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O/Tool discovery: the track saw

EPAIII

Diamond
Joined
Nov 23, 2003
Location
Beaumont, TX, USA
Probably like most people here, my shop is primarily a machine shop. But I do make wood projects from time to time: my latest was an exercise bench for my wife. And, of course, some wood parts as needed. Also my shop is a two car garage that is packed to the overflow point. Not much room for the wood tools. I do have a small table saw and I will probably be keeping it: it makes a good table for other projects when I am not cutting wood parts with it.

For years I used a straight piece of lumber to guide my circular saw and that worked fairly well. I was able to get straight and square cuts. But about 8 or 10 years ago I decided I needed better dust control to keep it off my tools and out of the open bins that I used for most of my shop storage. So I started looking for a circular saw with good dust gathering ability - in other words, a vacuum port. And, as always, I was looking to pinch the pennies.

What I found was the Grizzly track saw. It had an enclosed blade with a vacuum port. At the time they had a starter kit with the saw, a blade, and one length of track which was a bit over four feet long. So I got it along with a second section of track so I could rip an eight foot length (plywood). I also got one of those automatic relays that starts the vacuum when the saw starts and keeps it running for about 10 seconds after the saw quits and an extension hose for the shop vac. I also got a premium Freud Diablo blade. Overall this was not cheap, but still about half the price of most other track saws.

I was delighted with this combination. With the clamps that fit on the bottom of the track, I could set up the cuts in less than half the time that the straight edge method took. In some cases I can even just lay the track on the wood and the foam strips will hold it well enough for a cut. The cuts are all but perfect. I do score the wood or apply tape before making a cross cut. There is almost zero dust to contend with. I have since purchased a third, shorter section of track for cross cuts and I find that the track sections will assemble together perfectly straight (by woodworking standards at least).

For the occasional wood project, the track saw, along with a table saw is, to my mind, a perfect combination of tools. And they take up very little space in my crowded shop.
 

DDoug

Diamond
Joined
Oct 18, 2005
Location
NW Pa
For the occasional wood project, the track saw, along with a table saw is, to my mind, a perfect combination of tools. And they take up very little space in my crowded shop.

Couple that with some sawhorse's or a table made for blade clearance and that keeps supporting after the cut, to complete the kit.
 

Superbowl

Cast Iron
Joined
Feb 12, 2020
There is a pretty simple way to get much of the advantage of the track saw concept for cheap. Start with a 12” or so wide strip of plywood. However long you want your guide to be. Fasten a piece of thin material to one side. I used some thin edge jointed maple. 1/4” thick alu would work well. This strip becomes a guide for the edge of a standard circular saw. Then run the circular saw down the guide to trim the plywood base. Now to use it just lay the assembly on the sheet to be cut. Line the jig up with your cut marks and cut. Been using it for years.


You clearly have never used a Track saw. It is 10 times better, more accurate, and faster to use than anything else. I have tried all methods including purpose made aluminum straight edges that clamp on, home made straight edges like your solution, table saws, etc. After watching them being used on the This Old House show for many years I finally broke down and bought the Makita several years ago. It is fantastic. Not just for plywood. It is great for cutting doors shorter, ripping 1x4s, and even ripping 2x12 pressure treated wood. It makes a perfect cabinet maker quality cut. A long track is a little better, but because the rubber sweep that rubs against the blade at all times makes a dead nuts alignment to any mark or previous cut, you can just move the track up to make an infinite length rip cut.The rubber sweep also prevents tear out splinters along the edge. No need for any clamps as the bottom of the track is non-slip rubber. It is a plunge cut saw so you can make grooves and non through cuts. Hands down it is the most versatile wood saw I have ever used for accurate work, and I used to work as a professional carpenter in another life.
 

tomjelly

Stainless
Joined
Aug 26, 2007
Location
GA
Will this track saw crosscut oak veneer plywood without splintering the edge grain? the Home Depot stuff? (VERY thin veneer that splinters almost by just looking at it) Historically for that I've used a saw guide but prescored the cut line with a utility knife, major PITA. I had a really nice delta sliding table saw in here with a 4" scoring blade in front of the main blade for a while but sold it, it was huge. That was the only thing that would do the job in one go...
 

