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Large DIY Track Saw

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Project by BrockF posted 08-25-2017 09:15 PM 1500 views 14 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Cutting large sheets of plywood accurately and without ruining the edges and doing it safely is very hard on the table saw, particularly in my small garage shop. You can use a straightedge or one of those expensive guides but they leave a lot to be desired and are fussy to set up and keep set up. You can also spend $600-1000+ on a track saw, but most of us can’t afford that.

I am remodeling my parents house and plan to do a lot of work with prefinished sheets of plywood so fussing around is a no go. After looking online at a lot of different designs, I came up with this. It skips building a caddy to carry the saw because that decreases the available cutting depth. I drilled mounting holes in the plate of the saw and attached the miter bar directly to it.

Instead of trying to rout a groove perfectly straight and perfectly deep and perfectly smooth 8 feet long, I purchased 3 Rockler miter bar tracks. This way the jig will not have issues with swelling changes that will cause it to bind or get sloppy. Without the hardware, it would have cost $15. With the hardware it was about $120.

The first time I ran the saw to make the permanent reference line, it cut so smooth I ended up guiding it with one hand. This old Makita is relatively heavy so it stays flat As you can see, it made a perfectly smooth and perfectly straight cut.

Being able to do this while standing comfortably and not kneeling on the floor is a big plus. My work table to use this on consists of a number of fixed and non fixed 2×4’s(underneath that sheet of wallboard) that can be moved anywhere for support on both sides of the cut. One side of the jig is low and wide for clamping and does not interfere with the saw.

If there is one thing that I would like to improve it is dust collection, particularly with MDF. This saw just pours it right on you. Fortunately I was prepared with plenty of protection. I may try to rig a vacuum hose and a shroud to the side of the saw and hook that to my 16 gallon shop vac with the dust deputy attached to it.

Update: It works! I have been using the jig to cut these sheets of plywood and I am delighted with the results. I found 4 C-clamps easily secure it and the work to the table and to position a sacrificial board under the cut for maximum protection against tearout. The upper face of the sheet is going to be your good side, but as these are prefinshed and pricy, I stretch painters tape across where the cut will fall. The result is very crisp and clean. Also, it helps to have the shop vac handy as you have to keep the track clear of debris. If your circular saw has built in dust collection it will help. Mine does not.

Overall I am really very satisfied with the results.





12 comments so far

View TungOil's profile

TungOil

668 posts in 278 days


#1 posted 08-25-2017 09:30 PM

nice design, I like the idea of using the aluminum track, saves a lot of headaches

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

View 489tad's profile

489tad

3223 posts in 2794 days


#2 posted 08-25-2017 11:12 PM

Good idea!

-- Dan, Naperville IL, I.G.N.

View doubleDD's profile

doubleDD

6617 posts in 1826 days


#3 posted 08-26-2017 12:13 AM

The track is a great idea. Looks to work perfect. Well done.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

19312 posts in 2888 days


#4 posted 08-26-2017 01:48 AM

Cool Idea. I have been meaning to do something just like that. That track is just the trick!!

Cheers, Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View waho6o9's profile

waho6o9

7981 posts in 2360 days


#5 posted 08-26-2017 03:52 AM

Now there’s an effective track saw, good job!

View BurlyBob's profile

BurlyBob

4859 posts in 2048 days


#6 posted 08-26-2017 03:03 PM

That is really sweet!

View tool_junkie's profile

tool_junkie

319 posts in 2312 days


#7 posted 08-26-2017 04:53 PM

Pretty cool!

I made a guide on similar concept, but slightly different. I mounted the T-track on 1/4 inch hardboard using counter sunk screws from the bottom side of the hardboard. Then I just run my saw against the T-track which essentially acts as the straight edge. I have thought about mounting a cutting board, with a dado routed in it, to the bottom of the saw so that the saw rides on the T-track instead of along the the T-track. Will probably get around to it one of these days.

How straight is your T-Track over the entire length from one end to the other?

View NormG's profile

NormG

5863 posts in 2787 days


#8 posted 08-26-2017 07:17 PM

Great solution, thank you for sharing this time saving and very worthwhile jig

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View BrockF's profile

BrockF

30 posts in 1156 days


#9 posted 08-27-2017 03:43 PM

Thank you everyone for the compliments. In answer to how straight it is, I used the factory edge of the mdf aa a guide. I suppose that leaves room for error but who has an 8 foot straight edge ruler? For most purposes I see no issues and if something needs no deflection at all over 8 feet, its not something that should be built in a garage workshop;)

A note on those rockler miter tracks. You need very small screws to recess the heads completely in the tracks. They don’t come with them and the big box does not go that small. Rockler does carry them and in a return trip was kind enough to find them for me.

View Andybb's profile

Andybb

464 posts in 386 days


#10 posted 08-27-2017 09:22 PM

Very nice. Now that you have the technique down I’d take a few minutes and make a 4’ one also. Very handy for shorter cuts. Just thinking out loud, maybe make the bottom piece out of 1/2” to save weight since you get the rigidity from the 3/4 top pieces and the track.

-- Andy - Seattle

View BrockF's profile

BrockF

30 posts in 1156 days


#11 posted 09-01-2017 02:10 AM

Andy, much appreciated. I built it from one sheet of 1/2 inch MDF with both layers glued and screwed together. My local big box store has a large panel saw and a guy who knows how to use it. I had him cut a couple of strips, carefully keeping track of which one was the factory edge. Made it easy to fit in my SUV like that too. No need to try tying it to the roof;)

I have found the jig to be plenty rigid and not too heavy, although at almost 9 feet long it is slightly awkward to maneuver. That idea for a 4 footer is something I am certainly considering.

View BrockF's profile

BrockF

30 posts in 1156 days


#12 posted 09-01-2017 02:23 AM

I posted more pictures of the jig in action. Thanks again for tge great response!

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