Track Saw vs Table Saw
In the next 35 seconds, this table saw vs track saw comparison chart and buying guide will give you the information you need to make an informed buying decision and get the best value for your money!
Why a track saw might be right for you and your project
I recently covered the Track saw and how it is a tool that has been around for a long time. Surprisingly, it isn’t as widely used as some of the other saws.
A track saw is a circular saw with a track that it runs on. This combination of saw and track allows you to make extremely fast, straight, long cuts, and — some even argue — that it is more accurate than a table saw. It packs up quickly and can be carried by one person. If you have a cordless track saw, you can easily break down large sheets of plywood in the parking lot of Home Depot.
With its portable design, you quickly take your track saw with you from job to job or store it in a small space until it’s needed again.
One of the advantages of a track saw is the clean cuts it delivers. Table saws can leave the edges a little rough, and a high-end track saw creates a more finished edge.
In this article, I’m going to discuss some of my favorite features about the track saw and where I think it excels compared to the table saw. And then, I consider whether a track saw or table saw is a better choice for you. Finally, if you decide that you are interested in buying one, I discuss some of the best track saws.
- Lightweight & Compact size
- Unlimited ability to cut long-length angles (miters)
- Portable precision guidance
- Smooth, splinter-free cut
- Ability To Make plunge cuts
- No blade guard to fight with
- Rubber strips hold the track on the board.
- A more finished cut edge
- It can take longer to set up but provides a precise straight line cut
- Challenging to make cuts down the center of a large sheet good with a table or surface on which to work
- Easily cuts wood
- Can more easily cut thicker slabs of wood
- Does well with repetitive cuts
- Can work for hours with few breaks
- Isn’t limited by the length of the track
- Can easily cut down the center of boards
- Built-in infeed or outfeed support
- It can be difficult to make cuts on the outside of plywood sheet
- Requires a lot of space
- Isn’t as portable
- Can be quite heavy
10 Second Summary: We’ll come to a firm conclusion at the end, but you can see that it somewhat depends on which items are more relevant to you and will provide the most value as it relates to your intended use of the tool and projects. A track saw is a reliable option that packs a lot of power into a small, easily manageable and versatile solution. It is an upgrade from a circular saw and even an upgrade from the table saw when you need a finished edge and have a large support table to work with. The table saw is a tool commonplace for many woodworking projects, known for its ability to perform repeatable cuts easily. If you are doing a lot of similar cuts, this tool is also one to consider.
For most of our audience, Table Saw is the best choice. For the on-site contractor and remodeler, the track saw can speed up the work they do with their circular saw.
Note: sanding and drilling equipment produce fine particles that are harmful to breathe and may cause cancer. Use proper eye, ear and nose protection when performing these tasks.
What is a track saw used for?
Track saws are best at making long, fast and precise cuts. They work well when cutting panels or trim, or when used as a plunge saw to cut wood flooring or subflooring. They are also great for long angle cuts and adding a bevel along with a long piece of wood.
Many DIYers and woodworkers use track saws because of their precision and portability, which makes them easy to use at home without a dedicated workshop. If you’ve bought an older home and are trying to renovate it yourself, a track saw could also come in handy for projects, as it can cut flush to a wall due to the low profile of the blade guard.
Some people also use track saws to cut sheet goods down to manageable sizes before going at them with a table saw. Track saws are very efficient at rough cutting, which can save a lot of time. They can also crosscut large sheets to length, cut angles on larger pieces and miter carcass sides.
Because track saws can be attached to guide rails, they can also make very accurate and precise cuts, making it easy to trim things like doors, melamine, and plywood. It can be used both on these thinner pieces of wood and thicker lumber.
The larger your track saw’s blade is, the deeper it can cut. Blades larger than 6 inches in diameter can cut through 2-inch lumber at a 45-degree angle in just one pass.
Track saws most often have a blade diameter of about 7.25 inches. Track saws should not be used to cut pieces of wood that are less than ⅛ inch thick, as it’s best used with wood that can be secured by a guide rail.
How do track saws stack up against other saw types?
Circular vs. Plunge Track Saw
Due to the plunge saw’s unique design, the blade is fully enclosed in the machine, and no blade guard is needed. This fully enclosed design makes the tool safer to use, provides better dust collecting system and allows you to adjust the depth of the cut.
A circular saw is a more basic design of a motor, blade, guard, and base, which requires manual adjustments to change the depth, doesn’t allow you to plunge into the material in any spot and doesn’t ensure a smooth, splinter-free cut.
Track Saw vs. Panel Saw
A traditional panel saw is mounted on the wall and pushed through pieces of wood that are placed on a series of rollers. It’s an unwieldy setup for a home or small workshop, though it can make cutting large pieces of lumber easy at a lumber store. A track saw, in contrast, is portable and can be used to perform the same cuts while letting you save money and time (who wants to wait in line to borrow the panel saw?)
