Whether you frequently work with wood or you are starting a small construction project at home, you need a good saw to maximize your project’s accuracy. You’ll probably have to choose between a few types of saws, which have functional similarities but a few key differences.
The main difference between a circular saw and a track saw is that track saws attach to tracks that guide them across the board to make a cut. Because of the track, track saws are more accurate and neat than circular saws, while circular saws offer more autonomy of movement while working.
To learn more about circular saws, track saws, and how to choose between them, keep reading.
What Is a Circular Saw?
Circular saws are powerful saws with sharp discs that spin around central arbors. They generally have safety guards for user protection and can be cordless for easy transportation to worksites.
While cordless saws offer flexibility, corded circular saws have more power and can work with very tough materials.
To cut a straight line with a circular saw, you can use a long piece of plywood and cut parallel to it to ensure your cut is even.
However, this can be time-consuming as you may have to frequently adjust the plywood’s position and spend time calculating the wood’s position.
The good news is that if you have enough plywood, you can cut as long and as large as you’d like- the circular saw does not have size limits.
Generally, circular saws are used for making multiple cuts and have versatile options for different types of cuts. They can cut very quickly, and the user has a large amount of autonomy over the cut because they can direct it wherever they choose.
Furthermore, they can control how neat the cut is and whether the edges are jagged.
What Is a Track Saw?
A track saw also called a plunge saw is a handheld saw that slides along a rectangular track to create long cuts.
Track saws attach to long guiding rails, or “tracks” and are guided along the track by the user to create a straight cut.
They can cut up to the length of the track, so they can create very long or short cuts.
You can position the rail anywhere across a wooden surface, and it is sticky, so it will easily stay on the track and cut a smooth line without slipping.
Rubber strips on the bottom of the rail hold the track in place so you can maintain your line.
Furthermore, track saws are known for their accuracy, because the sliding track holds them in place and ensures they will not slip or create jagged cuts, so they have a smaller margin of error.
They make tear-free cuts and do not chip.
Cutting without a track can create wood chips if you drive the saw into the side of the wood at an improper angle, so track saws provide a clear advantage in neatness.
The track position can be adjusted to cut any angle, so angled cuts are relatively simple with this saw.
Making these cuts may be time-consuming, but buying a miter gauge may speed up the process.
In addition, track saws are portable; you can carry the small, handheld track saw and the track to the wood you need to cut, rather than having to bring the wood to your saw.
You will have to set up your track saw before using it, and ensure the track is aligned with the area you want to cut. Fortunately, the setup is relatively quick and should not hinder your overall project progression.
Unfortunately, the track saw’s accuracy and ease come with a hefty price: they are expensive and could cost over $500.
The Main Differences
Circular saws and track saws have a lot in common, but there are a few key differences.
Check out this video for an overview of the differences between track saws, circular saws, and table saws.
Track Saws Are a Bit Safer
Although both the track saw and the circular saw use circular blades, the track saw’s blade is less visible and exposed than the circular saw’s.
Rather than an outward spinning blade, the blade is concealed inside the machinery of the saw.
Track Saws Make It Easier to Cut in Straight Lines
With a track saw, it is much easier to make a straight cut without creating jagged lines by mistake.
It is easy to start creating misshapen lines or veering the saw diagonally if you do not have a way to keep it in line.
When using a circular saw, you may quickly begin to steer the wrong way and damage your cut.
Circular Saws Provide More Freedom of Movement
However, some workers may prefer the circular saw’s lack of track. It provides the freedom to “free cut” or line of sight cut.
This means you can see exactly what you are cutting and where the line is headed.
Also, you do not have to cut in a straight line when using a circular saw, because it does not follow a track- you can cut around obstacles.
Circular Saws Are More Portable
While both saws are portable, circular saws are lighter and more portable in some cases because you will not need to carry the track with you.
If you are cutting in an area that is difficult to access, such as a roof, you may prefer a circular saw to a track saw.
Track Saws Are Cleaner
When it comes to cleanliness, track saws are preferable to circular saws. Conveniently, they usually have built-in dust collectors and hooded blades to minimize the mess.
The shroud automatically collects dust as you work, and you can easily dispose of it later.
This may be convenient when working in small shops, home garages, or any area with poor ventilation where excess dust could cause difficulty breathing.
Track Saws Aren’t Great for Thin Pieces of Wood
Track saws are great for thick pieces of wood, but cannot be used for pieces of wood under ⅛ inches in thickness. If you need to cut something thin, a circular saw is the better option
How About the Table Saw?
Overall, track saws and circular saws can make similar cuts, but track saws are usually quicker and neater than circular saws.
On the other hand, circular saws offer more autonomy and are usually cheaper than track saws. They are also more versatile because they come in different types and shapes.
Unfortunately, neither the track saw nor the circular saw is as efficient and accurate when making small adjustments to pieces or creating small pieces as the table saw.
Table saws easily make repeated identical cuts but are less mobile than the track saw and circular saw because they have to remain stationary.
Therefore, you lose the mobility of the track saw and circular saw and have to bring the pieces to the table saw itself.
Track saws and circular saws have a few main differences. While track saws are more accurate and precise than circular saws, they are also more limited because they have to slide along a track.
This track also limits their mobility and makes them more difficult to set up, and they are usually more expensive than circular saws.
However, track saws can cut clean angles and straight lines, which is more difficult with a circular saw due to their larger margin of error.
Due to their guiding rail, you can easily make quick cuts that would require more concentration with a circular saw.
When you are choosing between a circular saw and a track saw, you should consider your requirements for mobility, price, and neatness.
Cheers, tools owners!