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Thread: Weird tracksaw precision

  1. #1

    Weird tracksaw precision

    So Iíve been breaking down 16 sheets of ply into 70 pieces for a bunch of cabinets using my Mikita track saw. No matter what I try I canít get a square cut and Iím off about a 1/16th -1/8th on 3 ft. I usually draw a line with my woodpecker T square (checked it for square), line track up, then I use my starrett 12Ē square to double check (checked it for square). Iíve also ripped a straight line first on the square edge so Iím not referencing a factory edge. Then I use clamps to hold down and recheck everything before cutting. Iíve used 3 different tracks so canít be the track. I donít feel play with the saw on the track as far as I can tell.

    Could it be the blade? The factory set toe-in maybe? I do think the 90 degree setting is off slightly but that wouldnít effect squareness of the cut right?

    anyone have any ideas?

  2. #2
    Seems your square must be off. You can make a large plywood square for setting your track. Cut a straight edge on a sheet and describe a perpendicular line using trammel points on a beam. Cut to that line and screw a fence to the reference edge. Use it to draw a square line on another piece, flop the square over and check that the edge agrees with the first line.

    If you can't cut accurately to a layout line the problem is in the saw or track, otherwise the square must be at fault. Could it be that the replaceable tearout strip on your guide is worn, giving a bad sight line? When I am forced to do something like this I use an accurate large square against the back edge of the track, assuming that the front and back track edges are parallel.

  3. #3
    It isn't clear, did you cut an accurate 90 degree corner on the sheet before you ripped the pieces to length? Once you had the track clamped, did you measure the distance from the splinter strip to the edge of the board to be sure it was parallel?

    I recently cut up about 40 sheets for cabinets and despite using a woodpeckers 18" square and the TSO parallel guide set on my Makita track saw I still had variances of 1/16"+ in size and square, especially on 8 foot rips. I finally gave up and cut everything I could over size and ripped and crosscut to final size on the tablesaw.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis Jarchow View Post
    I recently cut up about 40 sheets for cabinets and despite using a woodpeckers 18" square and the TSO parallel guide set on my Makita track saw I still had variances of 1/16"+ in size and square, especially on 8 foot rips. I finally gave up and cut everything I could over size and ripped and crosscut to final size on the tablesaw.
    This hurts just to read it. There's a reason cabinetmakers use specialized panel saws for consistent square cuts, but they aren't absolutely necessary. Before I wised up and bought my first sliding table attachment 30 years ago when I needed to cut parts too large for my crosscut sled I used a shop-made square and router to square up sheets and then used the tablesaw rip fence from there. Laborious but accurate enough. Making a straight edge, a square end and parallel cuts without fuss are the bare minimum for working without extreme frustration.
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 01-08-2023 at 5:18 PM. Reason: fixed quote tagging

  5. #5
    Rip the long edge for a clean cut. Cut a 90į on the right. Flip the sheet over (left to right) and use parallel guides to cut your panels from left to right. That said, if you have a table saw, just break down with a track saw so you have a clean edge (and manageable panels) to begin with and then run through the table saw.

  6. #6
    Like every tool, track saws work better after you learn how to use them. I cannot tell if your issue is cutting to a line or marking a line square to the other side. I suspect the latter but I will address both. I use two different methods to cut square pieces. If I have a lot to cut, I set up a guide on my outfeed/workbench that holds both ends of my medium sized track and has a moveable stop block for length. It takes awhile to set up but I would have used it for the situation you describe. Accuracy is partially dependent on the setup. My design is based on Ron Paulk's workbench series, he has lots of youtubes out.

    But without a workbench like this and the jigs, I use a plywood square I bought that is about 18 inches on a leg. I do not believe a 12 inch square is large enough for marking a line on a 3 foot piece. I would expect errors. 18 inches works OK but probably still gives me some errors but they are small enough I can use the parts. I added a small plywood fence to one edge of the plywood square so it works something like an oversized speed square. There are other tools that can work. But you need something closer to the size of your workpieces. Stock edges of plywood sheets is often quite square but would need to be checked. If you have a good square sheet, you could make a useful square. I use my 18 inch square from both parallel sides to mark a line all the way across the piece. That also helps minimize errors.

    There are also commercially offered jigs that attach to a track to let you make square cuts. I have never used one. I am skeptical but they may work great.

    If you cannot cut with no gap a pencil line .5mm wide, you need a better way to position your track. The sacrificial edge is replaceable and when it is relatively new, it can be depended upon to position the track but only if you have adjusted the dado in your saw's base to fit it well. I am not familiar with a Makita but I am sure it would not take long to check and, if necessary, fix this setting. The way I position my track is less dependent on the sacrificial edge. I made what I call track saw positioning guides years ago. They grab the guide rib of the track and the other edge has a stop block that is movable with a hairline pointer. I can position the stop block and then use the guide to position the track at both ends and know that the piece I cut will be parallel. I still use a pencil line as kind of a belt and suspenders approach. My sacrificial edges are original and not in great shape. I need to spend a little time and money to replace them.

    Another source of track saw ideas and jigs is the "ten minute workshop" series also on you tube. He recently made picture frames with a track saw including the dados. I think the guys name is Peter Millard.

