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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
And the “Best Bet” Winner is...
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.