Shop Talk

Track Saws- The Best Guide Rail Systems

  • The Best Track Saw Systems from Festool, Makita, and Dewalt 


    Despite taking an idea as simple as a circular saw riding on a rail, the track saw or guide rail system is anything but simple. Reinventing and completely optimizing cutting accuracy, precision, and versatility, this cutting system is unlike any other and, accordingly, offers users some pretty robust advantages over other cutting systems. 


    The plunge-cut circular saw and guide rail system offers smooth pivoting action, minimized blade exposure, and the capacity to create precise cuts from any point on a panel
    (something ordinary saws could never do and should never attempt); this handful of innovations renders it one of the most versatile cutting tools in the industry. In fact, the system allows users to perform almost any cutting application from ripping sheet goods, cross-cutting, and creating straight edges in rough stock – to jointing boards and creating openings in panels and in sections of flooring, cabinets and doors. Essentially, the track saw is like the supersweet-hybrid result of a seriously awesome panel saw and the industry’s best circular saw ever, and, although it’s been enlightening users for almost half a century, the track saw remains one of the most exciting innovators in the production industry.

    Developed by Germany’s Festool around forty years ago, still, only a few manufacturers list a tack saw in their power tool line-ups; this, of course, leaves that monopoly (or, perhaps, triopoly) in the capable hands of Festool, Dewalt, and Makita. Determining which one of these track saws is better than the other, though, is not so easy as you might think – and although I’m partial to Festool to a fault (but not really “a fault” as Festool truly does no wrong, (but I digress)), the Makita and Dewalt models have their advantages too. Such advantages, in fact, that make it increasingly difficult to ascertain a clear front-runner among the three manufacturers. In the interest of being honest, I believe the best track saws and rail guide systems still come from their birthplace – Festool, but let me lay down some info to help you discover your own track sawing soul mate: 

    Dewalt’s DWS520SK is a 6.5” plunge-cut circular saw with a 59”guide. It’s a zero-clearance cutting system for the straightest, most precise splinter-free cuts, and with an accurate on-track cut depth indicator (which accounts for the thickness of the track your using), users can easily hit precise cut depths (max cut: 2-1/8” at 90°, 1-5/8″ at 45º). The saw additionally boasts a continuous anti-kickback mechanism and riving knife to reduce kickback while working, and with a smooth, low-profile blade guard, the saw can also and easily be used in small or awkward spaces. The saw boasts a straight plunge mechanism for ergonomic comfort on the job, and with a 12A, 1300W motor with 1,750 – 4,000 RPM, the circ saw can chomp through hardwoods up to 2-1/8″ thick. The thing is additionally equip with a universal 1-1/4″ dust port which, when coupled with a vacuum, collects about 90% of the dust and debris produced while cutting. 

    The DWS520SK includes the saw and guide (of course), and a kit box, blade wrench, and a 48-tooth ultra-fine finishing blade. If you require a little more than 59” in the guide rail department, Dewalt also makes a 102” track. Their DWS520LK comes with that 102” track, and their DWS520CK includes both the 59” and 102” saw tracks. Of course, you may also purchase the tracks or other accessories for the saw and track separately.

    Makita’s SP6000K1 system is built around a 6.5” plunge-cut circular saw and 55” guide rail. The guide rail system and circ saw base are designed to interact with one another resulting in perfectly smooth, absolutely precise straight and bevel cuts, and because the tool’s electronic speed control maintains constant speed under load, the saw delivers splinter free cuts with an honestly unbelievable finish. The saw additionally features variable speeds ranging from 2,000 – 5,000 RPM optimizing its overall versatility and providing the perfect options for each application. The thing also boasts a big-ol’ cutting capacity of 2-3/16? at 90° and 1-9/16? at 45° and a bevel capability of -1° to 48° with positive stops at 22.5° and 45°. All this power and all these capabilities require a bit of precaution, accordingly, the saw also has a built-in current limiter to eliminate motor burnout and a soft start feature to ensure an always smooth performance. 

