Track Saw Alternatives in 2020
There are a few companies offering good track saws. Many of which are just too expensive such as the acclaimed Festool 561438 TS 75 EQ. Your could decide on a slightly more affordable Makita or Dewalt which are both very capable but there are other low cost alternatives including home made track saws.
What is a Track Saw?
The ‘Track Saw’ is a relatively new idea but the innovative plunge saw is a revelation for woodworkers.
- A simple ‘Track Saw’ follows a perfectly straight guide while you pass the saw through sheet wood.
- A ‘Plunge Saw’ is a track saw with the additional feature of being able to plunge the saw blade into the sheet material at the start or during the cutting movement.
- The Rail saw is sometimes an alternative name for a track saw but I believe the term ‘Rail Saw’ should be dedicated to heavier industrial machines.
The track saw is a very useful addition to any tool kit. Whether you are a woodworker who primarily works on site on customers homes or you spend most of your time in the workshop. The track saw is a very useful addition because a track saw is accurate and fast. Another reason to own a track saw is that you bring the tool to the workpiece and not the other way round. This is great when working on large projects which can be unwieldily.
In this article, I try to explain the differences between using a track saw and using stationary equipment.
Track saws can be expensive?
This is why you should at least consider making a simple track saw to use with a saw that you already own.
Popular track saws such as the Festool has innovatively changed woodworkers workflow.
What are track saws best at?
Cutting sheet material down into manageable sizes for projects is the main reason you would own a track saw. You can cut along and across a sheet using the saw and track with the appropriate length to cut:
- Oriented Strand Board OSB(Sterling Board)
- WBP Ply
- Marine Ply
- Medium Density Fibreboard MDF
- Block Board
- Strip Board
What are ‘Track Saws’ great at?
- Ripping sheet material
- large projects in small spaces
- stopped cuts in worktops for Hobbs etc
When carpenters think of a track saw they think of the Festool, Makita and DeWalt amongst many that have the ability to plunge into the workpiece. But there are other Track saw brands:
- Makita SP6000J1
- SHOP FOX W1835
- Festool 561438 TS 75 EQ
- DEWALT DWS520K
- Festool TS 55 REQ
- Grizzly T10687
- Triton TTS1400
- DEWALT DCS520T1
Track Saw reviews 2020
There are plenty of reviews on offer if you do a google search on the best track saw in 2020. For me, I am not too interested in what people have to say about what is on offer unless they are real woodworkers. All too often I read blogs about tools and it is obvious they have not even touched the machine they are reviewing. We are woodworkers and only share with you our real-life experiences.
I am happy with my own methods of cutting down sheet material. I have made my own.
Why you should consider buying a track saw?
It’s not rocket science to understand that not having to move large sheets around the workshop is a bonus. Manhandling 8 X 4 sheet material over the table saw can be quite difficult, even dangerous. Breaking down sheets of plywood with a plunge saw on a track or rail system can easily simplify the task. Making the process safer.
But good plunge saws are expensive!
This can be very true but equally there are some budget options available or you could make your own solution. You can buy a variety of Track Saws via Amazon here
Are Home made Track saws any good?
A homemade track saw is a good alternative to the proprietary brands although in some cases a purpose-built track saw system is better. Festool, for instance, has a complete system of add ons which are great at simplifying a whole range of cutting situations.
I own a rail system by Metabo but frankly, I use my homemade track saw as my go-to tool. Although it does not have a plunge option it is very capable of making multiple cuts accurately. Homemade track saws can easily rip down large sheets of plywood or even can be used for cutting across the grain of hardwoods and softwoods.
What is the benefit of ‘Plunge Saws’?
Track saws with the plunge action have a few good points.
- Safety, the blade is fully retracted and concealed on most variations
- The saw can be plunged in the middle of a sheet allowing square holes for appliances to be cut
- Most plunge saws have a riving knife this helps prevent kickback
- As you push the saw is automatically plunges into the material
I have made track saws of different lengths
I use my short track saw with a handheld power tool circular saw for cutting the angle cuts on the end of stair strings for instance. Provided you have a good and sharp tungsten carbide blade it is surprising how clean a cut you can get using this method.
