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DARBY – Darby High School has purchased a table saw that is safety driven – it stops when it touches flesh. Student safety is first priority for shop classes, allowing relaxed creativity.

DHS Tech Education teacher Max Fiedler said the new saw is extremely safe.

“It’s called a SawStop Table Saw and it is a very well-built machine of industrial quality,” said Fielder. “It is very powerful and everything you need in the way of a table saw – plus a safety feature: If your finger or any flesh on your body touches the saw, there’s a cartridge inside that will fire an aluminum block into the blade and lock it in fractions of a second and it will drop the blade before it will cut your finger.”

Fielder explained how the SawStop blade distinguishes flesh.

“You have an electrical charge going through your body. It is electrically conducted, so when that touches there’s something in there that knows,” he said. “It stops in five-hundredths of a second.”

The decision to purchase the SawStop saw wasn’t driven by an injury at Darby High.

“Table saws are the No. 1 leading machine for injuries, I would say, across the board in the carpentry industry,” said Fielder. “I think they said one injury every 10 seconds. I’ve worked with people that have cut their fingers off – but we haven’t had any injuries in the shop, so far, knock on wood. We bought it for extra precaution – to help me sleep at night.”

Darby shop classes extend from grades seven through 12 – all the seventh- and eighth-grade students take shop – and high school students select shop electives.

Students are building chess boards, furniture, coffee tables, etc.

“We use that table saw in almost every single project,” said Fiedler. “We just got done making 140 cutting boards – as a manufacturing unit – as a fundraiser. These are great for every kitchen – everybody needs a cutting board, at least one.”

The 10-by-12-inch hardwood cutting boards sell for $25 each. They are made of oak, ash and walnut laminated together, then grooved, sanded and treated with mineral oil.

The DHS Construction Class students are building a gazebo between the shop and the high school.

“It is a place for the kids when the weather gets nice to go outside and eat lunch,” Fiedler said. “We’ve made picnic tables for it too, so as soon as the weather gets nice we have to put the metal roof on and that will be done.

“We’re doing metal working, and in drafting class they are designing their dream houses right now. The first year I taught I said ‘dream house’ and they came up with wildly ridiculous things, so I put a 2,500-square-foot limit on the designs. Now they are more realistic and something they could live in.”

For more information or to purchase a hardwood cutting board, contact Darby High School.

Reach reporter Michelle McConnaha at 363-3300 or


Staff Reporter

Reporter at The Ravalli Republic