to test this feature the first time, we had the Bosch REAXX plugged into a heavy duty extension cord. The blade was spinning, and to our surprise, when we unplugged the power cord from the extension cord, the blade not only stopped, but the Active Response Technology was triggered and the cartridge fired. Yup, we just blew $50 faster than you can on a roulette table in Vegas.
This false trigger made us wonder if the same thing would happen if a circuit breaker was tripped during operation. We switched on the saw again, this time with it plugged directly into a wall outlet, and then flipped the circuit breaker. The saw powered off and the blade slowed to a stop as you would expect it to. The cartridge did not fire in this case.
Lastly, we again plugged the saw directly into a wall outlet and powered it on. With the blade up to speed, we pulled the power cord out of the wall outlet and the cartridge fired again. The moral to this story? Don’t unplug your Bosch REAXX while it’s operating!
Hello, REAXX? It’s Me, Your Owner! The REAXX App
Bosch has a Phone app that communicates information from the control system to an NFC-enabled phone. The communication includes the number of system activations, servicing needs, access to instructions and other information. My understanding is that the actual phone to saw communication only works on Android. On my iPhone, I could download the REAXX app, however it did not provide any information communicated directly from the saw. The app is still a useful reference for troubleshooting, warranty registration, etc.
Bosch REAXX vs SawStop – The Technical Front
SawStop was the original player in flesh detection technology in a table saw. However Bosch took a very different approach to getting the spinning blade away from wayward body parts. SawStop drives the blade into an aluminum block as it drops the blade below the top of the saw. This activation can result in damage
to the blade, which means that in addition to the SawStop $69 cartridge, you’ll also be forking over some coin for a new saw blade. To see SawStop in action (and its inventor actually shove his finger into an active blade), check out this Discovery Channel video:
There are some clear advantages to the Bosch Active Response Technology over SawStop’s tech. One is a lower cost per activation (around $50 with Bosch vs around $69 with SawStop). Two is even lower cost with Bosch if the SawStop activation damages the blade. Three is that getting the saw ready to run again, especially if the blade is damaged in a SawStop activation, is faster with Bosch. And lastly, the dual cartridge design of the Bosch makes recovering from the first activation per cartridge very convenient. Bosch even includes onboard storage for a spare cartridge to make sure your potential downtime is minimized.
Bosch REAXX vs SawStop – The Legal Front
Back when I first got a sneak peek at the Bosch REAXX at a media event in Las Vegas, my immediate assumption was either they licensed the technology from SawStop, or they brought the saw to market with the expectation of being sued. It’s well known that the inventor of SawStop sought protection from numerous patents, which is not surprising for any inventor. It’s even less surprising for an inventor with a resumé that includes work as a patent attorney. A short time after the Bosch REAXX came on the scene, they were in fact sued by SawStop. We reached out to Bosch to get the latest on that lawsuit and they provided the following statement:
Bosch Outlines Its Position in Current Patent Litigation Against Flesh-Detecting REAXX™ Jobsite Table Saw
Patent legal action is far from over
Although Bosch does not normally discuss details of litigation because we feel it is best handled in the context of the legal proceedings, we have seen statements about litigation concerning the Bosch REAXX™ Jobsite Table Saw that give a misleading impression of what has occurred.
At this time legal proceedings are still under way. The International Trade Commission (ITC) will review the initial determination provided by the Administrative Law Judge on Sept. 9, 2016, as well as additional arguments from the parties, before it makes any decision in the matter. The commission’s decision is not expected until early January 2017. Contrary to any other implication, the patent legal proceedings are ongoing and not final.
The Bosch REAXX Jobsite Table Saw is based on patented technology developed by the Power Tool Institute and the engineering team at Robert Bosch Tool Corp. in Mount Prospect, Ill. We believe that advanced REAXX safety technology does not violate any competitor’s intellectual property rights.
It is disappointing that a competitor is continuing its campaign to stop the sale of patented REAXX technology to consumers. The patents asserted against REAXX are based on applications filed more than 15 years ago; Bosch does not believe they apply to REAXX technology. In addition, Bosch believes that if the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had complete information it would not have issued certain patents in the first place.
Bosch has vigorously defended, and will continue to defend, its ability to make REAXX table saws available in the United States. In addition, Bosch will continue to pursue its own claim of patent infringement against the competitor filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
The ongoing litigation has no effect on distributors’ ability to buy or sell Bosch REAXX table saws. REAXX cartridges, accessories and service parts are available. The Bosch commitment to provide safe products to users is critical today and in the future.
