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TrackSaw Kit (#DWS520SK) with 59" Track
Straight, clean and simple cuts
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted - 1-13-2009
The DeWALT TrackSaw Kit is designed to make cutting large pieces of stock down to size with clean, crisp edges accurate and easy. The saw itself, guide track and even the blade are specially designed for the task. The interaction between this saw and guide rail dramatically limits the human error factor, a feature/fault we all come fully equipped with.
The DeWALT TrackSaw Kit is available in the corded 110V version featured in this review or a 28V cordless model. Aside from the power supply, the features remain virtually identical.
Motor and Speed
The DeWALT TrackSaw Kit is powered by a 12A, 1300W motor to handle the loads of cutting wood at the maximum cut depth of 2-1/8". Despite its power, the motor is compact, mounted low and out of the way. For the heavy use contractor types, the manual includes a section on checking the brushes, a feature that could extend the life of this tool in a workplace environment considerably.
Not so common on circular saws is a real speed control. The DeWALT TrackSaw Kit has a dial with 5 positions that let you select from the 1750 to 4000 rpm range. The speed dial is conveniently located on the motor housing where it is unlikely to be bumped accidentally but easy to get at when needed. A chart in the instruction manual offers suggestions on speed settings for cutting various materials. The motor also has soft start circuitry built in.
Controls & Handles
The DeWALT TrackSaw has its controls in logical positions, including the On/Off trigger in the main handle. Both the top and forward handles have rubberized overmolds that make them comfortable and resist slipping very well.
To operate the saw a push button at the top of the main handle must be pushed forward to allow plunging of the blade and starting the motor. This feels a bit awkward at first but gets easier with a little practice.
Another pair of knobs on the baseplate are used to fine-tune the fit of the saw to the track system. These knobs have a hex screw lock at their centers so once set, they will not need attention very often. Another finger-operated knob on the baseplate engages the anti-kickback feature. This spring-loaded knob has a hook that can be engaged to disable the anti kickback feature though I can't think of a good reason to do that.
The DeWALT TrackSaw Kit has a 6-3/4"-wide by 12"-long baseplate that is grooved to work with the track system but its bottom is flat overall for general use as well. The motor side of the baseplate is flat and can be run along a clamped on fence if desired. Because the blade is offset to outside of the left edge of the baseplate, a clamped on fence can not be used on that side.
A pair of finger-operated knobs controls the 0 to 47-degree bevel function. A brightly printed scale and pointer at the front of the saw makes setting bevel angles easy. Another finger-operated knob is used to set the plunge depth stop. This stop can be placed anywhere in the 0 to 2-1/8" range.
The DeWALT TrackSaw Kit comes with a 6-1/2" (20mm arbor) 48-Tooth Ultra Fine finishing Blade. This narrow kerf blade is specially designed for use with the track system to cut cleanly in virtually any wood species. This blade gives the DeWALT TrackSaw maximum overall cut depths (at full plunge depth) of 2-1/8" at 90-degrees and 1-5/8" at 45-degrees.
There is another set of controls next to the main handle, one that releases the plunge lock and another that is used to lock the plunge mechanism at a preset height for changing blades. Pushing down and holding that lever/knob while turning the blade by hand engages the blade lock for changing. A special hex wrench is included for blade changing and is stored in the forward handle.
The DeWALT TrackSaw Kit saw has a built in riving knife that follows the blade through the plunge motion. The riving knife prevents stresses in the wood from closing the kerf on the blade, which could lead to a kickback. The riving knife is adjustable though for most users, once it is set correctly you need only check it to be sure it has not moved.
The DeWALT TrackSaw Kit blade is enclosed within a metal housing that increases safety and enhances dust collection. A 1-1/4"-diameter (ID) port at the rear of the housing provides a connection for a dust collector. The location of this port and the design of the housing make this a remarkably efficient system. The result is a much cleaner workspace.
The downside to this design is that without the vacuum of a dust collector, you run the risk of building up debris within the housing. That could interfere with the plunge action.
At the heart of the DeWALT TrackSaw Kit is the specially designed aluminum track. The track in this review is 59"-long but DeWALT offers extensions and longer versions of the track that allow cutting full sheets of plywood in a single pass.