    If you keep after it you can make really good cuts with a track saw but I admit to sometimes falling back to using my table saw. Peter Millard does not really have a usable table saw and Ron Paulk uses portable table saws with very limited capacity. But it takes some jigs in my experience to get the best out of them.

  7. #7
    My issue is more with the cross cut. So I have a full sheet and I take of 1/8Ē from one of the long sides just to ensure 8 have a straight edge. Then I want to create a square edge to that so I cross cut about an 1/8Ē in for the short side. I reference the long edge I just cut.

  8. #8
    I have not had a problem like you're describing. I mark over from an edge using a tape measure, near one end of the cut, then do the same at the other end of the cut. I then put the track's cut rubber edge up to both marks, clamp & cut. Assuming you have a factory straight edge, it should be true. The same for a cross cut.

  9. #9
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Wolfy View Post
    I have not had a problem like you're describing. I mark over from an edge using a tape measure, near one end of the cut, then do the same at the other end of the cut. I then put the track's cut rubber edge up to both marks, clamp & cut. Assuming you have a factory straight edge, it should be true. The same for a cross cut.
    This is exactly what I do with no issues. I cut a bunch chamfer of sheets for shop cabinets with my Festool tracksaws and no issues. I do think trying to cut off 1/8" is A source of trouble. I typically break down sheets of plywood with a tracksaw and then cut to exact size on a table saw. But could do it all with the tracksaw.

  10. #10
    The only thing I find more complicated with a track saw (besides cutting small pieces) is making parts consistently the same size. I have parallel guides but I do not like handling the rail with them attached. They work but it is cumbersome. That is why I came up with track positioning guides which are simpler and do not attach to the track. But either way can give you repeat cuts that are as consistent as a table saw.

    Cutting to pencil a mark is inherently not terribly precise. I switched to a 0.5mm pencil which helps but doesn't totally eliminate the issue. I use a Incra T-square rule with holes to mark short distances. For longer distances, longer than I can use my track positioning guides for I do make a mark with a tape measure but that is the sort of cut that can make my parts be a little off. The problem is not with the saw's ability to cut to the mark, the problem is with my ability to mark to within less than 1/32 using a tape measure and a mechanical pencil. It helps to cut one part and then use it to make the mark for the others (remembering I need to remove the line).

  11. #11

    Sliding?

    One thing to check if the track itself is sliding on the material during use. They mostly stay put, but not always and more so if you really pressure against the saw during use. Can try track clamps to help or use a light touch. Had it happen to me once or twice early on and Iíve seen it reported here too. Could explain the slight drift over distance.

  12. #12
    Join Date
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    You probably don't need any more advice but I only use the front sacrificial edge as an appropriate initial placement... I always measure from the back edge of the track to the referenced edge and adjust the track accordingly. Seems to work well for me.

  13. #13
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    It's obviously easier to cut parallel straight cuts w/ the tracksaw. So cut the parallels first then use your square to ensure it's square from both sides for your cross cut. When you have 3 sides cut, you can use the X measurement method to check square and mark the 4th cut via that method. If the measurements don't make sense, you can re-cut your 3rd cut (your cross cut) accordingly.

    I made a pretty sweet wet bar with +/- 1/16" accuracy on my panels (using tracksaw cuts and table saw cuts when I could) so I'm not totally sure what the problem is with 1/16" accuracy on a side panel. Heck, I'm sure that one of the panels was even an 1/8" off... I agree the correct method is sub'ing out / owning a large CNC and I do remember the assembly / glue up wasn't as fun as could have been w/ zero precision problems, but I did get it done and everything assembled pretty well at the end.

    One thing I learned w/ those tracks is that the sacrificial cut line can be off pretty easily (by 1/32 or 1/16). They seem to get torn at times vs cut cleanly. The real surface you are using for reference is that dado on the track (as you know). So when extending my track with two tracks, I use my 60" straight edge against the dado to ensure they are straight vs butting them together cleanly (and assuming the track manufacturer made perfect 90 deg cuts). I like the idea of having that quick tool that references the dado to mark the cut line. I'll have to make one of those. That would definitely reduce error.

    As the person above said, I also double check the measurement to back of the track.

  14. #14
    I have the TSO Products square on my track but usually don't try to get a square crosscut with the track saw unless it is a short cut or accuracy doesn't matter much. Given the relatively short length of the square compared to the length of the track it is easy to be off a 64th on holding the square tight to the board edge which then translates into the other end of the cut being off 1/16". I am sure if I had an MFT table or something similar it would be easier and more accurate.

    I just leave my pieces a bit long and then square and cut to length on my tablesaw with a crosscut sled. If I am doing a lot of repetitive parts like cabinets, it is easy to set a stop and crosscut all the same size pieces at the same time.

  15. #15
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    If I need 32nd or better accuracy on a crosscut, I use a straight edge from a known 90 degree edge with a small square against the straight edge. Then make the mark with a marking knife. Do that on opposite edges and line your track up with both. Can't do it with a pencil. If the sacrificial edge on the track is damaged it's time to replace it, the stick on edges aren't expensive.

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