When I asked about what would happen if SawStop ultimately prevailed in the lawsuit and what the implications would be for existing owners of the REAXX, Bosch preferred not to speculate. They did add, “Bosch has put in place the necessary sales and service resources to meet demand for the REAXX Jobsite Table Saw, and the company has made provision to ensure stocks of dual-activation cartridges are readily available.” It’s hard for me to imagine existing REAXX owners being left out in the cold even if SawStop prevails, but I think there is still some risk in adopting a saw technology that’s actively in litigation.
Given that the expiration of SawStop’s relevant patents is likely years rather than decades away, it’s also possible Bosch might have gone into this market segment with the expectation litigation and any potential appeals could potentially last until the patents expire. That’s pure speculation of course. I don’t expect either party to settle quickly, but you never know. I have to imagine Bosch has substantially deeper pockets when it comes to its legal efforts.
It’s my belief that competition in the realm of table saw safety, and particularly any technology that relates to flesh detection is vitally important to consumers. The Bosch REAXX is a clear example of that. The Bosch REAXX came up with a completely different method of withdrawing the blade that is superior to SawStop’s method. This kind of innovation is more likely to occur when you have multiple companies competing, particularly those with much greater R & D budgets than SawStop. For SawStop to be the only company able to offer flesh detection in a table saw would be like Buick being the only car maker to offer airbags in cars. Interestingly, airbags were first patented in the early 1950’s, and didn’t become mainstream until decades later when the patents expired and technology caught up with the idea enough to make them practical.
While both SawStop and the Bosch REAXX are at higher price points than comparable saws without the technology, it’s not hard to imagine a time when widespread adoption by multiple companies and the ensuing economies of scale results in similar finger-saving technology finding itself into the majority of table saws sold. While I respect the innovation, creativity and investment that went into the creation of SawStop, I also believe innovations to the underlying safety approach should be allowed to compete on the market as well.
10 In. REAXX Jobsite Table Saw with Gravity-Rise Wheeled Stand GTS1041A-09
Active Response Technology – mitigates injury to user in case of blade contact, dropping the blade under the table with no blade damage
Easy system reset – takes less than 60 seconds after blade drop, with no damage to the blade
Portability – works seamlessly with the included Gravity-Rise Wheeled Stand for easy jobsite mobility, with single-action setup and take down
Smart Guard System – riving knife and anti-kickback pawls provide protection when a kickback occurs, while the overhead guard provides a barrier helping to deter blade contact
Powerful 15-amp 4.0-hp max motor – delivers 3,650 rpm and the power required for ripping in fine and rough carpentry materials, including standard 10 In. blade and dado applications
Enhanced SquareLock rip fence – engineered for enhanced clamping and trueness with precision improvements for pre-squaring prior to locking
Large cast aluminum top – provides increased work space and material support with a 25 In. ripping capacity
Onboard System Control – easy-to-understand saw status with intuitive LED lighted display
Constant Response circuitry – to maintain speed under load and overload protection
Soft-start circuitry – manages the intensity of motor start-up and minimizes the likelihood of tripping circuit breaker
Onboard storage – access to all included parts, with additional cartridge storage, manual and system reset instructions
Arbor lock – allows for easy blade changes with arbor lock and blade wrench located onboard
Easy blade adjustment – located on top of table near throat plate, direct accessibility for easy blade parallel adjustment
Convenient tool-less throat plate lock – locks throat plate quickly and makes removal and reinstallation easy
T-slot miter gauge combined with T-slot rail – allows for better control and support during miter gauge applications
Dimensions: 15.5 X 32 X 29 (including rear out feed in stored position)
No Load RPM: 3,650
Blade Diameter: 10.0
Bevel Angle Range: -2° to 47°
Depth of Cut at 90 Deg.: 3-1/8″
Depth of Cut at 45 Deg.: 2-1/4″
(1) Gravity-Rise Wheeled Stand
(1) Rear Outfeed Support
(1) 10 In. 40-Tooth Saw Blade
(1) Dual-Activation Cartridge
(1) Miter Gauge
(1) Rip Fence
(1) Barrier-Guard Device
(1) Anti-Kickback Pawls
(1) Push Stick
(1) Dual-Activation Cartridge Wrench
(1) Blade Wrench
(1) Hex Wrench
(1) Throat Plate Kit
Bosch REAXX Pricing & Availability
You can find the Bosch REAXX and Gravity Rise stand for just under $1500 from our sponsor Ohio Power Tool. While that may be a tad more than you’re used to paying for a contractor table saw, we think the investment in protecting your digits is well worth it. If you’re reading this before 2017, Ohio Power Tool is offering Free Shipping on the REAXX and a Free 18V Drill/Driver Kit DDS183-02 ($199) with every REAXX Saw via a mail-in rebate (check the link below for all the details).
Bosch REAXX w Gravity-Rise Stand for $1499.10:
Bosch Dual Activation Cartridge TS1020 for $99.95: