- Updated Mar 22, 2020
- Writen by Editorial Staff
Track Saw vs. Table Saw: Which One Should You Choose?
- Updated Sep 25, 2019
- Writen by Editorial Staff
It is always a great idea to have different kinds of power saws in the workshop as they will come in handy for different projects.
However, given the hefty price tags that most attract, many people are only able to buy one at a time and in many instances, one can easily get confused about which to buy first. For many people, the decision on whether to buy a track or table saw is often a very confusing one.
Despite their obvious differences in appearances, these power saws make some similar cuts, and in many workshops, they will be used for pretty much the same uses.
But, if you are still on the fence on which you need or what to buy first, this piece is for you. Here we provide an overview of each and explain some of their key difference to help you decide.
Track Saw Overview
The track saw is a type of circular saw that unlike the regular circular saws will come with a rail and will slide along this rail when cutting. This saw is also what many woodworkers refer to as the plunge saws.
Track saws often come in a small and lightweight design that makes them easy to pack and carry to different work sites. And with the included rail, they make it easy to make long straight cuts.
Like many other circular saws, they are great for making plunge cuts which are cuts that start in the middle of the workpiece. Although it is still possible to make the cuts with a table so it is often a tedious task and not all models will allow for this.
Unlike table saws which can sometimes leave the stock with some rough edges or splinters, track saws will leave a smooth and more finished edge which also reduces work for you because it requires less sanding.
And because they are also available in cordless versions, you can pack and use them almost anywhere, something that will be hard to achieve even with the smallest table saws. The small and more compact size also means that these saws will be perfect for cutting in confined areas.
What many users do not seem to like about the track saw is that it takes quite some time to set up as you need to take measurements and set up the rail. This also makes them unideal for repetitive cuts.
Table Saw Overview
For many woodworkers, the table saw is the workhorse in their workshop, and it is the kind of tool they cannot live without. Hence, it will always be one of the first things they buy when setting up a workshop.
Besides being generally more powerful than most other power saw types, table saws also offer the advantage of being more versatile. From simple straight cuts to more complex bevel cuts and ripping stock, there is almost nothing that you cannot do with a table saw.
Once you set it up to the desired blade angle and have the fence in the right place, you can make repetitive cuts with more precision than you would with a track saw.
And if you have one of the larger types such as the cabinet and contractor types you can be confident that you have a machine specifically designed for heavy-duty use and cutting through larger boards will be a breeze.
However, table saws tend to be larger and less portable as most are designed to be permanent fixtures in the workshop. Also, depending on the type and model that you are buying, these can be some of the priciest power saw types.
Common Blade Size
5-1/2”, 6-1/4”, 6-1/2” and 7-1/4”
8”,10” and 12”
Plunge cutting and for long, fast and precise cuts
Clean, accurate cuts and ripping stock
Corded and battery-powered
Benchtop, cabinet, contractor, and hybrid
Track Saw vs. Table Saw
If you are a serious woodworker or DIYer, there is no doubt that the track and table saws will be both handy to have around as they will be useful for different projects. But, if you can only buy one at a go or think you will just need either of them, here are some important points to keep in mind when deciding what to pick.
1. Common Blade Size
The blade size you get on your saw regardless of the type will have a huge impact on its cutting ability as it determines important things like the cutting depth.
Because the track saw is still a circular saw except for the rail, you can typically expect to get it with blade sizes of 5-1/2, 6-1/4, 6-1/2 and 7-1/4 inches. However, the 6-1/2-inch blade is what a huge chunk of the track saw users seem to prefer. With most of the blades, you can expect to get a cut depth of at least 2 inches when cutting vertically.
With the table saws, on the other hand, there are three common blade size options which are 8, 10 and 12 inches. However, many users seem to prefer the 10-inch blades and are hence the most common. These blades will deliver a cut depth of at least 3 inches at the 90-degree position.
2. Best Uses
Both the track and table saw are quite versatile and will hence be quite handy around the workshop, and while they can be used for many similar cuts, each will excel in different situations.
Track saws are perfect when you want to make plunge cuts into the workpiece as you can easily place them on a board and plunge in the saw to start cutting from any point. Also, these saws are great for mitering and thanks to their long track will also be great for making long, straight cuts.
