At first glance, it may seem like the biggest difference between a track saw and a table saw is the table itself.
However, there are other important differences between these saws that make them ideal for different kinds of jobs, in the workshop or on the work site. Let’s take a closer look at track saws and table saws to understand which one is better for different wood working projects.
What is a Track Saw?
A track saw is a saw with a fast-spinning circular blade, distinguished from other saws by its unique track.
The track and the saw are taken to the work, where it makes fast, straight, long cuts. It is essentially a circular saw, but attached to a smooth track that it glides along.
How Does a Track Saw Work?
A track saw is best at making long, straight rip cuts, kept on a straight path by the track and guide rail. It is excellent for cutting long, flat materials like plywood and MDF for doors, baseboards, and the like.
You use clamps to secure the track rails to the work, and glide the saw along the piece. The best track saw can also make plunge cuts, dropping the blade into any area on your workpiece.
Different Kinds of Track Saws
There are a few different features that differentiate track saws and may make them better suited to different uses.
Some track saws can be angled to make long, straight bevel cuts.
Length of the track
Track saws come with tracks that range anywhere from approximately 50 inches to nearly 200. It is also possible to get extensions that temporarily make the track longer, giving the tool more versatility for certain jobs without reducing portability and ease of storage.
Any extensions must be connected precisely in order to maintain the accuracy of your cut, so they should always be from the brand that made your original saw and track.
The depth setting of a track saw needs to account for the thickness of the track itself, and then be deep enough for the stock you will be using.
What is a Track Saw Best For?
Track saws are a great way to make long, fast, straight, accurate cuts. The track keeps the saw moving on a straight line, so once the work is measured and clamped, the operator doesn’t have to worry so much about tool control to maintain accuracy.
They are not only a great way to make long, straight cuts in flat materials, but people like them for their speed and portability.
They are small enough to quickly take to any job site, and don’t require any clearance when working in small spaces. Track saws also usually make clean cuts that require little sanding or finishing.
What is a Table Saw?
Like a track saw, a table saw has a fast-moving circular blade. Unlike a track saw, a table saw’s blade comes up through the table from below, rather than being plunged down into the work, and the height of the blade controls the depth of the cut.
The large, flat table supports the work and keeps it flat, while the operator guides the work into the blade.
How Does a Table Saw Work?
Like track saws, table saws are best for making long, straight cuts in flat stock.
The width of the cut is determined by setting the position of the fence, which then guides the operator as they feed work into the blade.
Table saws are large and powerful, and well-suited to making large numbers of identical cuts.
Because of the versatility of fence placement, a table saw can make narrower cuts than a track saw, where cuts typically can only be as narrow as the track.
And, because of its power, it is better at cutting hard and exotic woods than a track saw.
Different Types of Table Saws
Table saws come in a variety of sizes, that influence not only their power and their portability, but also the number of other features a table saw might have.
The different sizes of table saw are:
These table saws are small and portable, designed to be clamped to a table or workbench.
Because they are smaller and lighter, the size of stock they can cut is also smaller and shorter. Because they are made of lighter-weight materials, like plastics and aluminum, these aren’t as robust or durable as larger table saws.
These are larger and more robust than benchtop table saws, but are still portable.
A jobsite table saw usually has a folding stand and table, so that it has its own work surface and doesn’t need to be clamped to a bench, but without the size and weight of a larger table saw.
Stationary table saws
Stationary table saws are not designed to be portable, and weigh several hundred pounds.
The tables are much larger, to manage large stock and improve rip capacity. The fences are more sturdy and reliable, and these are the preferred table saws of most professionals.
Cabinet saws enclose the entire saw body in a cabinet, which controls noise and dust. They are the largest and heaviest table saws, and can cut almost any material.
Hybrid saws merge some of the most desirable features of a stationary, professional table saw with some of the most desirable features of a massive cabinet table saw to provide a more affordable option.
What is a Table Saw Best For?
Table saws are best for large-scale, repetitive rip cuts, even in narrow stock. They are powerful and robust, and can make short work of big jobs.
Track Saw vs. Table Saw
Track Saw Advantages
- Accurate straight cuts with minimal measuring
- Doesn’t need any clearance
- Clean cuts with minimal finishing
- Safer than a table saw
Table Saw Advantages
- Repeating identical cuts over and over without new setup
- Narrow cuts
- More versatile for different kinds of cuts
- More powerful for harder woods
- Better dust collection