So did the hot dog.
The wiener took one for a team of Sparks High School woodshop students Wednesday at a demonstration of a new SawStop table saw that is programmed to stop at the very hint of a finger about to nick the saw blade. The demonstration was to show how much safer woodshop students can be using these tools while working to become career-and college-ready and have a trade or hobby skill in woodcraft.
Carr cautiously pushed the board forward for cutting and once the table saw detected the moist mass of spongy sausage, the blade shut down and left only the smallest dimple on the wiener’s smooth exterior.
The new saw offers added protection for students and an incentive to recruit more students to become part of the program, said Sparks High woodshop teacher Barry Varischetti.
“For a lot of these students, it’s going to allow them to participate in a class like this in a much safer environment,” Varischetti said. “It’s going to allow them to do things that they weren’t confident in being able to do before because they have the protection of the saw. Also, I think it allowed people that might have been reluctant to take a class like this the opportunity to take a class like this because they have the technology.”
The SawShop contractor saw has a safety system that uses an electrical current and human conductivity to detect a possible finger heading for the sharp blade. The saw’s blade has a cartridge underneath the table. When operating, that blade has an electrical current flowing through it. If something hinders that current, a spring in the housing of the blade is released and it jams an aluminum brake into the blade. The blade, rotating at 3,600 revolutions per minute with a force of 1,000 Gs, instantaneously drops below the table surface, all within five thousandths of a second, Hughes said. The drop causes a loud popping noise but it helps prevent any serious injury to a person’s hands and fingers.
Larry Hughes, owner of Reno-based Woodcraft, which offers classes, woodworking tools and resources, is a member of the Washoe County School District’s woodworking advisory committee of the Career and Technical Education program. He was responsible for making the connection between John Martz of the Wilhelm Hoppe Family Trust, which purchased a number of saws for the district at a cost of about $28,000, and the woodshop program.
Hughes said Martz walked into his store looking for a router bit and mentioned he was interested in a table saw. That led to Martz’s interest in helping out the woodworking programs in Washoe schools.
“It was an opportunity and I look for opportunities,” Martz said. “I really don’t like to just give money to organizations because I don’t know what it goes for. I like to give money to individuals that have great potential and to programs like this. And it would have been very pleasing to Mr. Hoppe because he worked with his hands.”
The Wilhelm Hoppe Family Trust is named after the German master pastry chef who enjoyed working with his hands. Before he died in 2007, Hoppe gave a provision in his trust that the funds were to go toward educational opportunities, public information and the arts, said John Martz, an attorney and an overseer of the trust.
Hoppe was a German immigrant to the Reno/Sparks area.
Sparks High School was one of 10 schools this week to receive a table saw with such safety measures, along with Reed, Spanish Springs, North Valleys, McQueen, Galena and Incline Village high schools and Vaughn and Clayton middle schools. In a second round of distribution next Monday, the Academy of Career Education charter school and a Carson City middle school are among other sites to get at least one saw.
Sparks High and district staff were pleased to receive the saws so that they might encourage students, to learn how to do woodwork that would provide valuable skills for careers in construction, medical work and other fields.
It also promotes a safer environment, Varischetti said of the saw. In his 31 years as an educator, 28 of those at Sparks High, he said he’s never had a student accident working with saws in a shop class.
“Our safety program won’t change any because what we try and do is not put ourselves in that situation,” he said. “The nice thing about this is, as we all know, people make mistakes so this is just another safeguard in addition to the safety program we currently have.”
Hughes said the technology opens doors for similar improvements in other types of saws, especially in band saws, which can handle thicker wood but do not cut as precisely as a table saw.
The new saws also provide a craft to be admired, Washoe County School district senior director Juanita Ydiando said. She said she hopes many students will be able to enjoy it as much as her own family has.
“I don’t know how (a table saw) works and I don’t know how to use it but I do know the beautiful things it can make,” Ydiando said. “My father-in-law knew how to use a table saw. He was very creative. He was very at home with that table saw. I get choked up (thinking about) watching him take a piece of wood, watching him create beautiful things.”