What track saw?

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  • What track saw?
  • Premier Icon dmorts
    Subscriber

    I’m thinking about getting a track saw (or more precisely a plunging circular saw with a track).

    The Makita 36v looks great but it is pricey (only found the bare saw prices too). I have a Makita drill with 2 two batteries which might be compatible. Wirefree operation isn’t a necessity, but probably would be useful.

    What else is out there?

    Premier Icon simon_g
    Subscriber

    I’m super happy as a more serious DIYer with the Makita 36v. Worked out £240 for the bare tool via a german tool distributor on one of ebay’s 10% off days. Track about £45.

    A lot of the time you want an extractor hooked up so not quite untethered freedom but it’s one less thing to snag and plug in, I had the batteries anyway and sometimes handy to do a quick cut without the extractor outside. Apparently the Mafell dust bag fits and works perfectly but I’ve not tried that yet.

    Skillbuilder on youtube reviewed/compared loads recently and there’s endless other reviews out there. The Titan one from screwfix looks OK for a cheap mains one, uses Festool/Makita track too.

    nickjb
    Member

    I do love a cordless tool but I’ve gone for mains as I mostly use it with a dust extract so cordless doesn’t add much (other than a lot of cost). I’ve got the Festool HK55. Picked it up when it was on special a while back, couldn’t justify it at full price. Great tool. Lovely cut. Much easier to use than my old method with a straight edge of MDF and a much better finish. Thoroughly recommended. Got it from FFX who are usually good but they are currently £80 more than I paid

    footflaps
    Member

    I have a Bosch track saw but am looking to replace with Festool as the dust extraction is much better with the Festool.

    At the other end of the scale, noticed Aldi had one in last week. Anyone got one?

    Premier Icon kayak23
    Subscriber

    I have the Makita 36v. Can’t recommend it enough really. Brilliant saw.

    Has a facility to make a score cut at the flick of a button which is handy. It also has a little tab that stops it falling off the track when doing mitre cuts and having it canted over.

    I think you want 4 or 5 amp hour batteries with it really. I loves it.

    The Triton one seems good for the money but comes with pretty short tracks. It’s really nice to have an uninterrupted section.

    Peter Millard rates it.

    nickjb
    Member

    I have a Bosch track saw but am looking to replace with Festool as the dust extraction is much better with the Festool.

    That is something I have noticed. I have several rotating saws (circular saw, chop saw, etc) and the festool rail saw is by far the best for dust extraction.

    footflaps
    Member

    That is something I have noticed. I have several rotating saws (circular saw, chop saw, etc) and the festool rail saw is by far the best for dust extraction.

    I think they design for it right from the start, whereas everyone else just tags on a dust port at the end and doesn’t care how well it works.

    Although, having said that I have the Festool Kapex Chop Saw and the dust extraction is OK, but not great – have to say I’m a bit dissapointed on what was the best part of a grand’s worth of saw…

    Premier Icon batfink
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    I’ve just bought the Makita too. Deliberated about whether to go for the cordless (I have a drill and impact driver with 2x4A batteries).

    In the end I decided to go with the corded version. My thinking is that its not going to have a particularly hard life – so I will be expecting it to last me a long time…. longer than the batteries last and the platform is supported. I think if you’re a tradesman who can justify something this expensive every other year, platform longevity is less important.

    As for performance, it’s awesome. Made a few basic Melamine units/carcases and its super quick and easy to get bob-on cuts. The scribe function is great (not sure if the others have that – the festool maybe?), and worth noting that it ships with a really good 40 or 42 tooth blade too.

    The only other one I really considered was the Bosch – its apparently a clone of the Mafell.

    spursn17
    Member

    I got the Aldi one, happy with it for 80 quid!

    It’s probably nowhere near the quality of Festool, but I’m just a garage bodger and not a pro so I reckon price+my skill=value for money

    Premier Icon maccruiskeen
    Subscriber

    I have a Bosch track saw but am looking to replace with Festool as the dust extraction is much better with the Festool.

    Its worth noting that there are two Bosch Track saws – the more recent ‘GKT’ version is a clone of (well actually made in the same factory as) the Mafell rail saw and is equally awsome – including in the extraction department. But quite a lot cheaper

    To my mind unless you’re working without an extractor theres not much point in paying a premium for cordless as you’re attached to a hose anyway and lose the option to have auto stop/start without faffy bluetooth stuff. Tools that use pair of batteries can cause their own issues too and get into all sorts of problems with charging if they’re out of sync.

