You may know track saws by another name “Plunge Saws”. The track saw actually gets its name from the track that they run along. When used appropriately, track saws can function as a lightweight and portable table saw, circular saw or even a drop saw.
The cutting blade and casing, looks similar to that of most circular saws, and is held and operated in pretty much the same manner. The one main difference between a track saw and a circular saw is that the blade descends upon the material with a track saw instead of being fixed in position and pushed into it like a circular saw.
A track is laid across the length of timber or other suitable material, and secured into place. This track provides a guide for the track saw to follow, guiding the blade, resulting in long clean cuts, that can be as precise and as accurate as a table saw, and requiring little to no finishing.
With the right setup, a track saw can even be used as a makeshift drop saw, by descending/plunging the blade into the narrow lengths of material benefit it.
You may be thinking “Why would I need a track saw when I already have a circular saw and a table saw of my own?” Simply put each of these tools serve a purpose, with each being more suitable for specific tasks.
While you may be skilled enough to cut strips of wood at the right lengths and/or angles with a circular saw, successfully producing a clean straight cut over a much longer length is more difficult to master.
For the average trades-person, circular saws are great for smaller tasks. For longer cuts, most will use a table saw to accurately achieve the desired angle with a clean straight cut down the entire length. The only problem with most table saws, is that they are bulky and cumbersome. As a result, there are times when there just isn’t enough room to be using one on site.
This is where Track Saws excel. They offer the benefits of both a Circular Saw and a Table Saw in one.
When choosing the right Track Saw for yourself, there are a few things to take into consideration:
With this in mind here are our top 5 picks for Track Saw models.
DeWalt is known for their robust, and tough looking high-performance tools, and along with Milwaukee, are at the top of our list for recommended brands. For this reason, we believe tat you can’t go wrong with a DeWalt.
The DWS520K is no exception. Featuring a zero clearance cutting system, this track saw ensures accurate and straight, clean cuts. With its 12A, 1300W motor and variable speed adjustment, it can cut through soft material and the toughest of hardwoods.
Kickback isn’t much of an issue for this Track Saw either. The tracks only allow forward movement, which prevents the saw from moving backwards. This, in conjunction with its continuous anti-kickback mechanism and riving knife, greatly helps to prevent kickback. While a built in brake, brings the blade to a halt shortly after you’ve released the trigger, preventing any unwanted cuts or the saw from attempting to run away from you.
Another benefit to the track’s design is that they are dual edged, which allows the saw to be used in both directions. With the added benefit of the DWS520K having a low profile blade, this means that it is ideal for use in confined spaces.
The biggest hurdle to using the DWS520K, is the complex eight-step process needed to swap out the blade which can be non-user friendly for some people. This process involves:
Another DeWalt Track Saw, but this time a cordless model. This particular model is fully-enclosed, with a low-profile guard that helps to control the directional spread of the sawdust.
By adjusting the variable speed dial in the handle, you can adjust the RPM to help the 6.25″ blade, to cut through soft materials that are up to 2 1/8″ thick, or hardwoods up to 2″ thick.
When pairing the DCS520ST1 up with the DeWalt 60v Flexvolt Lithium Ion Battery, this Track Saw offers more power and a longer run time then most other cordless Track Saws. This battery also has the additional benefit of being backwards compatible with many of their other cordless products.
Additionally, this track saw is also compatible with the track systems of other brands, such as Festool.
Older Festool models were only available in metric, but the newer models today are available in both Imperial or Metric, or they’ll come with an imperial sticker that can be placed over the metric depth measurement guide. This one simple little feature use to be the biggest draw back for this brand. Today they can truly be considered a global brand now.
The TS 55 is better suited for cutting soft or brittle plastics, aluminum both thin or extruded, as well as thin soft woods, plywood, MDF and melamine. Though it is capable of cutting thicker materials, it can be slow going, which may not make this Track Saw suitable for professionals.
The zero-clearance slot around the leading edge of the blade, helps to ensure that your cuts are clean. While the 10A, 1200W motor, and variable speeds, allow this Track Saw to cut into almost material.
The blade can also be adjusted to provide a variety of different angles, with a bevel capacity of -1 to 48 degrees and positive stops at 0 and 45 degrees.
The additional benefit of the included dust collection system means that it is great for keeping your work site clean. As well, it involves a quick and simple process for changing the blade, making the TS 55 a very user friendly unit.
Makita is known for their affordable tools that are more suited for the hobbyist, or weekend DIYer, and the XPS01PTJ is no exception. That’s not to say that the XPS01PTJ is an unreliable tool, quite the opposite actually. Its just not designed for the workload and rough handling that comes from working on construction sites. For home use they are perfectly fine.
The lightweight magnesium components, comfortable hand grip, and soft start feature, makes it easy for the user to maintain control of the unit at the start of their cut. An electric brake also helps to bring the blade to a swift stop after use.
The main thing that we fault this unit on, is that many units are sold bare. Meaning that the tracks are sold separately, with many units not including a battery either.
Bosch, like DeWalt and Makita, is another of the affordable brands range. While a little more durable then a Makita, Bosch are still more suited for at home use, or for lighter workloads on site. If you are looking for something that can last the mile, we would recommend a DeWalt or a Festool, for a reliable and durable enough tool for the odd task here and there, you can’t go wrong with a Bosch.
The GKT13-225L, uses internal electronics that help maintain a constant motor speed, even under a heavy load. With a built-in overload protection system, should the work load become too much for the GKT13-225L, it will shut off, until it has cooled down enough to be safely used again.
A variable speed dial, and swiveling hose port makes the GKT13-225L a more comfortable unit to use in most workshops and on most materials. With an appropriate extractor or vacuum system, up to 90% of all sawdust produced by this unit, can be easily collected and stored, making clean up at the end of the day, a quick and simple task.
Cutting with the GKT13-225L has a few advantages of its own. Not only does the depth measurement indicator have both Imperial and Metric units of measurement, this Track Saw also has a bevel gauge as well. With soft stops at 0 ad 45 degrees, the angle can be adjusted an additional 1-2 degrees with a simple push of a button.
In addition to this, there are markings on this unit that indicate where you will be cutting into the material. When making a plunge cut, there is a marking on the rear end of the blade guard that indicates where the end of the cut will be made. At the front end of the Track Saw is a clear window with a red hairline, that indicates the point that the blade will be cutting up to.
Tracks Saws are one of our preferred versatile tools. They can be used to trim floor boards right up to the edge of the wall, rip vertical cuts straight up a wall or board, and cut clean lines into the sides of already standing cabinets and doors.
Just be sure to pick a unit that suits your needs and budget, and one that you yourself will be able to use. As for brands, we would highly recommend DeWalts as an all rounder for both professionals and home DIYers.