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Track Saw or Cheap Table Saw

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Forum topic by revance posted 02-03-2015 05:21 PM 862 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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revance

2 posts in 676 days


02-03-2015 05:21 PM

A friend of mine came to me for some advice on buying a table saw. He has some gift cards to a specific retailer, so he is somewhat limited on what models he has available to him. His budget is about $300 (further limiting options) and he sent me a link to a small portable table saw for my opinion. He is not a woodworker, but rather wants the saw for various home improvement projects. He said he would mostly be cutting up sheet stock cutting some dimensional lumber.

I personally have a Unisaw and have never been impressed with the versatility or ease of use of small table saws.

I think a track saw would DEFINITELY be better for cutting up sheet stock. I have a hard enough time doing that on my Unisaw, I can’t imagine doing it on a little portable table saw. He already has a compound miter saw that he can use for most cross cuts.

When I brought it up, he was less than impressed with the idea because he is already clamping a straight edge to boards and ripping with a circular saw and that is the reason he wants a table saw. I have never used a track saw, so I can’t tell him with any authority that a track saw will be better than what he is already doing.

I would really appreciate any thoughts or opinions on the matter. I don’t want to lead him down the wrong path, but I have a hard time recommending a little table saw like that for anyone who plans on performing long rips (especially with sheet stock).

Which would you recommend for him? A $275 Grizzly track saw or a $300 small table saw?

THANKS!


9 replies so far

View knotscott's profile

knotscott

7224 posts in 2843 days


#1 posted 02-03-2015 05:29 PM

If budget is the limiting factor, I’d look to a decent full sized used saw with a belt drive induction motor. The only time I suggest a portable is if the saw needs to be moved from site to site frequently, or stowed on a shelf. The overall square footage consumed really isn’t all that great. If he could save a bit more, he could into a brand new Delta 36-725 for ~ $500. Gift cards can often be sold for close enough to face value to make it worth selling them if it’s not from Lowes, or a retailer of the 36-725.

The ABCs of Table Saws

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View crank49's profile

crank49

3981 posts in 2438 days


#2 posted 02-03-2015 05:54 PM

In my opinion he needs to spend about $500 to $600 on a portable table saw to have a decent one like the Bosch 4100.
Then, at that price I’d feel like I would regret not going for the hybrid Delta 36-725 that Lowes sells.

I have often looked at those little Dewalts with the rack and pinion fence and I think Home Depot sells the small one for around $300. It is a noisy universal motor, small aluminum table, light weight, and won’t handle a dado blade, but if that’s all I could spend that’s probably where I’d spend it. If I later had the opportunity to get a real table saw, then I would just keep that little Dewalt to take to job sites and not feel like I wasted my money.

Having said all that, I hate to use a table saw for sheet goods. I like a good cutting guide and a sheet of styrofoam on the garage floor to break big sheets down. Then use my table saw for refinement of the cuts.

-- Michael: Hillary has a long list of accomplishments, though most DAs would refer to them as felonies.

View dday's profile

dday

48 posts in 897 days


#3 posted 02-03-2015 06:05 PM

Since he already has a setup for breaking down sheet goods, I’d suggest that he purchase a good , cheap table saw. Some people think that those terms are mutually exclusive but so far my son and I both own and are happy with the 10in Kobalt table saw that Lowe’s sells. On Black Friday, I picked mine up for less than $200. Depending on your store, they’ll accept the 20% coupon from Harbor Freight AND they give a military discount as well.

It is portable, folding up onto it’s own base and wheels (which is great for me as I have a 9ft x 9ft shop and it fits nicely against the back wall when not in use). It has a good fence and a shrouded blade with dust collection. It is a belt driven motor and works well in everything that I’ve cut. The arbor will accept a dado blade and it has a riving knife and a decent blade guard.

It would be money well spent in my opinion.

