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Thread: Track saws

  1. #1
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    Default Track saws

    (Did a search here, honest. Only got sail tracks )

    I have some cabinet building to do at home. And because of my small shop and small table saw, I've convinced myself I need a track saw for dealing with sheet material. The people who have them rave about them, but the ones I've talked to have the Festool. There are now several other brands on the market and altho Festool is the granddaddy of these, it is $660. Yet several reviews I've read said that the Makita is right up there with the Festool and is $400, some even like it better. So I know they aren't really a boat builders tool, but I still thought I would check in here to see if there are any strong opinions I should consider.


  2. #2
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    Default Re: Track saws

    I've used a couple of friends' Festool track saws and they're excellent tools, but I can do the same cuts on my table saw (50" fence) or with a straightedge and skilsaw.
    I recommend that you get a bigger table saw. With a mobile base, you cane make it work in a small shop.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Track saws

    No strong opinions, as I've never owned one. Just hearsay mostly. For a small shop, with low volume, busting up panels with a hand-held circular saw makes perfect sense. I've seen people make up 4' X 8' sacrificial grids which went on low sawhorses. Also some folks use a piece of rigid foam for the same purpose.

    Some use a piece of straignt plywood as a guide for their skilsaw. That's the lowbudget way to go. Esp. if you already have a skilsaw. With the right blade, and a steady hand, I've seen young woodworkers put out multiple kitchens that way.

    But the tracksaw version is definitely a step up. More accurate. Less likely to chip the panel. Easier to set up. But it's one more tool to store when you're not using it. And none of them are as inexpensive as they probably should be.

    I've heard the same - Festool is the benchmark, and now several others are approaching them, at a better price.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    http://www.harborwoodworking.com/boat.html

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Track saws

    Quote Originally Posted by ron ll View Post
    (Did a search here, honest. Only got sail tracks )
    You forgot to put the search term in quotes. You get more results with "Progressive bevel" but 6 hits instead of 4 isn't much of a difference. It would appear that we don't talk about this here.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=site...utf-8&oe=utf-8


    The main problem with a standard circular saw using a plywood guide is that if you plan to tilt the blade, the pivot point is not in line with the cut, so the distance between the guide and the blade will change. For the extra $500, I can work out the distance for each angle.
    Management is the art of counting beans. Leadership is the art of making every being count. --Joe Finch

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Track saws

    Quote Originally Posted by MN Dave View Post

    The main problem with a standard circular saw using a plywood guide is that if you plan to tilt the blade, the pivot point is not in line with the cut, so the distance between the guide and the blade will change. For the extra $500, I can work out the distance for each angle.
    I think there are a few more differences with the new track saws, for all of which we can probably find workarounds. They have positive dust collection which I like, they have plunge cut ability with preset depth stops, they have a built in 1/8" depth stop for scoring the surface and then making a second cut in exactly the same place. This I'm told is very good for not chipping the surface melamine or veneer. And because they follow a track, there is less chance of wandering away from the guide. The Makita also has a sliding clip that keeps it from falling out of the track if you are cutting vertically (which I do often because of the size of my shop) or when doing angle cuts where the weight of the saw could have a tendency to lift from the base.

    As I say, most of us are capable of setting up workarounds for most of these conditions, but the fact remains that the people who have these saws love them.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Track saws

    I have the Dewalt Tracksaw and I really like it. I have a sheet of 1-1/2 in. x 4 ft. x 8 ft foam insulation that I put on the garage floor and place the plywood on top. I always double check the depth of cut to make sure I don't try to cut concrete. I found working on the floor was easier that using my cutting table which I have since given away. Depending on the fit and finish I will either use the piece as is or cut proud and clean up on the table saw.

