The Definitive Track Saw Guide for Every Woodworker

Track saw Guide

A track saw guide is crucial for you to buy the best saw in the market. If you need to make accurate and precise woodworking cuts, a track saw is what you need. Its versatility makes it a must have saw for professionals and hobbyist projects. Its compact and light for easy transportation from one jobsite to another. Read on to understand more about this revered tool.

What Is A Track Saw?

A track saw is a hand-held tool with a rotating circular blade that cuts materials as you push it along aluminum guide rails or tracks. The name track saw comes from the fact that you employ tracks in making precise cuts on long sheets. Picture a train sliding on the rails to understand how the power tool moves. The tracks or rail system directs the blade on the marked point that you want to cut through.

At first, you may confuse it for a circular saw. However, it differs from a circular saw by concealing its blade within its body and on the tracks. The design allows you to make plunge cuts at any point on your piece, making smooth straight cuts. Its plunging ability gives it the name plunge saw.

The track saw is very similar to the table saw in functionality. However, the table saw has a circular rotating blade that protrudes from the table. The advantages of having a track saw over the circular and table saw will be explained later.

How Does the Track Saw Operate?

If you have never used the track saw before, here is a simple procedure showing you how to set up and operate it effortlessly. Read on. will you?

a)     Set Your Track Saw Up

Once you buy a track saw, working with it is quite easy. All you need is a simple assembly of the tool. Connect it to the power or ensure you have fully charged batteries for the cordless types. However, before you power it on, place the board on the work table. Set the guide rails across the workpiece at the point that you want to cut. Are the track rails shorter than your board? No cause for alarm. You can quickly join several guide rails to cover your entire piece.

b)    Mount the Blade on The Saw

Before you proceed, consider the blade size to ensure that it cuts through the material. The 14 teeth blade is ideal for general purpose, while the 48 teeth blade is suitable for working through melamine and plywood. Choose the right blade depending on the materials and the size of the stock you are cutting.

c)     Set the Cutting Depth

After selecting the suitable blade size, now it’s time to set the cutting depth that your tool will plunge. The thickness should neither be so deep neither should it be shallow. Always use the right blade to prevent blade damage, cutting inaccuracy and kickback accidents when making cuts. It is advisable to set cutting depths to less than 1/8 inches.

d) Start and Operate the Track Saw

Finally, place the track saw on the rails and turn on the plunge release, and the power trigger switches. The plunge release will release the blade from the tool housing while the trigger turns on the motor. As a rule of thumb, wait for the blade to gain sufficient speed before plunging in. Remember slow speeds causes kickbacks and may also damage your wood.  You can now push the machine merrily along the track for quick and cleaner cuts. You will realize that the track saw is very stable and produces very smooth cut edges.

What Is the Rail Guide System?

The Rail Guide System is a metallic structure that resembles a rail system that fits perfectly on the track saw. It plays a crucial role in maintaining the cutting accuracy when working on lumber. When placed across the wood, the track saw slides smoothly as the blade grinds on the wood. The edge of the system is perfectly square for the stable joining of several tracks. Also, on the front sides, you will observe some connectors that join one track to the other. You can, therefore, cover extended lengths as desired. The other good thing about the guide system is that you don’t need clamps. It comes with sticky rubber strips on the bottom that strongly binds on the stock for enhanced stability. As a result, you can make endless smooth and accurate cuts on your boards.

What Makes the Track Saw Versatile?

Below are some of the features that makes the track saw versatile. They include:

1.      The Raving Knife

When working with most woodworking tools, you may have encountered instances of kickbacks. They are uncomfortable and may result in injuries. Not so with the track saw. The machine has a raving knife that follows the blade as it cuts the wood. The knife keeps the cut kerf open, avoiding blade pinching that results in kickbacks. The raving knife ensures that you experience swift, smooth cuts with no blade binding.

2.      Built-Inn Dust Collector

Have you ever worked with a tool that emits sawdust all over the place? Apart from clogging the working area, it interferes with the cutting accuracy. Luckily, the track saw has a rear built-in dust port that collects all the dust in one point keeping your area clean. Connecting the dust collection port to the vacuum hose keeps your area clean and improves your cutting experience.

3.      Bevel Capacity

No matter how long your wood is, the track saw will make accurate beveled cuts at the set angle. By holding the guide stationery, the saw produces precise cuts that are similar to the table saw. Bevel cuts are any cuttings other than 90 degrees on the thickness of the material. They are handy when making cabinets, furniture, and other carpentry tasks.

