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Thread: Difference between Track saws and Circular Saws??

  1. #1

    Difference between Track saws and Circular Saws??

    What is the difference between these Saws ??

  2. #2
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    I had this same lack of understanding before eventually purchasing my track saw. A track saw has a lot of similarities to and really is synonymous with a circular saw or “skill saw” as I’ve always referred to it.
    The differences come from the housing of the saw is made specifically to work with a track. Half of the magic is the track and the other is the housing of the saw. The saw itself is really the same as any circular saw which is a motor with an arbor that spins a saw blade. The track saw’s ability to plunge is a very nice feature in the operation as well as adding the ability to do something typical circular saws can’t. The track appears simple but has a lot of very nice features. The ability to just lay the track on the wood and it not slip while making the cut was surprising to me. They contain a rubber strip which also appears simple but provides a “zero clearance” support for the wood fibers to prevent tear out and make a very smooth cut. The saw rides along the track and doesn’t deviate from the track’s straight line. No matter how straight my straight edges are I always end up with less than perfectly straight cuts with a straight edge and skill saw.
    There are a lot of design features in a track saw that make it able to substantially outperform a standard circular saw. The downside of it is the track saws usually don’t maximize the depth of cut possible with the same size circular saw. For rough construction I still pull out my skill saw. But for woodworking cutting large panels, straightening boards or other typical shop tasks I use my track saw.
    I couldn’t understand the cost or why everyone was using one until I bought one and the first plywood I cut with it I was completely thrilled! I even made a little jig to cut flooring that I put in our upstairs. It was so much better than my giant 12” slider miter saw. Dust collection was amazing only leaving a very small amount of sawdust from the entire floor cutting process. It’s really quite a step up from a circular saw for the things it is designed to do.
    Last edited by Eric Arnsdorff; 07-03-2021 at 12:57 PM.

  3. #3
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    A track saw generally "is" a circular saw. The tool itself is usually kinda nice any many can be used without the track for incidental cutting. When you add the track, the tool becomes much more of a precision instrument. It can't move laterally and the edge of the track is exactly on your cut line. While some folks are perfectly happy with using a straight edge of some sort to "guide" their circular saw, in that scenario, the operator has to account for the offset of the blade from the edge of the saw structure that rides along the straight edge to the cut line and they have to (try to) physically keep the saw tight to the straight edge with just their hands. The latter can be difficult in many situations because as we reach with our arms and hands, we don't necessarily keep things steady laterally. The tracksaw can't wander to the side...it can only move down the cut line and as noted the cut line is right at the edge of the track.

    Eric mentions dust collection...most track saws do feature reasonably decent dust collection.
    --

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

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Clarence Martinn View Post
    What is the difference between these Saws ??
    The difference between the Festool track saw and all circular saws is night and day. And the Festool is well worth its seemingly extravagant price. Wish I had bought mine sooner.
    "Anything seems possible when you don't know what you're doing."

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by andy bessette View Post
    The difference between the Festool track saw and all circular saws is night and day. And the Festool is well worth its seemingly extravagant price. Wish I had bought mine sooner.
    THe good news is that there are a few other really good tracksaw solutions now, too, in addition to Festool. (which I also own an dlove) Makita is worthy and slightly more affordable than Festool and Mafele is "north" of Festool. There are also some unique ones, like the Dewalt which has a track that goes both ways and the Kreg which has a left-blade saw, rather than the more common right-blade track saw tool.
    --

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

  6. #6
    Out side of general carpentry the only use I use a circular saw is to brake down sheet goods. to a manageable size. And price verses amount of time spent using it determines the cost value ratio. I broke down the two sheets of plywood in about 15 minutes, actual cutting time less than 1 minutes for both pieces. only two 8 foot rips. And my question is how many sheets of plywood do you actually brake down in a year for your hobby?

    DSC03054.JPG DSC03055.JPG DSC03056.JPG

    The rest is sized on a table saw. I have an add on when I need help loading wood into the saw for safety sake. This just happen to be a straight line rip pictured.

    DSC03213.JPG DSC03666.jpg

    I am sorry but I DSC03666.jpg just can't find any reason to spend the money on Festool products. If you say dust collection , I have a broom.
    DSC03666.jpg
    Tom

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Bussey View Post
    ...the only use I use a circular saw is to brake down sheet goods. to a manageable size. And price verses amount of time spent using it determines the cost value ratio. I broke down the two sheets of plywood in about 15 minutes, actual cutting time less than 1 minutes for both pieces. only two 8 foot rips. And my question is how many sheets of plywood do you actually brake down in a year for your hobby?...
    If your hobby only requires one rough rip in a sheet of cheap plywood every once in awhile, so you can man-handle the 1/2-sheet in your table saw, you can certainly do that with a circular saw. However if your work requires cutting to size, particularly odd-shaped pieces of expensive veneered plywood, splinter-free and ready for glue-up, then a good track saw is what you want. Also for quickly straightening the edge of long rough-cut lumber. And cutting precise holes in cabinet faces for door and drawer openings. And trimming doors to size. And making long scarph joints. And .... well, if you've never used one you won't know what you're missing.
    "Anything seems possible when you don't know what you're doing."

  8. #8
    I'm in the same camp as Tom Bussey.
    I've used a circular saws for years, some good some bad. We used to draw a pencil line and follow it free hand, if it had to be "perfect" we used a plywood guide.
    About 16 years ago I bought a 52" clamp guide which has the ability to mount a UHMW sled to it in a channel that you could use for a router or circular saw. This was basically the earliest version of a track saw. I have never used the sled because it was too much of a hassle for occasional use but I use the edge guide for breaking down sheet goods to a more manageable size. Unfortunately I don't have enough room around my table saw to handle full sheets. As far as buying a dedicated track saw, even one as nice as the Festool is claimed to be, it's out of the question.
    With some of these units you need to purchase the proprietary accessories like special plunge blades, guide rails, clamps and so on. The price keeps climbing on a task I can do easily for much less cost.
    If you have a real need to break down sheet goods often they might be the right tool for you, although they are starting to rival the price of panel saws.
    For myself, I don't use sheet goods all that often, so the price simply not warranted.