When working on pieces that not only require precision but also a smooth finish, the track saw will also be the perfect choice as it cuts without leaving splinters or rough edges.
Table saws, on the other hand, are even more versatile than the track saws as they can make almost any cut that the latter can make. However, they seem to excel when it comes to ripping boards, cutting larger workpieces and making bevel cuts.
With these saws, you have plenty of brands and models to choose from given their wide popularity that means almost every woodworking equipment manufacturer has a few models in the market.
However, besides the brand and model, both are also available in different types which you should know when deciding what to buy.
The track saw will come in cordless and corded options. Cordless track saws are quite convenient as you can use them from anywhere while the corded types are more powerful and offer continuous power supply.
With the table saws, you get to choose from four main types which are the benchtop, cabinet, hybrid and contractor types. Benchtop models are the least powerful but also the most portable. The cabinet and contractor table saws are the largest and most powerful and hence a perfect choice for professional woodworkers.
4. Plunge Cuts
As a woodworker, you may need to do a plunge cut at some point which can be quite challenging without the right power saw.
Overall, the track saws are then best for making plunge cuts, and like any other circular saw types, this is one of the main things they are built for. And to make the plunge cut you will only need to determine where you want to make the cut and place the saw over it before plunging in.
Table saws are not built to make plunge cuts and while theoretically, it is still possible to do it, this is quite dangerous and would take a lot of skills and experience. Worst yet, you will probably also not like the outcome as it will not be very precise.
Like plunge cuts, bevel cuts are also quite common, and many woodworkers will have to make them for almost every project.
Luckily both the track and table saws can make bevel cuts. But most track saws can only bevel to one side either to the left or right to make bevel cuts up to 45 degrees. In most instances, this is often more than enough.
A typical table saw will also provide a bevel option to one side with the 45-degrees bevel being the most common. But, setting up a bevel cut for both the track and table saw takes relatively longer than when using other saws such as the miter saw.
6. Workpiece Table
While the track saws come with a highly useful rail that makes the blade easier to direct, they will not include a table for your workpiece.
Hence when using a track saw, you will need to make some form of a cutting platform if you do not have a good workbench to use it from. But, this also comes with its advantage with the key one being that you are not restricted to the workpiece size you can handle by the table size.
Table saws will include a table for holding the workpiece and a fence to help keep it in place when cutting. While this is quite convenient, it also means that it will be hard to handle material that is larger than the table.
When it comes to portability, the track saws are the clear winner here because their small and compact design makes them super easy to carry around. Better yet, some models are also cordless which means you are not restricted to using them where there is a power outlet
With the track saws, you will only need to take the rail apart and any other removable part and pack it in a case for transportation. Many manufacturers will also provide a carry case free or for a small extra cost.
Table saws are mostly built for use in the workshop, and their larger size will not allow you to move them from one job site to the other. But, they can still be portable as the smaller benchtop types are built to be lightweight and easy to carry around.
8. Average Prices
Given the many brands and models in the market and the various types of track and table saws, they will come in various price ranges. Unless you are comparing specific types, it is hard to come with a specific average price.
However, the smaller and more compact track saws tend to be the cheapest of the two saw types as you can get some simple models that will retail for as little as $150. However, the top tier models with more powerful motors and longer rails can retail for upwards of $1,000.
To get a good benchtop table saw, you will need to spend at least $300, but the larger cabinet and contractor table saws can cost thousands of dollars.
It is important to note that besides the brand you are buying from, where you are buying the saw and the accessories you want to come with it will also influence the price for both table and track saws.
For those that can afford or the true DIYers and woodworkers that are seriously into the trade, you need to have both the track and table saws in your workshop as they are two different saws that will be ideal for different uses.
These saws will differ in everything from the kinds of cuts each will be best for to the maximum cut depth and what you pay for either. Keeping these differences in mind makes it easy to decide which one to buy first.
But from our guide above, the track saw is perfect for those that are looking for something that will make plunge cuts easy and want a smaller and more portable saw. The table saw, on the other hand, is perfect when looking for a versatile workhorse that will handle various cut types and for heavy-duty use.