Benefit 1: It's not just a circular saw with a fancy straightedge
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Photo 1: You push, the blade plunges
Unlike your circular saw, this has
no clumsy blade guard to fight.
On the DeWalt and Festool, a riving
knife follows the blade, reducing
kickback and blade-pinching.
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Photo 2: Precision guidance system
Unlike a straightedge, the rail
won't let the saw veer off course.
Adjustment knobs fine-tune the
fit between the saw's shoe and
the track, so there's zero slop.
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Photo 3: Accurate adjustments
All three models feature easy-to-read
scales, solid depth stops, and
front and rear bevel locks. Forget
the ballpark settings on your circular
saw; with a track saw, what
you set is what you get.
When I first laid eyes on a track saw, I thought, “I have a table saw.
I have a straightedge to guide my circular saw. Why would
I spend $500 (or more) on one of these contraptions?”
I was sure it was another tool gimmick for suckers.
Then I talked to track saw owners, from cabinetmakers
and flooring installers to trim
carpenters and remodelers. Every
single one of them told me that
buying a track saw was a
smart move. Now I own
A track saw is similar
to your framing saw—the way a Porsche
is similar to a dump
truck. It's engineered
to be smooth and precise
rugged, and you'll
feel the difference the
first time you pull
The big brands of track saws
The Main Players
There are three big
names in the track saw
market. You'll find the
saws sold separately or
as kits, with one track or
two, with or without
accessories. That can
make price comparisons
tricky, but expect to
spend about $500 for a
saw and a rail long
enough for 4-ft. cuts. The
blades are oddball sizes:
6-1/2 in. for DeWalt and
Makita, 6-1/4 in. for
Festool. So pick up an
extra blade or two ($50
to $80 each—ouch!).
Festool also makes a
track saw with an 8-1/4-
in. blade (TS 75; $650
for the saw only).
Benefit 2: Look Ma, no clamps!
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The track is stable in most situations, due to the rubber strips on the bottom.
Those sticky rubber strips on the track bottom don't slip;
no need to waste time clamping down the track in most
situations—even when you're trimming doors. Cutting
clampless is scary at first, but you'll learn to trust the
sticky strips. For those rare times when you need them,
get clamps that lock into the track (about $40 a pair).
Benefit 3: The dust collection system really works
The shroud on a track saw doesn't just enclose the blade; it
also creates an effective dust trap. Add a vacuum hose and
you can do things you wouldn't dream of with any other saw.
Like cut MDF inside Mrs. McFussy's house.
Benefit 4: Instant, exact setup
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Exact track alignment
Line it up and cut. No measuring or guesswork.
Just align the track
with your marks
and you're ready to
cut. The plastic edge
shows you precisely
where the blade will cut.
No test cuts, no double checking,
Again and again, track saw
owners told me, “I've never
screwed up a cut with this saw.”
Benefit 5: Nice for tight spaces
A track saw can make big cuts in a small space. If you had to,
you could slice up a full sheet of plywood in an 8 x 10-ft.
room. Unlike with a table saw, there's no need for infeed
or outfeed space. A track saw is also a
space saver in your
truck or van.
Benefit 6: Painless portability
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Easy to move
You can carry a track saw under one arm.
A track saw does most
of what a table saw does,
but moving between job
sites is a lot easier. Safer,
too: Carrying a track saw,
you're less likely to bang up
door casings or wreck your
back. Plus, you can call
Mom while you load
up your truck.
Benefit 7: Long miters, no limits
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Cut long miters
Mark your miter first, then align the guide and make the cut.
With a miter saw, a table saw or even
a panel saw, the length and angle of
the cut are limited. Not so with a
track saw. You'll get an accurate
miter no matter how long or how
steep the angle. But there is one
downside. Unlike those other saws, a
track saw doesn't have a built-in
miter gauge, so setting up miter cuts
can be slow. If you do lots of long
miters, you might want to spend $50
to $100 on a miter gauge that locks
onto the track.
Benefit 8: Clean, smooth cuts
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Saw cut comparison
The track saw makes the cleanest cut, compared to a circular saw and table saw.
I made test cuts with track saws and a top-of-the-line cabinet saw. Whether the
material was solid wood, plywood or MDF, the track saw cuts were just as
smooth as the table saw cuts. To test for tear-out, I added a circular saw to the
contest and cut melamine. The track saws did the best, producing almost perfect
cuts, with only a few tiny chips on the top of the waste piece. The table saw
left tiny chips on the face-down side. The circular saw did just what you'd expect.
Is Your Table Saw Obsolete?
Nope. If you get a track saw, your table saw may get some long vacations, but it
won't go into retirement. Cutting small parts with a track saw is clumsy, and cutting
much deeper than 2 in. is impossible with most models. And when it comes
to identical repeat cuts—ripping wide boards into cabinet stock, for example—a
track saw is a slow, sorry substitute for a table saw.
Benefit 9: Single-stage plywood cutting
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A finished cut the first time
Every cut is a finished cut. No re-cutting.
To avoid wrestling heavy sheets across a table saw, many of us perform
a two-act play: We rough-cut with a circular saw, then make finish cuts
on a table saw. With a track saw, you can skip the second act. The first
cuts will be your final cuts—every bit as straight, smooth and accurate as
you'll get on a table saw.
Benefit 10: Connect the tracks, cut for miles
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Long cut potential
With connectors you can make super long cuts.
The ends of the tracks are dead
square, so you can lock them together
for super-straight, super-long cuts.
(I heard from a gym-floor installer
who lays up to 100 ft. of track for a
single cut!) The connectors cost
about $17 each. One connector is
good, but two is better. Most rails fall
into one of two general categories:
long enough for a 4-ft. cut (about
$100) or long enough for an
8-ft. cut (about $200).