Track saw question

Roy G

Roy
Senior User
I got all my major tools before track saws were a thing. I look at Youtube and see woodworkers using track saws for almost everything a table saw can do. So I was wondering if any of you with track saws would comment on if a track saw can replace a table saw. I don't think you can do a dado with a track saw, or cut bevels but you definitely can rip and cross-cut. Since a good track saw and track probably approaches the cost of a good table saw it would be nice to find out if its possible to use a track saw alone for your major cutting tool in the shop.

Any opinions on this?

Roy G
 

JimD

Jim
Senior User
Roy,

I have both and would not want to be without either. I recently made a dresser/changing table for my grandson we are expecting to be born in November. The carcase is sheet goods and I made all the final cuts with my DeWalt track saw. It has 9 drawers with 6 of them the same size. I can move any drawer to any opening. I did no fitting of the drawers. Clearance is pretty consistent at about 1/8 inch on the sides (total, not per side) and top and bottom. Cuts have to be pretty precise and square IMHO to get that result. I rabbeted the sides for the back with my table saw but I could have done it with the track saw. I did not use a dado set since the back is just 5mm. I dado'd the carcase joints with the table saw but could have done that with the track saw too. But there is a base with short legs and stretchers that has mortise and tenon joints. The tenons were cut on the table saw. Track saw would be difficult to use for this. It could not make the cuts the way I did it. But a hand saw could.

The main reason I used the track saw is that it is very difficult in my small shop to manuver 3/4 plywood through the table saw. Much easier to put the sheet on my assembly table and cut it up with the track saw. I could make rough cuts with the circular saw and then use the table saw, at least in most cases, but it's quicker to just cut once. I also straighten the edge of boards with my track saw. Any time the wood is really big, it's easier to use the track saw. But the depth of cut is only about 2 inches and the motor of mine is only 12 amps so really thick wood can be an issue.

If I was at my daughters house and needed to make a piece of furniture (she lives 15 hours away) I would take the track saw and other smaller tools and get it done. But it would be harder without my table saw. It's easiest to have both and use each for what it does best.

A really large shop with plenty of room for big sheets and material handling assistance for them may not need a track saw. But for little shops and those of us who still have to lift the sheet goods ourselves, the track saw is really nice to have. If I was terribly space limited and could not have a table saw I could get by but I wouldn't like it and would be figuring out how to have at least a portable table saw.

Jim

P. S. I also started making furniture over 40 years ago. So I made a lot more before getting a track saw than I've made since. Some new things are good things.
 

Berta

Berta
Corporate Member
I don’t think it replaces a table saw. I can break down a full sheet of plywood by myself. I use it for cuts that would be too big for me to do on the table saw. I rip and cross cut with it. I can also cut odd angles with it. Mine also has a depth adjustment.
 

redknife

Chris
Corporate Member
I’ve had both for years and I wouldn’t try to go without either. Lots of cuts are just easier on the table saw and, in my hands, more accurate. Small or narrow pieces are hard to cut with a track saw. There are a lot of specialty jig-based table saw cuts that would be hard to replicate. I use the track saw a lot, though. Plywood work is great on the track saw. I rip one edge straight, then use track guides to make accurate, precise, and repeatable cuts. Square cross cutting is aided by quickly squaring the track. Combined with a crosscut table, the track saw is great for repeatable precise cross cuts using stops.
 

Jay Kepley

Jay
User
I have both, and I wouldn't want to be without either. The track saw is a brilliant way to cut sheet goods. I have a 55" track and a 118" track. It's so easy to accurately break down sheet goods with those.
 

tri4sale

Daniel
Corporate Member
I have no room for a table saw, so track saw was my only option. I use it to make joint ready cuts on boards for glue up, trimming just a hair off some boards. Plus, it's more portable than a table saw, which is a plus for me.
 

Barry W

Co-Director of Outreach
Barry
Corporate Member
I also have both and as others have said, the track saw (I have a Makita) excels at breaking down sheet goods.
 

chris_goris

Chris
Senior User
I have both and couldnt live without my tablesaw... but to muddy the waters, I could possibly wrap my head around a tracksaw and a bandsaw...
 

Roy G

Roy
Senior User
It looks like comments indicate both track and table saws are good to have. Space considerations may rule out a table saw. I have seen the Youtubes of cutting sheet goods outside with an insulation sheet underneath the material. You also have the 220v that some table saws require. If you had a carport you could use a track saw and put it away after use-not so easy with a table saw. Interesting that so many here use track saws.

Roy G
 

cyclopentadiene

Update your profile with your name
User
Nothing replaces a good table saw. If I required a minimal shop it would include a table saw, dust collector and band saw and could function fine
 

jgt1942

New User
jgt
I have both but the tracksaw was a very late purchase for me. A friend purchased a Festool TS55 and commented on how much he liked it. At the time I was only aware of Festool and could not justify the cost (his cost was over $1000 for everything). Totally by accident I ran across a SUPER deal ($400) on a used TS55 with some extras and purchased it. Quickly I was totally sold on it and it is one of the top used tools in my shop. I can no longer lift a 3/4" MDF sheet thus breaking it down with the TS is a must for me. The accuracy IMHO cannot be matched. There are other less expensive TS, I highly recommend both (TS and tablesaw) if you have space and can afford both. Take a look at
, also look at the links in the description below the video.
 

