Track Saws: What You Really Think

Track Saws: What You Really Think

In the last issue, Rob asked for opinions about track saws: if you owned one, if you wanted one – and why or why not.

Those who own one are very happy with the purchase. – Editor

“I got my Festool track saw about 15 years ago. I use it all the time and love it. I used to think I wanted a panel saw, but the track saw has taken care of that desire. Recently, I got the 108-inch track. I found that I just wasn’t happy putting two shorter sections together. No room for human error now on long plywood cuts.” – Chris Morgan

“I am a retired professional who is now making cabinetry.  I found safety and heaven when I obtained a track saw.  No longer do I have to struggle with breaking down 4×8 sheets of plywood that are heavy enough to tax my strength, let alone allow me to think of safety.  I also use my track saw to create a straight edge on raw lumber to allow safe ripping to size.  Couldn’t live without my track saw.” – Daniel R. Muhm

“I went for years without a track saw.  Got one and can’t imagine life without it.  It is one of my favorite tools.” -Anthony Kennedy

“I absolutely use and believe in these tools. I jumped on the Festool track saw as soon as it came out.  I have never looked back. I can break down sheets of plywood for cabinets in a hurry. I use it to straightedge rough lumber. I have built odd-shaped built-in cabinets with almost 45 degree side walls with great accuracy. My track saw is constantly in use, saving time and with no fear of a ‘bad cut.’ The time savings alone paid for this tool in two medium sized projects. That was years ago. I would recommend one to anyone that would listen, especially if they are in business using plywood.” – Bill Perez

“In response to your question: Yes, it has changed how I approach large wood projects.
• I no longer dangerously try to push a full or partial sheet of plywood, etc. across my table saw.
• Plastic sheets are cut accurately by EZ-Smart TrackSaw, because the edge-guide is actually on the cut line.
• No helpers to help twist/jam the sheet into a running 10-inch blade turning at 3,000 rpm with 1-1/2hp behind it.
•I can work with the sheet on the floor, on sa horses or at the jobsite and still do highly accurate cuts.
• Tearout (top or bottom of the sheet) is almost never an issue with an EZ-Smart due to top/bottom pressure.
• Dust collection is much better with the EZ-Smart, and it can be done at the jobsite.
• Cuts can safely be made at ANY ANGLE.

• Start, stop cuts no problem.
• I can take my EZ-Smart to the lumberyard (some allow this) and make finish cuts/cutouts.
I use the table saw now to do fiddly work on the now smaller pieces when necessary (if necessary), but even more often I find using a hand plane and board jack is better for making 1/1000-inch slices when fitting pieces into drawer cutouts etc. Yes. It has changed how I approach projects and it has made them safer and easier and more precise, contrary to what I first thought about a track saw when it was demonstrated at a woodworking show.” – Paul Fallert

“I never owned a track saw until around two years ago. I had been under the opinion that it was a great convenience for cutting sheet goods, but I rarely work with sheet goods and therefore had no use for one. When I decided that I was going to build several squirrel cage dust boxes for around my shop, I decided that, since I needed a new toy, I would buy a track saw. I ended up with the Makita and also purchased the optional super-long guide. The Makita came with the 55-inch guide, and I was buying Baltic birch sheets that were 60-inch x 60-inch and the standard track was just too short. To make a short story long, I have used my track saw quite often for putting a straight edge on rough lumber. This has been much more convenient when cutting it flat on my sawhorses instead of trying to run a long board through my jointer. My track saw has become one of those ‘I wish I would have bought this years ago’ tools. I do not use it as often as some of my other tools but I am glad to have it when I need it.” – Greg Little

“For years, I wrestled with cutting sheets of plywood on my table saw. Well, no more of that! I bought a Festool track saw about two years ago, and I love it!  I haven’t used my table saw for plywood since.  I have a work table set up in my shop, and I added some 2×4 pieces to the top and some swing-up side pieces so now I can safely handle full sheets of 3/4-inchplywood by myself.  I also purchased the Festool vacuum system and it catches 99 percent of the sawdust – no cleanup needed.”- Richard Hicks

“I own Coastal Wood Specialties. My company specializes in kitchen cabinet refacing. However, we also build custom cabinetry. We purchased the Festool track saw about four years ago. I can’t tell you what a difference it has made. For the most part, we don’t have to lug around a table saw. The cuts are extremely accurate without any splintering or tearout. I have three install crews in which there is a Festool track saw and vac on each truck. I have had to send one track saw back to Festool to be rebuilt. This is not an advertisement for Festool, but from what I have heard this is the best track saw out there. On another topic, I love reading the on line articles. Keep up the good work.” – Steve Stedman

“I have made five dining room tables over the past 1.5 years.  All were 7-8 foot solid tops.  I have a long 8-inch joiner but have had little success straightening boards over six feet.  The tracks (mine is a DeWALT) cut the boards straight and ready to glue, though long boards are nearly all the 109-inch track can handle.  Otherwise, I would have to make a jig for my table saw from nearly a third of a sheet of plywood.  I also use it for cuts at odd angles rather than building a jig to do the same.” – Bob Crowley