    In my experience the maffel rail its just tons better than the Festool one, so unless you’re invested in other Festool stuff that uses the same rails then the Bosch is a much cheaper way of having a saw that uses Mafell’s style of rail

    Premier Icon kayak23
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    Tools that use pair of batteries can cause their own issues too and get into all sorts of problems with charging if they’re out of sync.

    Never had the slightest problem to be honest. I’ll often pick a battery from two different tools that have had different use, and so different charge levels, wang them on the plunge saw together, no issues. They both then get charged and all is good.

    In terms of extraction,  most rail saws perform fairly well as the blade cuts upwards and is so enclosed and so allows efficient collection. However, if you’re cutting right on the edge of a board trimming off a thin strip, then you get a lot of dust.

    I don’t think Festool have a monopoly on good dust extraction. I’ve got the big 12″ Bosch chop saw and it’s brilliant for collecting dust. My Makita plunge saw works great for that too.

    Festool are nice but they ain’t the be all and end all. A bit like Santa Cruz… 😂

    Premier Icon finishthat
    Subscriber

    The Mafell has the best dust extraction , due to the blade change system there is no hole in the guard for the arbor bolt. The Skillbuilder and other reviews demonstrate it quite well.
    The tracks are better if you need to join them , but are not compatible with anything apart from Bosch, The Mafell saw will run on the Festool/Makita track but you need to be careful of the slide strips not tilting the saw slightly, or use the older no slip strip Festo/Festool rails.
    I own both the Festool and Mafell corded saws + the Lidl Parkside saw , the expensive ones were bought second hand – well used so its interesting to compare them after they have been worked for a few years, basically the Mafell is better built , more sturdy by quite some margin.
    So my view – unless you work mostly on-site cordless is an expensive option as the tool is life limited, Festool are nice and light, slightly under powered , Mafell a tool for life , has scoring as well , I had my hands on a Makita corded and that felt good – reputed to be powerful too.
    The Parkside (Lidl) is remarkable – works on the Festool/Makita tracks and is more similar in build to the Festool than the Mafell, yes its £70 not £400 , but it does the job.
    Tracks and track length are quite important , the short 700mm supplied with the cheap saws are a bit of a pain as getting a smooth accurate run with the joined track takes a bit of setting up,
    1.6m std rails from the Mafell are too long and unwieldy for general use , the 1.4 from Festool are only a bit better , so its really advisable to have something like 3 rails – 2 long 1.4/1.6m for cutting down sheets and a shorter 800mm/1m rail for all the shorter work.
    There is a lot of choice out there , and the basics are covered by pretty much all the offerings – its down to what you need them for and how they best fit your need.

    Premier Icon owenh
    Member

    The Aldi one looks to me like a Scheppach. Not compared the specs like for like to see which version. Possibly this one
    https://www.screwfix.com/p/scheppach-pl55-160mm-plunge-saw-240v/8781g which I bought 6 years for ago for ~ £120 in order to build the units in a VW campervan. It had a lot of use for 2 years and more occasional use since then. Still going fine.
    I did get a different blade (for finer work) and had to spend a bit of time resetting the 90deg angle stop but for the amount of use I needed it for I couldn’t justify the likes of a Festool.

    Premier Icon AlexSimon
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    If using outside, then I guess the cordless one might be useful, otherwise I always have a vacuum attached which means you may as well be corded. The amount of dust is trivial with the vacuum attached.

    My Makita has been flawless.
    My only minor gripes are
    1) that the mm depth measurement doesn’t start at the underside of the track, so when cutting 15mm ply you have to set it to roughly 19mm, etc and it becomes a guessing game – always worth checking anyway, but it annoys me as nobody is going to use the saw without the track.
    2) I think the tracks are a touch short. When cutting full sheets, you have to start the cut on top of the workpiece and plunge, rather than plunge off the piece and then push through into the workpiece.

    Other than that it’s totally transformed my workflow and taken all the effort out of making square pieces of wood on demand. An absolute revelation. My yearning for a table saw has completely gone.

    revs1972
    Member

    I have the festool cordless. Does a good job of dust extraction with the bag attached. Handy when you need to cut down longer lengths to get it in the van

    neilwheel
    Member

    AlexSimon

    In response to your gripes:

    I use my saw without the track if the large circular saw is not handy. Is easy to add on 5mm to the cut depth and you get a better finish if the blade projects below the item being cut, just use something as a sacrificial base.

    It sounds like you are centering the rail on the board, you need to have the rail biased towards the start of the cut. You only need about 50mm rail overhang at the end of the cut.

    footflaps
    Member

    I prefer using a table saw for lots of repeat cuts, saves having to measure, mark and then set the rail repeatedly. Although my Bosch table saw’s rail is a bit shit and moves, so I generally have to do two runs, a rough cut and then a finer cut where I’m more careful not to load the fence as it slips quite easily.

