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Carpenter Nathan Gilbert gives us an in-depth lesson on track saws. First, Nathan explains how track saws are changing the way carpenters and woodworkers are breaking down sheet goods. Then, he walks us through all of the different parts and adjustments that these handy saws and the tracks they ride in have to offer.
Track Saws are Accurate and Portable
Track saws are accurate and portable power tools that can change the way a carpenter or woodworker handles a project. In the past, it was necessary to take sheet goods to the table saw and wrestle them through the blade. With a track saw, the user can bring the saw to the material and cut with much less effort.
Track Saw Anatomy
* Power source: Track saws can be corded or cordless. Corded saws always have power on tap as long as there is an outlet nearby. Cordless saws offer the ultimate portability.
* Dust collection: Discharge ports that can connect to vacuum or dust collection systems help keep the job site or shop clean. They also remove dust from around the blade and motor to help it run cooler and more efficiently.
* Blade guard: The shroud around the blade is the blade guard. This keeps hands and cords away from the spinning blade.
* Blade: Most track saws use 6 ½-inch circular saw blades.
* Depth adjustment: Track saws have depth adjustments very similar to standard circular saws. However, these adjustments are even more important for track saws as these tools plunge down into the material. Setting it ahead of time is very important.
* Bevel adjustment: When cutting bevels or miters along the length of a cut, users can set the bevel gauge up to 45 degrees.
* Speed control: Adjusting the speed to the material in question can help ensure a smoother cut. For hardwood, lower speeds are ideal. For softwoods and construction-grade plywood, higher speeds are sufficient.
* Splitter: The fin that trails behind the blade is the splitter, and it prevents the material from binding on the blade as it cuts.
* Guides: The slots in the bottom of the saw’s bed are the guides, and they ride along the track to create accurate and repeatable results.
* Length varieties: Tracks come in different lengths and users can attach them to one another for longer cuts.
* Splinter guard: The rubber or plastic edge that runs alongside the track is the splinter guard. It prevents wood tear out while cutting. It also provides an accurate way to align the track before the cut.
* Grip pad: Most tracks have at least two rubber grip pads on their bottoms. These pads rest on top of the sheet goods and prevent the track from sliding.
* Clamps: For situations where grip pads won’t do the trick, users can clamp the track in place. These specially designed clamps slide underneath the track to keep them out of the way of the saw.
Track Saws Can Miter, Too
Most track saws can miter as well. Simply set the track saw’s angle adjustment to 45 degrees and align the track across two measured marks. Place the saw onto the track, turn it on, and plunge it into the wood while pushing it down the track. The resulting angle should be a perfect 45-degree cut.
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Tool Lab is a series that features unbiased reviews and objective tests of new and noteworthy tools. In addition to reviews and testing, we’ll also be producing user guides, buying guides, and tips and tricks for getting the most out of tools. Tool Lab is geared towards those with pro-level experience or interest—those who are new to the trades, have been working in the trades, as well as advanced DIYers who want to know what pros know and want to perform at their level. Be sure to catch new reviews and content each week on ThisOldHouse.com/Tool-Lab or on YouTube.
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