“I have used a track saw for a decade or so. I’d be quite lost without it. Handling a full 4×8 sheet of 3/4-inch material on a table saw is almost impossible for me. I use an older model track system that was sold by Penn State Industries that consisted of a 52-inch guide rail, a 104-inch guide rail and a carriage that mounts to the bottom of a standard circular saw. I purchased a dedicated saw to leave in the carriage to save recurring setup time. I also attached zero clearance strips of 5/32-inch Masonite to my rails to improve the cut and provide additional clamping surface. Using a sacrifice sheet (such as foam) as a base, this setup allows me to rip sheet material without the lifting but also allows me to joint material that I’d prefer not to run over my jointer, such as melamine or MDF. Couple all this with a high quality 7-1/4-inch blade and I could (almost) do away with my table saw. That’s not gonna happen, though!” – Greg Harmon

“I bought a Festool track saw and 55-inch cutting guide about six months ago, and it has become my go-to tool for cutting sheets of plywood with amazing accuracy. My shop size does not allow me to run a full-size panel through my table saw, so my track saw allows me to cut the panels down to manageable size pieces. I have been very impressed with the ease of setup and the accuracy that can be achieved with this saw. “ –   John Picklesimer

“I’ve owned a Festool TS-55 for about 10 years. I’ve used it for a wide variety of projects from home maintenance and repair projects to cabinetmaking, furniture making, etc. I do not own a table saw.There have only been a few times over the years that I have encountered situations that were difficult to accomplish with the track saw that would have been much easier using a table saw. However, since my real job involves the manipulation of fine controls on camera equipment and also playing the piano and other musical instruments, I figure an occasional inconvenience is worth the trade-off for the safety factor.” – Frank Gwirtz

“I have had a Festool track saw for years and couldn’t do without it. I would never give up my table saw, but the track saw has totally changed how I deal with sheet goods. It’s highly portable, accurate and easy to use. I can reduce a 4×8 sheet of plywood (or whatever) by myself with no problems. I would recommend a track saw to anyone. “ – Dave Beard

Some don’t own one – largely for monetary reasons – but wish they did. – Editor

“Being the frugal Yankee that I am, I have always just eschewed the idea of ever owning a track saw. So far, I have been able to create the results I need just by clamping a good straight board on anything that I need to cut that’s really large. I’m sure the track saws are faster and easier, but I just can’t justify the expense when I get reasonably good results from the clamped board.” – Lee Ohmart

“Sure, I’d like to have a track saw.  I can’t justify the cost of one, but I would test one for you. I don’t do professional woodworking.  I’m a hobbyist and do more carving than anything else.  Almost everything I would use a track saw on, I can probably use a different process or different tool.  Like, use a straight clamp and a circular saw.  Given that I don’t even use those often, I have to find other uses for my money – like share it with my wife.” – Dan Lumpkin

“Don’t have one but have wanted one, I just can’t see that the expense is worth it.” – J. Eric Pennestri

“You asked. I don’t own one, but I wish I did. My table saw is a small RYOBI contractor’s saw. I’ve been using it for over 12 years and, while barely adequate, it gets the job done. (It really cries cutting 12/4 hard maple!) But when it comes to cutting plywood sheets, it fails miserably. I make up for it with a straightedge and a Skilsaw. I’ve gotten pretty good at this. Then I’ll watch a video and realize just how easy it could be. But I’m retired, and a nice Festool track saw just isn’t in the budget. So, until I hit the lottery, or someone wants to buy me one, it will just be me and my old Skilsaw, a couple of clamps and a straightedge.”- Steve Kendall

“As a 40+ year furniture maker, full-time career type, I’ve had little time to explore tools like track saws that might seem cool but that my table saw with huge outfeed tables could knock off in seconds. My sister is constantly telling me about the amazing virtues of this new tool or that. Mostly I smile and say, ‘Sounds cool, Sis, but I don’t have time to play with cool.’ Well, after 45 years, I’m retiring and am downsizing my shop, bringing the essential tools and equipment home and am looking forward to making only what I want to make and to having more time to spend playing with cool new tools! Who knows, maybe I’ll get my sister to order a track saw for me.” – Clint Struthers

“Have one?  No.  Interested in one? Yes. I have just about completed my retirement mini-woodshop and just can’t justify the expense of a track saw for now.  I would prefer to replace my 30-year-old 12-inch Craftsman band saw with a nice Laguna or JET to resaw boards with more precision.  Costs of a quality track saw and quality band saw are not that far apart.  Which will I use more? I have read a lot the past couple years of the pros of having a track saw, but the expense comes into play again.  I am working diligently to become more accurate with my layouts and cuts to make my projects more professional.  I am enjoying the rewards of my efforts with better precision and see the results in the projects I am tackling.  I also understand firsthand that premium tools vs. cheap tools can make a difference.  I have seen hundreds of videos of track saws in use and they appear to be primarily suited for accurate sheet stock breakdown.  My Black and Decker circular saw equipped with a premium blade and my well-clamped 50-inch straightedge seem to break down sheet materials nicely for final dimensioning on my table saw.
Are there further benefits of owning a track saw (other than time making cuts) that I don’t see?” – T. Newman