    Premier Icon ourmaninthenorth
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    Peter Millard rates it.

    Logged in to link to that very video..!

    As an amateur bodger I treated myself to the Festool TS55 (+ extractor) for my 40th birthday. Doesn’t get nearly the use it deserves, but my principle was that tools that are way better than me mean only I am to blame for failing to measure twice before cutting….

    timba
    Member

    Just bought the Aldi saw. Down a tenner at £70, the Declaration of Conformity is by Scheppach, and the model is Workzone (Aldi tool brand) PL55…the Scheppach PL55 is around twice the price, so could have struck lucky, and there’s a 3-year warranty

    Premier Icon maccruiskeen
    Subscriber

    I think the only real catch with the Sheppach / Workzone/ Parklife (?) is when you tilt the blade. Most other brands arrange things so that when the blade is tilted the top of the cut is still on the same line as it would be if the blade was straight – ie against the splinter guard. With the Scheppach the blade moves off that cutting line when its tilted – infant IIRC it moves the blade so that it cuts into the splinter guard so as well as being a problem for any bevelled cuts after you’ve made those cuts you’ve no longer got the splinter guard tight to the blade for future 90deg cuts

    timba
    Member

    @maccruiskeen Thanks, I’ll guard against for that 🙂

    I’m using a b&q cheapo circular saw and a home made track. It’s more faff than the bought options discussed above that I’m watching with interest but only use it to rip sheets down.

    @footflaps – the rail on my Bosch table saw has adjustable tension to stop it moving located at the opposite end of the clamp. Once set It’s pretty good. I can’t fault it, any error is mine.

    DT78
    Member

    does anyone just draw a line and use a plain circular saw when cutting sheet? I’ve been looking at tracksaws but so far I’ve not had any issues with free cutting, I find the blade wants.to cut in a.straight line so much easier than I expected.

    Premier Icon simon_g
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    Yes, was using one before the tracksaw. Freehand fine for rougher work (like chopping down a sheet of OSB for the roof of the kids’ playhouse) but not if I was cutting for a shelf or bookcase.

    I made a simple guide/track thing to simplify cutting straight lines (mark in how far you need on either side, put the track down on the two marks) but still needed faffing about clamping it and was easy to wander off the other way if you weren’t paying attention. Good cheap solution though if you already have a circular saw.

    Tracksaw saves all the clamping and faff, put it down where you want the cut, whizz it along, done.

    Premier Icon finishthat
    Subscriber

    There is one very specific reason why the track saw is an advantage,
    a normal circular saw has a sole plate same as track saw , however there is no guarantee that the edge of the sole plate is parallel to the blade – hence the varying experiences with a guide in some cases its actually quite dangerous if the two are out of parallel – adding the inherent safety of the enclosed blade and plunge spring makes the plunge track saw the default choice except for some specific uses.
    Then you can debate about whether the track saw has a riving knife or not , whether its safe to use off track etc. That is quite complicated as the big names do have very different approaches re riving knife use – ie retracting for Festool – no physical knife for Mafell – but an electronic kickback technology instead.

    Premier Icon dmorts
    Subscriber

    Lots of great info, thanks!

    Looking at the relative costs, I’m tempted to get a Lidl Parkside saw first just to see what they can do…. but how do I get my hands on one? Are they only in stores when there’s an offer on?

    Premier Icon finishthat
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    Only in Stores when offer on – and certain stores that seem to have stock of offers way after they have run out elsewhere – so its somewhere like Ebay where they are sold at varying prices – sometimes at original price , the Workzone is available online at Aldi with free shipping and the (like Lidl) 3 year warranty – cant go wrong at the price.

    Premier Icon BigJohn
    Subscriber

    I make fitted furniture and I’ve used 3 different saws, a £30 B&Q cheapo, a Makita non-rail saw and my current Festool TS55

    You can get a perfectly clean cut from all of them as long as you follow a few basics – learning to make a 2mm score often helps, cutting with the finished edge underneath often helps. Some materials are more prone to chipping than others.

    Even a non-rail saw can be made into a rail saw by making a “fence” (no, not that sort) out of 2 pieces of scrap.

    It’s also important to have a simple method of marking accurate 90 degree lines to cut along. If you have an old kitchen cupboard door, well that’s close enough, screw a piece of wood on the bottom as a guide and you have a T square that’s more accurate than a £50 bought one and it’s free. I now use an MFT-style board,benchdogs and an integrated rule to keep my cuts square, and it lets me make repetitive cuts quickly and accurately so I don’t need a chop saw.

