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Thread: track saw vs circular saw with guide

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    track saw vs circular saw with guide

    I currently use a homemade guide with a battery powered circular saw. I have one for 4' and another for 8' cuts. It has a perpendicular piece of wood attached that pushes up against what I am cutting which assures me that my cut is square. I only need to make one pencil mark instead of two like with a track saw.

    I see lots of reasons to have one, dust collection, and plunge cutting- neither is very important to me. I see some claim that a circular saw has runout and won't make as good of a cut as a track saw. I don't believe this either. Even if a cheaper circular saw has runout, when you cut the edge of your guide, this accounts for the kerf. So you know exactly where the cut will be.

    The only advantage that I see is that with my guide I have to make sure I keep the saw up against it while a track saw runs on tracks. Having said that I could easily add something to my homemade guide if I thought it was needed.

    I am currently outfitting my shop at my vacation home. I have the Dewalt Jobsite saw and was thinking instead of upgrading to a heavy saw, just keep it and get a track saw to do the cuts that the jobsite saw and my Dewalt slider can't do. Then I got to thinking why not just use a circular saw and guide like I have been doing for the last 15 years?

    Got any helpful comments? Thanks very much

  2. #2
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    Carl

    The first circular saw guide was probably made 15 minutes after the first circular saw.
    Untold 10's upon 10's of thousands of cuts have been made with a setup exactly like yours. It works.
    A track saw should be faster to setup than an edge guide, but you seem to have found a system that works for you. Stick with it until it doesn't.
    "The first thing you need to know, will likely be the last thing you learn." (Unknown)

  3. #3
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    Back-In-The-Day or pre-Fe$tool, I utilized the same shop fabricated set up. Worked very well as I utilized the ol' and now gone Porter-Cable 314 trim saw with a dedicated carbide blade.

    In my experience, the key is starting with a good, and if at all possible, dedicated circular saw and a dedicated carbide blade.

  4. #4
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    Jun 2015
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    San Francisco, CA
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    +1 for the PC-314 trim saw and Skilsaw with guides. Ive got an 8, 4, four 2 and two 4 back to back guides that have served me quite well for decades. I usually use the 314 to break down 3/4 or thinner sheet goods and the Skilsaw for thicker stuff. Both have Forrest WW II blades. Very smooth and accurate cuts with both. Just cant justify the expense of a track saw.

  5. #5
    I used a shop made track for years before I knew that tracksaws were a thing. Dust collection is the only real performance gain that my ts55/ts75 saws bring to the game.

  6. #6
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    With the foam grip on the bottom of the track, no clamping. With the saw being held on the track, you can hesitate with the saw, reposition yourself and the cord, and the saw doesn't wiggle. Over extend yourself a bit, and the saw stays on the line. It doesn't angle away at the end of my reach. But, by the way you worded your post, not sure any reasons would change your opinion. Just thought I'd say why I converted after 47 years of woodworking.

  7. #7
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    Are you honestly wanting to hear from people such as myself who think a track saw is superior? It doesn't seem so.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Crout View Post
    I currently use a homemade guide with a battery powered circular saw. I have one for 4' and another for 8' cuts. It has a perpendicular piece of wood attached that pushes up against what I am cutting which assures me that my cut is square. I only need to make one pencil mark instead of two like with a track saw.

    I see lots of reasons to have one, dust collection, and plunge cutting- neither is very important to me. I see some claim that a circular saw has runout and won't make as good of a cut as a track saw. I don't believe this either. Even if a cheaper circular saw has runout, when you cut the edge of your guide, this accounts for the kerf. So you know exactly where the cut will be.

    The only advantage that I see is that with my guide I have to make sure I keep the saw up against it while a track saw runs on tracks. Having said that I could easily add something to my homemade guide if I thought it was needed.

    I am currently outfitting my shop at my vacation home. I have the Dewalt Jobsite saw and was thinking instead of upgrading to a heavy saw, just keep it and get a track saw to do the cuts that the jobsite saw and my Dewalt slider can't do. Then I got to thinking why not just use a circular saw and guide like I have been doing for the last 15 years?

    Got any helpful comments? Thanks very much

    I would say that if it works for you, great!! With my Makita cordless track saw and long track, I can cut a full sheet of plywood diagonally (or any other odd angles if needed) with no clamps required. Lots of other great benefits as well. If you just use a circular saw with homemade guide like you have been doing for years, then that will save you some money over buying the track saw and tracks. Go ahead and put that money towards a decent table saw for your vacation home.
    David

  9. #9
    Not a direct comment on track versus guide, but I really like blade cover and riving knife on my Festool circular saw compared to what is on my DeWalt circular saw.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2018
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    South Carolina
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    I used a guide for a while when I started woodworking and then upgraded to a Makita tracksaw. The dust collection is a big deal for me. I also found the tracking to be better with a track saw. With a guide, I frequently varied from my line a bit and had to recut. After the first use, I find the setup to be easier with a track saw also.

  11. #11
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    Both a track saw and a saw guided by a straight edge can do the same work, for the most part. Aside from the potential of better dust collection, the track saw has an advantage of being able to put the edge of the track exactly on the line, often without requiring clamping, and the saw and track are essentially locked together for very precise motion while you make the cut. A regular circular saw can make the cut, but one must figure offsets in for positioning the straight edge and since the saw isn't constrained to a straight line, the cut may or may not be as clean as with a track saw. That latter thing is more about the human pushing the saw than it is about "runout", etc.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Texas
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Coers View Post
    With the foam grip on the bottom of the track, no clamping. With the saw being held on the track, you can hesitate with the saw, reposition yourself and the cord, and the saw doesn't wiggle. Over extend yourself a bit, and the saw stays on the line. It doesn't angle away at the end of my reach. But, by the way you worded your post, not sure any reasons would change your opinion. Just thought I'd say why I converted after 47 years of woodworking.
    I do have preconceived opinions but trying to figure out if a track saw is really worth the money. I see using no clamps is faster but why can't I put foam on my guide? As I said the main advantage I see is that the saw follows the guides and stays on line as you mentioned.

    Thanks for the replies so far

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Art Mann View Post
    Are you honestly wanting to hear from people such as myself who think a track saw is superior? It doesn't seem so.

    *** wink-wink ***

    I agree it seems you want to talk yourself out of one and that is fine. I used a shop made guide for years with good success. The main benefit I get from my Makita tracksaw is the path control and the associated cleaner cut. Just because one person finds this of value does not mean everyone does. As I got older, the freedom from having to hold the saw against the shop made guide was desirable. With the track I only have to focus on moving the saw forward. A minor thing in the past, still doable now but, my work is more enjoyable when it is more easily accomplished. The dust collection is not all that much better than with my regular circ-saw but, I run the now-deceased Porter Cable 324 MAG that catches dust very well with a shop vac hooked up.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Crout View Post
    ...I only need to make one pencil mark instead of two like with a track saw...
    Yeah, I think you should stick with your saw guide until you become more proficient with a pencil.
    "Anything seems possible when you don't know what you're doing."

  15. #15
    The cost of a tracksaw is nothing to sneeze at when it comes to opportunity costs. I could snag a nice bandsaw for that price. If I was setting up a shop, I would focus on shop equipment that lent itself to the type of work I do.

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