    Randy

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Track saws

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    I've seen people make up 4' X 8' sacrificial grids which went on low sawhorses.
    Hey it worked until I found something better.
    Also some folks use a piece of rigid foam for the same purpose.
    Something better.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Track saws

    I have the Festool and it does fantastic work. As I recall, there are two sizes. Make sure you consider future needs and depth of cut particularly on a bevel that you may require. It's been a great alternative to table saws for me.
    Bill

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Track saws

    Quote Originally Posted by RLT View Post
    Hey it worked until I found something better.
    Something better.
    R - you're not the only one who uses the grid system. I know several folks. But I agree, I'd probably just use a dense foam. But a grid can be done with half-laps so it will break down into a pretty small package. That might be important in a small shop.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    http://www.harborwoodworking.com/boat.html

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Track saws

    I have the Festool TS55, the smaller one. I borrowed one of the large one's once and didn't like it. If one needs the extra depth of cut, then it would be a good choice. But for general shop work, the small saw is better.... I think.

    If other brands work as well, then consider them. I don't know. I've only ever used the festool.

    You only have to pay for it once.

    Jeff

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Track saws

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    ... But a grid can be done with half-laps so it will break down into a pretty small package.


    I used this table for a couple of years and it stacks nicely in a corner.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Track saws

    I agree with all the positive comments above. I bought the smaller Festool (TS55?) or it's predecessor about 10 years ago for a similar reason, gutted and replaced all the kitchen cabinets etc. The saw was expensive, and at the time there weren't any other commercially produced versions that I was or am aware of. As long as the competition has the same benefits, I'd probably go with a less expensive option. However, the case is also very nice!

    At the time my shop was in my basement and wrangling a 4x8 sheet of ply down there was a problem all by it's self. Being able to break down all the sheet goods in my garage where I stored them was wonderful. There's something to be said for not having to run a full sheet through a cabinet saw by yourself in a constrained space. You also get finish quality cuts on both sides of the sheet goods.

    Bill

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Track saws

    Quote Originally Posted by RLT View Post


    I used this table for a couple of years and it stacks nicely in a corner.
    That's an elegant version. You must know an engineer <G>
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    http://www.harborwoodworking.com/boat.html

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Track saws

    You can make a poor man's version by screwing a straight 1x2 onto a piece of plywood then running your circular saw along the 1x2. Now you have a track saw that cuts exactly where you lay the edge. Make it wide enough that when clamped at either end the clamps do not get in the way of the saw motor. The deluxe version has a small bevel on the inner edge of the 1x2 that allows the saw to slide along it without dust interference but this feature is not essential.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Track saws

    I have the smaller Festool and use it all the time for small boat building, not just sheet materials. Two tracks that can be connected. It gives a very fine tear out free finish and wouldn't be without it. For building something like a Welsford, it would make it very quick to cut the frames etc. Not just useful for cabinet making. I bought mine before the others started appearing, which are a bit cheaper. The makita gives you an extyra track here in the UK.

    Its the only Festool product I own, but I can see that it makes things upto a standard that function extremelly well for their use. You can get jigs that hold routers on the tracks too, and clamps that hold the track down but I've never needed to use them as they are non slip underneath anyway. In a fire, it's the piece of equipment I'd grab first, then my Veritas plane, then the thicknesser. Its a luxury, but always a pleasure to use. Which side of the pencil line do you want to cut? Set the depth, use a sacrificial board, just slide it along carefully, then behold your greatness...

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Track saws

    I have the big Festool and a perfectly good table saw. The bottom line is Id rather muscle a sheet of 3/4 onto a set of wide horses once and scoot the track around than to feed a full or half sheet through the table saw single handed.

    Festool stuff is more expensive than most and I frankly didnt think it was worth the money until I bought two of the sanders. I got the saw real cheap from a friend who was closing his shop and retiring. Probably wouldnt have ever bought it but now that I have it I see how handy it is.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Track saws

    Okay I ordered the Makita. I've been reading a lot of reviews and watching videos on these saws. They seem to do a lot more than just a skill saw with a home made track. And the reviewers seem to really like the Makita comparing it very favorably to the Festool. Looking forward to getting it, I'll report back.


