There are of course many different types of saws out there. When it comes to saws with circular blades, two of the most popular ones are the circular saw and the track saw. Now, these two tools may be very similar, but they do have some big differences as well.
Let’s take a closer look at the two to figure out which one you should be getting.
Track Saws and Circular Saws: The Basics
Before we start talking about the differences and similarities between these two tools, let’s first figure out what they are.
What is a Circular Saw?
A circular saw is a basic type of handheld saw that features a fairly powerful motor, typically of 2 HP or higher, with toothed circular blades that can travel at up to 7,000 RPM. Circular saws are fairly portable and have the ability to make both crosscuts and rip cuts. Moreover, depending on the blade, they can also cut a variety of materials.
What is a Track Saw?
When it comes down to it, a track saw is more or less a circular saw, but with the addition of a long track that it sits on. This track sits on the material being cut and guides the saw along.
Not only does this allow for great precision, but also repetition.
Similarities of Circular Saws and Track Saws
Now that we know what both track saws and circular saws are, let’s figure out what kind of similarities they share.
#1: Both Are Handheld and Fairly Portable
The first and most basic similarity between these two types of saws is that they’re both handheld saws. Generally speaking, both of these types of saws can be operated with a single hand, and they are usually small enough to carry around and to be considered fairly portable. They’re not like huge stationary cabinet saws that have to stay in the workshop.
#2: Both Are Electric
Yet another similarity that these two types of saws share is that they both run on electricity. There are both corded and cordless models of each. However, it’s not like you are going to find any gas powered circular or track saws.
#3: Both Have Circular Blades
Another very basic similarity that both of these saws share is that they both have circular blades that move at very high speeds and in one continuous direction. These fast moving and sharp tooth blades have the ability to deal with fairly thick and tough materials.
#4: Both Cut Straight Lines
The next similarity that both the track saw and the circular saw share is that they both are designed to cut straight lines. Due to the size and the shape of the blades that both of these saws have, they can only cut straight lines and are unable to cut curves or irregular shapes.
#5: Both Can Cut a Variety of Materials
The other similarity that both the circular saw and the track saw share is that they are both able to cut a wide variety of materials, including wood, metal, plastics, tile and more.
Differences Between Circular Saws and Track Saws
With the similarities out of the way, let’s take a look at the differences which will be key in helping you choose the right tool for your needs.
#1: Circular Saws Are More Portable
Starting off with the first difference, what can definitely be said here is that circular saws are far more portable than track saws. Now, it’s not necessarily that circular saws themselves are much lighter or smaller than track saws, but they definitely can be. However, there is also the fact that track saws require extra components in order to function properly, something that we will talk about below.
#2: Track Saws Need to Be Set-Up
As we mentioned above, circular saws are more portable than track saws, and the reason for this is because track saws of course need that track which they operate on, and they also have a dust port that you have to connect the dust vacuum to. Therefore, not only are circular saws more portable, but they’re also much easier to use in terms that they don’t require a setup.
With the track saw, you have to actually set up the track and you have to set it up on a large and flat surface. You need a lot less space to operate a circular saw than you do to operate a track saw. In terms of portability and ease of setup, a circular saw is definitely the better option to go with.
#3: Circular Saws Are Cheaper
What is also important to note is that there is a certain price difference between these two tools. A circular saw will usually cost you anywhere between $50 and $200, whereas the track saw can cost you as much as $500 or more. Track saws have more parts and components to them, and yes, this does make them more expensive.
#4: Track Saws Are Ideal for Accuracy
Now, while circular saws are ideal for cutting long and straight lines, they aren’t that great in terms of accuracy, or in other words, you actually have to guide the blade of the circular saw along the cut line you want to make.
On the other hand, with a track saw, the saw is guided by a track that you have already set up, and therefore this takes the hard work out of making an accurate cut. With a track saw, as long as your track is properly set up, all you have to do is turn it on and push it along the track.
#5: Track Saws Allow for Precise Repetition
What’s also really cool about track saws is that if you are making a crosscut on a variety of boards, you can set up the track along all of those boards and cut them all at once. Sure, you can line up boards and cut them with a circular saw too, but it’s much easier to get precise repetition with a track saw. In other words, track saws make it much easier to make the exact same over and over again, with absolutely no noticeable difference from one to the next, something that a circular saw doesn’t exactly excel at.
#6: Track Saws Allow for More Adjustments
One thing that a track saw excels at is that you can make depth adjustments with it, therefore allowing for very shallow cuts and even for simple scoring. Unless you get an extremely special and high end circular saw, you aren’t going to be able to set the depth on it, and you won’t be able to score anything with it either.
#7: Track Saws Usually Don’t Have Riving Knives
One big advantage that a circular saw comes with is that they usually always feature riving knives. These riving knives are great for helping the wood split properly once the blade has passed through it. Track saws do not come with these riving knives, or at least they usually don’t, and this can result in a slightly less clean cut.
#8: Track Saws Usually Have Dust Ports
Track saws usually always come with dust ports that you can hook dust vacuums up to. This therefore reduces the amount of mess that is made during sawing, and makes cleanup time much faster too. Your average circular saw does not have this feature.
Circular Saw vs. Track Saw: Which of the Two Should You Use?
If you are looking for portability, ease of use, and something that is lightweight, then a circular saw is the way to go. However, if you have the space and money to spare, and you need a saw that can make extremely precise cuts, allows for depth adjustments, reduces the mess, and allows for the same cut to be repeated over and over again with great accuracy, then a track saw is the way to go.
There you have it people, everything you need to know about circular saws and track saws. Now that you know, you can make a well informed decision as to which one is best for you.
How Do Track and Circular Saws Compare with Other Tools?
See how track saws compare with: table saws
See how circular saws compare with: angle grinders | bandsaws | hypoid saws | jigsaws | jigsaws and reciprocating saws | miter saws | plunge saws | reciprocating saws | rotary saws | table saws