Track Saws for Breaking Down Panels

A tracked circular saw is no substitute for a panel saw or sliding table saw, but it's a productive tool that's worth the investment. October 13, 2010

I'm a small one man shop and I need a way to quickly break down sheet goods and solid lumber. I don't have much room in my shop and I canít fit a panel saw, vertical or otherwise, inside. I already have a table saw. Whatís your opinion on the Festool track saw for this task? Is it suitable for cutting up cabinet parts?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor D:
Before I built my shop, I was trimming large custom homes and building all built-ins and vanities on site. In '01 I saw the Festool 55 saw and rails, bought it that day, and this thing saved my life. Since then I have a pretty good sized shop with a slider and other saws, but still use the 55 on installs. That first 55 I bought back in '01 has since retired, but the new ones are better. You will use that saw for a million things.

From contributor R:
Seems if you have enough room to cut your plywood laying flat with a track setup, you'd have enough room for a vertical panel saw. The Festool works, but the amount of setup time and froggin around will be a profit killer. On the jobsite, they can't be beat, but in a real shop? Too much wasted time.

From contributor P:
What contributor R said. I'd look at a small horizontal slider to take the place of your current TS. Vertical saw would be a great addition as a panel-buster, but not functional for solid wood. Setup time and repeatability would be the downfall of a track saw, though they're great at what they do.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. Iím considering a track saw because as it stands now, when I size plywood, I must first schlep out a homemade track (plywood with a fence, I have two sizes, one side for a circular saw and the other for my router), mark the sheet, line up the jig, rough cut the ply and then finalize the cut on the table saw!

Since Iím already using a jig and a circular saw, I figure if I could use a track saw and get a good cut, I can eliminate one or two of the steps I now take to get a finished product. All this because a) I donít like pushing a huge sheet of wood over a table saw and having potential for an accident with an exposed blade, and b) perhaps the sheet was up to the fence and perhaps not, and c) the length of my shop is just enough to run a full sheet through the saw, but doesnít leave me much room other than that. My shop is about 21' long by 15' wide.

From contributor T:
It's possible to be accurate, repeatable and fairly productive using the Festool. Get the long track (106"), and you can rip entire sheets. I use a big 18" tri square to square the rail to the edge of the sheet, and it's pretty darn accurate. Quality of cut is better than a tablesaw, unless you have a scoring blade. I throw sheets on top of 4 sacrificial 2x4s and cut away. Much safer and easier on my back than the table saw. Dust collection is very good with a Festool vac. I've built many, many projects using this method, including hundreds of sheets of A grade cherry, walnut and mahogany ply. I'd love to have a big slider (or better yet, a CNC), but I also love my low overhead. Get one. If you don't like it, you can sell it on eBay for a slight discount.

From the original questioner:
It's good to know that my plan is feasible and that this method works for some.

From contributor C:
You need an outfeed table and a side support table. I worked at the same size shop for years, and with a post in the middle. The outfeed and side support can double up for another chore. You'll just have to be creative. I would go for the Festool saw, but with some scraps, you could be saving a lot of money and add some speed to a very monotonous task. Anyway you slice it, real estate is needed.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. Luckily I have a separate area for my storage. Itís enough for some sheet goods and a couple of hundred BF of lumber (+ area for off cuts). I have a router table I made for an outfeed table, and everything is on wheels, so I can assemble, clean, and what not when Iím not using a particular machine.

I agree that more space is needed and I look forward to the day when I bid my current space farewell! I have done some big jobs in the small space and most of my work is to custom dimensions (I donít do production work) and my markup allows for the time necessary for the work involved.

In the meantime I will see if the ts750 fits my current needs!

From contributor M:
If you are a cabinetmaker and do installs, you cannot go wrong with the Festool 55! Even if down the road you buy a vertical panel saw, you will still use the track saw for all kinds of cutting.

I bought a vertical panel saw a few years ago for my small one man shop, and absolutely could not live without it anymore. A year later I bought the Festool for panel cutting on installs, and now couldn't live without that either.

If I had it to do over again, I would first buy the Festool 55, then the panel saw.

Once you have a panel saw, there will still be so many things you will use the track saw for. And in the meantime, you will speed up your current operation with the Festool. One kitchen and it will pay back a good amount of the time you are spending with your current method, and you will get a better quality cut.

From contributor Z:
Get the ts55 and the parallel guides + extension. Cut on a 4x8 sheet of pink foam. You will be amazed at the speed and portability of the system.

From the original questioner:
I bought the ts75. Cuts like a dream, but as stated it is not a production tool. I have only had it a day or so and there is a small learning curve to conquer.