Some weeks back on a different forum there was a thread that discussed sawstop’s new over head dust collecting blade guard. My blade guard had recently arrived and I had not even used it. While the discussion raged on Steve Gass (inventor of sawstop) posted some information in the thread about how effective the sawstop guard was at collecting dust. In the same thread Lee Styron, the inventor of the shark guard, offered to send a 3rd party his guard to test against the sawstop guard. As a sawstop PCS owner, I was the luck guy that got to test the 2 guards.
As we have been hearing for some time sawstop claimed that their guard collected 99% of all dust. I did not attempt to confirm or rebut their claim due to my lack of proper measuring equipment to determine exactly how much dust is being collected. My testing was pretty unscientific just pictures, video, and experience to determine what guard collected the most dust. I have had the shark guard and new sawstop guard in my possession for about a month now. In the time I have used each guard a fair amount while working on some Christmas presents. However I had not done a formal test using the same material and cuts until a few days ago. While using each guard before the testing I was very impressed by the lack of dust that did accumulated on the table, in front of the saw, and behind the blade. Some dust does escape each guard, but it is a small fraction compared to the amount that escaped the cabinet dust collection while using a ZCI.
For each test I ripped a piece of 3/8 particle board that was 11”x24” 4 times and visually inspected the amount of dust that had accumulated. I performed 4 tests, 2 with each guard. One set of 4 rips using a guard with a 16 gallon craftsman shop vac attached to it, and the cabinet of the saw connected to my 1 ½ hp delta dust collector. Then I tested the same guard again while making 4 rips with the shop vac attached but without the delta dust collector on. So in this test only the shop vac attached to the guard was collecting the dust. I also did a control test making 4 rips again with the same material. But in this test I did not use a guard I only used the cabinet dust collector. As expected the control test without using a guard let the most dust accumulate on and in front of the table.
The 2 tests I performed using the guards with the cabinet dust collection and the shop vac showed no visual difference in the amount of dust that accumulated. So for this portion of the test I could not declare a winner. I suppose you could have swept off the very small amount of dust that was one the table and measured it. But the amount of dust that was left behind was so minor it wouldn’t have even filled a teaspoon. I could not see any dust on myself or any that was on the floor in front of the cabinet.
Both tests I performed using only the shop vac attached to each guard without the cabinet dust collection showed different results. I chose to do this test because it isolated just the guard. So I could not attempt to determine which guard performed the best by itself. After the set of 4 rips I again visually inspected the amount of dust that had accumulated. The table and in front of the blade again showed a very little amount of dust. And again I could not see any dust that made it to the floor in front of the cabinet. But after these 4 cuts there was a significant amount of dust that had accumulated behind the saw blade and guard. As you will be able to see from the pictures there was a little more dust behind the blade after using the shark guard. Both guards left dust in the same place on the saw but the shark seemed to collect a little less dust. Or in other words there was slightly more dust on the table after using the shark guard for this test, then when the sawstop guard was used. So if you are only going to use the over head guard to collect your dust the sawstop would perform slightly better.
Here is a link to photo bucket which I have uploaded the pictures and video of each test. The files are under albums describing what test was being performed.
Each of these guards were designed to be used in conjunction with a dust collector connected your table saw and connected to the guard itself. So if you are planning on using the guard as designed I cannot say one would work better than the other. If you plan to only use the over head guard as your only dust collector I would have to say the sawstop would be your choice. But the saw stop guard is only available to be used on the sawstop. The shark guard on the other hand is made to fit most floor standing table saws on the market today. Both guards have some advantages over the other as far as functionality. The sawstop has a limiter that won’t allow the work piece to go under the guard if it is too close to the table. It also is a slightly slimmer design allowing thinner cuts to be made while using the guard. It also flips up totally and stays up by itself if you would like to measure something associated with the blade. The shark guard on the other hand is built much stronger. The lexan that it is produced with is very substantial. And attaching the dust collection hose to the top of it makes more sense and requires less routing when connected it permanently. A simple drop from your ceiling and a 4 to 2 ½ in adapter is all that would be needed with the shark guard. For a permanent attachment the sawstop requires more adapters and routing of the hose around outside of the table. I like the 2 ½ in port on the shark compared to the small 1 ½ in port on the sawstop that require another adapter to us a 2 ½ in hose off of your shop vac. Or even more adapters to use your 4” dust collector. I really think sawstop missed on this. They should have made the back of their guard with a 2 ½ in port and you would need adapters if you want use any other size hoses. Because of the strength of the material and less moving parts I believe the shark guard will hold up much longer. When mounted on a table saw that is used many hours a week I believe the shark the only way to go again due to its strength. At $135 shipped I think the shark guard to be a real good solution to your overhead dust collection for the saws that don’t come with a collection guard. If you are a saw stop professional cabinet saw owner, I think this is another great safety innovation that adds value to this machine. But if I were a industrial or contractor sawstop owner I would have to spend my money on the shark guard. I think it’s strength, ease of hose attachment, and its virtual equal dust collecting abilities make it a better value.
After watching some of my videos I realized the blade is quite high (above the work piece). Normally when using a guard I keep the blade higher because I feel I get a slightly cleaner cut at the end of the work piece.
Since then I have made a couple of new tests using both guards. This time due to my lack of material to cut into scrap I used ¾ birch MDF plywood. Since the material is twice as thick as the pervious tests I decided to only make 2 rips. I again used a piece that was 24” long. But I adjusted the blade so it was only 3/16 above the work piece as it was cut. This did change the results.
After making these rips with the blade adjusted the Shark guard appeared to have collected more dust than the sawstop guard. A look at the pictures there was slightly more dust left on the table and under the fence when the sawstop guard was used, than when the shark guard was used. The difference in the amount of dust is very small again, but there was a difference. It is possible that 2 different tests can produce 2 slightly different results though. The difference in the amount of dust in both testes was very small. I would have to say after this 2nd test both guards are equal in the amount of dust they collect when and when NOT used in conjunction with cabinet dust collection.
If you look at the designs of the shark and the sawstop you can see 2 differences. The sawstop guard has 2 pieces inside the guard that fall down to the top of the work piece sealing the inside of the guard off from the outside. The shark does not have this feature. I believe in my previous test since the shark guard/blade was approximately 1” above the work piece. The gaps in the rear of the guard above the work piece were larger allowing more dust to escape. The sawstop guard doesn’t require such adjustment due to its design. I am surprised that the sawstop guard allowed as much dust out when only using the shop vac for dust removal. Its design completely seals off the top of the work piece from the outside. My only guess is that the large amount of dust created by cutting ¾ mdf plywood was too much for the small port at the back of the guard to handle all by itself. And in the case of the shark guard the larger port allowed it to collect just a fraction more dust. Once the shark guard is adjust properly only a very small opening is visible at the rear of the guard.
This does not change my opinions of the guards at all. I think including the sawstop guard with the professional Cabinet saw adds more value to the saw. When compared to other premium table saws that don’t come with over head dust collection. But if I were to purchase a guard for my sawstop Industrial Cabinet Saw or contractor saw I would chose the shark guard. And I think it is an effective safety device and overhead dust collector for any other table saw.