Rickyb

Cast Iron
Joined
Jan 21, 2011
Location
Troy mi
Didnt see a mention of the best feature of the festool saw. Miter cuts. Cuts to the same line at 90 or 45 degrees or in between. The off cut piece can be glued back on the cut for a perfect joint.
 

Superbowl

Cast Iron
Joined
Feb 12, 2020
Will this track saw crosscut oak veneer plywood without splintering the edge grain? the Home Depot stuff? (VERY thin veneer that splinters almost by just looking at it) Historically for that I've used a saw guide but prescored the cut line with a utility knife, major PITA. I had a really nice delta sliding table saw in here with a 4" scoring blade in front of the main blade for a while but sold it, it was huge. That was the only thing that would do the job in one go...
It might but I never tried to cut that. Usually the go to procedure to avoid that problem is to use 2 inch wide blue painter's tape and saw cut through the middle of the tape. Then carefully peel the the 1 inch left towards the cut.
 

country_boy

Aluminum
Joined
Nov 22, 2004
Location
Alabama/Georgia
It will. Of course the edge strip is consumable. If mine had significant use on it, I’d replace it, or slide it over 1/16” ( you can slide over a few times) regluimg with HD spray glue.

Part of the quality of the cut is the excellent festool blades- they are higher quality ( and higher price) than what I’ve seem for a skil saw.

My hundreds sheets I cut up were a shop grade birch that was also a thin veneer.$34/ a sheet in decent quantities.
 

EPAIII

Diamond
Joined
Nov 23, 2003
Location
Beaumont, TX, USA
The quality of the cut depends a lot on the blade. There is a wide range of blades available. If you want cabinet maker's cuts, you can't go cheap. The premium Freud Diablo blade that I have been using is about one step from the best as far as I can tell. The next step up will probably double the price.

And yes, for problem veneers, you are going to have to take special efforts. Scoring with a knife and/or using masking tape which does need to be removed carefully. I don't think any saw will get you around this. But a cheap saw will have significant wobble and make the situation worse.



Will this track saw crosscut oak veneer plywood without splintering the edge grain? the Home Depot stuff? (VERY thin veneer that splinters almost by just looking at it) Historically for that I've used a saw guide but prescored the cut line with a utility knife, major PITA. I had a really nice delta sliding table saw in here with a 4" scoring blade in front of the main blade for a while but sold it, it was huge. That was the only thing that would do the job in one go...
 

martinberryman

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 18, 2011
Location
Vancouver, BC
Will this track saw crosscut oak veneer plywood without splintering the edge grain? the Home Depot stuff? (VERY thin veneer that splinters almost by just looking at it) Historically for that I've used a saw guide but prescored the cut line with a utility knife, major PITA. I had a really nice delta sliding table saw in here with a 4" scoring blade in front of the main blade for a while but sold it, it was huge. That was the only thing that would do the job in one go...

Yes.
We do architectural woodwork and regularly field under-cut $1,000 door slabs that we've factory finished with a track saw. We'd much rather trim them to final length on a CNC router (using a comination of RH and LH compression bits from both ends of the cut line) at the same time we're machining the hardware cutouts, before the finishing process, but in our line of work, you you don't always have the final height measurements at that time.

My advice for best cut:
Don't cheap out on the blade (you don't buy $12 end mills and run them for 6 years do you?) As mentioned above, use 3M brand blue masking tape on the top side before clamping down the Festool track. Just like trying to get good surface finish in tricky materials, you need to pay attention to the details including feed speed, blade sharpness and pitch buildup on the blade, etc. Also, keep in mind that you can't make a spring pass with a saw blade. The blade will only run true when it is fully in the materials on both sides of the cut. If you need to trim off 1/16", a router is the better tool.
 

boslab

Titanium
Joined
Jan 6, 2007
Location
wales.uk
Well I cut some mahogany face this morning, drop the splinter guard, no splintering visible, trick is to make sure the splinter guard is properly pressed down, easy to forget so make it a habit.
There’s a perfectly good aluminium cutting blade available too, my festool is the 55, but there’s a bigger 75 for deeper cuts, and a cordless version
I’m very happy with mine, plus it drops onto other tracks, Makita, Lidel, haven’t tried dewalt though.
They’re not cheap but I think worth it, I haven’t used the table saw much since buying it.
Mark
 

gary-sc

Aluminum
Joined
Aug 20, 2010
Location
Santa Cruz, CA USA
I've had a festool for about 10 years now. If it broke today I would replace it tomorrow without any second guessing. Wonderful tool, I didn't see anyone mention that you can plunge cut with it as well. Great for wood work but I've also cut a fare amount of aluminum with it, up to .25".
 

aribert

Cast Iron
Joined
Jul 2, 2008
Location
Metro Detroit, MI
question - how is the track secured to work surface?

