Last Updated on October 21, 2022 by Barry Gray
Whenever I’m interested in potentially purchasing a new tool, I tend to sit and carefully think things over first. I ask myself questions such as, how can it improve my projects? What benefits will I get from owning one? Am I wasting my money making this purchase?
So many different thoughts flood into my head, and I believe that’s the correct thing to do. After all, I admit some power tools can cost a small fortune or even a large fortune, so you don’t want to dive into buying something without knowing it’s the correct thing to do.
But I’m not going to just talk you through how to decide if power tools, in general, are worth it. Instead, I will focus on one type of power tool: the track saw.
I admit it’s not the most expensive tool out there, even though some models push the price up, but I think the most challenging thing about this saw is that it’s just one of several options on the market.
I feel this then causes problems for people relatively new to the world of power tools. You see different saws, which may come with slightly different applications, and you just don’t know what to do with them. So, I’m going to help you out.
By the end, I think you will find yourself in a position whereby you don’t only know a whole lot more about what a track saw can do, but you will also have a better idea as to whether or not this is the tool for you.
What is a Track Saw?
But first, I need to explain what a track saw actually is. After all, how can I expect you to determine if it’s worth investing in one if you are unsure what it is or even what it does?
Now, I admit that most people may look at a track saw and think it’s a circular saw with another bit added on. In a sense, you are right, but it’s what those added extras can do that’s the key here.
You see, the name is in itself quite descriptive. A track saw is a saw that is attached to some tracks, or you may see them referred to as rails. Those tracks keep the saw on a straight path, but I’ll get into the clear and obvious benefits of using a track saw later.
But there’s another name you may hear that also describes a track saw, and that’s when people talk about a plunge saw.
What happens here is the blade is kept up behind the dust guard when it’s not being used. When it comes to taking out your track saw, you can set the depth of blade depending on your desired cut, and the blade is then plunged into the wood to that depth.
I do admit that the names are not that inventive when you look at it all.
So basically, think of a saw with some guide rails and how it would make life a whole lot easier, and that pretty much sums up the idea of a track saw.
The Benefits of a Track Saw
I think the benefits of using a track saw should be pretty obvious. However, let me go through them one by one.
Let’s be honest: Even if you plan on carrying out some rough rip cuts, accuracy still plays a role. You measure, mark, and then need the saw to work along that line to get your desired end result.
A track saw is designed to provide you with absolute accuracy, and there’s no doubt it does a fantastic job. The tracks keep the saw on line, so even vibrations and your own hand movements won’t throw it off.
I accept that setting up a track saw takes longer than throwing a typical circular saw onto your cut. Still, when you need that absolute accuracy, there’s nothing better than a track saw out of your different options.
Some people may argue that a table saw has the potential to do pretty much the same thing as a track saw, in a sense, and I do admit that’s the case. You can use the fence on a table saw to help you out, and as long as you line everything up, there shouldn’t be an issue.
However, I see one significant difference when it comes to a track saw, and that’s portability.
A track saw is not heavy. The rails tend to be aluminum, which is not exactly known for weighing a lot. That means you can operate your track saw pretty much anywhere, and I know from previous experience how important that ability to move around with your tools can be.
It also means you can work on large boards without needing a large workshop. Think of the size of a table saw and how much space you need to walk around that machine. It requires an impressive workshop, but you just don’t require the same things with a track saw.
So, if space is an issue while you still want to cut up those large boards, then a track saw could prove to be the perfect solution.
The Length of Cut
I also need to mention the ability to make longer cuts thanks to a track saw. Some models come with tracks covering some 55”, and that’s huge.
You can immediately see how this could prove beneficial in some projects. The ability to make those longer cuts with absolute accuracy also means you can complete projects in less time. There’s no need to keep stopping and checking you remain on your line over a large board. The track saw does that for you.
Think about what would happen if you wanted to cut a 40” board in half. Sure, you can do it with a table saw, but I feel a track saw just takes things up to another level. So, the ability to make longer cuts that are perfect every single time is a massive benefit of a track saw.
They are Quick and Easy to Set Up
I also find that a track saw is straightforward to set up and doesn’t take too long either. Also, here’s a surprise, it doesn’t need clamps.
The reason it doesn’t need clamps to hold it in place, which saves time with the setting up process, is thanks to the inclusion of rubber strips on the base of the rails. These rubber strips hold everything in place as you cut. It’s a simple approach, but it’s also highly effective.
I do love this aspect of a track saw. There can be something annoying about setting up some tools that require you to do so many tasks before you can get on with the job. That’s not the case here.
Dust Collection Tends to Not Be a Problem
I also find that a track saw’s dust collection tends to work exceptionally well. I’m not saying it works 100%, but compared to other saws, I think this is the best.
It’s all connected to how the dust collection can operate and how the track saw is put together. It’s very easy to encapsulate the saw and collect that dust because of the structure, so a track saw should not make as much mess as some of its counterparts.
The Negatives of a Track Saw
Look, I’ll be honest with you when I say a track saw is not all plain sailing. It has its downside, and it’s only fair I tell you all about that.
A track saw is more expensive than a circular saw. This does depend on the model you want to purchase, but there are times when a track saw could cost double compared to a regular circular saw.
