Track Saw 101
Asking what exactly makes a track saw worth purchasing is one of the most common questions we get, so here's our best effort at showing you the real world benefits that a track saw brings.
Our customers have found more uses for our TrueTrac Saw system than we ever imagined -- from solid top counter tops, to cutting vinyl siding or corrugated metal roofing, to ripping rough sawn or reclaimed lumber for your projects -- these are all projects possible with most track saws.
I think we all can agree that maintaining control over a cut is important. Not only does losing control during any type of cutting activity create a glaring safety hazard, but generally it will also ruin or significantly alter the desired outcome.
So lets compare our options for maintaining control during a cut:
- Table saws offer fence systems, some of which are exceptionally accurate and can be dialed in down to a thou at a time (0.001 inch increments). The size of your shop (or your wallet) is the limit on all the attachments and upgrades you can do to a decent table saw - table extensions, motor upgrades, zero clearance inserts, anti-kick back systems, dust collection, etc.
- Straight edge clamps (including 2x4's and C-Clamps) offer a "guide-against" solution very similar to a table saw fence system, except with a hand held circular saw being pushed against the fence instead of the wood being cut.
- They are generally light weight, very portable, and extremely affordable. They most often come in 4 to 8 feet lengths and require consistent side pressure to prevent drifting away from the desired cut line.
- You might also experience the guide bowing on longer cuts due to the lighter construction and requirement of actively pushing against the guide.
- Require an offset measurement from the guide to cut the desired dimensions.
- Don't provide chip-out protection to your work piece.
- Track saws offer a way to captivate the saw on some type of an extrusion or mold, be it metal or plastic, that allows for straight-line movement parallel to the track. Generally the focus is put on the saw itself rather than the track, which we have found to be a glaring deficiency in most systems, but the principal is the same no matter the vendor.
- They offer similar portability to a straight edge clamp but are usually faster and easier to use after initial setup, and generally offer more options for attachments, accessories, or later expansion.
- With the saw being captive on the track, you also eliminate the possibility of drifting away from the guide or leaving burn marks due to applying too much side-pressure on long cuts.
- Most track saw systems offer a line-of-cut indicator, such that you know exactly where the blade will cut, as well as anti-chip systems to protect your work piece.
Simply put, if you can maintain control of your cut, you can attain your desired results safely and efficiently. A track saw is great way to do that.
This applies to all types of people who work with wood - Those that have dedicated shops, those that can pull the car out of the garage for some space, or those that figure out ways to let their creativity free while living in a two bedroom apartment.
- If you're using a table saw to break down plywood or other sheet goods, you need 2ft for you to stand, 8ft for the feed side, the width of your table saw, and another 10 feet on the other side of the saw!
- Track saws and edge clamps both offer an easy-to-store and cheaper alternative to large stationary tools, while allowing you to better utilize the tools you most likely already own.
- Our suggestion is to drill a hole in one of the flat portions of the track and hang it on the wall so it's out of the way and easy to get to when you need it.
This is really where a track saw shines, especially in broad terms.
- Most track saw systems are built to expand in length.
- This means you can start out small and add on as your budget or project outlooks allow or call for!
- The key on expandable systems is looking at the way the track is designed and how seamless and easy the extension process is.
- Odd or irregular surfaces
- Since the track saw rides on top of a track saw system, you can cut rough sawn or reclaimed lumber without worrying about the saw plate dipping under the guide if the guide "bridges" over a low spot in the work piece.
- An extreme case would be using a metal blade in a circular saw to cut corrugated metal siding to the proper length or required taper for installation.
- Tapered cuts
- If you would like to make a tapered cut using a straight edge clamp, where will the clamp engage the work piece? What is the offset measurement required to get the angle right? How do you start the cut while maintaining contact with the clamp?
- With track saws, the control is between the base plate and the track. Since most track systems have some form of "line of cut" indicator showing where your blade will go, simply mark out your tapered line and place the track on it to make your cut!