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Plunge Saws and guide rail lengths

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Trebor

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Hello,
I will shortly be buying a plunge saw and rails, mainly to cut down sheets of plywood and MDF. I have shortlisted 3 saw - Makita SP6000, Festool TS55 and Bosch GKT55. I want the ability to do cuts of a maximum of 6' and other lengths including 4' and 2'. I can afford any of the saws. Questions :-

1) Are there any real differences in cut quality between the 3 saws - blades are kind of universal in that any one of them can have a blade from several sources. Do any of these saw make better use of their rails/splinter gaurds that would give any less splintering ?

2) Never having used a rail based saw I am unsure of the minimum lengths of rail that is desirable. If cutting a 4' ply panel ( actually 1220mm) what length rail do you need so that the saw is fully supportedby the track at the start and finish of the cut ?...and does it make any difference (quality, safety etc ) if the cut is started with a plunge into the material rather than being clear of the material and plunging into thin air before running the saw forwards ? A mid-size rail from Makita is 1500mm, from Festool is 1400mm and Bosch use 1600mm. Bosch rails are unique ( to themselves and Mafell) but I could buy a TS55 from Festool and rails from Makita if the extra 100mm on the rail made a difference.

3) Will the lack of a riving knife come back to haunt me if I choose Makita or Bosch. Given the use I will put it to I suspect not.

4) Do the rip cut fences made by Makita and Festool do a good job ? Several of the projects involve making a lot of 2, 3 and 4" strips of material. Anybody know what width they will cut up to ?

5) The standard 48T Festool blade seems to be well liked. How do other brands of blade stack up ? Are the standard blades supplied by Makita and Bosch also good quality ?

and finally ( for now :) ) 6) The Bosch rails have a very neat joining system that appears to work well but the rails only have very narrow 'grippy' strips on the bottom - does these slip any more often that those from Festool/Makita that have much wider strips ?

Thanks for at least reading this far. Any pointers gratefully received.

Rob
 

Doug71

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I have the Festool, the 1.4m rail is only just long enough to cross cut sheets, 1.5m would be better.

The rip fence is a waste of time, they just don't work well with plunge saws.
 

Trevanion

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I've only really got a little amount of experience with my Makita but I rate it pretty highly.

The rails are 1500mm as you've mentioned and I think if they were any shorter you'd have a tough time starting and finishing a crosscut on a full-width sheet as Doug has already said. If you're going to be joining the two rails I'd recommend picking up two joining sets, you can just use one but using two makes it so much more rigid.

I think the lack of a riving knife is a bit of a non-issue unless you plan on ripping natural wood with it, then it may be a good idea to get a saw with one but even then I wouldn't think it would be totally necessary as you rarely get kickback with handheld circular saws, the saws tend to bog down and you pull off the trigger before anything serious happens. I've done a lot of ripping with a handheld without a RK in the past and I've just used wedges in the back of the cut on timber that had a tendency to pinch the blade as you went, it's not an elegant solution but it works.

I've done a couple of hundred cuts with the original blade on my Makita in OSB and it still cuts pretty nicely.
 

Mrs C

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Peter Millard has done quite a lot about track and tracksaw comparison on his YouTube site.

All the saws from the main brands do the job, and I don’t think I have seen a comment to say that any are particularly awful.

I personally have a Festool, can’t comment on other brands. I have my workshop set up so that power and extraction are suspended above my bench and I just swap between tools as needed, but that’s just for flexibility in my very small space.

If I was splitting a lot of sheet material I would buy a longer track, as noted on a previous comment, the 1.4 could really do with being 1.6

I have two blades, one Festool and one trend so that I can send one for sharpening occasionally. Both are fine, although the guys at Tewkesbury saw have commented that the sharpening machine doesn’t like the festool, something to do with the spacing of the teeth.
 

Doug B

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I’m told the Bosch track is the same as the Mafell which I have, I believe Bosch make it for them. If you are going to be cutting narrow strips I’d definitely go for the Bosch as you can clamp very close to the sprinter guard, plus the track joiner is far superior to the Festool.

