A track saw is a favorite machine by DIYers and professionals for both the workshop and the job site. But before you buy one, you want to learn everything about this type of saw so that you have a tool that perfectly suits your needs. You will discover all this in this track saw comparison article, as well as what to look for when buying a track saw.
To buy the right track saw for your workshop, you should look out for the following points:
- engine power
- track length
- chamfering capacity
- depth setting
- safety features
In this track saw buying guide, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about track saws, including what they’re used for, the advantages of a track saw, and what to look for when buying a track saw. Within a few moments, you will know exactly which machine you need.
Disclosure: At zero cost to you, I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. I earn from qualifying purchases as an Amazon associate. Products featured are selected based on quality, performance, and reputation, regardless of affiliate relationships.
What is a track saw
A track saw is a handy power tool that allows you to make ultra-precise, straight-line cuts on all sizes of wood planks thanks to the metal rail.
This is often used as an alternative to a table saw, as I suggested earlier in my article, Small Workshop? Use This Table Saw Alternative (Solved).
You can compare a track saw to a circular saw that is mounted on a precision metal track. However, with a circular saw, you have to pre-set and lock the blade, while with a track saw the depth is set and the blade is only lowered when you start cutting. That is why the track saw is also known as a plunge saw or plunge cut saw.
With a plunge saw, you can also make cuts at an angle. Because this eclectic tool can be pushed forward on a rail, you always obtain extremely accurate and straight cuts, whether it is square or at an angle of up to 45 degrees. Some brands, such as the Festool TS 55 can even go up to 46 degrees.
I bought the Festool TS 55 myself and wrote an in-depth review article about it. You can check out “Festool TS 55 Track Saw Review. My Honest Thoughts” to know more about this tool.
How does a track saw work?
Working with the track saw is very easy and without too much effort. This saw moves on the metal track along a straight line. To cut, simply attach the metal track to the workpiece, place the circular saw on the rail and move it forward along the guides.
The track stabilizes the saw, so you don’t have to worry about the saw accidentally slipping or moving away from the marked line. Because the metal rail has a non-slip layer on the bottom, the rail will stay in place with a wide range of wood types.
Smoother types of wood can sometimes cause the rail to slip, but you shouldn’t worry here either. At the bottom of the metal rail, there is a slot for clamps to fit. These can be mounted in such a way that they do not get in the way when you want to cut. This is super handy and a must to purchase if you are buying a plunge saw.
What is a track saw used for?
Different types of cuts can be made using a track saw. This saw is most typically used to make precise long, 90-degree right-angled cuts.
This saw may also be used as a crosscut saw, allowing you to make cuts at up to 45 degrees (in some cases up to 46 degrees).
In woodworking, the plunge saw is mostly used to cut huge sheets of plywood into smaller rectangular portions.
A plunge cut saw’s primary function is to provide mobility and convenience of use, as well as precise cutting.
Wood, plywood, MDF, OSB, chipboard, hardboard, and other materials can be cut.
Related article: Is a track saw worth it?
What are the advantages of a track saw?
A plunge saw’s main advantage is that it avoids the need for a large machine like a table saw to make exact straight cuts. In addition, compared to other portable saws like circular saws or jigsaws, the plunge saw has a number of significant advantages.
It’s easy to use
A plunge cut saw, as previously stated in this text, has a metal track. Most portable saws require you to mark the area on the wood where you want to cut, then either guide the wood into the blade or move the blade to the desired place. With a track saw, all you have to do is place the metal track in the designated area and begin sawing.
Make accurate cuts.
Making precise cuts is one of the key functions of a track saw. Making truly accurate cuts with conventional circular saws is a complex, multistep procedure, as I explained previously. You can simply saw accurately with a rail saw. When it comes to making smooth, accurate cuts, a plunge saw isn’t your only option (other saws for precise cuts exist), but it is your best option. Simply said, a plunge cut saw is one of the greatest and simplest tools for making precise cuts, which is why it is so valuable.
