While brand preference may factor into most tool purchases, a track saw might tempt woodworkers to switch things up. When I went looking for the best track saw for my workshop I figured it would be a Festool or possibly Milwaukee. But after a lot of research I ended up switching to a cordless (blue) brand. And learned a few things along the way on rails and clamps (more on that later).
Tired of lifting a 4×8 sheet of thick plywood through the table saw and having burnt or crooked edges? Track saws solve this and many other cuts you can’t accomplish with a circular saw.
Paired with a dust extractor, a track system, clamps and a high quality blade a track saw will redo how you approach cuts in your woodworking shop. In this review we’ll take a look at the top brands, accessories and a few options if you decide to upgrade your circular saw with a track.
Professionals Choice (corded)
Festool is know for innovative and high performing tools. Similar to the DOMINO and Kapex miter saw quality their track saw does what you expect: straight, splinter free cuts.
Looking for a larger cut capacity? The TS75 features an 8-1/4 inch blade.
After using a track saw for the first time any experienced woodworker will wonder why they didn’t have one ten years ago. And for professionals, who already know Festool is the pinnacle of tool quality, their track saw hits all the key features you need:
- Spring loaded riving knife
- Fast blade changes
- High quality dust collection
- Zero tear-out cuts
New woodworkers may not be as familiar with Makita as a top woodworking and tool brand. While Milwaukee and Dewalt spend marketing dollars freely, the Makita brand is built on decades of reliability. With features similar to the Festool (minus the riving knife) this saw is built to last. Key features:
- Electronic speed control
- Soft start
- Variable speed dial
- 2-3/16 inch cut capacity at 90-degrees
Most woodworkers that own a track saw will also own a dust extractor. And combining a dust hose, power cord and tracks makes for a tangle. Which is why many opt for the feature-equivalent freedom of a cordless track saw. Including me.
While I am a dozen tools into the Milwaukee brand they just don’t have all of the tracks and reputation in track saws to make a brand-only decision. So, even with the expense of picking up another battery line, I opted for the Makita as it is has all of the key features of the corded version. And has performed incredibly well in thick and thin cuts.
Track Saw Overview
With track saws its best to consider the saws in two categories to help split budget vs. features and capability. Because, for many, a Festool 75 is out of reach and a comparison to entry-level toolmakers like WEN would just be unfair.
Premium Brand Models
Because a track saw isn’t an everyday tool for some woodworkers, a professional saw isn’t the best choice. Which is were turning to one of the following saws is best:
And with a range from $300-700 for a saw and track there’s a quality saw for every budget.
Battery Powered Plunge Cut Saws
With almost all tools now offering a cordless option, track saws are no exception. And with more saws each year bringing Lithium cutting capability these brands are where to start:
- Makita XPS01Z
- Bosch GKT18V-20GCL
- Festool TSC 55
- Dewalt DWS520K
- Metabo KT18 LTX 66
From the high end Festool to popular cordless brands like Dewalt expect to pay a $100 to $200 premium for portability, though.
Finally: does Milwaukee make a track saw? As of early 2022, the answer is unfortunately no.
Budget Plunge Saws
In the fourth category of track saws you’ll find a few traditional track saws as well as combining a more traditional circular saw with a track:
- WEN CT1065
- Evolution 027-0004C
While expensive in comparison to their circular saw cousins, these saws are generally between $125-250 for a saw and track and a fraction of the heavier duty saws.
- Safety features like spring loaded riving knives
- Splinter guard on the track and saw to prevent tear out, scoring tool built in to slice grain or melamine before the blade hits
- Dust control
- Motor features like soft start, variable speed, electronic speed control and anti-slip clutches to prevent kickback
- Cordless and corded track saws
- Blade sizes ranging from 6.25″ to 8-1/2″
- Setup capabilities including easy blade change, adjustable plunge depth, rail tightening to reduce play, blade tilt with preset setups, Dust extraction port
- Accessories like varying lengths of (optional) rail, a carrying case and dust extractors
After deciding on a saw, you’ll need to pick out at least three accessories to make the saw truly useful:
- Guide rails that form the track for the saw (I use both Makita and Powertec).
- Table clamps that fit the guide rails and clamp the rails to the material. Bessey Ratcheting were my choice for speed and clamping power.
- Dust extractor to connect to the dust port. Yes, you can skip this. But you’ll sacrifice cut quality and have a constant dust cleanup chore.
- Portable table like the one from Bora Centipede to have an instant 4×8 support system for your 2″ foam backer.
Corded vs. Cordless Track Saws
For almost all woodworkers the biggest question in hand tools is should I opt for cordless.
And with track saws, the time has come to make the switch. While initially more expensive if you are not invested in Festool or Makita batteries, these saws are fully feature and power capable.
So, no pun intended, its time to take the plunge and cut the cord.