Because my short track saw has a square fence. It works very well for doing 90 degree cuts on the end of stair treads and risers.
My short crosscut track saw
I have made a simple track saw for cutting across the grain or sheet material. This simple tracksaw is easy to make in the workshop or in the workshop. You can make this track saw with a Tee square fence or without. What make this track saw special is that it can be used with any clamps.
How to make a track saw
What materials do I need to make a track saw?
- 3mm length of ply or similar material
- 6mm x 40mm strip of hardwood
- 12mm screws
- Wood glue
- 40mm x 300mm x 20mm of hardwood for a tee square upgrade if needed.
What tools do I need to build a track saw?
Like any woodworking project you need a few tools and here is a list of some basic tools to make a simple track saw.
- Drill bits
Step by step on how to make a crosscut track saw.
Follow these simple steps you will have a good but simple to reproduce track saw. You can make it in any length you like. Remember you will need to have a saw that you want to use with you tracksaw. You don’t have to dedicate a saw as this track saw does not require you to fix you saw to it.
- Cut ply to the length you want to cut with the track
- Rip to a width of the soleplate
- Cut hardwood strip to the length of ply
- Glue and clamp to ply edge
- When the glue is dry pilot hole every 200mm
- Countersink holes for screw head size
- Drive screws into holes so the point is only just pointing through
- Attach tee square if needed
- Using your circular screw make your first cut
How to use your new homemade Track Saw?
Using your new track saw is self-explanatory but let’s talk track.
- Position track where you want to cut
- The sawn edge will be your cut line
- Place saw onto the track
- Start you circular saw and with a downward and forward pressure make you cut
- The points of the screws will grab the wood ad you past with the saw preventing slippage
- You won’t need clamps but if you feel better use quick clamps
- To prevent breakout at the end of the cut steady the scrap so it does not fall
Large homemade track saw
I’ve made a very long homemade track saw for the purpose of removing the waney edge off newly sawn or seasoned timber.
What is ‘Waney Edge’?
The curved edge of new timber from the sawmill is the edge that has the bark on but is referred to as Waney.
For many woodworkers, especially people who are new to the craft. Find that creating that straight edge on waney edge timber can be either chore or at least a little bit difficult.
I find using my large homemade track or rail saw very easy and effective at removing the waney edge off timber. My setup has a permanent position in my workshop which is set up with a large Makita hand-held circular saw. this setup can rip The waney edge off the edge of a length of timber board up to 60 mm thick or 2 and a half in.
Here is a video of my homemade track saw.
This setup doesn’t require a special cutting bench as the saw and the wood to be cut is placed on the track saw or bed itself.
Do l need a special bench for my tracks saw?
A cutting bench for use with a circular saw is very useful but not necessary.
You can place your workpiece to be cut on sacrificial pieces of wood all you could make a special cutting bench.
My father was a boat builder and he used to work with sheet materials on a regular basis for bulkheads or floors.
He devised a bench that suited his needs. His cutting bench used to have two slots that intersected to make a cross. When he was cutting a sheet of plywood he would make sure that the sawblade would run in the slot. The beauty of his design was that when he made a cut from one end of the board to the other both sides of the board were supported. This limited any bind on the blade reducing kickback thus safer to use.
By Marcus Kett, Woodworking since 1989
Woodworking for me is in my blood as a son of a traditional boatbuilder. My Father Malcolm Kett was highly skilled and inventive individual often referred to as ‘Malcolm The Boat’.
Although I have spent a considerable portion of my life seeking further education and gaining qualifications in woodworking, electrical installations, bricklaying and to top it a degree in photography.
Yes, it is a medley of possible career choices but the one that I felt truly at home with was Woodworking. Woodworking has been my staple career choice that has given my family stability.
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We have lived and worked here in the Limousin Nouvelle Aquitaine since 2010, building window shutters and external doors. Our Volet manufacturing business is based at our home property as a ‘Cottage Industry’. We are a small business operating partly (60%) off the grid and try our best to practice our woodworking ethically.
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By Marcus Kett, Woodworking since 1989
Based in the Nouvelle Aquitaine of France