  9. #9
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    A few years back I had to make a diagonal6 sided corner cabinet like this one:
    https://www.discountkitchendirect.co...hoCO-cQAvD_BwE

    All I had to do was make a template out of 1/4" underlayment, then use that to lay out the cuts for the top, bottom and two shelves.
    Making those pieces on the table saw would have had me tearing my hair out.
    With the track saw, all I had to do was use the template to draw the lines, then reduce the size of the shelf lines by 1/8" so they would fit inside & lay on the shelf pins.

    It was mindlessly easy to make that cabinet.

    Both my Makita cordless and the Festool corded I had, leave nice clean tear out free edges on everything - much better than the edges left by a table saw - unless a very tight fitting ZCI is used.

    Track saws are a real game changer & they do so much more than just "break down sheet goods".
    Granted, Festool will probably always be expensive - but - so will a Porsche.

    With some of these units you need to purchase the proprietary accessories like special plunge blades, guide rails, clamps and so on. The price keeps climbing on a task I can do easily for much less cost.
    If you have a real need to break down sheet goods often they might be the right tool for you, although they are starting to rival the price of panel saws.
    For myself, I don't use sheet goods all that often, so the price simply not warranted.
    Now that Festool no longer has a lock on the track saw market, there is a whole lot more interchangeability among the different saws.
    Prices have also plummeted.
    Menards has a small track saw for about $89. The Wen with 100" of track is under $200.
    Last edited by Rich Engelhardt; 07-04-2021 at 12:48 PM.
    My granddad always said, :As one door closes, another opens".
    Wonderful man, terrible cabinet maker...

  10. #10
    From my point of view, much of it come down to method of work. How you learned of how you were taught to do certain tasks.
    The cabinet you linked to would be no problem for me at the tablesaw but that's my "go-to" tool for such things. I would never think, "I need to get out my track saw for this job". It's all individual preference, what you're comfortable with.
    I think of tracksaws as jobsite tools, which is my shortcoming. All the different tasks mentioned by others are jobs I would use different tools for or approach in a different way. I'll have to think about them differently the next time I have a challenging cut to make.

  11. #11
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    I think of tracksaws as jobsite tools, which is my shortcoming.
    LOL! Funny you should mention that!
    The diagonal cabinet - well, the entire kitchen itself really, was built on-site.
    My granddad always said, :As one door closes, another opens".
    Wonderful man, terrible cabinet maker...

  12. #12
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    A track saw can be used with or without the track. And it's ability to plunge makes it much safer for starting cuts internally. But most track saws have a ~6" blade whereas circular saw blades are typically larger.
    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness..." - Mark Twain

  13. #13
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    To me a track saw is my "go to" jobsite tool for "money" cuts. There is no other substitute for a cut that has to be perfect and you only have one shot at it. A job last year I cut through a counter top where we had to re-use the cut piece at a lower level to provide access for wheel chair users. This was a job at the City Hall in Lethbridge that had to be completed in one weekend. A track saw was the only tool that could have completed those cuts with the accuracy required. We also used the tracks with a router to cut grooves for the glass partitions, again the only tool for the job at hand. I have also used it to cut counter tops ,shelves and even rebuild cabinet boxes and drawers on site. When you do installs 1000 kms. away from where the cabinet boxes are built you have to be able to make things work onsite ,My track saw is a big part of this. I have used Festool but bought a Makita ,no regrets .
    Last edited by Mike Kees; 07-04-2021 at 4:15 PM.

  14. #14
    One can make a plunge cut with a circular saw. As far as money cuts I thought this was a wood working forum for non professionals not a forum for contractors. Are we doing apples or oranges. Both are fruit but different properties. I use a sled because I buy from a sawmill that doesn't have a straight line rip. I keep my saw blade just off the sled so I can flip the sled over on some saw horses and use a router with a ball bearing bit and rout the edge. I can skip the jointer on wood that is to long to get a do a good job on a jointer. I usually rough saw my stock and let it stress relive itself for a few days. I will even touch the sacred cow by saying I don't wait for my wood to equalize when I bring it home. I cut it to rough size and then let it moisture equalize and stress relieve its self. Lets see you take a piece 2 14 wide and 6 foot long and get a straight edge after it has been in the free state for a few days. Easy with a sled and with a router I have a finished edge.

    And I resent the fraise cheap plywood. If you want to talk about splinter free cuts in plywood, I get them on not only both sides of the plywood but on both sides of the cut offs also. Any angle is also not a problem and I come to think of it I don't have a compound miter saw either. I have an old DeWalt RAS.

    DSC03845.JPG

    And not one cut was made with a track saw when I built these,

    DSC03846.JPG DSC03847.JPG DSC03848.JPG
    Tom

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Bussey View Post
    As far as money cuts I thought this was a wood working forum for non professionals not a forum for contractors.
    Sorry, Tom...SMC has always had a good proportion of people who make their living or part of their living via woodworking and related activities. The point about the "money cut" is valid for anyone, not just folks who are "pros".

    It's good we all have choices when it comes to tools and techniques. The OP was asking about the difference between a regular circular saw and a track saw, so built-in accuracy is one aspect of the latter than many of use really enjoy.
    --

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

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