- One less cord to tangle
- Work off-grid
- Easier cutting
- Most saws support same size blade and features
- Compatible with brands track guides
- Typically lower cost
- 10-year test: doesn’t depend on old batteries from a brand
Cordless Saws Pair Better With Dust Extractors
With investments in your dust collection system and dust extractors there is no reason to be shooting dust from a track saw back into the shop.
Which means a track saw needs to be connected to at least one accessory.
And, you guessed it, you’ll be managing TWO cords with a traditional saw. By cutting the cord on the track saw you’ll free your cutting concerns to placement of the dust hose (only).
Track Saw Reviews
For woodworkers that live from their garage you know that space is a premium. And track saws let you setup that foam-topped bench and quickly make large sheet cuts or trim live edge slabs.
And then fold everything back up and use the space for your other tools.
Makita SP6000J1 Track Saw
Makita vs. Dewalt and Makita vs. Milwaukee is a pretty common brand comparison.
New to woodworking and not sure about Makita? Well, they are one of the top 3 brands that you’ll find on big box and specialty tool supplier shelves.
And the Makita saw keeps up their quality reputation with a saw that is highly rated, has all of the top features in this category of tool, and is a tool most professionals would start with if Festool wasn’t around.
But we’ll get to Festool in a bit.
Since features are the name of the game, here’s what the Makita SP6000J offers up:
- Motor: 12 AMP motor with 2,000 to 5,200 RPM (adjustable) and electronic speed control for constant RPM
- 2-3/16″ cut capacity
- Bevel cuts with range from -1-degree to 48-degrees (with positive stops at 22.5 and 45-degrees)
- Can cut as close as 11/16″ of an inch from the wall
- Dust port with 1-1/2″ outside diameter for connection to dust extractors
- Soft start feature like you’d find in similar high end routers
- Plunge operated
- …and many more that you can find on the Makita site.
Be sure to check around for a bundle, but if you want to start with just the saw and a guide rail you can always buy up other accessories later.
Dewalt DWS520K Plunge Saw
The Dewalt is very comparable to the Makita but lacks a couple of important features:
- Electronic speed control
- Adjustable speed
- Soft start that prevents the saw from “jumping” when engage
Otherwise, the general features are similar and with the Dewalt generally running slightly higher in cost.
The Dewalt includes all the key features of a high quality track saw:
- Motor: 12 AMP motor (minus the Makita advantages)
- Universal 1-1/4″ dust control
- Cut depth of 2-1/8″, 1-5/8″ at 45-degrees
- Continuous anti-kickback only allows forward motion of saw
- 6-1/2″ blade (48-tooth ultra fine)
Kreg Adaptive Cutting System
While Kreg hasn’t ventured into too many tools their plunge saw is worth a look. And, since Kreg is a #1 supplier of jigs for woodworkers, it’s not surprising this saw is both a great value and well priced.
Most importantly, it also features one of my favorite features of a circular saw: a blade-left design that allows us right-handed users the ability to see the blade and action without leaning over sideways during the cut.
And like the Dewalt and Makita you’ll find this saw as a bare tool or bundled with accessories.
Even at a lower price point, the Kreg has a number of the key features found in the Makita:
- Motor: 12 AMP with adjustable speed, load compensation and electronic brake
- Integrated dust collection
- Cut depth of 2-1/8″, 1-1/2″ at 45-degrees
- Retractable riving knives, splinter guards
- 6-1/2″ blade (48-tooth)
- Carrying bag
Professional Track Saws
When you’re investing in tools you will use every day a few extra dollars upfront is almost always worth it. And, with track saws this holds true as the well-known Festool has a complete line-up to cover carpentry to heavy duty hardwood jobs
Festool TS55 Track Saw
It’s worth knowing that Festool has the most variations in track saws of any manufacturer. And they also feature a top notch reputation and distribution channel (read: warranty and repairs).
But first, for some metric clarity, the 55 vs. 75 models is simply the maximum depth of cut (2-1/8″ vs. 3″).
So with that in mind the 6-1/4″ blade on the Festool 55 will cut just about all the plywood and hardwood you can throw at it. And, with Festool having a long history of being a top tool provider you’ll gain all the features noted below.
As you’d expect in the professional category, Festool will give you all the features of the top DIY track saw and then some:
- 1200 watt motor with variable speed and electronic speed management for constant speed
- Cut depth of 2-1/8″ (55mm)
- Retractable riving knives, splinter guards, plunge operation
- 6-1/4″ blade (48 teeth, ATB)
- Systainer carrying case
- FastFix system for blade changing that locks the arbor and switch at the same time
Festool TS75 Track Saw
The TS 75 is almost identical to the TS 55 with the exception of a larger blade (stepping up to a 8-1/4″) and a 1600 watt motor to power deeper cuts.
When would you need that type of depth?
While I’ve trimmed countless full size oak doors with a smaller circular saw, every now and then I’ve ran into a full size exterior door that tops the 2-1/8″ of the standard TS 55. So, trim carpenters that are looking for a do-everything saw may justify the extra cost and weight.
