Track Saw Alternatives
Track Saws are fast becoming a common tool in the arsenal of the woodworker, carpenter and cabinetmaker. However for the hobbyist the price tag can be a bit of a deterrent, ranging from several hundred to over a thousand dollars when tracks, clamps and batteries are included. So many hobbyists turn to more track saw alternatives. If this is you then you will enjoy reading this comprehensive article covering all of the track saw alternatives to a dedicated plunge cut saw.
The lowest cost option in the list, shooting boards are homemade guides that consist of a straight board of plywood or MDF with a secondary strip of similar material attached parallel and offset from the main edge. The guiding edge is offset by the exact amount as the distance from the base plate to the edge of the blade. For best results this should be accomplished by cutting the main edge with the saw once the guiding edge is attached. Rockler has put a nice video together on how to make your own.
Edge guides are universal adapters that adapt a standard circular saw to a base plate that then rides along a track. As track saw alternatives, edge guides can be used with standard circular saws to cut down sheet goods with decent accuracy. The cut quality will not match a track saw’s, but it allows you to break the sheet down to a more manageable size before bringing it to the table saw.
EZSMART Edge Guide
The EZSMART Edge guide has received mixed reviews. Most issues are attributed to the difficulty of installing the saw to the base. The EZSMART guide also includes a riving knife feature that improves guiding and prevents kick back. Being an edge guide system, its guide rides along the edge of the material and so is only able to cut as straight as the referenced surface. It is limited to parallel cuts. This guide will work with most right and left handed saws with up to 8-1/4″ Blades.
Dewalt Edge Guide
The Dewalt Edge guide is specifically designed for use on certain Dewalt circular saws. Its rip capacity is limited to 12″ / 14.5″. It’s a simple and super-compact option to increase the capability of your Dewalt circular saw. This guide does not use a track system and is limited to parallel cuts. The guide works by using two extensions that engage into slots in the base plate of the circular saw. This accessory can be considered more of a ripping guide rather than a true track saw alternative, but for some this may fit the bill.
Milescraft Edge Guide System
The Milescraft Edge Guide System is a universal edge guide. It will fit to most circular saws. Similarly to the Dewalt Edge Guide, this is more of a ripping guide and can only be used to make parallel cuts, (although it can also adapt to a jig saw and be used to make circular cuts). This is a budget friendly option but offers limited features. Its narrow guiding edge doesn’t offer the same guiding stability as the Dewalt version. It is also missing the riving knife guide feature of the EZSMART System.
Universal Track Systems
Universal Track systems allow you to use a standard circular with a track system. Several manufacturers make these types of systems. They are a cheaper way to create a track saw. The positive is that they allow you to use your existing circular saw, but reviews vary. As with the edge guides, the cut quality is not going to match a track saw, however the track does allow you to cut a straight edge independent of any existing reference edge. It also means that you can cut at angles, or crosscut long boards.
Kreg track system
The Kreg Track System emulates a dedicated track saw reasonably well, in that is allows for cuts up to 48″ long, and incorporates a “chip strip” that acts as a zero clearance edge to reduce tear out. Kreg also offers an extension kit to increase the cutting length to 100″ which allow you to rip a full sheet of 8ft plywood.
The track also features rubberize strips to hold the track from slipping on the cutting material surface, so it can be used without clamps.
Bora Track System
The Bora system is similar in construction to the Kreg System, however it has some unique features that are worth considering. The track is 50″ in length a 50″ extension is available. The track has a built-in clamping system that is especially useful for cutting perpendicular to the clamping edge. The Bora track can also be used with a router plate and a jig saw adapter plate, making this system bore versatile. The base plate has a simple clamping system to retain the circular saw. This systems track also features rubberized strips to help keep the track in place without the need of clamps. To improve cut quality it is also supplied with chip-strip to create a zero-clearance edge.
Makita Track Adapter
Makita also makes an adapter plate that allows you to fit a standard circular saw to their track saw rails. This seems like a strange product to offer, considering the tracks alone are quite expensive. If I were investing in Makita Track saw tracks, I would probably spring for the track saw as well.
So there you have it. With the exception of cheap knock offs, that is the extent of track saw alternatives I could come up with. I hope this article helps you chose the right tool for your needs. And if you come across some new products please let me know as I would love to keep this article up-to-date!
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