    Take a bit of time to learn to get the blade running at exactly 90 degrees and with the right amount of toe-in which will improve results enormously.

    Dust extraction is so important if you’re doing a lot, or you’re working in a place where you son’t want it getting everywhere.

    Ear Defenders are an absolute must.

    kcr
    Member

    I’ve been using the Screwfix Titan track saw for a few years now. Great bit of kit, and probably my most used tool. I don’t have room for a proper table saw, but the track saw allows me to do pretty accurate plywood cutting for various DIY projects.

    Premier Icon kayak23
    Subscriber

    Looking at the relative costs, I’m tempted to get a Lidl Parkside saw first just to see what they can do….

    Personally I’d say go for the Titan from Screwfix for that area of money. It’s well regarded.

    I haven’t read many of the other comments but I’ve used a lot of different ones and my preference is the Festool TS55, can’t see point of cordless as I always use mine with an extractor so is never tether free anyway.

    Premier Icon dmorts
    Subscriber

    Personally I’d say go for the Titan from Screwfix for that area of money. It’s well regarded.

    I stopped by Aldi this evening and they had their Workforce saws down to £70…so I bought one! The saw looks like it’s a re-labelled Scheppach PL55. Worth sticking with it, or should I consider the Titan instead?

    my preference is the Festool TS55

    If I was committing (a lot) more money, I’d go for the Festool TS 55 too.

    I will see what use I get out of the cheaper saw first

    Premier Icon kayak23
    Subscriber

    I stopped by Aldi this evening and they had their Workforce saws down to £70…so I bought one! The saw looks like it’s a re-labelled Scheppach PL55. Worth sticking with it, or should I consider the Titan instead?

    Well, if what Maccruiskeen said about them is right then I’d definitely take it back.

    I think the only real catch with the Sheppach / Workzone/ Parklife (?) is when you tilt the blade. Most other brands arrange things so that when the blade is tilted the top of the cut is still on the same line as it would be if the blade was straight – ie against the splinter guard. With the Scheppach the blade moves off that cutting line when its tilted – infant IIRC it moves the blade so that it cuts into the splinter guard so as well as being a problem for any bevelled cuts after you’ve made those cuts you’ve no longer got the splinter guard tight to the blade for future 90deg cuts

    timba
    Member

    …Scheppach the blade moves off that cutting line when its tilted

    I’ve cut some 9mm ply down at 90° and the results were very good with the 24T blade. There’s a very slight step where the track is joined, I don’t know if that’s normal, but it isn’t entirely smooth when cutting
    Trend make a blade with a 2.4mm kerf so spares will be available at a reasonable price (the Scheppach blades are more expensive)
    I’ll try a 45° cut when it’s daylight, but measuring suggests that the blade may “move” 2mm off the splinter guard rather than into it, but I’ll try that properly and report back…

    Premier Icon finishthat
    Subscriber

    If it cuts into the guide like that I would take it back – do they all do that ? That sounds like a defective saw rather than by design . Any of the cheap saws will need some checking/setup ,
    even the expensive ones are out of tolerance sometimes , its easier to get them adjusted by specialist dealers or dedicated service depts – thats what some of the higher cost goes into.

    Premier Icon dmorts
    Subscriber

    You are suppose to trim the “splinter guard” strip on first use (if we’re talking about the same thing). Peter Millard does that in the video up there ^

    But, if when tilting off 90 deg the saw then cuts into the guard strip after it has been trimmed that’s not right. Nor is it moving off the line of the trimmed guard strip.

    The saw I bought is still in it’s box. Will have a look later

    Premier Icon dmorts
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    Has anyone watched the BOLTR teardown of the Festool TS 55?

    EDIT: If you own one, perhaps don’t watch it.

    Premier Icon finishthat
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    Yes , but I did not make the same mistake as he did and took the brushes out before splitting the field/armature , I got 3 of them as spares/repairs/broken , i can confirm that the armatures are a weak point , as all 3 were gone , + brushes/holders melted and one with a melted field coil as well,
    2 saws were clearly heavily used – end of useful life , one is in very good looked after condition.
    its not surprising the Festool saws are the most common and have been in daily use for years.
    Best indication of mileage is the sole plate , the coating wears off and the metal underneath wears down under heavy use , cutting plasterboard wrecks them.

    timba
    Member

    Tested the 45° cut…the blade doesn’t cut into but cuts under the rubber splinter strip. That means that if you drop the splinter strip onto your pencil line the 45° kerf at the top surface will be part inside the line and part outside.
    @maccruiskeen, thanks for pointing that out
    Most of my work will be 90° cuts, so for the money I’m more than happy

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