Finally, track saws are extremely portable when compared to table or panel saws. Unlike many other saws designed to make precise cuts, the plunge cut saw may be simply moved from one area to another.
Braking down big sheets of plywood
Cutting huge timber boards is another area where track saws shine. With a normal circular saw, cutting huge amounts of wood with any degree of accuracy can be challenging. It’s tough to maintain the circular saw straight for that long while working with larger timber planks.
Cutting a large wood plank with a table saw is challenging since most table saws aren’t large enough to handle larger pieces of wood. Accurate cutting of larger pieces of wood is simple using a plunge saw. When cutting very lengthy pieces of wood, the saw remains stable and accurate thanks to the track.
What are the disadvantages of a track saw?
Although I am a big proponent of buying a plunge saw, and this tool has many advantages, there are also some disadvantages associated with the plunge saw. To give you a clear picture of this tool and to inform you well, I will briefly mention the disadvantages below.
- The surface of the workpiece should be relatively flat and not irregular. To make precise cuts, you need to be able to properly attach the metal track to the wood plank.
If you don’t have this, the rail may shift during cutting. You can prevent this with the clamps I discussed earlier in this article.
- The workpiece must be stiff enough to support the track saw.
If you are cutting very thin sheets, additional support may be required. Bending wood can cause the blade to jam and cause kickback. Check the deflection before you start cutting.
- When working in tight spaces, the length of the track can be a nuisance. To counteract this, you can purchase rails of different lengths, which entails an additional cost.
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Track Saw vs Table Saw vs Circular Saw
Now, you may be wondering, do I need a crawler saw if I own a table saw or a circular saw? In the end, they do about the same, and this is not an illogical question to ask yourself. The answer is: No. You don’t need it unless you want an easy solution to cut large wood or plywood sheets.
A track saw is also an easy-to-carry tool for cutting on a job site. It is difficult to give a one-sided answer to this question, everyone has different requirements. Thanks to the foregoing advantages and disadvantages, you can better assess for yourself whether this tool is something for you. I’ll go deeper into this below.
Track saw vs Table Saw
As I mentioned earlier with an example, a table saw is not easily portable. A track saw is lighter and smaller and can be easily moved around a job site.
You can use a rail saw to cut large planks that will not load on a table saw. It can also be very useful in situations where you cannot move the workpiece. For example, heavy or extra-large workpieces. Vertical sawing on doors, plasterboard, etc. is also possible with a plunge cut saw.
On the other hand, the table saw offers higher dimensional accuracy by using the fence. A table saw can be used for milling operations such as rabbets and dados that a track saw cannot do accurately. The fence system on a table saw also allows for higher repeatability.
To read more about the differences between a track saw vs table saw, I Suggest you read my in depth article, Track Saw vs Table Saw: Which Is Better for You?
Track Saw vs Circular Saw
The ability to cut accurately along a straight line is a plunge saw’s key benefit over a circular saw. It’s not difficult to use. A straight edge can be used to improve the accuracy of a circular saw. The rail system, on the other hand, eliminates any potential for errors caused by sideways movement.
A track saw also has a dust collection mechanism, which helps you keep your work space clean.
A circular saw, on the other hand, is more portable and requires less storage space. The rails are somewhat large and cumbersome to store. Furthermore, you must preserve them in such a way that they are not damaged by folds; otherwise, they will lose their accuracy.
In addition, you can load several circular saw wheels to cut harder materials, while a plunge cut saw is mainly for cutting wood or other softer materials.
To read more about the differences between a track saw vs circular saw, I Suggest you read my in depth article, Track Saw Vs Circular Saw, How Do They Differ? a Clear Guide
What to look for when buying a track saw
If you’ve decided to buy a track saw, you may be curious about what track saw features to look for when buying one. In this section, you can easily find out what to look for when buying a track saw.
