Back in January, we discussed Grizzly getting into the track saw game. Predictions were made, claims were refuted, blood was spilled. OK, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but it was very clear that lots of folks were waiting to see how this saw performs. I really don’t have much spare time in my schedule right now but I decided to fast-track (haha, get it? track?) this review so that you can hopefully make a more informed purchase decision, if you happen to be interested in this unit.
The Grizzly T0687 Track Saw retails for $179.95 and the track retails for $49.95, as of April 2013. This price point is the reason why I’m doing this review. At this stage of the game, a new track saw hitting the market at the going rate of $400+ would just be white noise and probably wouldn’t catch my attention. But the fact that folks can potentially know the joys of the track saw world for only $230 is something worth talking about. And here’s a little disclaimer: This is not a complete feature by feature review. Most of you know that’s not how I do things here. I am sure there will be plenty of hardcore reviews for you to enjoy from other publishers in the near future. My goal is to simply give you my thoughts upon initial inspection and use. Nothing more.
The Inevitable Comparison
As much as I tried to evaulate this tool solely on its own merits, it’s impossible not to draw comparisons between it and other track saws on the market. As a long-time Festool user, most of my comparisons will involve the Festool TS55 and TS75. I did spent a small amount of time with DeWalt’s track saw and even did a review of it back in 2009. So while I admit to being somewhat biased toward the big green machine, I like to think most of you know that I am fair and honest when it comes to tool discussions.
I made several cuts with the saw and evaluated the attributes that are most important to me: build quality, cut quality, and dust collection.
Overall, the saw feels a little “cheap” in my hands. The plastic parts and knobs are rough, square, and not ergonomically designed. This is a minor detail that does not affect performance, but it’s something to consider. While most of the parts on a Festool saw are also plastic, they are molded in such a way they they feel smooth and comfortable.
I had no trouble getting the saw to align on the track with little to no slop. The operation of the cam adjustment knobs is a little clunky, but it didn’t seem to impact setup or prevent me from attaining a slop-free ride.
Speaking of the track, everything looked good to my eye with one exception: a little wobble. I don’t mean the kind of wobble that results from a sloppy fit between the track and the slot in the saw base. This was a wobble that results from rocking the saw back and forth using the handle. When applying downward pressure on the left side of the saw, the right side lifts up off the track, as you can see in the image. Depending on where you place your pressure while sawing, the effective cutting angle will change. This is a problem and I have to imagine this is going to impact cut quality in the long run. And just so you know, I checked both the saw base and the track and neither one is cupped.
I also noticed that the spring is difficult to compress when plunging. Part of the problem lies in the orientation of the handle (perfectly vertical) and the thumb safety release (angled back toward the user). This is going to make it fatiguing to use use this tool for repeated cuts and almost necessitates having two hands on the saw while plunging. Now I realize in the ideal world, we would have two hands on the saw at all times. But anyone who uses a circular saw to cut plywood knows that many cuts will require you to use the saw with one hand. Part of the joy of owning a track saw is the fact that a guided cut makes one-handed operation much safer and predictable. So if you happen to have weak wrists, plunging the saw with one hand is going to range from painful to impossible. To test my assertions, I had Nicole try plunging the saw with one hand a few times. After three plunges, she said “ouch” and added a few expletives to express her displeasure with my experiment and the subsequent pain in her thumb and wrist. Oops.
The cut quality was acceptable. The included blade is better than what comes with any other circular saw on the market (at least from initial inspection) and competes well with my upgraded Frued blades. After the cut, the keeper piece had a mostly acceptable amount of tearout that could be sanded away. The off-cut didn’t fare quite as well but was still in decent shape. Results are way better than I usually get with my regular circular saw, but not quite the same table saw quality cuts I get from my Festool saws.
Quite a bit of dust escapes the saw. Fortunately, it doesn’t spew the dust all over the shop like a traditional circular saw. The dust that does escape seems to do so in a very localized way. So there was a nice pile of sawdust sitting on top of the off-cut piece after the cut was complete. Festool saws have nearly perfect dust collection in most situations.
Because I knew many of you would want to know, I decided to test compatibility between Festool and Grizzly components I had on-hand. While the Grizzly track takes Festool clamps and accessories just fine, it does not accept the Festool saw. Not only is the groove on the saw too small for the guide rail, the blade would wind up cutting into the aluminum track. So that’s a no-go. The Grizzly saw does, however, fit on the Festool track, but the saw blade extends out well beyond the rubber splinter guard. The Grizzly saw freely accepts the standard Festool extractor hose.
If you were hoping to get a $500 saw for $230, you will be disappointed. But if you’re looking to get a capable plunging circular saw with the advantages of a track system and somewhat decent dust collection, I think the Grizzly is an excellent buy. It isn’t going to give you perfect table saw quality cuts, at least as presented, and the low price comes at the expense of some comfort and general build quality. But it will cut plywood with greater accuracy and control than the typical circular saw setup.
The final verdit here is something that could be up for interpretation as there are two ways to look at it. If we compare this saw to the other saws on the market like the Festool, the Grizzly falls short in just about every area. Duh! An important piece of information came from Grizzly themselves when I inquired about this tool back in January. They said (paraphrasing) that comparing their saw to Festool is a little like comparing a Toyota to a Lexus. They both will get you to the store and back but there are key differences between the two brands.
In my opinion, the real comparison we need to make here is not with Festool, or even DeWalt or Makita. Instead, we need to focus on the standard circular saw market. And in that regard, this saw really kicks some butt! I can only compare the experience to my Porter Cable saw that I’ve been using for years now, and this saw and track system outperforms it in just about every way.
Want to Win This Saw?
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