4.      Portability

The track saw is light, compact, and easy to carry around. The features make it more popular compared to a portable table saw. Moving it to an offsite job and in between tasks is quite easy. It is so light that you can carry it with one arm as you take pictures on your phone with the other arm.

5.      Accuracy

Placing the saw on a flat surface gives the saw stability which results in producing smooth accurate cuts. The saw’s sliding rail guide system also guarantees you accurate and precise cuts compared to other saws in the market.

6.      Plunge-In Capacity

Most cutting tools operate on an end to end cutting. But suppose you want to replace a section on your hardwood floor or a countertop for a kitchen sink? The track saw is the best tool for precise cuttings for fitting in standardized pieces. The standard pieces will accurately fall into place, saving you time and ensuring professional results.

5. Moving the Machine to The Material

Working on large boards with a track saw is quite easy. In comparison to other similar saws like table saws, you move the tool to the stock. The feature allows you to work on large stocks without the need of an assistant. If you are a hobbyist who likes to work alone with excellent outcomes, this tool will offer the best results.

6.      Quick Assembly

Setting the saw up for work is effortless. You just place the guide rail system at the marked point and start cutting. No worry about probable slipping or rough edges on your piece.

What Do You Gain by Owning A Track Saw Over A Circular Saw?

A track saw is respected for its cutting accuracy as it gives control when in operation. However, the circular saw offers a line of sight cut, but you have less control over how it moves. You may start on the right point but lose the cut line as you proceed. Not so with the track saw that follows the guide rails for accuracy.

Are you a cleanliness freak? Then the track saw should be your tool of choice. The rear dust port connected to a vacuum hose keeps your working space sparkling clean. The circular saw has no such features and accumulates tones of dust within a short time.

Despite these advantages over the circular saw, the track saw requires more storage space.

Why You Should Own a Track Saw Over a Table Saw

a)     Portability 

The track saw’s compact size outwits the table saw, giving it an edge on portability. The table saw is heavier than the track saw. As a result, its easier to move a track saw around the workspace and on offsite jobs.

b)    Versatility

Its easier to work with a track saw on larger stocks compared to a table saw. Usually, you employ a two-step cutting process when working with table saws. One tool will cut the large stock into smaller sizes. Then you have to load the pieces on the table saw for finer cutting. However, with the track saw, you will work on your stock fully to produce the required sizes in one swipe.

c)     Safety

On safety, the track saw is relatively safe. The concealed blade is less likely to present any risks. Besides, some track saws have a braking system that will stop the rotating blade instantly. Generally, it’s a tool that has reported the least cases of injuries.

Although, the track saw has many advantages over the table saw. Your workshop still needs a functioning table saw. An excellent example is when you need a stuck of repetitive cuts. The table saw with the help of a fence will make precise cuts within a short time.

Final Thoughts on The Comparisons Between the Three Power Tools

A critical look at the three power saws presents a clear need for each device in the workshop. If you are a newbie in woodworking, the projects that you will be dealing with frequently will govern your final decision. However, for professionals, you need at least a track saw, and a table saw. As you make your final buying decision note that the track saw is gaining a lot of recognition in the woodworking circles.

Below is a comparison table between the three types of saws, for quick reference.

 

Track Saw Table Saw Circular Saw
Accuracy Very Good Best Poor
Portability  Good Poor Highly portable
Storage Less storage space  Require lots of floor space. Very less space needed.
Safety Relatively safe  Can be dangerous Use with caution

 

This table originates from https://www.finepowertools.com/saws/track-saw/

 

Uses of A Track Saw

The track saw is handy in the following areas;

  1. Slicing large boards into smaller pieces. With its accuracy and smooth cuts, these pieces may not need further smoothening.
  2. With the track saw, you are assured of accurate cuts on wood materials quickly.
  3. Making long rip cuts, angular cuts, and cross-cuts on wooden materials.
  4. It’s the only saw that makes precise plunge cuts on home improvements.

What Are Some Limitations of The Track Saw?

The limitations of the track saw are attributed to its assembly in several ways;

  1. The absence of a cut line makes it unsuitable in roofing.
  2. The shallow plunge depth with the accompanying guide system limits its use in comparison to a circ saw.
  3. The weight of the track saw combined with the guide system is unsuitable when working on thin sheets.
  4. The length of the guide rail may pose problems when working in tight spaces.
  5. For accurate cuts, the material has to be entirely flat for the guide rail to sit properly.

