There are certain tools that you think you may never need, and then when you try one, you start wondering how you ever got along without it. The new Heavy-Duty TrackSaw from DeWalt is one of those tools. And like all of DeWalt’s tools, it’s designed and built with the professional user in mind, but it’s certainly right at home in the hands of any serious do-it-yourselfer!

As the name implies, the TrackSaw is a portable circular saw that rides on a track. The saw has a broad, aluminum base with a wide groove machined into the bottom. The precision-extruded track has a raised ridge running the length of it that mates with the groove in the saw’s base. The track is clamped onto the material you want to cut, and the saw runs along the track to create perfectly straight, splinter-free cuts.

There are certain tools that you think you may never need, and then when you try one, you start wondering how you ever got along without it. The new Heavy-Duty TrackSaw from DeWalt is one of those tools. And like all of DeWalt’s tools, it’s designed and built with the professional user in mind, but it’s certainly right at home in the hands of any serious do-it-yourselfer!

As the name implies, the TrackSaw is a portable circular saw that rides on a track. The saw has a broad, aluminum base with a wide groove machined into the bottom. The precision-extruded track has a raised ridge running the length of it that mates with the groove in the saw’s base. The track is clamped onto the material you want to cut, and the saw runs along the track to create perfectly straight, splinter-free cuts.

The TrackSaw combines the precise cutting of a table saw or panel saw with the portability and ease of use of a circular saw. It allows for one-person cutting of even the largest and heaviest of sheet goods, without all the awkward and dangerous maneuvering required to run the sheet through a table saw.

The saw itself has a very stout feel in your hand, but is still light — about 12 pounds — and comfortable, with well-positioned padded handles and controls. It uses a smooth-cutting, 6 1/2-inch, 48-tooth carbide blade, and blade changing is quick and easy with a built-in spindle lock and an onboard blade wrench. There is a riving knife behind the blade to prevent the saw kerf from closing up and binding the blade, and the saw’s 1 1/4-inch dust-collection outlet connects to any standard shop vacuum hose. The saw also has a unique anti-kickback feature that locks against the track to prevent the saw from sliding backward. A simple knob turns this feature on or off as desired.

There are several other nice features on this saw as well. The "soft start" brings the blade up to speed with a very short delay, which eliminates the torque "twisting" you get with other saws. The depth adjustment is very well marked and calibrated, and compensates for the thickness of the track as well. The saw bevels from 0 to 47 degrees, and once again the adjustment is easy and well marked. There’s a speed control dial that alters the saw’s RPMs to match the material you’re cutting, as well as a pair of simple adjustment knobs to remove any play between the saw and the track.

The TrackSaw works a little differently from most circular saws. In the off position, the blade is completely retracted up into the blade guard. As you activate the saw and move it forward, the blade pivots down and forward into the material and the guard stays stationary, which is the opposite of most portable circular saws.

The tracks are available in 46-, 59- and 102-inch lengths. Track connectors are available to join two or more track pieces together for longer lengths, and you can also cut the tracks to shorter lengths to fit specific applications. The track has four glide strips on the top so the saw slides smoothly, as well as friction strips on the bottom to help hold the track in place without slipping, and two anti-splinter strips, one on each edge. The glide strips, friction strips and anti-splinter strips are all replaceable as needed.

LOTS OF DIFFERENT APPLICATIONS

One of the TrackSaw’s primary uses is cutting plywood and other sheet materials. You simply mark your cut line on the sheet, then align the anti-splinter strip right against the marked line. These strips were trimmed in the initial setup, so they are now perfectly aligned to the path of the blade and indicate exactly where the blade will cut. …CONTINUED

The track will stay in place with the friction strips on the bottom, or you can clamp it in place with a pair of DeWalt’s quick-adjust clamps that are specifically designed for use with the track. Unlike other types of clamps, these lock into the track from underneath, allowing secure clamping of the track to the work piece without any interference from the clamps themselves.

Once the track is in place and secured, just set the saw on the track, depress the trigger lock to release both the trigger and the blade pivot mechanism, and make the cut. This same setup is great for truing up the rough edge of a board — simply clamp the track on top of the board, and you can cut a clean, straight edge.

The fixed blade guard and pivoting blade lets the TrackSaw excel at plunge cutting. You can start the saw anywhere on a sheet, and cut precise openings. You can also use the plunge feature for such things as cutting a heat register opening into a floor, or for adding accent strips to hardwood floors, tables and other surfaces.

The track can also be used vertically for other cutting applications. For example, you can clamp the track to the face of a cabinet to cut a precise opening to fit an appliance installation. Or, you can also use the TrackSaw to trim doors while they’re still in place. The blade guard on the TrackSaw is broad and flat, and, as mentioned earlier, it doesn’t move. So, you can clamp the track to the bottom of the door, rest the guard directly on the floor, and make a clean, precise cut approximately 1/2 inch up from the floor.

DeWalt’s Heavy Duty TrackSaw is a beautifully designed tool system that’s a joy to work with. It’s available in a corded version, Model DWS520SK, which includes the saw, blade, a 59-inch track, and case for $499. There’s also a 28-volt cordless version, Model DC351SKL, which includes the saw, blade, two 28-volt nanophosphate lithium ion batteries, charger, a 59-inch track, and case for $899. For more information on the saw and other accessories, go to http://www.dewalt.com/tracksaw/.

Correction: In the Father’s Day gift ideas column, the new upgraded DeWalt batteries were incorrectly identified. They are actually DeWalt’s new XRP lithium ion batteries, which offer 2,000 recharges versus 800 for the original 18-volt DeWalt battery.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com.

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