Outfitting your first woodworking workshop can get expensive fast. One of the most versatile tools you can own is a track saw, and it can replace some of the other saws you might thinking of buying.
Can a Track Saw Replace a Table Saw?
Technically yes (but it depends on the job). There are some jobs that can be done by a track saw just as well or better than the best table saw, but a track saw does not excel at making rip cuts. In addition, a table saw allows you to make rapid, identical cuts, where as a track saw requires that you make cut lines on each board.
That being said, many woodworkers don’t feel the need to invest in a table saw especially when they are first setting up their workshop. Continue reading to find how exactly how far a track saw will get you, and what other saws can help you get by without a table saw.
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What is a Track Saw Capable of?
A track saw looks a lot like a regular circular saw to most people, but it is much more. Track saws are designed to make accurate, straight, and smooth cuts while maximizing portability and safety.
Track saws can make:
The beauty of the track saw is that it can do all this right on your job site. There is no need to go back to haul wood to your workshop and then out to your job site with a track saw.
Track saws also have one up on the table saw because they can cut down boards of any size. The size of the board you can cut on a table saw is limited by what the fence will allow.
But the question isn’t really whether a table saw is better than a track saw. It is like comparing apples and oranges. One is not better than the other. They serve different purposes, and in some instances, whether you use one or the other can be a matter of personal preference.
Where a Table Saw is Better Than a Track Saw
Table saws have been around for hundreds of years and are still in use today because they are cut with extreme accuracy and they make cutting boards effortless.
Narrow Rip Cuts
Table saws are great for making narrow rip cuts, or any rip cut for that matter. Without extra equipment or rigging up a custom solution, it is nigh impossible to rip narrow boards with a track saw.
The track that the track saw uses to make straight accurate lines it is too wide to sit on the board properly. If you must use a track saw in this way, you will need extra wood and clamps need rig up a way to get the track to lay flat and even with the board you are cutting.
If done improperly, you may see a decrease in the accuracy of your cut.
Cutting Small Pieces
Trying to cut very small pieces of wood can be nearly impossible with a track saw. The track saw is lightweight, but large, and because the saw blade is on the bottom of saw, it is not easy to see what is going on under there.
The table saw, on the other hand, has an exposed blade and it is easy to see exactly where it is cutting at all times. While this allows more visibility, it is also more of a safety hazard.
If you need precision accuracy in your wood cuts, then the table saw is the way to go. A track saw is very accurate, far more accurate than a regular circular saw, but a table saw is just slightly more consistently accurate.
How deep any saw can cut depends on the design of the saw itself and the size of the saw blade that it uses. Generally speaking, a table saw can cut 3 to 4 inches deep. A track saw does not reach these depths. Most track saws just break 2 inches.
Cut Depths of Table Saws
Maximum Cutting Depth at 90 degrees (in inches)
Cutting Depth at 45 degrees (in inches)
Festool TS 55
Festool TS 75
DeWalt Flexvolt 60v MAX
Makita 6 ½ inch Plunge Circular Saw
DeWalt 10” Compact Job Site Table Saw
Ryobi 15-amp 10 inch Table Saw
Bosch 10” Worksite Table Saw
Grizzly 12” Table Saw
If you’re a weekend hobbyist, speed might not be that important to you, but if you make your living through woodworking, time is money, and the need to quickly prepare boards is very important.
When it comes down to it, a table saw can complete certain tasks faster and easier than a track saw. If you need to make a number of identically sized boards, as is often the case when building cabinets, a table saw is way faster.
A track saw requires you to measure and mark each board if you are looking for accurately cut boards. This takes a lot of extra time.
It takes a skilled woodworker about 1 minute and 26 seconds to make a standard cut in a board on a table saw. To set up, measure, and cut a board and put the equipment away, it takes about 4 minutes and 44 seconds.
Even if you do not factor in putting away the equipment, it takes about 3 minutes and 5 seconds for a single board.
Once a table saw is set up you can cut as many boards as you need of the same size without any measuring or resetting the fence. It will take you half the time to cut your boards with a table saw.
Alternatives to Purchasing a Table Saw
If you want to try to make your workshop function without a table saw, it is possible even if it isn’t ideal. Here are some ways you can get around adding a table saw.
- Band Saw for Rips - A band saw can handle all the rip cuts that a track saw cannot.
- Router for Dados - A router can easily be used to make dadoes.
- Woodworking School or Workshop - If you only need to use a table saw occasionally and you live near a woodworking school, you can ask if they will let you use their table saw. You may need to have an “in” to get this kind of access.
- Friends and Family - A friend with a table saw would probably be happy to let you use it from time to time.
You can get by most of the time by using other saws, and if you end up using the table saw more than you think, it might be time to invest in one.
Most of the time, if you aren’t pressed for time, you can get by with a track saw and a router, and maybe a band saw. But there are certain projects that will be made much easier by using a table saw because you can easily and quickly make accurate repeat cuts on a table saw.
If you have to choose between a track saw and a table saw, you will probably want to choose the track saw as it is more versatile and portable, but if you plan to be doing a lot of woodwork, you will likely want to add a table saw to your workshop eventually.