Jeremy Scuteri

Jeremy
Staff member
Corporate Member
I also have both and if I had to give one of them up it would be an easy decision. I'd kick the track saw to the curb ten times over before I'd consider giving up my table saw. That being said, the track saw certainly comes in handy, so it does have value. I just value my table saw way more. My own *personal* view is that the track saw is a convenience and the table saw is a necessity (don't tell the hand tool guys that I said that!).
 

Joe Scharle

Joe
Corporate Member
I think a track saw, bandsaw, SCMS, router (with jigs) and a large comfortable work table can replace a tablesaw. I stopped cutting dados and rabbets on a tablesaw years age. Router w/ jig is faster, easier to setup and with the right jig makes a dado that fits exactly, without ears and an absolutely flat bottom. With a little practice, one can quickly make sliding dovetails with the same jig.
I cut tenons on a router table, make molding on a horizontal router table and practically all crosscuts on a SCMS. Thin, small or narrow pieces are handled on the bandsaw and cleaned up on a sander (belt/disk) or held in a small parts holder at one of my router tables.
All that aside, sometimes is just easier to rip something on a nearby tablesaw!
I would have a lot of difficulty cutting down the trim of these 2 pre-hung doors in order to fit in a tight corner using a table saw, but with a tracksaw just lay them on the floor and go.

188290
 
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mpeele

michael
User
I have both and would not give up either. My table saw is a 36-L352 with a Unifence. My track saw is a Festool TS55 with 55"(~$750 ~12 years ago) and 110"($300) track.

I also use a 42"X72" MFT style table top I built(actually a sheet of MDF with holes) and use with 55" track for cross cutting sheet goods to length after ripping to width on the table saw.

I use a UJK Technology Parf Guide System to drill my bench tops. I had the first version and now have the second version which is a bit easier to use.
They are about 25% less that what I paid since Brexit. They seem to be constantly out of stock.

110" track takes place of edge jointer for lumber and I use it for putting a straight edge on sheet goods.

As I think about it if I didn't work with sheet goods very much I might not have the track saw.
I guess I think of the $1000 track saw as a poor man's $12,000 sliding table saw.
 

JimD

Jim
Senior User
You don't need to spend $1,000 on a track saw with tracks either. My DeWalt was closer to $600 with a 106 and 59 inch tracks. With two 59 inch tracks it would have been cheaper (and more portable). The long Makita track is more but otherwise it might be a little cheaper. Grizzly isn't reportedly as nice but is considerably cheaper (and only available with 59 inch or shorter tracks). The Wen is even cheaper.

Unless you are stuck on Festool, you can get a track saw for about the price of a good portable table saw. Even the Festool price would only buy a decent hybrid table saw. I don't think they are in the same price category, nor should they be.
 

Jay Kepley

Jay
User
In my opinion, if possible, a track saw and a table saw are necessary and very useful tools. If you don't have room for a table saw, then a track saw on the right cutting table should get you most of the way there. The Festool MFT is small and expensive. I recently purchased the Parf Guide system to make my own MFT-style bench top. Looking forward to that build. By the way, I have a Makita track saw. It's a great tool.
 

Pompeio

Mike
User
I have a Powermatic 66 and a Festool TS55 track saw. I just cut some 3/4” sheets of plywood as well as some poplar for a den’s worth of cabinets using only the track saw to see if I would miss the table saw. I can honestly say that the TS55 was able to do everything I needed for it to accomplish although I did use both my router/table and Domino 500 for dados and joinery. I could not be happier.
I may end up getting rid of the 66 just to have more room in my basement workshop.
 

Martin Roper

Martin
User
I don't know that I would get rid of my table saw, but I think a track saw makes those giant table saw extensions irrelevant. I never had the room for one of those anyway.
 

bob vaughan

Bob Vaughan
Senior User
This older thread has got me to thinking about a track saw. In the past, long straightedges and some clamps sufficed for carpentry work and sheet goods but I can see where dedicated track saws will do the jobs better and slightly quicker. After considering the projects I've done over the last 50 years, the track saw seems to be preferable over a table saw for maybe 5% of my woodworking processes. While that percentage seems trivial, it obviously isn't because of the scale of the intended stock.

I remember seeing a "track saw" in the mid 1970s in a millwork shop. The guys called it a Casey Saw. I think it used a steel rail maybe 1/2" x 2" and was quite long. The saw looked like a beefy but compact portable circular saw. It had a 4" dado set besides a regular cutting blade. I remember the guys using it mostly for making long dados in large scale work.

There have been some good responses in this thread. No two woodworking shops will ever be alike, but it seems to me that replacing the table saw with a track saw will severely limit the scope of projects.
 

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