Is a Track Saw the Right Tool for me?
There are many options for cutting lumber and sheet goods (such as plywood and melamine). A track saw is a great option, but how does a track saw compare to its competitors, the circular saw and the table saw?
What is a Track Saw?
A track saw is a purpose-built circular saw that runs along a set of track saws that assure you incredible accuracy. It features a circular saw that slides along a channel in a precision metal track. This track saw comes in handy when handling various types and sizes of lumber and sheet goods. It is also referred to as a plunge cut saw or a plunge saw.
This track saw boasts a long extruded rectangular rail on which the whole system operates. This rail helps improve the accuracy levels, including reduced tear-out. Its accuracy level is thanks to the zero-clearance guide edge that supports the edge of the cut. What’s more, this system is lightweight, allowing you to slide it on the rails without too much effort.
A track saw is designed for a variety of jobs. For instance, you can use it for cutting plywood on a job site. That is because its lightweight design makes it easily portable. This tool will also provide you with extremely straight and precise cuts. Since you don’t need to clamp it during the cutting process, it is much easier to make straight cuts faster and effortlessly.
Track saws include reasonably good dust collection. Notably, this saw will assure you of minimal dust, meaning that you have less airborne dust to remove and less site cleanup to do.
Why You Should Consider a Track Saw
Various reasons go into why you should invest in a track saw. The following is a look at some of the top reasons a track saw would offer value for your money.
- Versatility: This track saw system is multipurpose, meaning that you can use it as a circular saw, panel saw, or plunge saw. Such versatility is thanks to the various accessories the system has. At the same time, you can use this track saw for rip cuts, bevel cuts, and plunge cuts.
- Portability: The track saw system is lightweight, allowing you to carry it to your project site. Its compact design makes it portable, making it an ideal solution for job site work.
- Setup ease: You’ll set up this track saw system effortlessly. Its setup requires no clamps, additional skills, or accessories. Instead, you only need to align the track with your mark.
- Ease of storage: This track saw system is very compact. Its compact design means that you’ll have an easy time when making cuts in a relatively tight space as well.
- Excellent cuts: You can rely on this tool to make perfect flush cuts against adjacent surfaces. It also allows you to make long cuts by connecting the tracks. This means that you can add extra rails if you want to cut boards that are longer than a single track saw rail.
- Impressive accuracy levels: The track saw system relies on robust rails to ensure that you get unmatched accuracy. Such accuracy levels make this track saw system an excellent choice for cabinetry and furniture projects.
What are the Available Alternatives?
A track saw system is an excellent choice for any DIYer or professional. Yet, knowing some of its alternatives could come in handy. The following are some of the main alternatives you could consider.
The circular saw dates back to the 18th century when rip-saws were invented to tackle logs and lumber processing. Sawmills used horses and tractors to operate circular saws, also called buzz-saws. However, there are several claims to fame over who actually invented the circular saw. The original circular saws were large and attached to a table using clamps, which makes them similar to a table saw. However, the portable circular saw we use today is far more efficient.
A circular saw system is a power saw whose disc’s teeth spin around an arbor. This system features a safety guard that helps protect the user against the spinning blade. Cordless and corded models are available, depending on the usage and your personal preferences.
I am a lefty, and they make circular saws for left-handed users. This is very important for maintaining safety in the woodworking space. I can reach across the materials and hold them in place using my dominant hand, while the saw is managed with my right hand.
Circular saws are considered fast, versatile, and easy to use. They have a variety of blades, allowing them to cut through various materials. They can confidently handle crosscuts and rip cuts. Circular saws come in three versions: hypoid, sidewinder, and worm drive.
A sidewinder saw is an excellent choice for left-handed people, thanks to the positioning of its motor. This choice offers enhanced RPM ratings and faster blade movement, making it ideal for softwood.