The Festool was a more positive location of saw to track as the lug the saw sits on is larger but I’ve never had a problem with that. The Festool track is less prone to moving due to the grippy foam strips on the underside of the track that said you could always apply some foam strips to the Bosch track if you find you get any unwanted movement but I’ve not found this necessary.
 

Joshjosh

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Hi I've used all three you mention and the maffel at work.
When I went self employed I chose to buy the Bosch.
I didn't really rate the Makita as the one at work and one a workmate used both started to stiffen up on the plunge action over time. The festool had a nicer feel to use but the way the rails joined wasn't very accurate or quick and having a 1400 rail for cross cutting ply was doable but not great.
I went with Bosch because of the superior rails and because the best saw I'd used was the mafell but I couldn't afford that but I knew the Bosch was very similar. The longer rails are allot nicer to use on 1200 cuts, I don't get any slipping issues and don't usually clamp. They also join allot faster and more accurately and flex to follow uneven surfaces better.
Just my thoughts cheers
 

owen

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I have the ts55 and have no problems whatsoever cross cutting 4 foot sheets. Having a longer rail for it would be a lot less manouverable for doing shorter cuts, as it is the 1400 rail can feel too long sometimes. When I need to cut longer than 4 foot I just mark the board out with a long spirit level and move the rail to cut to the line, it's really not hard to get a nice straight cut.
 

bobblezard

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I have the Makita, and it really helped me get to grips with breaking down ply boards. Can't comment on the others but they get good feedback.
As for guide rail lengths I agree with Owen the 1.4 is too long for most work and not quite enough to cross cut 8 X 4 easily. I got 2 rails with the saw as part of a deal and for a while have been thinking about cutting one into two pieces at, say, 900mm and 500mm, then add the shorter piece to the full rail giving 1900mm and keep the 900mm section which would make it less cumbersome to crosscut work up to 6-700mm. Has anyone else done this? My main reservation is the potential loss of accuracy in joining 3 pieces for the rare occasions I want to cut the full 2440 but, for most of my projects I start with a cross cut to make the boards easier to handle.
 

Eric The Viking

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I have both 1.4m and 3m Makita rails. When I have room to get my peg table set up, I will probably cut down one of the 1.4m rails, and consider getting a 1.5m Festool rail for width-cutting sheets. I wholly agree with other comments above - you _can_ do it with only 1.4m but it's awkward, and the whole point of these saws is convenience and accuracy.

If I bought again I would probably go Festool, because it has a riving knife. I have had kickback three times, two of which were really quite frightening. In one of those incidents the saw jumped the rail altogether, and I have a 3/8" deep*, 3" long gouge in my bench top as a reminder. In the time it took to jump up, clear the rail and come down, there wasn't time for the plunge to retract. Meditate on that...

On all three occasions I was being stupid. I didn't stop to think - it is so easy to use, I didn't notice I was going beyond safe in an effort to save time. The other issue is that, even with a rip blade (you can find these if you try hard), it is NOT a rip-cutting design.

Incident #3 was when I tried trimming the height of pine skirtings - old and seasoned. The blade bound in the cut. At that point the trouble was that there was no room for movement - the rail was clamped to the skirting - so the only other way to release the kinetic energy was upwards. So on balance, I need protecting from my own idiocy.

When I bought years ago, the TS55 was premium-priced. It's not as bad now.

I do like Makita's anti-tip feature though. I rarely need to make bevels, but when I do, especially on thick stock, I have found it very useful.

E.

(*Through the ply surface to the chipboard beneath)
 

Woody2Shoes

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I went with a DeWalt specifically because it has a riving knife (that, and it was offered at a very good price - Homebase, after the Bunnings debacle needed to clear a lot of stock :D )
 

decas

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While blades are interchangeable if you mix brands you will likely end up with different kerf widths. This may mean you overcut the tear out strip and may affect accuracy and tear out.

I have Festool with a mix of track lengths which are regularly joined together and have always had excellent results.
Dave
 

Doug71

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Despite the Festool having a riving knife I have still had kickback a couple of times, my rail has a nice chunk out of it as a reminder to keep focused when using the saw. Both times it was on solid timber and to be honest both times I was not really doing things properly, once was over reaching and other was not supporting the work properly :oops:

It's easy to get complacent with the saws if you mainly cut sheet goods, solid wood can be a totally different beast.
 

petermillard

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Hello,
I will shortly be buying a plunge saw and rails, mainly to cut down sheets of plywood and MDF.... Questions :-

1) Are there any real differences in cut quality between the 3 saws - blades are kind of universal in that any one of them can have a blade from several sources. Do any of these saw make better use of their rails/splinter gaurds that would give any less splintering ?
No, though the stock blades in the Festool and Mafell are particularly good.

