So, your upcoming project is going to require you to cut some lumber. That’s a common task for both professional contractors and DIYers, so you’ll be happy to know that there are plenty of power saw options available to make your job efficient.
However, you may have already noticed that several types – including the track saw and table saw – provide a seemingly similar method of performance.
In truth, though, the two are fairly different types of power saw. You should know and understand these differences before investing in one or the other. This guide will help you do precisely that while also highlighting the best utilizations for both tools, including in professional and DIY settings.
Track Saws and Table Saws: The Basics
As noted, it really is important for you to know the difference between the two tools. However, before you can understand those differences, you should have a look at each of them on an individualized basis.
What Is a Track Saw?
Track saws are not exactly common outside of professional woodworking shops these days. But all the same, these saws are very useful because they feature a circular saw base mounted onto a long, fixed track.
When positioned properly, this combination of elements allows a user to cut extended straight cuts in a variety of wood boards and planks. These cuts can also be made fairly deep, thanks to the adjustable blade height on these units.
In particular, track saws are known for their precision and their ability to create a clean finish in just a single pass.
Along the same lines, these units are known for their enhanced safety, which derives from their basic operational form. In essence, the blade on these units is always locked in a downward position. As such, your fingers never need to pass by the active blade while working through a rip cut.
What Is a Table Saw?
But as a quick refresher, a table saw is a specialized power saw that is mounted onto the underside of a purpose-made work surface. Moreover, a table saw’s blade protrudes through the table’s surface, thus allowing cuts to be made as a wood workpiece is passed squarely over the blade.
Table saws are prized for several of their productive qualities, including their speed. In fact, their broad work surface makes it very easy to perform the same cut over and over again without missing a beat. In addition, table saws can be outfitted with a variety of accessories – including feather boards, miter gauges, and dado blades – that allow them to create a wider variety of detailed, shape-specific cuts.
Track Saws vs. Table Saws: What Are the Differences?
Now that you know the basics, let’s take a look at the major differences between the two tools.
Speed and Cleanliness of Cut
When it comes to comparing the operational basics, the track saw and table saw are often compared on the speed of their operation.
Generally speaking, both use a rapidly spinning blade that makes quick work of most wood pieces passed over their respective blades. However, table saws are generally favored for speedy production due to their accessible work surface. Track saws, meanwhile, need to be lifted and repositioned between each cut.
Cut cleanliness also comes into play when accounting for each saw’s speed. When used at their proper operational speeds, the track saw does tend to provide a cleaner cut. Table saws can often provide a comparably clean cut, but this usually requires a user to pass their workpiece over the unit’s blade much slower.
The track saw and table saw also differ when it comes to their capacity for detailing. To be specific, table saws are well-known for their ability to make a variety of detailed cuts based upon the type of blade used and the types of accessories attached to the table.
As a result, a skilled woodworker can use a table saw to make narrow cuts, as well as dado, rabbet, and miter cuts efficiently.
Meanwhile, track saws simply cannot perform detailing at all. This is because they are fixed on a track that prevents the main saw unit from being manipulated freely. Most detailing attachments are also incompatible with a common track saw.
Differences in portability are also plain to see between these two power tools.
The track saw is considered the better of the two on that front because the whole unit can be taken from place to place with some effort. However, a table saw is a fully stationary device in most cases. While portable table saws do exist, they are usually less powerful than their stationary counterparts.
The use of any power saw comes with some inherent risks, all of which you should account for by wearing proper PPE and following the saw’s use procedures (as outlined in the user’s manual).
However, track saws and table saws are sometimes compared based upon their safety ratings anyway.
Though precise features will differ from model to model, track saws are considered the safer option because their downward-facing blade never comes near to a user’s hands or fingers. A table saw, meanwhile, often requires its active blade to be proximal to a user’s hands.
A push stick can help minimize that risk, however, and should be used by all handymen.
Which of the Two Should You Use?
Once it comes time to pick up a track saw and table saw from your local hardware store, you should base your choice primarily on what kind of cuts you intend to make.
For detailed cuts, you’ll have a hard time beating a table saw. The same goes for making a series of repetitive cuts (so long as you’re okay with a bit of a rough finish). Meanwhile, long, deep, straight cuts through dense wood stock can often be best accomplished with a track saw.
At the same time, you’ll need to carefully consider where you’ll be working on your woodworking project.
If you’re based in a workshop, at home or otherwise, a table saw should be your first choice. Its assortment of accessories allows you to get a lot of bang for your buck. You will be able to use it to rip and square boards among other things. A track saw is a bit of a one-trick pony on the other hand. However, it is way more portable, making it ideal for woodworking projects out in the field.
Now that these differences have been laid out, you should be able to clearly see what sets the track saw and table saw apart.
Both are worthwhile options to have at your disposal, but each also excels at particular woodcutting tasks. In the long run, you may consider investing in both to fill out your power tool arsenal. But for now, while you are planning on buying just one of them, the differences in this guide should help you decide which saw type best fits your current wood cutting needs.
Finally, there is also the chance that neither is right for you. If so, make sure to check my guide to over two dozen different saw types.