Last Updated on May 3, 2023 by Barry Gray
Both the track saw and the circular saw are excellent first choices for anyone working with wood. However, depending on the kind of work that you need to perform, one might be better than the other.
The difference between a track saw and a circular saw is that a track saw makes super-accurate cuts. The circular saw doesn’t. Track saws attach to a track that guides them across wood to make a cut. Circular saws don’t have a track and thus, are less accurate. But, they offer more autonomy of movement.
With that said, each saw will most definitely have its pros and cons. In this comparison guide, we’ll be taking a look at both of these saws to determine which one is the best for you.
Differences Between a Track Saw and A Circular Saw
The main differences between a track saw and a circular saw are:
- The track saw is safer than the circular saw as it conceals its blade within the machinery of the saw. The circular saw’s blade is more visible and exposed than the track saw’s blade.
- The track saw follows a track. It makes accurate straight cuts without veering of its path. The circular saw can easily steer off and create jagged lines.
- The circular saw offers more freedom of movement as it lacks a track to follow. You can cut around obstacles as you can see exactly where you are cutting.
- Circular saws are lighter than track saws. Therefore, they are more portable. They don’t need a track. You can work with a circular saw in areas that are difficult to access.
- Track saws come with in-built dust collectors that collect dust as you make cuts. Circular saws don’t have a dust collector. They can be very messy in small spaces such as garages or small shops.
What Is a Track Saw?
A track saw is a circular saw with a long rectangular track that helps create long precise cuts. The track saw is attached to this track which slides along it to make a long straight cut.
Track saws are popular among professionals for their ability to make precise cuts. Once you position the track, they ‘ll stay on track and create a smooth cut without slipping.
You can also adjust the track position to cut at any angle. They make it easy to make angled cuts.
Key Features of a Track Saw
The track guides the saw as it slides along it to make a straight cut. Therefore, you can be sure of making straight, clean cuts without veering off the path.
Dust Collector/Dust Bag
Track saws come with an in-built vacuum port to attach a dust bag or a vacuum cleaner. The dust collector sucks up dust as you cut, thus, making your workplace clean.
The blade of the track saw is usually enclosed within the machinery of the saw. Thus, it’s much safer. Some track saws also come with a riving knife to reduce the risk of injury through saw kickback.
A track saw enables you to adjust the depth of the blade. Depending on the thickness of the wood you are cutting, you can adjust the blade to a shallow or a deeper depth. Always set the depth to below the surface of the wood.
Benefits of a Track Saw
A track saw is perfect if you are cutting through a large amount of wood. It’s definitely not as portable as the circular saw but it makes up for this with excellent performance.
It’s perfect for any kind of work that requires accurate, clean cuts. You can use it in place of a circular saw, a miter saw, or even a panel saw.
- A track that keeps the saw in place to help make precise cuts
- Depth control helps set the depth of every cut
- Clean, smooth cuts with no jagged edges
- Dust collector helps keep the work place clean and tidy
- Powerful enough to cut through many materials such as metal sheets and wood
- Lightweight and powerful
- Offers less freedom of mobility than a circular saw
- It takes a while to get it configured to start working
- More expensive than a circular saw
What is a Circular Saw?
A circular saw is a saw with a circular toothed blade that spins around the axis of the saw. It can either be cordless or corded. Corded circular saws get powered through a power cord. Cordless circular saws are battery-powered.
You can use a circular saw for the same functions as a track saw without the accuracy. However, with a circular saw you get more autonomy to cut and direct it wherever you want to.
One of its most outstanding features is that it’s portable.
Key Features of a Circular Saw
The circular saw comes with blades of different types and sizes. You can change and use these blades depending on what kind of material you are cutting.
The blade cover sits over the blade on both the top and the bottom. There’s only a small opening at that front where you can see the blade. The blade cover protects you or any other object nearby from any accidental contact.
Emergency Brake System
The circular saw comes with an in-built safety feature. This feature stops the saw blade from spinning within seconds. It’s perfect when you are in a dangerous situation.
Benefits of a Circular Saw
A circular saw is pretty fast especially if you need to cut through a large number of materials. It’s great for cutting through plywood, softwood, hardwood, and any other kind of wood material.
It can also cut through soft metals such as aluminum, bronze, or copper. You can even cut through any plastic material.
- Versatile and compact design
- It’s quick and easy to operate
- It’s very portable and allows for mobility of movement during work
- Cheaper than a track saw
- Both left-handed and right-handed models are available
- Comes with various types of blades
- Lots of options to choose from
- Doesn’t need any oiling
- Cuts are less accurate and a little rougher than those of a track saw
- No dust collector
What to Consider Before Buying a Track Saw or a Circular Saw
There are several things you need to consider to make an informed choice. They include:
1. Motor Power
Motor power represents how powerful the saw is and thus, what kind of materials it can work with. It also lets you know how fast your blade will rotate. The right kind of saw should be powerful enough to handle all the required tasks.
Depending on what materials you’ll be working with, make sure that you check the power voltage of the saw. A saw with a higher voltage will definitely handle harder tasks and vice versa.
2. Corded Vs Cordless Saw
The advantages of having a cordless saw are many. You have more flexibility and the ability to move freely. However, cordless saws rely on batteries to work. Therefore, you are going to need to charge them or change batteries often. This can be a huge hustle especially if you have demanding work.
Corded saws are more powerful as they have a direct connection to the power source. You don’t have to take breaks especially if you have a demanding task. Additionally, because of unlimited power, you can cut through tougher materials with ease.
3. Blade Size
Are you going to cut through large pieces of material? In this case, you might want to reconsider the blade size to use. For instance, a regular blade size of 6.5 inches is perfect for cutting through two inches of thickness.
If you are dealing with a thicker material, you want to make sure that you use a bigger sized blade. A blade size of 8.35 inches can cut through a thickness of 2.75 inches without any problems.
4. Speed Settings
A good saw should come with a variable speed dial that helps you adjust the speed. For starters, you will need different speeds for different materials. Additionally, adjusting the speed helps prevent damage to the materials.
You want to start slow and then increase your speed, rather than starting at full speed. If you are dealing with a soft material, you can use high speed. You can then reduce it as you deal with denser materials.
Next thing you have to factor in is how portable do you need the saw to be. With a track saw, you will have to carry the tracks separately. The good thing is that some models come with cases or bags for carrying everything in.
A circular saw doesn’t come with a track. Thus, it’s much lighter compared to the track saw; something that’s handy if you are always on the move.
6. Dust Collection
Do you work out of a home garage or a small shop? Dust is going to be a problem especially if you are working with a lot of wood. Too much dust can cause difficulties in breathing. You need to consider whether the saw model you are buying has a dust collector.
Most track saws come with in-built dust ports for dust collection. Some circular saws have dust collectors too. If cleanliness is something you value, you’ll want a model with a dust collector.
7. Emergency Brakes
It goes without saying that safety comes number one when you are working with saws. You want to go for a model with an emergency brake system. It’s an important safety feature.
An emergency brake helps stop the blade from spinning in a matter of two seconds. This is important if something goes wrong. You want to ensure that you can stop the spinning as early as possible.
On the surface, both the circular saw and the track saw look very similar. It’s understandable why you may be having a difficult time making the choice between the two. If you’re after a professional and clean cut, you won’t go wrong with the track saw. The only downside is that your mobility gets limited.
Circular saws are more affordable. Additionally, they are quicker and handy. Although they make rougher cuts, they do a good job of cutting through different materials. If you are an average home user, this saw might be perfect for your needs.