The most important one of all the track saw features is in my opinion the engine power. When buying a plunge saw, the first thing to look for is a powerful motor, just like you would with any other saw. The saw may cut through the wood faster with a more powerful motor. When purchasing a crawler saw with a low-power motor, be cautious; while it may save you money, it will result in the saw not cutting as well. Make sure any track saw you buy has a motor rating of at least 9 amps, or it won’t cut well.
The greatest speed that a track saw can reach is another essential component that impacts its power. RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) are used to measure speed, and a crawler saw with a speed of roughly 2,000 RPM is suitable. Most commercial plunge saws operate at this speed. You’ll also want a plunge saw that can vary speeds if possible. With varying speeds, you may saw through different materials and types of wood with even more accuracy and speed.
The tracks come in a variety of lengths, depending on the manufacturer. Festool, a global leader in the plunge saw market and a particular favorite for the high-quality work it can do, offers guide rails ranging in length from 800 mm (32″) to 5000 mm (197”).
You might start with a shorter track and add extensions to make it longer if needed. It is critical, however, that the extension rails connect perfectly. Otherwise, it will have an impact on the precision of your cut. That is why having a long single track is always preferable. However, keep in mind that a longer runway can be a burden when working in congested areas.
I wrote an entire article about this topic. To dive deeper into this knowledge you should visit my article What Track Saw Guide Rail Length Do I Need for My Track Saw?
Another crucial factor to consider is the chamfering capability. As the name implies, this relates to the capacity of a saw to make angled cuts. Check the maximum angle that which the base can be tilted with respect to the blade axis.
A bevel cut is one in which the thickness of the wood is cut at an angle other than 90 degrees. In contrast, a miter cut is one that spans the length or width of the wood at an angle other than 90 degrees. Bevel cuts are required for a range of woodworking and carpentry tasks, including the creation of furniture and cabinetry. A miter saw, or a table saw are often used to make bevel and miter cuts, both of which are big and cumbersome to move. That isn’t the case now. You can now perform exact bevel, miter, and compound cuts with a track saw.
This is one of the track saw geatures that piques my interest. The amount of depth the circular saw blade cuts into the workpiece is referred to as the depth setting. If you want to cut the wood using a track saw, you can claim that cutting large planks into smaller portions does not necessitate precise depth settings. However, I prefer to let the top protrude at least near the bottom for safety reasons.
Shallow cuts, on the other hand, necessitate careful depth control. A decent track saw features a fine depth control with a readout that indicates the actual cut depth, taking track thickness into account.
Because you’re working with strong equipment that spins a cutting blade at high speeds, extra safety features are essential. Certain safety elements, in my opinion, are absolutely necessary. An electric brake is required to begin with. Electric brakes on track saws allow them to stop much faster than ordinary saws. If you become trapped and need to swiftly stop the saw blade, electric baking can come in. Anti-kickback protection is also a must-have feature. An anti-kickback feature can aid enhance accuracy while also preventing unintentional loss of control of the saw.
In comparison to a regular circular saw, the folding of the saw blade while releasing the saw is also a significant safety benefit in my opinion.
The great thing about track saws is that they can be expanded with all kinds of accessories to make this powerful tool even better. To inspire you I wrote my guide 10 Must-Have Track Saw Accessories to Enhance Your Cutting Experience. Be sure to visit this article and browse through the many options to make your track saw even better.
What to look for when buying a track saw – Conclusion
When buying a plunge saw, it is critical to consider track saw features other than pricing. There are various things to consider so that you can buy the machine that is most suited to your workshop.
You now know exactly what to look for when buying a plunge saw thanks to the suggestions you learned in this saw buying guide.
The next step is that you can now choose the perfect track saw for your workshop. To make the search easier, I have already made a selection of the best track saws in my article What Is the Best Track Saw? (My Honest Opinion). It is highly recommended to take a look there.
Building your workshop can be daunting, filled with trial and error. Believe me, I’ve been there too.
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