Cool Tool: DeWalt Tracksaw

by Josh on January 26, 2009 · 9 comments

in Journal

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, 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.  

DeWalt Tracksaw  on door

After a few weeks with the saw, here’s what I have found:

Powerful Cutting

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.

Versatility

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

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…

Safety

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.

Dust Collection

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.

Accessories

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.

Reservations

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.

Conclusion

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.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

BungalowintheHollow January 26, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Thanks so much for this great review! As newer homeowners it is hard to wade through all of the information on tools that we think we may need in the future – especially as we are no experts on anything!

Also, feel you on the frozen pipe thing. We recently did a post on this as well.

Stay warm!

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Derek January 26, 2009 at 2:00 pm

I have the Bosch table saw. It’s alright, but I’d like to have something bigger like a hybrid cabinet saw. It’s a little small, and like you say loud and dusty. Thanks for the review.

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Josh January 26, 2009 at 11:48 pm

@BungalowInTheHollow: Sorry about your frozen pipes. I’m glad you liked the review and appreciate the warm wishes. I just heard that we won’t get above freezing in Minneapolis for the whole month of January– the last January without a thaw was 30 years ago!

@Derek: Funny, your Bosch table saw was at the top of my list before I got the chance to test the Tracksaw. If you are craving a hybrid saw, you must have a good workshop space. That kind of tool wouldn’t be an option for me unless I wanted to completely give up on parking in the garage.

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Stacy January 28, 2009 at 10:09 pm

will think about this for a wish list. Circular saws scare the heck outta me, even when not plugged in. How do you think this would handle laminate? I am considering a castle loft bed for Lucy’s future (she’s such a princess).

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Aaron January 29, 2009 at 5:28 pm

Great review, Josh. Makes me wonder about the 1970’s table saw I bought at an estate sale. It’s pretty solid, and frankly, I’ve only had a chance to just try it out once or twice. It sure takes up a lot of space. Maybe I should have saved my $$ for a tracksaw instead.

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Josh January 29, 2009 at 6:07 pm

@Stacy: A certain amount of fear is a healthy thing when using power saws– it means you are taking your safety seriously. I can’t say personally how the saw would do with laminate because I haven’t tried it. I suspect it would require a fine-toothed blade to produce the best results.

@Aaron: That table saw still has plenty of virtues. For example, the 10″ blade on your table saw will let you handle much thicker material than the Tracksaw’s 6.5″ blade will allow me. You can also run a dado stack with the table saw, while the Tracksaw requires a router with a dado blade and an accessory for the track to make a similar cut. The question is: what works best and safest for your budget, space, and project needs?

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Henry Jones II October 19, 2009 at 3:45 pm

the dewalt track saw is a cool tool. it was a major player in my first dog house construction

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Tom Slaiter January 23, 2013 at 4:33 am

Great post, I agree weith Henry….the DeWalt track saw is awesome! Technology these days…can you imagine if they had these things fifty-sixty years ago?!

Thanks for the post

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