    Boasting magnesium components the SP6000K1 is lightweight, durable, and ultra well-balanced, and offering seriously close to the wall cutting, the saw offers extended applications. Also featuring a smooth plunge release for user comfort, and, perhaps one of the saw’s very best features, dual front and rear bevel supports to hold the blade in position (so you don’t have to), the thing provides incredibly smooth and dead-on accurate bevel cuts. For the sake of overall awesomeness, the saw also provides simple depth adjustment, a depth stop, super-fast blades changes, an electronic brake for your safety and productivity, a 1-7/16? rear dust port designed to push material away from the operator (and can also connect to a collection system), and a saw base that is compatible with competing guide rail systems.

    And, before I really outstay my welcome with this tool, let me also say that Makita’s saw is seriously comfortable to operate, includes a high-performance 48-tooth carbide tipped blade, a hex blade wrench, stackable tool case, and, of course, the saw and 55” guide rail. That saw and rail and, if you need something bigger, a 118” rail (part number 194367-7) can be purchased separately.  

    As for the Festool, I will try to keep my accolades and my word-count under control, but, as they do offer two choices, I think that merits at least a few more lines. To begin, Festool’s 561432 TS 55 system is built around a law-defying 6.25” circular saw and a 55” guide rail
    . The circ saw itself is lightweight, simple to maneuver, and offers the kind of accuracy that makes traditional circular saws feel bad about themselves. The saw’s dust mechanism is designed to direct dust and debris away from the tool, operator, and projects and may also be connected to Festool’s unbeatable, tool-triggered dust collection system, and with the FastFix blade system, blade changes are both faster and simpler to perform. The tool’s sophisticated electronics maintain speed under load and offer variable speeds from 2,000 – 5,200 RPM ensuring you can match the tool’s performance to each material and application – of course, these electronics also protect the tool from current and thermal overload.

    The TS 55 additionally offers simple and accurate depth adjustments allowing users to expose only the necessary portions of the blade, and with a smooth plunge action for interior cuts and a spring-loaded, retractable riving knife reducing kickback and improving controlability, the saw delivers unmatched results in overall smoothness, precision, and simplicity. The saw produces a gorgeous finish, in fact, a splinter-free finish on both sides of the cut saving you time and material and, altogether, the system includes the saw, 55” guide rail, a 48-tooth carbide blade, limit stop, plug-it power cord, splinterguard, and one of Festool’s well known systainers (the stackable, interlocking case).

    As for the bigger saw, Festool’s 561188 TS 75 shares the TS 55’s best features, you know, like mind-bending accuracy, precision and smoothness of cut, variable speeds, overload protection, the FastFix blade system, riving knife, and etc – but, as Festool’s most powerful plunge cut saw, the TS 75 8.25” circular saw takes the concept of high-performance to another level breaking all existing molds for precision power and high-performance. In fact, even with the capacity to cut material up to 2-3/4” thick (which also allows users to stack sheet goods for multiple identical simultaneous cuts), the saw still manages to leave a splinter-free, silky smooth, and burn-free cutting edge. Its amazing. The TS 75 additionally includes a 75” guide rail, limit stop, plug-it power cord, 36-tooth blade, slipclutch, splinterguard, and that smart systainer. Festool additionally offers tons of guide rails (up to 197”) and other accessories to spice up your system.

    In the end, each of these saws offers an efficient, brilliant cutting system and would surely enhance the working capacity and working results of any craftsperson or production worker. The track saw simply makes life easier and whether you choose Dewalt’s system for its zero-clearance cutting ability, Makita’s system for its sophisticated bevel supports and amazing bevel cutting results, or Festool’s for their forty years of experience perfecting track saw technology – you really can’t go wrong. Each of them is an excellent piece of equipment and a fail-safe investment in your work and results.