2) Never having used a rail based saw I am unsure of the minimum lengths of rail that is desirable. If cutting a 4' ply panel ( actually 1220mm) what length rail do you need so that the saw is fully supportedby the track at the start and finish of the cut ?...and does it make any difference (quality, safety etc ) if the cut is started with a plunge into the material rather than being clear of the material and plunging into thin air before running the saw forwards ? A mid-size rail from Makita is 1500mm, from Festool is 1400mm and Bosch use 1600mm. Bosch rails are unique ( to themselves and Mafell) but I could buy a TS55 from Festool and rails from Makita if the extra 100mm on the rail made a difference.
I've never had an issue plunging into the material in ~15 years of using a 1400mm rail, though obviously a longer rail will let you start and finish a cut without plunging. Be aware that longer rails can be a pain in the neck in a small space though, especially when joined to rip a full sheet.

3) Will the lack of a riving knife come back to haunt me if I choose Makita or Bosch. Given the use I will put it to I suspect not.
With sheet goods, probably not; if you want to use it for ripping lengths of solid timber, then I'd rather have one, personally.

4) Do the rip cut fences made by Makita and Festool do a good job ? Several of the projects involve making a lot of 2, 3 and 4" strips of material. Anybody know what width they will cut up to ?
The side fence? Never understood them tbh - why buy a tracksaw and use it off the track?? That said I had the Festool one on loan recently and it's solid enough, couldn't tell you the maximum width though.

5) The standard 48T Festool blade seems to be well liked. How do other brands of blade stack up ? Are the standard blades supplied by Makita and Bosch also good quality ?
As mentioned above the stock blades at this kind of level are generally very good - Festool and Mafell better than the Makita IMHO - but my 'daily driver' right now is from Key Blades and fixings, and is very good.

and finally ( for now :) ) 6) The Bosch rails have a very neat joining system that appears to work well but the rails only have very narrow 'grippy' strips on the bottom - does these slip any more often that those from Festool/Makita that have much wider strips ?
The Mafell/Bosch rail joining system is excellent - second mover advantage - and while the grippy strips are narrower, they are very grippy; Festool and Mafell/Bosch rails grip better than Makita, in my experience.

Thanks for at least reading this far. Any pointers gratefully received.
Rob
For context, I'm a long-term tracksaw user, and have used Festool pretty much daily for ~15 years. I also own the Makita, have the Mafell on loan, and own a handful of 'lesser' brand supermarket saws, all of which do the job just fine, FYI. As mentioned above I've done a lot of tracksaw videos on my YouTube (link in profile) including a 7 part 'tracksaw workshop'series, blade comparisons, Festool v Mafell comparison etc.. etc.. so may be worth a few minutes of your time - there's a playlist with them all in here - http://bit.ly/TracksawWorkshop

Bosch rails are made by Mafell, and Mafell also make some parts for the Bosch, but Bosch manufacture and assemble the saws in their own factories.

HTH, P
 
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Rorschach

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A little plug for Peter for those that haven't seen his videos. His tracksaw vids are probably the best on the internet, certainly the best I have seen. He covers the vast majority of tracksaws on offer as well as rails, he is fair minded and realistic in his reviews and points out pro's and con's on everything he uses. For a man who owns a lot of Festool gear he is very open minded to other tools.
Very much worth checking out his channel even if only for that info.
 

pulleyt

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A little plug for Peter for those that haven't seen his videos. His tracksaw vids are probably the best on the internet, certainly the best I have seen. He covers the vast majority of tracksaws on offer as well as rails, he is fair minded and realistic in his reviews and points out pro's and con's on everything he uses. For a man who owns a lot of Festool gear he is very open minded to other tools.
Very much worth checking out his channel even if only for that info.
+ 1 Peter's videos have been very helpful for my woodworking journey
 
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