The Hypoid circular saw has its motor behind it. This motor is significantly smaller, resulting in reduced noise levels. You could also opt for the worm drive circular saw, which provides you with more torque. This option is aimed at right-handed individuals.
a table saw is a circular saw blade – usually 10″ diameter – mounted below a table. Its blade protrudes up through the table, allowing it to cut through boards passed over the table. This exposed blade provides enhanced convenience, as the user will only need to feed their work pieces into this part. Since it is controlled and measured, this table saw system provides you with enhanced accuracy levels. Its design makes it a perfect option for crosscutting and ripping plywood or dimensional lumber. Unfortunately, most models are not very portable, meaning you may not be able to take the saw to your job site, unless you opt for smaller models, which suffer from reduced power. It also has a miter gauge, rip fence, and blade height adjustment. Anti-kickback, riving knife and rip fence features come in handy in boosting efficiency and safety levels.
Various types of table saws are available. The bench top models are a common choice, mainly because of their cost, compact size and portability. These table saw systems often have a collapsible stand and are ideal for small projects. There is also the Job site table saw, which offers a larger capacity while maintaining portability.
You could also consider the contractor table saw, which is a more powerful option. It provides you with greater power and capacity. You can also carry it to different locations despite its stationary design, although this is often a two-person operation.
Next, there is the cabinet table saw, the largest among all. This table saw is designed for significantly large projects and higher precision. Notably, the cabinet table saw is the most powerful choice. Lastly, you could opt for a hybrid table saw. It offers a blend of cabinet and Jobsite table saw functionality and design. This choice is suitable for anyone looking for enhanced versatility, power, and capacity over a contractor or bench top model.
READ MORE: Select the right after market blade for your track Saw: Track Saw Blade Options
Pros and Cons of Each Option
Each of these alternatives has its merits and demerits. Understanding what each of them brings to the table will ensure that you come to a logical conclusion. Here is a breakdown of what each option offers.
Advantages of the Circular Saw
- Speed: The circular saw provides you with enhanced speeds, ensuring that you make accurate cuts within a short time. Thanks to its high-speed rates, this machine is suitable for both softwood and hardwood.
- Versatility: you can use the circular saw system in various projects. This machine is suitable for different materials, meaning that you do not need to change to another option every time. At the same time, you can use it in different locations and for various projects.
- Affordability: If you are looking for an affordable option, this will be your ultimate choice. This machine costs significantly less than a decent track saw or table saw.
- Multiple options: You’ll find this machine in different sizes, models, and designs. That means you can easily get something that matches your projects or personal preferences. At the same time, you can choose between a left-handed and a right-handed design.
Disadvantages of the Circular Saw
- Rough cuts: The circular saw system makes relatively more uneven cuts compared to the track saw design. This aspect makes it less suitable for projects that require significant precision.
- Accuracy levels: The circular saw system is not as accurate as the track saw system. As such, you might want to reconsider if your project requires high levels of accuracy.
Advantages of the Table Saw
- Precision: Table saws assure you of unmatched accuracy levels. All you need to do is set up the cut you want to make. The results will be uniform across all your cuts.
- Cleanliness: These saws often include effective dust collection. That means less time cleaning and less harmful dust in the air. It will also be easier to maintain cleanliness on your job site.
- Versatility: The table saw can be used for a wide variety of cuts, on a range of materials. Especially when combined with the available accessories, such as jigs for tenoning and cross cut sleds.
Disadvantages of the Table Saw
- Table height: The low-height tables used on this system can be a concern for some users, especially taller ones.
- Safety: Table saws are considered one of the most dangerous tools on a wood shop. However guards, riving knives and anti-kick back features are included in most new saws, and if used do significantly increase the safety. (See here for some valuable Table Saw Safety Tips)
- Portability: Although portable models are available, they are often under-powered and difficult to use with larger materials.
All three of these tools have their unique benefits and features, and they also overlap on many applications. The right choice depends on your personal preferences and intended usage, but all three offer a range of models that will suit small jobs to large and for hobbyists to professionals.
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