I never paid any attention to track saws until this thread - and now wished I had such a saw 17 yrs ago for a project (and a few other projects since) - so thanks to the OP for posting.

I went and watched a couple of videos of track saws in use. In neither video was the track secured. What keeps the track from sliding? Maybe I'm a bit more ham-handed than most, but I would be concerned that I might somehow bump the saw/track while making a cut. If the underside of the track is "grippy" metal, how is it that the track does not damage the material being cut? If the underside of the track is a rubber type of material, how long before it hardens and fails to grip (or degrades and mars the material being cut)? TIA
 

Superbowl

Cast Iron
Joined
Feb 12, 2020
I never paid any attention to track saws until this thread - and now wished I had such a saw 17 yrs ago for a project (and a few other projects since) - so thanks to the OP for posting.

I went and watched a couple of videos of track saws in use. In neither video was the track secured. What keeps the track from sliding? Maybe I'm a bit more ham-handed than most, but I would be concerned that I might somehow bump the saw/track while making a cut. If the underside of the track is "grippy" metal, how is it that the track does not damage the material being cut? If the underside of the track is a rubber type of material, how long before it hardens and fails to grip (or degrades and mars the material being cut)? TIA
The bottom is grippy rubber so no clamps are needed. There are provisions to attach clamps so I bought a pair but never have used them. How long will the rubber last/stay grippy? Who the hell knows.
 

EPAIII

Diamond
Joined
Nov 23, 2003
Location
Beaumont, TX, USA
My track saw came from Grizzly with a "kit" which included everything needed to get started: track, splice for combining two track sections, the rubber edge, two clamps, and their blade. I tried their blade once and promptly purchased a better one - a much better one. But the blade was the only disappointment in the package.

The clamps are nifty. They have a flattened section that slides into a "T" channel on the bottom of the track where they are completely out of the way of the saw. This channel allows them to be placed at any point along the track so you can always grip the edge of the board. And they have a quick adjust feature so tightening them is fast and easy. With the rubber strip on the bottom of the track, you don't have to make them very tight. And taking them off after the cut is easy and fast too.

I believe this style of clamp is more or less standard with other brands of track. In these photos you are seeing the bottom side of a short piece of track (useful for cross cuts). The black strips are the rubber edge which can hold the track in place for a quick cut without the clamps. The cut is made at the far edge in the photos.

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This one is a little closer and the second clamp is shown in the un-tightened state.

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And here is a close up of a clamp. You can see that I wrapped the painted handle with some insulated wire I had on hand to give it a better grip. This is one of the few improvements I have found desirable.

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I purchased some extra track and now have two longer sections that assemble into a single length that is over 9 feet long for cutting the long way on plywood. The alignment of these is excellent and I can not detect any error from straight at the joint. Assembly is just a matter of a steel section that slides into the track sections and a few set screws.

If I was a professional cabinet maker, I would gladly pay two or three or more times what I paid for the Grizzly system. But for my occasional wood jobs, this system is excellent. And it also has excellent dust control so my shop stays cleaner.



I never paid any attention to track saws until this thread - and now wished I had such a saw 17 yrs ago for a project (and a few other projects since) - so thanks to the OP for posting.

I went and watched a couple of videos of track saws in use. In neither video was the track secured. What keeps the track from sliding? Maybe I'm a bit more ham-handed than most, but I would be concerned that I might somehow bump the saw/track while making a cut. If the underside of the track is "grippy" metal, how is it that the track does not damage the material being cut? If the underside of the track is a rubber type of material, how long before it hardens and fails to grip (or degrades and mars the material being cut)? TIA
 








 
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