Mafell MT 55 cc Professional Track Saw
Mafell is another German made saw, and is arguably better than the Festool based on reviews and user reports. However, where Festool has major distribution channels, and thus better parts availability, you’ll have to go to a few specialty dealers like Timberwolf Tools or other sources.
Cordless Track Saws
When it comes to cordless track saws you’ll be able to take your saw on the road and do creative things like cut that sheet of plywood down before transporting it. And with these saws featuring dust collection bags vs. attached dust collectors you can be free of two cords and not just one.
Festool TSC 55 Cordless Track Saw
The Festool TSC 55 is almost identical to its corded counterpart with the exception of a dual 18/36V battery system powering the blade. You’ll have the same track, same splinter guard and accuracy of the Festool lineup just in a cord-free design.
And, since your dust extractor won’t always be around, you can use the supplied dust bag to catch the dust you’ll generate. While not as slick as the dust extractor, a viable option.
Makita XPS01PTJ Cordless Track Saw
At $350-400 at most retailers for just the tool and around $500 MSRP with two batteries it’s impossible to find a better rated and reviewed cordless track saw.
Features, as expected, are overall very close to the corded Makita saw. However, if you are debating a corded vs. cordless saw at this price point you’re very close to the base Festool price. Which, by all reviews and specifications is the superior tool.
Dewalt FlexVolt Cordless Plunge Saw
When it comes to cordless tools the decision is first this: do you already own the battery ecosystem? Since these cordless saws will use batteries you already own the $150-200 savings there can override any overall tool performance.
Other than the battery power, you’ll find the Dewalt FlexVolt track saw to be comparable.
And like most cordless saws the blade provide can be thinner kerf and reduce cut quality. So, many users have upgraded to a standard track saw blade (48 tooth, ultra fine ATB).
Budget Track Saws
All of this sounds great, but maybe you’re thinking to yourself I don’t have $400 to spend on another saw.
Well, there are two options to consider:
- A budget track saw
- Converting your existing circular saw to a track saw
WEN CT1065 Track Saw
For about 25% of the cost of other track saws WEN offers up an entry-level saw that is, for many, an alternative to a table saw and circular saw all in one.
With the same track system (costing almost as much as the saw, of note) and plunge capability you’ll have a way to start breaking down plywood and even doing edge cuts.
While this saw is not as well built as a Makita or Festool overall reports on the saw are good.
A few things of note:
- Check into other tracks – Powertec or even Makita are reported to work better than the WEN track.
- The blade makes the saw. And, Makita or Festool have premium blades. So, rather than let an inferior blade ruin your cut you’ll want to consider a Makita 6-1/2 inch blade after you try out the WEN’s stock blade.
Circular Saw Tracks
Kreg Accu-cut Track Saw Conversion
Almost all woodworkers own a circular saw.
So why can’t I just convert my saw to a track saw, you might be asking?
Well, you can. But you won’t have the design and features of a higher grade track saw like the anti-kickback, riving knife or splinter guards. But, here’s what you can get with a saw track conversion kit:
- Support for almost any saw – left or right handed
- Rip up to 48″ sheets of plywood
- Clamp-free with duel gripping edges
- Reduced splintering
Track Saw Guide Tracks
As you likely know, a track saw is not useful without, well, a track.
And the track quality is as equally important to a great cut as the saw itself. Which requires purchasing a saw with:
- Compatible tracks
- Track length in a variety of sizes
- Brand name for future upgrades
Alternatives to a Track Saw
Maybe you’re thinking this saw is just a fancy circular saw that is pre-made to be paired with a track. Well, you’re partially right, and while a track saw is a useful saw there are two track saw alternatives you could consider (or probably own):
- A circular saw with an edge guide is a viable alternative, but you’ll lose the quality controls of a track saw (splinter guards, plunge) and the saw won’t be “locked in” to the track.
- And, the table saw is of course the old standard in both ripping and crosscutting boards and plywood. But, you will need to supply more muscle and safety issues increase on a table saw when crosscutting bulky sheets of heavy plywood.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a track saw replace a table saw?
A track saw is a great replacement for a table saw when it comes to cutting large sheets of plywood. However, a table saw is still preferred for ripping wood.
What's the best track saw to buy?
The best track saw is based on your use. For professionals a Festool is considered to be the premium saw due to its anti-splinter and kickback technology. However, a Makita is a top pick for home woodworkers and there are a few entry level saws that are good for small jobs and occasional use.
Is a track saw better than a circular saw?
A circular is better than a track saw at making rapid cross-gain cuts in dimensional lumber. Whereas a track saw is far superior in making high quality rips and crosscuts in plywood sheets due to it’s splinter free blade and built-in straightedge.
Can I use my track saw without a track?
Yes – you can use a track saw without a track but you will lose the precision cuts and it will function similar to a circular saw.