  18. #18
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    Default Re: Track saws

    Quote Originally Posted by willin woodworks View Post
    I have the big Festool and a perfectly good table saw. The bottom line is Id rather muscle a sheet of 3/4 onto a set of wide horses once and scoot the track around than to feed a full or half sheet through the table saw single handed.

    Festool stuff is more expensive than most and I frankly didnt think it was worth the money until I bought two of the sanders. I got the saw real cheap from a friend who was closing his shop and retiring. Probably wouldnt have ever bought it but now that I have it I see how handy it is.
    Busting up sheet goods on a table saw requires a largish outfeed table. Could be temporary, but it must be secure and of good size.

    An example - our old shop with the outfeed table wrapped around a 10" Delta Unisaw --

    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    http://www.harborwoodworking.com/boat.html

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Track saws

    Having a big auxilliary table around the saw is a must; where else would I eat lunch and have coffee??

    Its wrestling the sheet onto the infeed side by myself that gets tiresome. A purpose built set of horses and the track saw make busting up a sheet of 3/4 so much easier when Im working alone, which most of the time.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Track saws

    I don't have enough space in my workshop or the nerve to run large sheets through a table saw so I bought one of these edge guides for cutting plywood.

    http://www.leevalley.com/en/wood/pag...40,45313,65694

    I made a base out of acrylic sheet and UHMW plastic for my Makita circular saw that hooks into the guide channel on the edge guide. (The standard accessory base doesn't fit my newer saw). It's not as good as a proper track saw but cut straight enough for the kitchen cabinets I just finished building. I built a grid out of 2x4 lumber with a slot down the centre that I lay on the floor to support the plywood being cut.

    The guide is limited to 48" wide so I used a strip of plywood as a guide for the longer cuts. This guide from Lee valley tools will do full length cuts

    http://www.leevalley.com/en/wood/pag...at=1,240,45313

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Track saws

    I've used the Dewalt and it was very nice. But after reading the reviews I think I might get the Makita.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Track saws

    We had the Festool back at Emerald, and it was wonderful. I got the Makita for myself for here in SG, since it was locally available in 220 volt and that tool is also the shizznit.

    With the right track and some clamps, you can even use it to straight-line rip the edges of warped boards.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Track saws

    A hint in one of the woodworking magazines led me to securing a 1 inch metal tube or pipe just off the ceiling in my shop and then arranging four 2 x 4s on a slight angle , to hold my sheet goods.. a guide , one 4 ft or 8 feet are clamped on to make a poor man's track saw set up like the ones in the big box lumber stores. Great for temporary sheet goods break down.. then carry the smaller pieces to the table saw or chop saw.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Track saws

    Quote Originally Posted by James McMullen View Post
    We had the Festool back at Emerald, and it was wonderful. I got the Makita for myself for here in SG, since it was locally available in 220 volt and that tool is also the shizznit.

    With the right track and some clamps, you can even use it to straight-line rip the edges of warped boards.
    James! I thought for sure we'd lost you to odd flavored canned drink reviews in Asia.

    Building bolger boxes with your track saw in Singapor?
    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
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    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Track saws

    Quote Originally Posted by willin woodworks View Post
    Having a big auxilliary table around the saw is a must; where else would I eat lunch and have coffee??

    Its wrestling the sheet onto the infeed side by myself that gets tiresome. A purpose built set of horses and the track saw make busting up a sheet of 3/4 so much easier when Im working alone, which most of the time.
    Big saw tables can serve as router table and can have considerable storage beneath.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Track saws

    Quote Originally Posted by jsjpd1 View Post
    James! I thought for sure we'd lost you to odd flavored canned drink reviews in Asia.

    Building bolger boxes with your track saw in Singapor?
    I am enjoying my retirement from the world of working on boats for money very much, and thank you for asking. It's taking me a while to shed the lingering PTSD, though. It's only occasionally that I get those unsettling thoughts of being back in a Boatshop, but usually I can just hide under a lounge chair and whimper until the fit passes. Gin-and-tonic seems to help. Especially with our local calamansi limes.

