Photos by Rob Brown; Illustration by Len Churchill
A track saw (aka ‘plunge saw’) is a type of circular saw that makes precise straight cuts by means of a metal track (aka ‘guide rail’). Both corded and cordless models are available. Because of its design you get consistently clean, chip-free cuts in both solid wood and sheet goods. Tracks are available in different lengths. Friction strips on the bottom of the track provide sufficient grip for most sawing tasks, eliminating the need for clamps. However, specialty clamps that lock into the track are available when you do need to secure the track. Because the saw blade is constantly square to, and inline with, the track, cuts are not only extremely accurate, but free of burning and saw marks. Additionally, the tracks have flexible plastic splinter guards along the cutting edge that virtually eliminates chipping. Unlike a circular saw, a track saw moves up and down by means of a spring-loaded hinge, which makes plunge cutting easy and safe. Most models also have an integrated riving knife to prevent kickback.
Price: $335 to $995
Track lengths: 32″ to 197″
Depth of Cut @ 90°: 0″ – 3″
Depth of Cut @ 45°: 0 – 2-1/8″
Bevel: 0° to 50°
Sheet goods can be very heavy and awkward to cut at the table saw. Use the track saw to cut your sheet goods to rough size, then do the final trimming at the table saw.
Trim large panels, long wide boards, doors, and the like on a rigid foam board base supported by a few 2×4’s for support.
Don’t make all your cuts with the blade at full cutting depth. It’s more dangerous and the blade is more likely to bind. Extend the blade so that it just cuts through the material.
You’ll get the best cuts with sharp blades. As soon as you notice a degradation in cut quality it’s time to have the blade re-sharpened.
For optimal dust control connect your track saw to a shop vac.