A workhorse with a wide cutting capacity and rugged 12 amp motor. Package is a good deal too – comes with a 55" guide rail. Seamless to operate and delivers a smooth cut.
The control knobs have a flimsy feel. Some reports of crooked base plates that don't fit flat on the track.
Affordable and portable. Comes with a dust port to keep clean-up to a minimum. Good for users new to this type of machinery or for small to mid-level tasks.
Not for extremely heavy-duty tasks due to the 9 amp motor that is under-powered compared to some of its competitors. Not all cuts are smooth.
A fairly solid tool manufactured by a company with decades in the business. 12 amp motor handles most applications. On-board tool storage and cushioned handle add to its value.
Wobbles a bit during use. Dense woods challenge it, leading to rough or jagged results.
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Although track saws are perhaps one of the lesser-known woodworking tools, their popularity is growing. They have a valuable place both in the workshop and on the job site, offering tremendous accuracy and great versatility.
But good track saws aren’t cheap, and information can be limited. With so many track saws available, it’s important to make sure you get the best combination of performance and value. But what exactly should you look for when shopping for a track saw?
At BestReviews, our recommendations and handy shopping guides make finding the best products for your home simple and straightforward. If you’re ready to purchase a track saw, you’ll find our top picks in the matrix above. For everything you need to know about adding one of these power tools to your workshop, just keep reading.
A track saw is much like a powerful circular saw combined with a guide rail. Of course, circular saws and guide rails have been used in combination for decades. What makes the track saw so much better?
A track saw doesn’t run up against the side of the guide, it runs inside it. It’s hooked in. It’s very stable, and because the blade can’t wander, you get tremendous accuracy.
With that accuracy comes reduced tear-out and a smoother finish to cuts.
With an ordinary standard circular saw, the blade is somewhere in the middle of the base. You have to add or subtract the offset when calculating where to position your guide. With a track saw, the blade runs along the edge of the guide – no math necessary.
The cut is right where you expect it to be with a track saw, and you don’t need to compensate for bevel cuts either.
Powerful and versatile, the professional’s choice
The Makita 6 1/2” Plunge Circular Saw with Guide Rail is highly rated by both independent testers and owners. The 12-amp motor delivers plenty of power. Variable speed and load compensation ensure flawless, uninterrupted cutting. With a maximum depth of 2 3/16” at 90°, it’s also got class-leading capacities. This is a track saw you can rely on, in the shop or on the job.
A track saw is a versatile tool, and you can use it without the track, just like a circular saw.
Benefits of track saws
A track saw’s real strength is making long, straight cuts. It’s ideal for cutting full-size plywood sheets, drywall, and composite panels.
A track saw will go anywhere. It fits easily inside your vehicle. At home or on site, you can carry the saw with one hand and the track under your arm.
You need very little space around the material to be cut. You move the track saw, not the material.
When cutting with a track saw, you can support the material on folding trestles (also very portable) or simply on a few pieces of scrap wood resting on the floor.
A track saw easily solves these common problems:
Jobbing carpenters have used a length of 2 x 4 clamped to a board for generations, first with a handsaw, later with a powered circular saw. It gets the job done, but it lacks accuracy.
Large table saws can handle big sheets of material, but because of the need for infeed and outfeed, a huge workshop is necessary to cut an 8 x 10 sheet. Even if you’ve got the space, it’s no easy task to wrestle the board into place or cut with any precision.
It’s seldom practical to move a sufficiently large table saw to a job site.
Particularly when sawing large sheets, think about where the offcut portion is going to go. Support the offcut if necessary. Otherwise, it can break off before the cut is finished, ruining that piece of material.
As with most power tools, there’s a corded versus cordless argument with track saws. Battery-powered track saws can output as much as 60 volts of power. However, runtime can be limited. In purely performance terms, we favor corded track saws.
Corded track saw motors are rated for amps. To provide sufficient power to comfortably work at maximum depth of cut, look for a minimum of nine amps, although 12 amps is ideal. Many modern track saws have clever electronics that compensate for load. The more difficult the material is to cut, the more power is supplied to the track saw. With variable speed control, you can pick the optimum speed for particular materials and blades.
