I’ve long been a fan of the track saw. For me, there’s no faster, safer or more reliable way to break down sheet goods into sizes I can handle. While I can wrestle a 4′ x 8′ sheet of 3⁄4″ plywood onto the cabinet saw if I must, it’s not easy and there’s every possibility I’ll hurt myself – or worse, get a less-than-perfect cut.
With a track saw, you simply set up your work on sawhorses (or on the floor atop a sheet of rigid insulation), align the track to your cut line, set the saw for the angle and depth of cut, then make the cut. It really is that simple.
If you often work with sheet goods, this is a tool that belongs in your shop, and at just $245 for Grizzly’s “Master Pack” (which includes the saw, a 55″ guide rail and accessory pack), there’s no reason to not have one.
After wrestling (sometimes unsuccessfully) with sheet goods on the table saw for a day or two last year, I switched to a Festool TS 55 track saw to cut numerous plywood sheets to size for the bulk of my kitchen cabinets. But I’m done with the 3⁄4″ ply work, so to compare similar materials, I put the Grizzly system to use on 11⁄2″-thick butcher-block countertop material (I used the Festool when I installed my countertops – no way I could lift that heavy glue-up onto the table saw without help).
While there are a number of things I like better about the Festool model, power and performance are not among them. The Grizzly’s 160mm-diameter, 2.2mm-wide, 48-tooth blade had no trouble zipping through the thick material, and it left a clean edge*. The tool has a variable depth of cut at 90° of up to 2-5⁄32″ while riding on the track (the Festool TS-55’s is 2-3⁄4″ of the Festool). At the maximum 45° tilt, the Grizzly cut depth is 1-7⁄16″.
As with all track saws, the rail has non-slip backing; while the included clamps are recommended for holding the rail securely at the cut line, I made a few cuts without them and experienced no problems. The weight and cut ergonomics keep things on track. This is unquestionably an excellent tool for the price, but there are two minor things that are better on the Festool: You need two hands to change the blade on the Grizzly (a one-handed operation with the Festool), and the 11⁄2 ” dust-collection port location makes it difficult to connect a hose with a rigid coupling and for the hose to clear the work.
But there’s also one major problem: the plunge-release mechanism. I cannot reach it as directed with my hand around the grip – and neither can three of the four men in my office. It is literally a stretch for the guys, and I have to remove my hand from the grip entirely to disengage the lock. It’s inconvenient and makes for a less smooth and comfortable operation. Still, for less than half the cost of the Festool model (and less than the Makita and DeWalt models we’ve tested), the Grizzly T25552 Master Pack is certainly worth considering – particularly for those with larger hands.
— Megan Fitzpatrick
From the June 2015 issue