Track Saw Vs. Table Saw: How To Choose
PTR Brings in a Woodworker to Settle the Track Saw Vs Table Saw Debate
Is the choice between a table saw and a track saw keeping you up at night? You’re not alone. If you’re ready to rest easy, here’s our guide to one of the tougher decisions in the world of woodworking: Track Saw Vs. Table Saw.
The Skinny: Track Saws Vs. Table Saws
Have you ever wrestled a 3/4 ply 4×8 through a contractor’s table saw?
It’s not a ton of fun, especially when you’re working solo. For many makers, DIYers, and Pros, a track saw is an awfully attractive option. It’s gaining popularity for its ability to break down sheet goods efficiently and safely. But are there any other tradeoffs you might not have thought of?
Here’s what you have to weigh for both setups:
A Table Saw Excels…
- … at quickly repeatable cuts. Using the fence, a cross-cut sled, and/or a stop block, you can quickly and safely make the same cut as many times as you’d like.
- … when you work in a shop. If you don’t have to transport a table saw, you can opt for larger infeed and outfeed areas and a more powerful motor for larger and/or heavier material. Or better yet, a cabinet saw instead of a contractor table saw.
- … if you have ample storage space. Even portable jobsite table saws take up a significant amount of floor space when they’re folded up, so its usefulness has to justify its size.
- … at deep cuts, narrow cuts, dadoes, rabbets, and miter cuts. With a standard setup or a commonly available dado stack, the table saw excels at several different types of cuts (although some track saws can miter, too).
A Track Saw Excels…
- … at long rip and crosscuts of in heavy and/or large sheet goods. Using sawhorses and a sacrificial foam board available at any home improvement store, you can make easily controlled rip and crosscuts. The track saw’s rail (which you can extend) is the only constraint on how long you can cut.
- … for solo work. It’s much easier for one person working alone to accurately and safely cut heavy and/or large pieces with a track saw.
- … for any cut that’s not 90°. You can easily line up the rail along any straight path across the material. This makes (intentionally) un-square cuts easier and more precise than using a table saw.
- … at portability. A circular saw-sized tool and a track that can break down into two or more pieces are all you need to move.
- … storage. Similar to portability, the track saw components take up relatively much less space than a table saw.
- … at smooth, clean cuts. The track saw’s plunging action and blade result in a cleaner cut than all but the finest, smallest-kerfed table saw blades.
- … at dust collection. A track saw’s point of collection is closer to the dust creation – and a bit more contained – than a table saw.
- … keeping your fingers attached to your hand. I’m only half joking, really. The track saw’s covered blade and cutting action has a much better track record when it comes to injuries.
Track Saws Vs. Table Saws: Debrief
In many cases, one saw may substitute for the other. But as you can see, there are times when one is superior depending on space, manpower, material, and type of cut.
A quality track saw can cost as much as a table saw (or more), so the price isn’t necessarily the highest priority between the two. Take a look at the work you do and see which one makes the most sense. As a DIYer, you can probably get away with one or the other.
Pros that are used to making all their cuts on a table saw can add a track saw to the mix to boost your productivity. It pays for itself fairly quick and it doesn’t take long to figure out where each saw does its best work for you.
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