 

Track Saw Buying Guide

As with most power tools, there are basic features that you look for to ensure you are buying valuable equipment. They include;

1.      Motor Power Over 9 Amps

Cheaper versions of track saw may appear enticing as you buy. However, any track saw with less motor power than nine amps will give you trouble in your woodworking tasks. Less motor power means a slower cutting rate with less accuracy. Therefore, as you compare prices, start with this critical specification.

2.      Maximum Speed

The ideal non-load blade rotation speed is usually 2000 Rotations per Minute (RPM). Any tool with less than this speed will be less powerful with poor cutting accuracy. To enjoy more benefits from a track saw, select a device with variable speeds. You will have more quick and accurate cuts as you work with lower speeds for hardwoods and higher speeds for soft boards.

3.      Plunge Control

How far the blade will plunge into the workpiece is determined by the depth settings. Look for a tool with precise plunge control that specifies the exact cutting depth. These settings are more critical when dealing with shallow cuts that require more accuracy. With big stocks, the depth settings may not be as specific as to when cutting shallow pieces.

4.      Safety Considerations

Working with power tools can pose unpredictable and quickly progressing dangers. You would like to operate a machine that you have full control of in all aspects. However, your safety ranks highly in these considerations. Therefore, it’s essential to select a tool with electric brakes and anti-kickback features for a quick stoppage when it gets out of hand. In addition to your safety, these features also improve your cutting experience and accuracy by stopping on time in case the saw slides off.

5.      Versatility in Beveling

To what extent can your track saw bevel? Making particular home improvement furniture and cabinets requires a tool that has an extensive beveling ability. Ensure that the base of your saw can tilt widely on the axis of the blade. This ability will be handy in most woodworking tasks that require joinery.

6.      Guide Rail System

The most crucial factor to check on a guide track is the length and the stability it offers. The track rails are available in different sizes. You can select the ranges depending on your most frequent projects. However, if you have short rails, their sizes can be lengthened by joining several tracks to cover your entire piece. On stability, choose a guide system that sits securely on your wood. Working on stable guide rails ensures that you have final accurate and smooth cuts.

 Cleaning and Maintenance of the Track Saw

a)     Take care of your blade

As with all other tools, constant cleaning and maintenance prolong their lifespan. The blade is the most crucial part of the track saw. The main reason is that it’s the most used part and loses luster due to continued grinding on wood and poor storage. The pitch and resins builds-up coats the edges dulling the blade. The dull blade increases friction and heat during operations. These combined effects on the blade affect the motor’s output.

To maintain the blade on a top-notch condition, inspect each tooth and sharpen it individually with a triangular metal file. If your blade has many damaged teeth, you may consider buying a new one.

b)    Use the correct cleaning agent

Clean the saw with the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning solution. Avoid using any cleaning solution as it may have adverse effects on the blade. Remove the blade from the arbor and dip it in the cleaning solution. Soak it for a few minutes to soften the crud and scrub it off with brass or plastic bristle brush. Never use a wire brush as they damage the smooth surface of the blade.

c)     Proper storage

Most woodwork beginners underestimate the importance of proper storage conditions for their tools. However, it’s advisable to store the clean track saw in a low humid room. This environment will avoid the accumulation of rust on your equipment.

d)    Proper Inspection

Apart from the blade, there’s much less that you can do on the rest of the machine. You should not oil the tool as the manufacturer has lubricated it sufficiently. However, check the cord regularly as it is prone to wear and tear. Make a point of checking the area where the cable enters the saw as it is more likely to wear out quickly. A damaged cord may cause electric shocks, and worse of all, it may damage the motor effectively bringing your saw down.

Conclusion

Overall, the track saw has proved its usefulness in making smooth and accurate cuts. Every woodworker who has acquired it is reaping its unrivalled benefits. It is making woodworking enjoyable and more rewarding. Grab one and join this group of happy craftspeople. We have prepared a list of 7 best track saws in the market for your perusal. Read here to choose the best track saw for your project. If you want to learn more about other basic tools for woodworkers read this article.

Tom

I am a woodwork enthusiast who is in the Financial Industry. I come from a woodworking family and started handling woodwork tools from a young age. For me, it's not a hobby. its a way of life.

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