View paxorion's profile

paxorion

1102 posts in 1513 days


#4 posted 02-03-2015 06:15 PM

knotscott’s table guide is very useful. A track saw will help in the arena of controlling where the saw/blade goes, but the versatility goes up if he has a setup that helps with workholding and raising the saw up to a comfortable working hight. Since he has a circular saw and straight edge, I’d first critique his tooling as not all tools are made equal. For example I had a cheap circular saw and a HF straight edge and hated it. I upgraded my circular saw and I now use a combination of a Bora WTX and better circular saw and it works much better.

In terms of jobsite saws, I wrote a long blog post about jobsite vs fullsize table saws and how I picked my jobsite saw. For sheet goods, infeed space (12+” on a full size saw) is very important for accuracy and safety, and jobsite saws are lacking (7”) to severely lacking (5”) in that arena.

-- paxorion

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

3950 posts in 1960 days


#5 posted 02-03-2015 06:56 PM

I hardly consider a track saw a substitute for a TS, but one spot where they excel is cutting sheet stock. That was the biggest reason I bought one, and then discovered it has a multitude of other uses as well….but to the question. The only $300 saw I would recommend would be a used contractors saw, I don’t think he’ll see much utility out of less than that. The current line up of job site saws (the better ones) might be do what he wants with the dimensional lumber, but would still be a fight with large sheet stock. He has to actually use a tracksaw to see what an improvement it might be over his straightedge set up. The saw simply glides along the track with ease, following the cut line really well. I though I would be breaking down sheet goods, and trimming to final size on the TS, but I can cut to the finished size with the tracksaw. The track keeps the saw captive, making it work a lot better than a straightedge. Put the edge of the track on the cut line, and go….you’re done.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View revance's profile

revance

2 posts in 676 days


#6 posted 02-03-2015 08:23 PM

Thanks for the responses.

The biggest issue is that he is basically limiting himself to using a gift card. Otherwise I would have suggested he spend his money on a decent used contractor saw.

My main question was whether having a track saw, which can do some things very well, some things mediocre, and some things not at all… would be better than a cheap portable table saw that does everything pretty poorly and some things not at all. It seemed that as long as the track saw is really significantly better than a straight edge and a circular saw, it wouldn’t be a bad investment even if he bought a nice table saw later. Even with my Unisaw I would appreciate having one for heavy sheets of MDF.

I think I have convinced him to just wait until his situation changes. I am just really worried that spending $300 on a cheap little saw is going to be a waste of money. On the other hand, I don’t want to be a tool snob and give him bad advice because of it. After all, he isn’t wanting to do fancy stuff, just throw together shelves and stuff for his garage, chicken coop, etc.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

3950 posts in 1960 days


#7 posted 02-03-2015 08:28 PM


I think I have convinced him to just wait until his situation changes. I am just really worried that spending $300 on a cheap little saw is going to be a waste of money. On the other hand, I don t want to be a tool snob and give him bad advice because of it. After all, he isn t wanting to do fancy stuff, just throw together shelves and stuff for his garage, chicken coop, etc.

- revance

May well be the best choice…..

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View HarveyM's profile

HarveyM

92 posts in 1490 days


#8 posted 02-03-2015 08:35 PM

Cutting panels on my sub-contractor saw (Ryobi BT3100) is what convinced me to buy a track saw. But, in your friend’s case, has he tried a saw guide like this one? http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/reviews/4283497
It’s better than a straight clamp (you should get one decent edge), and the price is right.

-- Just a Duffer

View MT_Stringer's profile

MT_Stringer

2854 posts in 2698 days


#9 posted 02-03-2015 08:36 PM

Here’s mu suggestion. Tell him to improve his ripping skills with what he has by making a ripping sled for his circular saw. That should be a fairly cheep mod that will make a good tool. Search You Tube for different methods of making the sleds. Short ones and longer ones too.

Then he can spend his money as he sees fit at the store he is confined to…or sell the card to someone else and use the cash.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

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