If you’re a woodworker, you’ve probably heard of track saws (click here for the full guide). But what exactly is this power tool used for, and why is it such a popular saw among both professional and DIY craftsman? The track saw, also called a plunge saw, is similar in style to a conventional circular saw. But, instead of featuring an exposed blade that spins on an arbor, its blade is concealed within the machine itself, allowing it to make plunge cuts anywhere in your workpiece.
The track saw can also be attached to a long aluminum guide rail (or track), which clamps onto the workpiece and allows you to make precise and straight cuts across long sheet materials. This means that materials like doors, plywood, and melamine can be trimmed easily. And since the saw also works as a circular plunge saw, you can even use it to cut through thin pieces of wood like door frames, as well as thicker pieces of lumber.
How Useful is a Track Saw?
The main benefits of a track saw are its versatility, accuracy, and portability. Since a track saw can serve as a panel, table, miter, and circular saw, many woodworkers appreciate this tool. It saves them from using several different saws on a project. Track saws allow you to bring your tool to the material instead of carrying your workpieces to a stationary table saw. This is very useful when it comes to cutting large, heavy pieces of wood.
Making cuts in large sheets of plywood can be tough on a table saw, but a track saw lets you break down the sheets. You can then bring them to your table saw when it’s time to make precise, measured cuts. This will save you both material and time. And as far as accuracy goes, a track saw can’t be beaten. These saws make smooth, clean cuts that don’t require sanding or smoothing prior to use. Edges are left splinter-free, and you can make perfectly straight cuts in a single pass thanks to the saw’s ability to be mounted to a guide rail.
A plunge cut track saw also allows you to mark your workpiece. You can put the edge of the track on the mark, and cut away. Your saw will move along the guide rail with smoothness and precision. And, since you can place the track at any angle, the track saw is perfect for the precision cutting required for projects like cabinetry. The tool’s blade is spring-loaded and hinged, providing accurate plunge cuts when making repairs to wood flooring or creating a custom countertop.
Since the blade guard has a low profile, many of these saws can cut flush to a wall. Plus, with a bevel-cut ability, they can tackle mitering jobs that you’d normally need separate tools to perform. With the ability to make straight cuts on long sheet material, trim lumber and thin pieces of wood, make miter cuts, and plunge cut—all with splinter-free, clean results—the track saw is one of the most reliable and versatile tools in any woodworkers arsenal.
Is a Track Saw Worth the Money?
Many shoppers wonder if a track saw is worth the money. At a glance, these versatile tools seem similar to conventional circular saws that cost considerably less than even a basic plunge cut track saw. But the reason these tools cost more is clear when you look at everything a good track saw can do. Track saws make long, precise cuts in wood materials faster and more efficiently than circular and table saws. Plus, they’re portable, light, and since the rubber strips on the bottom of the track prevent slips, they don’t require clamping before you get started.
Unlike a circular saw, the track saw doesn’t feature a blade guard that gets in the way of cutting. Simply release the plunge mechanism and let the blade drop down for smooth, accurate, flush cuts. And unlike a circular saw, plunge saws are designed with riving knives that follow the blade. This prevents your workpiece from binding on the blade and reducing the chance of kickback.
Unlike the mess made from working with a circular saw, cutting through anything, even MDF, with a track saw is virtually dust-free. The shroud on the tool traps dust. Once you attach a vacuum hose to the dust port, you can enjoy a debris-free work area. And unlike a miter or table saw, a track saw has an unlimited angle range. However steep the angle you need to cut, simply lay the track across the workpiece and cut away.
Since these tools make tear-free cuts without any visible chipping, woodworkers won’t have to sand down edges, saving them hours of valuable time. Portable as a circular saw but capable of performing tasks normally associated with miter, table, and panel saws, the track saw is a worthwhile investment for anyone interested in achieving high-quality results.
The Minimum Width Board That Can Be Cut with a Track Saw
As useful as a track saw is, every tool has its limitations. One of the main considerations that you need to keep in mind is that a track saw is best used with pieces of wood that can be secured by the guide rail. While some models might have specific measurements noted in their user manual, the general rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t use a track saw to cut pieces of wood that are less than 1/8” in thickness.