The track has a center rib that engages the saw baseplate to keep it moving exactly parallel to the edges. The track has two identical sides so that it can be used in either direction. The bottom surface of the track has a series of rubber strips that the keep the DeWALT TrackSaw Kit "locked" in place on most surfaces.
Each side of the track has a composite anti-splinter strip that is trimmed to its final width before the first use. This insures an exact fit and the best possible cut. Trimming the strip also creates a precise edge to align with layout lines for very accurate cuts. This arrangement does force you to have the "good" part of the wood being cut beneath the track and the "waste" to the outside. Being able to cut in both directions makes this easy.
DeWALT also offers a set of clamps (accessory) that are specially designed to secure the track to difficult materials. These clamps fit into the raised channel from below so they are completely out of the way of the saw. The clamps also can be positioned anywhere along the underside of the track so it can be firmly clamped to virtually any size piece of wood. A pair of these clamps costs $49.99 (1-9-2009) but if you need them, they are well worth the investment.
In The Shop
Setting the DeWALT TrackSaw up, specifically adjusting it for the track and then trimming the splinter-reducing strip took, just a few minutes but is important for both safety and performance. All of the adjustments and controls worked as expected. After the initial setup, none of the adjustments needed any further attention throughout the evaluation process that lasted a bit over two weeks in the shop.
At 11.5 LBS the DeWALT TrackSaw Kit is not a lightweight but its handles are comfortable and placed where using it is easy. Setting blade depth takes a little getting used to because of the normally retracted plunge mechanism. The manual calls for 1/8" of blade exposure below the wood being cut so adding that to the thickness and dialing that figure in on the depth stop works well. The soft start feature built into the DeWALT TrackSaw Kit motor isn't a "must have" in a circular saw in my opinion but does reduce the initial kick for those who forget to hold on.
The hardest thing to get used to is the plunge action and its lockout. DeWALT's legal eagles no doubt had a role in the addition of the thumb actuated lockout for the plunge action. Despite arthritis in my thumbs, this additional button is not very difficult to use and gets easier with a little experience. I think we need to get used to this kind of idiot-intervention mechanism on power tools as long as people blame everyone else when they get hurt doing something stupid.
The interaction of the saw with track is both simple and effective. Once adjusted, the saw moves smoothly on the track and cuts very straight. The toughest part of using this system is being consistent in how you align the edge of the track with your layout marks. The DeWALT TrackSaw Kit cuts a very clean, straight line wherever you put it. But it remains up to you to put it in the right place for the cut!
The rubber strips along the bottom of the track do hold it in place very well in most cases. As you might suspect, setting the track on a dust-contaminated surface ruins that adhesion so keeping a brush handy to clean the work surface and the slightly sticky grip strips is not a bad idea. I also tried a set of the specially designed DeWALT clamps with the DeWALT TrackSaw Kit and they proved to be very effective. I found them especially helpful when using this outfit on pieces of wood in the 24"-long and shorter range.
The cut quality in all types of wood is very good. The included blade did a good job in everything up and including veneer plywood and Lauan that frays so very easily. I can't say that the edge was perfect but it is in that neighborhood.
Because the blade is fully enclosed, dust collection is near perfect if you connect the port to a decent dust collector. With an enclosed blade like this, using a dust collector is almost mandatory to prevent clogging up the plunge mechanism. I did not try the DeWALT TrackSaw Kit without the dust collector because that seemed to be asking for trouble.
The DeWALT TrackSaw Kit is a well made tool that really does make straight cuts and leaves very clean edges. This outfit will be especially interesting to those who break down sheet goods frequently. It could also make life easier for those without full sized table saw capabilities. You can make finish cuts with the DeWALT TrackSaw Kit if you take the time to position it correctly.
The DeWALT TrackSaw Kit shown here, with the corded saw, saw carry case and 59" track is selling for $499.99 (1-9-2009). The cordless 28V version has a street price of $899.99 (1-9-2009) and other kit combinations have varying prices. Certainly the DeWALT TrackSaw Kit represents a major investment if you have the need, but it will pay dividends for a long time to come.
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