Track Saw vs. Radial Arm Saw
Radial arm saws were the most commonly used tool to cut long pieces of wood stock until the miter saw was invented. Radial arm saws can easily crosscut lumber. It can also rip lumber, which is one aspect the miter saw has been unable to replace. However, track saws are also efficient at rip cuts.
The Best Track Saws – an unbiased review
1. Makita SP6000J 6-1/2 Inch Track Saw
This Makita track saw features a 12-amp, soft start motor, and speed control to ensure smooth cuts that are free of splinters. A 55-inch guide rail also comes with the saw enabling you to accurately cut the entire width of any piece of plywood.
The thumbwheel on the saw allows you to set the speed between 2000 and 6400 RPM, which means you can adjust the speed depending on the material you’re working with. If you have a modern material, like plastic laminate, which can melt easily under high speeds, this is a great feature. It also allows you to make a preliminary cut of 1/16 inch to ensure you get a clean line. This track saw can cut 1-inch thick hardwood.
The bevel guide lets you go up to 48 degrees, which means you have a lot of room to cut at various angles. It also features a 1-degree relief, so you can get tight joinery when fitting panels. Perhaps most importantly, this Makita model can make quite long miter cuts, rivaling that of a cabinet saw, we believe.
For plunge cutting, the plunge action is reverse which can take time to acclimate to, but in our opinion provides a better ergonomic experience that makes for an easier job. We also believe the Makita has a great collection system for dust, as it leaves a few particles in the air.
While this Makita track saw is a competitive price, it does not come with a riving knife. Just be careful to avoid kickback when using the machine, and you should be fine. The depth scale on the saw is also in metric, but you can convert your measurements to match easily.
If you need Portable Power, the Makita is also available in a cordless version.
- Competitive price
- Comes with a guide rail that has gripping strips to keep it in place
- Allows you to make a preliminary cut of 1/16 inch to ensure clean lines without chipping
- Powerful enough to crosscut 1 inch
- Has great dust collection
- Uses the metric system
- Does not come with a riving knife
- Requires a reverse plunge action, which takes some getting used to
Summary: This is a great track saw if you’re often breaking down cabinetry panels, straightening crowned lumber or requiring quick and precise compound miters for projects.
2. Festool TS 55 REQ Track Saw
Festool invented the track saw more than 40 years ago, making them the industry leader for this power tool. We believe this track saw is so powerful and accurate that it could replace or substitute for a portable table saw if you’re unable to have both.
This Festool track saw has the capability to cut 1-1/16 inch. Its new depth stop comes with a scale in inches for Americans that can be placed over its original metric scale. The saw also uses dual scales, allowing you to control the depths for both on-track depths and using the saw alone.
The guard rail that comes with this Festool has a splinter guard that keeps cuts smooth. The rail also has rubber strips grips on the bottom, so clamps are often unnecessary. The dust collection port has also been changed from the last model to be more ergonomic, so that you can use this track saw to snug an edge, like a wall.
The bevel on this track saw extends from -1 degree to 47 degrees, meaning you have an inclusive angle of 87 degrees. The accompanying carbide blade, which is 6.3 inches in diameter, is capable of crosscutting and light ripping projects. This Festool model also features a spring-loaded riving knife, which reduces kickback by keeping the cut kerf open so the material you’re working on won’t pinch the blade.
While this track saw is more expensive than other models, in our opinion, it is a high-quality power tool that could become an essential tool in your workshop. It has lower amperage, with only a 10-amp motor, but this just means it will take slightly longer to work through thicker panels
- Has dual depth scales
- Equipped with a spring-loaded riving knife
- Comes with a guard rail with splinter guards
- Strong enough to cut 1-1/16 inch thickness
- Great at collecting dust
- More expensive than other track saws, which provides extra kickback protection
- Less motor power
- Does not come with track clamps
Summary: This is a great track saw if you’re looking for a high-quality tool that will give you more control over depths and provide clean, even cuts.
The Best Table Saws – a quick overview
1. DeWalt DW745 10-Inch Compact Job-Site Table Saw
This DeWalt track saw model is great for mid-sized projects. It comes with most features you could need and is a competitive price. One of the biggest draws to this model is its portability. Because it only weighs a little over 50 pounds, you can easily move it anywhere with few issues.
The dimensions aren’t too large, so you can fit it in most workshops.
This table saw comes with a tool-free adjusting system, so you can adjust anything on the saw without needing additional tools. It also comes with a telescopic fence rail so you can position the unit to your preferences.
As far as safety goes, this model has everything you need: a guarding system, blade guard, push stick and miter gauge. It also features anti-kickback pawls. In our opinion, this is a great tool for cutting wood laminate flooring.