I get that cost can put some people off buying one. After all, we all have our own budget in mind, and it’s wise to not go beyond that wherever possible.
However, I feel that the track saw can do such an excellent job that it’s better to try to get one, if possible than lose out. It’s just that good at what it does.
It’s Not Best for Fast Cross Cuts
If you don’t require absolute accuracy and only wish to make fast cross-cuts, then using a track saw would not prove the best choice. Here, it will slow you down as it’s all about accuracy and ease of cutting with a track saw.
This is what I mean when I discuss the need to understand your projects and what you want from your tools. Sure, a track saw could produce these cuts, but I accept there are moments where it’s best to just rip through them with your circular saw rather than going through all this hassle.
But overall though, that’s pretty much it when it comes to the negatives of a track saw. As you can see, a track saw does not come with too many problems.
Track Saw or Circular Saw?
Even though I’ve worked through the clear benefits of a track saw, I do get that some individuals will still find themselves sitting there thinking they would be better off with a standard circular saw. I do understand this, especially if you love your circular saw, so how about I make a quick comparison?
First, let me get the obvious difference out of the way, and that’s the tracks. A circular saw doesn’t have them.
Also, a circular saw is smaller, and you can also say it’s lighter as well. I get why some people would prefer this, as it does feel less cumbersome to handle, but it then goes back to that issue of what you actually want from your tools.
But here is the real clincher for all of this. If you use a circular saw, you are responsible for the accuracy of your cuts. However, with a track saw, once you line everything up, then the track saw and rails really do the rest for you.
Track Saw or Table Saw?
The other main comparison is examining a track saw with a table saw. Once again, I understand why people do this, but as with the circular saw, there are some key differences.
I do love everything a table saw is capable of doing. A table saw will work exceptionally well if you want fast cuts and have everything set up. If you know you will be making those same cuts one after the other, you would get on faster with a table saw than a track saw.
But speed is not everything.
However, thanks to the use of the fence on a table saw, I do feel that it can work better with smaller cuts as well compared to a track saw. Take cutting a thin strip of wood. A track saw wouldn’t work as the wood would be effectively swallowed up by the tracks.
In that instance, the table saw would offer you a faster and more accurate end result.
I know so far it does sound as if I’m saying the table saw is superior, but in those two areas, I would say that it was. Yet, the track saw has some benefits you miss out on with a table saw.
For me, a track saw is superior to a table saw if dealing with large boards. You tend to find much more manhandling when it comes to a table saw, whereas a track saw allows you to get on with cutting up that board.
Also, a track saw allows you to cut at angles as long as you adjust it accordingly. It’s quick and easy to do and produces the perfect result. You cannot get the same effect with a table saw, so if you need to cut at angles, the track saw wins quite easily.
Finally, you won’t suffer from a tear out with a track saw as opposed to a table saw. It should mean you get a perfectly smooth finish from beginning to end, which is important when cutting something as potentially rough as plywood.
I feel that both a table and track saw have their own areas of expertise and areas where they just struggle.
So, Is a Track Saw Worth it?
When you look at the clear benefits of a track saw over other items, such as a circular saw, I would say a track saw is undoubtedly worth it. I know they can prove to be expensive at times, but the difference that a track saw can make to your project does make this a viable expense.
At the end of the day, I can completely appreciate the practicality of a track saw. If you look at how it works and believe it could fit in with your intended projects, I say go for it. However, I’d say that about any power tool.
For me, that’s the key to all of this. Will a specific tool make my projects easier? If the answer is undoubtedly yes, then there really is little in the way of debate as to whether or not they are really worth it.
To round it off, here are my key points to consider when trying to make your decision regarding the potential purchase of a track saw.
What are Your Aims?
First, think about your aims with your projects. What are they, and how do you think you will be able to achieve them?
If you know you will be mainly cutting small pieces of wood or repeating the same basic cuts repeatedly, I would question your need to purchase a track saw.
As with any power tool, knowing your project and intention is always crucial to deciding if a particular power tool is the right one.
Will it Benefit My Projects?
Closely followed to the previous point, will a track saw benefit your project? Is it capable of producing the type of results you were hoping for, and does it do it better than other tools you may have?
If you answer yes to either of those questions, then I would not hesitate to go out and grab a track saw. It could very well transform your entire approach.
Is it In Budget?
Your budget should always come into mind when considering purchasing any new tool, so a track saw is no different. However, it’s not always about the actual price tag that appears on the track saw.
I suggest thinking about how often you think you would use the saw before buying. If you know you tend to require saws that cut with absolute accuracy, then it’s an easy decision to go ahead and make that purchase.
Overall, I think those three points are crucial, and if you answer those questions, you will know if a track saw is worth it. In my opinion, a track saw is a worthwhile investment, and I feel pretty convinced you will think the same when you discover just what exactly it’s capable of doing.
A track saw is unbeatable when it comes to making long, accurate cuts. It can do most things a table and circular saw can, while being more portable than a table saw and more accurate than a circular saw. It’s also better than a table saw at breaking down large sheets of plywood.
However, a track saw can be very expensive, so be sure to assess whether it is the right tool for your needs before you buy one. If you are just starting a hobby, consider a circular saw with a jig, but if you build many kitchen cabinets or wardrobes, for example, you won’t regret the investment.