Plunge-Cutting Railsaws Reviewed: A Look at Offerings from Makita, DeWalt and Festool
posted on June 1, 2009 by Chris Marshall
Test cutting with plunge-cut rail saws As a relatively new addition to challenge standard circular saws, plunge cutting rail saws offer cleaner, more precise cuts than many saws on the current market.

When it comes to ordinary circular saws, I’m a skeptic. They’re hard to steer on a straight line, they blow dust all over everything, and without a riving knife, well, they’re like kickbacks with a handle. My biggest beef, though, is that circ saws don’t cut very cleanly, no matter what blade I use. I want my circular saw to make finished cuts. Even a half inch of expensive sheet goods is too much to lose to a splintered or scorched circ saw cut.

Plunge cut rail saw connected to dust collector A dust collector is certainly helpful, but the author was impressed by the extremely small amount of dust thrown off by the three saws.

Well, there are much better — albeit pricey — portable saws for picky folks like me. If you’re a Festool fan, you’re no doubt familiar with the TS 55 EQ (6-1⁄4"-diameter) and TS 75 EQ (8-1⁄4") Plunge-cut Saws. Their bases fit onto an aluminum guide rail to make arrow straight cuts. The rails have a soft, replaceable edge strip that meets the blade to reduce splintering and chip-out. This splinterguard also doubles as an exact blade index for setting up cuts: just align the rail edge right to your layout marks for spot-on 90° and beveled cuts.

Festool rail saw making a plunge cut Festool has marketed a circular saw using rails to make cuts for 40 years, but as of 2009, Makita and DeWalt have introduced similar products.

Festool has been refining railguided portable saws for more than 40 years. But, here’s the big buzz: there are two new kids on the block. Last summer, DeWalt unveiled the DWS520SK 6-1⁄2"-diameter TrackSaw, and recently, Makita entered the ring with the 6-1⁄2" SP6000. I couldn’t wait to ditch my circular saw in a dark corner of the shop and take these three hot rods out for a long test drive. So, that’s what I’ve done, and here’s how the new guys test against the venerable Festool TS 55 EQ.

Common Ground, Shared Features
DeWalt rail saw equipped with riving knife Only the Makita saw doesn't come equipped with a riving knife, a major difference between the three and a concern.

DeWalt and Makita have wisely followed Festool’s lead and designed a number of smart features into their machines. All three saws have variable-speed, soft-start motors, like a good router. They also have electronic feedback circuitry that helps keep the blade spinning at a constant speed to compensate the cutting load.

Easy to change rail saw cut indexing knob All three rail saws have easy to use adjustable cut indexing, making changing up your cuts easy to do on the fly.

Notice that the blade stays retracted in the guard until you’re ready to make a cut. To expose the teeth, you need to thumb a separate release button first, which unlocks the trigger and plunge mechanism. Then, depending on the saw, you either pivot or push the motor assembly down to begin cutting. It’s a triple level of protection against accidents.

Aluminum guide rails for rail saws All three saws come with solidly built aluminum guide rails and longer rails and extenders can be added on or purchased.

Dust ports are provided on these tools, and there are various guide rail options. You can buy nine different lengths up to 16 ft. from Festool. The TS 55 EQ comes with a 55" rail. DeWalt offers 46", 59" and 102" rails, with three saw/rail package options. Makita makes 54" and 117" rails, but neither comes standard with the saw.

Plunge-saw rails have soft, grippy strips on the bottom to help hold them in place, or you can clamp them down. Festool gives you two screw clamps, and DeWalt provides a pair of quick-grips. Makita sells screw clamps as accessories. Makita outfits the rails with one splinterguard, like Festool; DeWalt puts a soft edge on both sides.

DeWalt DWS520SK TrackSaw Plunge Rail Saw
Makita SP6000 Plunge Rail Saw
Festool TS 55 EQ Plunge Rail Saw

And the “Best Bet” Winner is...
DeWalt, Makita and Festool rail saws Of the three saws tested (shown here clamped upright), the author found Festool's still offers the best value for your dollar.

Without question, it’s Festool. The TS 55 EQ delivers accurate, safe, finish-quality cuts consistently. It’ll even chomp through thick hardwood with the right blade. And, while it’s not always the case, this time, “Black and Green” is also competitively priced.

posted on June 1, 2009 by Chris Marshall
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2 thoughts on “Plunge-Cutting Railsaws Reviewed: A Look at Offerings from Makita, DeWalt and Festool”

  • Juan

    Thank you for your honest review. I am in the market for either a new table saw or a track saw. Since I have no help for cutting sheet stock, I think a track saw is the best bet. There is another maker in the market, Grizzly Tools makes a track saw now.

  • Eden1415

    Ordered a TS 55 REQ today from my local Rockler Store. I'm having to retool after moving and selling most of my old power tools. The TS 55 and the MFT3 are perfect for most of the wood working I will be doing now. Looked at all the other track solutions on the market. Thanks to all of the store people as well, for letting me take a long hard look.

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