Is a Track Saw Worth It? (Explained for Beginners)

Choosing a new tool for your woodshop is both exciting and, at least for me, stressful, as you sift through information trying to make the best choice for your needs.  And now you’re looking at a track saw.  How does a track saw differ from a regular circular saw, and is it worth the extra cost?

Track saws provide several benefits over table- and circular saws.  They are more compact than table saws and are easier to use for really long cuts because you move the saw, not the workpiece.  While they are more expensive, the track makes them more accurate than a circular saw.   

If you have the extra money to spend, a track saw may be a better option than a circular saw, but it will depend on what you aim to do with your saw.  Although a track saw has many benefits, it has some pitfalls as well. 

is a track saw worth it

How Is A Track Saw Different From A Circular Saw?

One of the first questions that popped into my mind the first time I laid eyes on a track saw was, “isn’t this thing just an expensive, gimmicky, circular saw?”  As it turns out, there are several similarities and essential differences, but “gimmicky” was not an apt description of either.  

The obvious difference between the two is the inclusion of tracks or rails with the track saw.  These rails lock the saw into place, and therefore onto a set path.  Generally, these tracks are also “grippy” at the bottom, removing the need to clamp them down.  Simply lay the track down, lock the saw into place and make the cut.

Track saws are also sometimes referred to as plunge saws.  When not in use, the blade is hidden behind the saw’s large dust shield.  Before cutting, you can set the depth of the cut on a dial and then plunge the blade into the piece of wood to that depth.  

This plunge functionality helps with tear out, but, more importantly, it means that you can use the saw to make cuts you would generally use a jigsaw for, such as cutting out a sink hole in a countertop. 

Finally, the large dust shield is far better at collecting dust than the blade guard on a circular saw.  Dust will not be a problem if you primarily work outside, but you will be thankful for the increased extraction if your shop is in your house. 

using circular saw

Circular saws, on the other hand, are smaller and more versatile.  They are excellent tools for making quick cuts and, with some ‘Skill,’ you can even learn to do plunge cuts with them.  

Circular saws don’t require you to set up a track but, as a result, are entirely dependant on you for accuracy.  In the end, that is the most significant difference between a circular and track saw: accuracy.  

It’s this accuracy that makes track saws loved by cabinet builders, and it’s the quick versatility that makes the circular saw the weapon of choice for framers. 

Track Saw Vs. Table Saw

using table saw

The third direct competitor in this battle of the blades is the faithful table saw.  Shouldn’t you instead consider buying a table saw as opposed it a track saw? Well, maybe.  Table saws have certain benefits over a track saw

Firstly, table saws are fantastic at making quick, repetitive cuts.  If you are building drawers, for example, you will find yourself quickly getting frustrated with having to measure out each board and set the track perfectly in place before every single cut you make.  

The addition of the table saw fence means that you can simply lock it into place and get to cutting.  The table saw is also better at making smaller cuts or cutting smaller pieces. Cross-cutting a one-inch strip, for example, is not something you want to do with a track or circular saw if you hope to do it accurately.  

But that doesn’t mean the table saw is crowned the king of saws.  As good as it is with making small, repetitive cuts, it is challenging to feed a full sheet of plywood over a table saw.  

With a track saw, you can quickly run the saw over the sheet and avoid the need to wrestle it across the table saw. 

The track saw can also make long cuts in any direction or angle.  So, if you need to make long miter cuts, which can be challenging on a table saw, you simply need to lay your track in the angle you need to cut, set your blade angle, and off you go. 

The same track that allows you to make these long accurate cuts also helps prevent any tear out, making the track saw the perfect tool to cut plywood sheets to size. 

The Downsides Of A Track Saw

Most would agree that the biggest downside of the track saw is its price tag.  While a Bosch circular saw can cost you between $100 – $300 on Amazon, depending on the model, a Bosch track saw is going to set you back upward of $600.  A big price difference, to be sure. 

The lesser downside of a track saw is that each cut requires set-up time.  This means that a track saw may not be ideal for jobs like framing, which require several quick cross-cuts during the day. 

Finally, although track saws are far more portable than table saws, they aren’t as portable as circular saws because of the need to lug the rail and possibly even clamps around with you.

Track Saw Alternative

The price tag attached to that shiny new track saw may be a complete dealbreaker for some buyers.  If you need the functionality of a track saw but can’t quite swing the price, there is an alternative option:  turn your circular saw into a track saw

As with most jobs in your woodshop, you always have the option to make a jig for one tool so that it can do the job of another tool.  The same goes for your circular saw.  With some creativity, you can make a rail or track for your circular saw to add some of the track saw’s functionality to it. 

Here is a video guide on how to make a track jig for your circular saw:

Alternatively, you can buy a universal track for your circular. Kreg, for example, makes what they call the “Accu-Cut” system, which comes with a rail and an attachment for your circular saw to fit snugly into the rail. 

The Accu-Cut will cost you between $69 and $159; still working out cheaper than a track saw even if you have to buy it with a new circular saw as well. 

Why Choose A Track Saw?

Understanding that track saws are expensive and that there are cheaper alternatives to do essentially the same job, is there any real reason to choose a track saw? Certainly, yes. 

If your hobby is expanding into a small business, or if your small kitchen cabinet business is expanding and you are taking on more work, then you will really benefit from having a track saw.  

Jigs are great but compared to tools made to do a specific job; jigs have their limitations.  Some of these limitations may end up holding you back in the long run.  

If, however, you are just starting out in woodworking, or you do more framing, then maybe consider purchasing a circular saw and a track instead.  You will gain at least some of the track saw’s functionality while maintaining the circular saw’s versatility and saving a penny in the process. 

Conclusion

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. 

James Thomas

James Thomas

Tool Enthusiast

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James Thomas

Hi, I’m James. I created The Tool Square to help as many understand and know how to use Table Saws, and many other tool-related products. About Me.

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