It also has a horsepower of about 1.25, and it has a rip capacity of about 20 inches. While some users have attached dado blades this saw, it’s not recommended to undertake projects that require that power. Because the blade is 10 inches in diameter, it can be fairly loud when ripping boards.
This DeWalt table saw comes with dust collecting port but, as the unit isn’t fully enclosed, it doesn’t always catch everything. Instead, practice good safety habits by wearing safety goggles and dust masks, if it bothers your breathing, and take a few minutes to clean underneath the unit each time you use the machine.
- Only weighs about 50 pounds
- Highly portable
- Competitive price
- Variety of safety mechanisms
- The top plate is made of plastic, which can get damaged over time
- Dust collection doesn’t work well
- Can be loud
Summary: This is a great table saw for cutting wood flooring or for a variety of DIY projects. Excellent for those home improvements that you’re aching to get started on.
2. Bosch 4100-09 Table Saw
This table saw comes replete with features that will help streamline and improve your work. It runs on a 15-amp motor and has up to 4 horsepower. It can rip up to 25 inches, greatly expanding what you’re able to do. The bevel dial is controlled via a crank wheel.
A unique feature is its SquareLock Rip Fence, which is made of aluminum and slides up and down the rail, making it easier for you to fix positions. In our opinion, it’s one of the best fences on a table saw out there. This saw can also do dado cutting if you slide the riving knife all the way down the table.
The table itself is large enough for large wood stock or sheet goods of other materials. The table is made from aluminum, so it’s quite sturdy while also staying smooth. The Smart Guard System on this table saw model includes a blade guard, anti-kickback pawls and a riving knife.
The gravity-rise stand on the saw allows you to open or collapse it by operating a single lever. The entire unit has two wheels for easy transportation. This Bosch model weighs a little more at about 60 pounds, making it slightly less portable than the DeWalt model. Still, it isn’t much more considering the greater power and ripping capacity.
Some people are not impressed with the miter gauge on this table saw, but it can be adjusted to fit better. If you are doing a lot of miter cuts, invest in an aftermarket miter gauge for your table saw. Dust can also be an issue with this saw, but if you wear proper safety equipment and a dust mask, you should be fine.
- Has large 4 horsepower and a 15-amp motor
- Can rip up to 25 inches wide
- Comes with wheels for easy transportation
- Tabletop is made of aluminum
- Weighs slightly more at 60 pounds
- Miter gauge might need adjustment
- Can be loud
Summary: This is a great saw to bring to your job sites and use for construction projects, or for smaller home projects likes cabinets and doors.
How do you use a track saw?
To make cuts that are not only smooth but also safe, you need to choose the correct blade for both your saw and your project.
You need to ask yourself what saw you’re using, what material you’re cutting, what cut you’re going to make, how powerful is your saw and what size blade is recommended for your saw. There are specialized blades for tasks like ripping lumber, cutting plastics or cutting a veneered sheet of plywood.
There are also general-purpose blades that can make all types of cuts in a variety of materials. The tooth configuration, gullet and hook angle are important aspects to look at with those blades.
Adjust your cutting depth: First, unplug your saw. Then hold it along your board and retract the blade guard. From there, you can loosen the depth-adjusting knob and pivot the saw until the blade extends below the board. Remember to tighten the knob back up.
Attach your track rails: Guide rails are what let you make perfectly precise and straight cuts with track saws, even along with long sheet materials like doors. Secure it to your workplace with strips or clamps, and it will glide your saw along the cut line.
Start it up: To start a track saw, you need to enable both its plunge release and power trigger. First, hit the plunge release, which releases the blade from its housing. Second, while still holding the plunge release, press the trigger to start the motor.
Get to an ideal speed: Once started, press the trigger on your track saw so the blade can reach the ideal speed. Once that is achieved, begin your cut. Plunging before the ideal speed is reached can result in kickbacks, which are unsafe.
Track saw or Table saw? They are both incredibly versatile power saws. While table saws may be appropriate for some projects, track saws can be a great option for DIYers and those with small workshops who need to efficiently rip boards and crosscut plywood. The portability and ease of storage that comes with track saws are apparent benefits to the on-the-go workman that can make your workflow simpler.
Here is the official Tool Tally recommendation:
- If you don’t yet have a circular saw, consider buying a track saw. You can add the table saw later.
- If you already have a circular saw, then go ahead and get a table saw and buy the track saw later.
While it’s a close call, our most highly recommended track saw would be the Makita SP6000J, due to its competitive price. It’s a lightweight saw that also packs a punch, in terms of smooth, splinter-free cuts. It also provides more freedom to make plunge cuts and angled cuts and is strong enough to crosscut up to 1 inch. It also has two neat features that allow you to adjust the speed to what you want and make a shallow preliminary cut to ensure precision and a clean line.