Quality, accuracy and portability in one saw.
I recently had the chance to check out the latest version of Festool’s track saw and I was pretty impressed. I’ve owned a track saw for a long time, so I was interested to see what’s new with Festool’s new model, TSC 55 KEB, which was voted the power tool of the year in the 2021 Tool of the Year Awards. If you don’t currently have a track saw, and you think it’s a luxury you can’t afford in a small shop, I would suggest re-thinking that idea. Working by myself, I use a track saw for all sorts of jobs that would be awkward at a table saw. Track saws are great for sheet goods, and if you work with sheet goods at all you really need a track saw. It’s far safer and easier than trying to maneuver a heavy sheet of plywood through even the best of table saws. But the uses don’t stop there. I also use my track saw for ripping thick 8/4 hardwoods down to size. This is another job that’s challenging to do on a table saw.
Festool TSC 55 KEB Track Saw
MSRP: $649 (saw, blade, Systainer), $909 (saw, blade, Systainer, charger, two batteries), $1039 (saw, blade, Systainer, charger, two batteries, 55″ guide rail)
There were a couple of things that stood out for me with this new saw. First is the fact that it’s cordless. I’ve had a corded track saw for years and, like with all corded tools, you spend time fighting with the cord. I’ve always found that’s especially true with a track saw cord. For whatever reason, the cord seems to get caught on everything, and when you’re trying to move the saw 4′ to 8′, it highlights the problem. Being cordless is a huge plus. If you’re thinking of moving to a track saw in the future, I strongly recommend getting a cordless model.
Despite being cordless, the Festool saw had no lack of power. After making a few cuts, I felt that this saw cut faster and easier, and with more power, than my old corded one. Cordless technology has come a long way in the past few years and this saw packs a brushless motor, so it has lots of torque.
The TSC 55 KEB uses thinner kerf blades, which makes sense for a cordless machine. A thinner blade uses less power, giving you more run time. That also makes this saw cut faster than my old, corded saw. Most manufacturers have been using thinner blades on their latest cordless products in the past few years, whether it’s a circular saw or reciprocating saw. This makes cordless tools cut quicker and batteries last longer. I know some may see this as a cause for concern. Theoretically, a thinner blade could wobble more and maybe not cut as well. I was quite happy with the quality of cut from this saw, but with a new sharp blade I wouldn’t expect there would be any issue with cut quality, regardless of kerf. Like most woodworkers, I’ve been using thin kerf blades on my table saw for years and I really don’t think about full kerf vs. thin kerf very often there, so I expect a thin kerf blade on this track saw would also not be a problem.
One change on this model that surprised me is the removal of the riving knife. This model has electronics to detect kickback and will rapidly stop the motor if the saw is kicking back. I like the addition of kickback detection to the saw, but I wonder why they removed the riving knife. The lack of riving knife does make it somewhat easier to change the blade on this saw, and perhaps this was the reason for its removal.
The other advantage that comes with being cordless is a high degree of mobility. I did some work out in the yard and it was nice not to worry about a cord. I built a new deck a few months ago, so I used the track saw to trim all the boards to length. As the project inevitably was spread out over several days, it was convenient to be able to just grab the saw and a track and go work rather than lose time setting up.
I also like that Festool has zero-clearance support on both sides of the blade. Most track saws provide zero clearance support on the track side of the blade, but nothing on the other side. When working with expensive veneer plywood it’s nice to waste as little as possible. With zero clearance support on both sides of the blade, there’s zero tear-out or chipping along both cut edges. You can usually get good splinter-free cuts in veneer with a sharp blade, but once a blade has a few miles on it, you really need zero clearance support to keep a crisp, tear-out-free edge.
Overall, I would recommend this saw if you’re in the market for a new track saw. I would also recommend a cordless saw over a corded version. I like the power of the Festool and the speed at which you can cut. I also like that it has zero clearance support on both sides of the blade.