And some just don’t think it’s worth it, citing alternative methods for making the cuts that they need. – Editor

“When I first read your question my response was, ‘What’s a track saw?’ Then I Googled it. I remember stumbling across a review by Chris Marshall dated December 2014. At that time, I dismissed it because I have a Kreg Rip-Cut, which is a poor man’s track saw substitute. With every passing year, though, the sheet goods are getting heaver and more of a challenge to handle. Maybe it is time to reconsider adding to my birthday wish list – or maybe I should start making a wish list to share!” –   Kevin Joyce

“No effect on me at all. Cute toys, too expensive and not enough utility for me.  I have a couple of trimmed sheet good edges and assorted F-clamps I use when I’m breaking down sheet goods, which isn’t a daily thing for me.  When the sheet goods straightedges get bunged up, I just cut new ones.  Or I use the top sheet as a straightedge for the sheet underneath.  In most cases, I cut pretty close and true it up on the table saw. That’s for cuts longer than 4 feet.  For shorter cuts, I made one of those straightedges that allow your circ saw to go down either side.  That’s probably as close to a true track saw as I’ll ever come.” – Steve Dragg

“Track saws are a spin from the jig I’ve used for years to break down sheet goods into more manageable pieces. I think the jig plan actually came from your magazine years ago! Made it from $4 worth of hardboard and some straight scrap for a guide. I’ve made many as gifts for friends for their projects. I have an 8-foot and 4-foot version. If I measure accurately and use a good blade, it will cut to final dimensions, too. The jig is easy, fast and accurate. Why would I invest hundreds of dollars to get the same results?” – Bil Hook

“What does it do that my table saw doesn’t do better? Besides, I have a really good table saw.” – Ken Koehn

“To be honest, I’m not convinced a track saw is really a great improvement over the old straightedge-over-base two-layer plywood guide. The main improvements seem to be the zero-clearance cut on both sides rather than only on the straightedge side, and the fact that it locks into the guide so you really can’t slip away from it even if you’re sloppy. And maybe that track saws handle plunge cuts more nicely. Would I like one? Sure. Is it worth the money? Not when there are so many tools I need more and alternatives exist. (Just as for a panel saw.) – Joseph Kesselman

“I’d love to have a track saw, just like I’d love to have a panel saw. But, the few times I need one (or the other) to breakdown sheet goods with extreme precision isn’t often enough to justify the cost.  Almost all of the time, I can clamp my 9-foot or 4-1/2-foot piece of very straight hardwood 1×6 to the plywood (etc.), offsetting for the plate of my circular saw, and then deal with any minor imperfections at the table saw.” – Bill Chapman

“I have only looked at them.  I can’t justify in my shop.  I have a 30-inch and 54-inch traditional plywood and hardwood rail guide system I made and use when I need them.  I want to upgrade them to use the INCRA dovetail clamps instead of the quick clamps I presently use. I just don’t use that much plywood, except Baltic birch for fixtures.” – Keith Wales, Sr.

“They are too expensive, plus I have no interest in getting one.  My guide made out of two pieces of Masonite works just as as well as a track saw.” – Bernie Lasiewicz

“I am an amateur woodworker with limited tools.  I have a compound miter saw, but not a slider.  In order to accommodate wider lumber, in this case stair treads, I purchased a Kreg track to use with my circular saw.  I was able to custom fit stair treads, tight to both stairwell walls.  I have since used it to make plywood cuts, up to four feet, rather than wheeling out my table saw.  I have been very impressed with this unit; so much so that I purchased one for my son for Christmas.” – Steve Bowers

“I have used them professionally, and like them, but cannot justify the cost in my personal shop. So I build my own and it works with both my Saw AND my router.“ – Ralph Bagnall

“I don’t have a track saw.  Way too expensive for my work. I have a Kreg system that will cut down large sheet goods.  I use a homemade fence to make cuts on smaller items.  Maybe a great item to have in a bigger workshop, but for my home repairs just cannot justfiy the cost to my wife.” – John Kwiatkowski

“I don’t own a track saw. I don’t think I need one enough to make the cost worthwhile, but maybe I just don’t know what I’m missing? Like most of us, I have several ways to make long cuts, even straight ones when necessary. The table saw is my go-to first choice. Occasionally, the band saw is a better choice. When neither of those are feasible because of the size/shape of the work, I use a circular saw. When the cut needs to be dead-on straight, I use it with a shop-made plywood guide clamped to the work. “ – Henry Burks

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