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Track saws

    I have a router lift in a cast iron drop in top to the left of the saw blade with which I can use the fence that came with the router table or the Biesmeyer fence for the saw depending on what Im doing.
    Underneath is a 15 gallon shop vac that connects to the saw or the dust port on the router table fence. Both tools have a lead/lag switch that turns the shop vac on and off when the tools are in use.
    I find the Benchdog router tables and lifts to be the most rugged and dependable and far less fiddly than the Kreg and some of the other brands. I am partial to cast iron and steel in lieu of plastic and high pressure laminate.

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Track saws

    Quote Originally Posted by Al G View Post
    You can make a poor man's version by screwing a straight 1x2 onto a piece of plywood then running your circular saw along the 1x2. Now you have a track saw that cuts exactly where you lay the edge. Make it wide enough that when clamped at either end the clamps do not get in the way of the saw motor. The deluxe version has a small bevel on the inner edge of the 1x2 that allows the saw to slide along it without dust interference but this feature is not essential.
    This sounds like an excellent idea. I wish I had seen it before I just finished ripping up 12 sheets of 3/4 cabinet plywood for my new kitchen using a skil saw and clamp on guide.
    Stay calm, be brave....wait for the signs. Possibly precariously prevaricating.
    .

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Track saws

    Quote Originally Posted by Al G View Post
    You can make a poor man's version by screwing a straight 1x2 onto a piece of plywood then running your circular saw along the 1x2. Now you have a track saw that cuts exactly where you lay the edge. Make it wide enough that when clamped at either end the clamps do not get in the way of the saw motor. The deluxe version has a small bevel on the inner edge of the 1x2 that allows the saw to slide along it without dust interference but this feature is not essential.
    Same idea, but I usually make them using a sheet good piece with a "factory edge" for the saw guide instead of a 1x2.

  30. #30
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    Default Re: Track saws

    Quote Originally Posted by J P View Post
    Same idea, but I usually make them using a sheet good piece with a "factory edge" for the saw guide instead of a 1x2.
    Just remember that a factory edge is usually - but not always - straight.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    http://www.harborwoodworking.com/boat.html

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  31. #31
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    Default Re: Track saws

    True David. And sheet goods are not always square.

  32. #32
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    Default Re: Track saws

    Quote Originally Posted by J P View Post
    True David. And sheet goods are not always square.
    I dunno... according to my friends who build only traditional boats... sheet goods (and those who build with them) are completely square. And lazy. And lame. And... well, you get the picture. <G> Seriously... you're right. Even less likely to have square corners than a usable straight edge.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    http://www.harborwoodworking.com/boat.html

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  33. #33
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    Default Re: Track saws

    My new saw arrived today. I had read a few Amazon reviews who had complained about the packaging. The saw is loose in the plastic carrying case and it just rattles around in there. There is no styro or airbags or even wadded up newspaper. Bizarre. Several people have had damaged saws. Also there are reports of occasional warped tracks being shipped. But I was lucky, mine seems in good shape and properly adjusted right out of the box.

    I've spent the last couple of hours cutting some 3/4" melamine particle board pieces for some cabinets. I already love this thing and it is a godsend for a small shop like mine. If you are not familiar with these saws, this is not your daddy's skilsaw. This is an incredibly accurate finish tool. The quality of the cut is very good. Although it is designed to not need clamps for the track, I have ordered the special accessory clamps. The track stays put by itself pretty well. But I found that between the scoring cut and the final cut, I had a tendency to bump it or somehow move the track. Then I had to realign it and hope I got it back to the same spot. I'll be happier with the clamps.

    This thing is a bit pricey, but it's worth it, especially when shop space doesn't allow a big table saw.

  34. #34
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    Default Re: Track saws

    Glad you like it. Enjoy!!
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    http://www.harborwoodworking.com/boat.html

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  35. #35
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    Default Re: Track saws

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    Glad you like it. Enjoy!!
    It is indeed, as they say, the shizznit.

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