The importance of cutting capacity depends on the material you work with most often. Any track saw can easily cut drywall and most plywood panels, but work surfaces and cladding can be considerably thicker. Though a few models offer less, most track saws cut a little over two inches at a maximum depth of 90°. You’ll lose about half an inch of depth when cutting at 45°.
Variable beveling is available. Better track saws have positive stops at commonly used angles. Adjustment knobs should be easy to reach and adjust. Scales should be easy to read. All track saws offer plunge cutting, and most have depth stops. Track lock devices ensure clean, consistent cutting, even if you’re working at an angle.
A riving knife stops the material pinching the blade behind your cut. Some manufacturers deem them unnecessary on track saws because of the guide rail. If pinched, the track saw will stop rather than kick out of the cut. A number of experts still prefer to see a riving knife fitted, however.
The blade guard usually doubles as a fairly efficient dust shroud. A vacuum port should be fitted to the rear of the track saw for effective extraction. Most rotate for better control of the attached pipe.
Electronic brakes slow the blade down quickly when you let go of the trigger. This makes it safe to move or put the track saw down almost as soon as you’ve finished cutting.
A trigger lock means you don’t have to continuously squeeze the trigger on a track saw, which is an invaluable feature when you’re sawing all day. Soft grip handles also add comfort.
Guide rail descriptions can be deceptive. Not all guide rails are compatible with track saws. If you’re buying saw and track separately, make sure the two will work together.
If you regularly cut big sheets, a long guide rail is a sensible investment. If your needs vary, you’ll get more flexibility from two shorter lengths and some guide rail connectors.
Track saws are not a tool for occasional use. But if you’re a professional or a keen amateur taking on a considerable amount of work (remodeling your own home, for example), they are worth the investment. You’ll save time, and your work will be more accurate.
There are some cheap track saws around, and at first glance they may seem like a good value. However, while the saw itself may be acceptable quality, track lengths are very short – just a couple of feet each. This negates most of the benefits of having a track saw in the first place.
Good corded track saws start at around $200, which doesn’t include the guide rail. You’ll pay anywhere from $50 for a 50” rail to $250 for a 96” rail, depending on the brand. You can get very good track saw/guide rail combinations for around $400.
You’ll pay anywhere from $400 to $800 for a cordless track saw and guide rail, depending on the power output and brand.
A feature-packed answer for the budget-conscious buyer
Triton has a reputation for building tough, no-nonsense woodworking tools, yet the Triton 6 1/2” Plunge Track Saw 1400W has plenty of user-friendly features. There’s a powerful 12-amp variable speed motor with soft start and constant power delivery. It also has quick blade changing, ergonomic controls, and many other features you’d expect on a high-end track saw – except the price.
Track saw blades are either 6 1/4” or 6 1/2”. Quality is the same, but there are many more 6 1/2” replacement blades available, which could save you money in the long run.
Basic clamps should be supplied with all guide rails. Standard F-clamps are common. Alternatives like quick-release clamps are also available from some manufacturers. Suction clamps not only fix the guide rail to non-porous or smooth surfaces, but they can also be used as convenient carry handles.
Q. Is a track saw better than a circular saw?
A. This is probably the most common question for those thinking about buying a track saw. The answer really depends on the kind of work you do most of the time. Track saws offer unbeatable accuracy on site, and they do many of the same tasks as circular saws. However, track saws are not for everybody. They are considerably more expensive than circular saws. With a track saw, consider whether the performance advantages are enough to justify the extra investment.
Q. Do cordless track saws offer the same performance as corded models?
A. We’ve seen some powerful cordless track saws that use twin battery setups to rival the best corded tools. However, though batteries are getting better all the time, they still run down and need to be recharged, which stops work. With spare batteries, your cordless track saw kit could cost twice as much as a corded model. Of course, if you’re frequently on job sites where no power is available, the investment is worth it.
Q. Do I need different track saw blades for different materials?
A. Your track saw will come with a general-purpose blade that should work perfectly well for plywood, drywall, and insulation. However, if you’re regularly going to be cutting laminated composites or fiber cement, you’ll need to buy a suitable specialist blade.