For years I have had a table saw on my tool wish list. The reasons I haven’t bought one yet are complicated. I don’t have the budget or dedicated space for a big, cast iron contractor saw like the ones I saw at Table Saw Geeks, but portable benchtop saws–though usually more affordable–are also noisy, dusty, and have limited safety features.
Lately, I have been drawn to guided circular saws as an alternative that can make cuts similar to a table saw with some additional benefits as well. So I was pleased when I recently had the opportunity to test DeWalt’s new guided circular saw, the DeWalt Tracksaw.
After a few weeks with the saw, here’s what I have found:
Equipped with the standard 40 tooth blade, the Tracksaw produced beautifully smooth straight cuts. Cutting down an old solid wood door produced none of the burn marks or cut wander I’ve experienced performing this task with my regular circular saw and a straight edge. The Tracksaw is also equipped with a rubber edge that indicates the exact cutting line and minimizes tear-out. This worked very well for me– in fact I could find no tear-out on the pieces I cut with the Tracksaw.
The Tracksaw is also versatile enough to make cuts on vertical surfaces like a hung door, or to cut leaning material like a panel saw. The plunge cutting action also allows the creation of inside cutouts. This is useful for homeowners and do-it-yourselfers looking to reduce their need for additional tools.
Portability isn’t much of a consideration in a dedicated wood working shop, but the ability to take the saw to the work can be a significant feature for a home restorer with projects all over the house. The Tracksaw stores in a medium-sized case, and the long aluminum track, though stiff, is light and easy to maneuver. Paired with a portable cutting table (like the one I made and will describe in a future post) this system can be set up almost anywhere in the house or yard, and is easy to fit in the car to help out at a friend’s house. Not that I ever get asked to help with other peoples’ projects…
For someone whose woodworker grandfather finished his hobby with shorter fingers than he started, safety is a top concern when evaluating power tools. Wearing proper clothes and safety glasses, and understanding the correct use of tools is a given. Specific tool features can further assist in preventing accidents.
One of the biggest causes of injury from saws is kickback. The DeWalt Tracksaw features a riving knife behind the blade to keep the kerf open, and an anti-reverse clutch which can prevent the saw from moving backwards on the track. Most table saw makers reserve riving knives for their more expensive models, if they include them at all.
Cutting sheet goods is another potentially risky activity– particularly if it is attempted alone– because the awkward size, weight and flexibility of the material require lots of support and careful maneuvering to avoid binding and kickback. The Tracksaw allows you to keep a sheet stable and supported, then bring the saw to the material. You can do this individually with ease and even cut multiple sheets at once– something I would never attempt with a table saw.
The Tracksaw’s plunge feature also adds safety because the blade remains completely enclosed in the saw housing except when making a cut. Along with the blade brake, this makes it nearly impossible to be injured by a run-on blade spinning after a cut.
The Tracksaw is equipped with a dust collection port that can connect to a shop vacuum or dust collection system. If setting up a work area inside the house, this is a great help to minimize the diffusion of fine saw dust to other rooms. DeWalt claims the dust port collects 90% of the dust the tool produces.
The Tracksaw can be extended by the addition of several available accessories. These include right angle and mitre track inserts for straight and angular crosscuts, a router adapter, and extra lengths of track.
While it is clear I think highly of the DeWalt Tracksaw, I also have some reservations to my praise. First, though the tool feels very solidly constructed overall, the depth of cut adjustment is comparably flimsy and lacks fine control for dialing in precise adjustments. Second, there isn’t a clear way to make repetitive cuts with the tracksaw the way that a tablesaw fence provides, though I expect that jigs could be made to address this limitation. Last, the $499 retail price for the corded Tracksaw, 59″ rail, and 2 clamps may be expensive for the casual homeowner do-it-yourselfers who would otherwise like the Tracksaw’s mix of features.
DeWalt’s Tracksaw is a compelling mix of power, versatility, portability and safety that is a natural fit in a home-owner / remodeler workshop– particularly for those lacking a dedicated workshop.