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Track Saw Notes #2: Track Saw Parallel Guide Systems

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Blog entry by Rich posted 12-28-2021 11:42 PM 898 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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Track Saw Parallel Guide Systems

This is an analysis of the three major parallel guide systems for Festool track saws. They also work with Makita, although you should verify compatibility for yourself before you make a purchase for a Makita track.

The three guide systems are from Woodpecker, TSO and Festool. I own both the Woodpecker guide and the Festool guide. TSO is functionally equivalent to Woodpecker and any comments I make about TSO is based on observation and research, and not hands-on experience.

There are small differences in the design of the flip stops for Woodpecker and TSO, so you might want to dig deeper to see if one or the other appeals to you the most.

THE GUIDES:

Woodpecker (review here)
Price: $480, $400 with no Systainer

Included:
  • 52 inch capacity with four 12” extension segments per leg
  • Two flip stops per leg
  • Under-track bar for narrow cuts
  • Systainer
Required accessories:
  • None

TSO
Price: $190 for 30 inch system, $290 for 30 and 50 inch

Included:
  • 30 or 50 inch capacity
  • One flip stop per leg
  • Under-track bar for narrow cuts
Required accessories:
  • Two guide rail adapters $44 or $50 each, depending on type.
    -or-
  • One guide rail adapter and GRS-16 ($160) or GRS-16 PE ($180) guide rail square
    -or-
  • Two GRS-16 or GRS-16 PE guide rail squares ($320 to $360 total)
Optional:
  • Two extra flip stops $50 each
Festool (review pending)
Price:
  • 201182 Parallel guides $300
  • 201183 Parallel guide extensions $170 (requires 201182 guides)
    -or-
  • 203160 Both of the above as a package $360 (save $110)
Included:
  • Guides and stops with 25 19/32 inch capacity
Required accessories:
  • None

FUNCTIONALITY:

Woodpecker

For standard wide stock cuts, the Woodpecker guide performs flawlessly. The two flip stops that are part of the system allow it to be set up for the type of operation you’d want when cutting things like cabinet carcass components. You can set one pair of stops for the cabinet depth—say, 23 1/4” for a standard base cabinet, and the other for the height. Once set, you can cut out components by simply flipping the stops and be certain that they will all be exactly the same.

For narrow stock cutting, the two narrow stock rods are attached and provide stops under the track. This works well to a point. Since the keeper piece is under the track, for very narrow cuts there is little track holding the workpiece in place and careful clamping is needed to prevent slippage and a ruined cut. It also can become unwieldy since the bulk of the workpiece extends in front of the track.

The Woodpecker system also utilizes four segments in each t-track bar which allows you to use only what is needed for the width of board you are cutting.

TSO

As mentioned earlier, the TSO guide is functionally equivalent to Woodpecker’s guide with the same benefits and shortcomings. Note however, that only two flip stops are included in the base package, so a second set is needed for it to have the same capability as the Woodpecker.

The TSO however, is only available with two lengths of t-track legs, which can make it awkward to manage in situations where that length isn’t required.

One option the TSO guide offers that neither Woodpecker or Festool has is the ability to use the optional square cut guide (GRS-16 or GRS-16 PE), combined with a flip stop on the t-track leg, to make repeatable cross cuts like you would want for face and door frame components.

Festool

For wide stock cuts, the biggest shortcoming of the Festool guide is that it doesn’t utilize flip stops. This means the legs have to be positioned at each end of the workpiece, which can be awkward for long boards. It also means there is no option for having dual stops. It is also available in only one size and the maximum cut width is approximately half that of Woodpecker and TSO.

Where the Festool really shines is doing narrow stock cuts. It is designed such that the keeper piece is cut outside the track, not under it, allowing narrower cuts down to a tiny fraction of an inch with the workpiece held securely under the track. Repositioning for the next cut is simple as well since all that is needed is to slide the board against the stops for each cut.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner



9 comments so far

View LeeRoyMan's profile

LeeRoyMan

2731 posts in 1190 days


#1 posted 12-29-2021 01:38 AM

I’ll have to take your word for it.
I don’t have any of the three.
I’m just a (redneck) stick and clamp kind of guy.

View Rich's profile

Rich

8139 posts in 2052 days


#2 posted 12-29-2021 04:38 AM


I ll have to take your word for it.
I don t have any of the three.
I m just a (redneck) stick and clamp kind of guy.

- LeeRoyMan

Well sure. But beginners like me need a little extra help to keep up.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View woodbutcherbynight's profile

woodbutcherbynight

10889 posts in 3872 days


#3 posted 12-29-2021 05:52 AM



I ll have to take your word for it.
I don t have any of the three.
I m just a (redneck) stick and clamp kind of guy.

- LeeRoyMan

Me either,

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View LeeRoyMan's profile

LeeRoyMan

2731 posts in 1190 days


#4 posted 12-29-2021 02:09 PM


I ll have to take your word for it.
I don t have any of the three.
I m just a (redneck) stick and clamp kind of guy.

- LeeRoyMan

Well sure. But beginners like me need a little extra help to keep up.

- Rich


I don’t think there are many “beginners” like you! :)

I would like to have one, but I’m a cabinet maker, and always broke.
In these latter days of my career, I have learned how to make do with what I have.
(and that’s not much)

PS, Please feel free to send me your “beginner” Shaper Origin

View Rich's profile

Rich

8139 posts in 2052 days


#5 posted 12-29-2021 09:34 PM


I would like to have one, but I m a cabinet maker, and always broke.

- LeeRoyMan

To be honest, it wouldn’t be a big asset in your line of work where you do mostly one-off custom designs. The time to set up for cuts is longer than on a table saw.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View woodbutcherbynight's profile

woodbutcherbynight

10889 posts in 3872 days


#6 posted 12-30-2021 02:31 AM


PS, Please feel free to send me your “beginner” Shaper Origin

- LeeRoyMan

If you have an extra I would like one as well.

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View JRAP's profile

JRAP

149 posts in 3412 days


#7 posted 12-30-2021 02:54 AM

I’d like to at least mention another option. It’s the WEN CT1272 12-Amp 7-1/4-Inch Variable Speed Plunge Cut Circular Track Saw and track set. The saw is affordable ($145), the tracks (WEN CT9502 100-Inch Track Saw Track Guide Rail and Adapters ), are affordable ($77), and the saw and tracks are made of impact resistant aluminum, not plastic. I absolutely love the saw and its tracks, and I’ve been holding off for years looking for an affordable and reliable alternative. Give it a look, I guarantee you’ll be impressed.

-- -- Jim, Cumberland,RI -- Life is all the other stuff you do when you're not in the shop. - http://www.woodshopshed.com

View Rich's profile

Rich

8139 posts in 2052 days


#8 posted 12-30-2021 04:08 AM


I d like to at least mention another option.

- JRAP

The WEN CT9502 100-Inch Track Saw Track Guide Rail and Adapters are advertised to be compatible with Festool track saws, so I assume they would work with the parallel guides mentioned here.

I suppose after spending $300 to almost $500 on parallel guides, getting a bargain on a track saw and track from WEN would be a welcome relief.

Thanks for sharing.

By the way, if you’re looking for budget options, the Precision Dogs parallel guides for only $140 might be more suitable for WEN. I see there are other bargain options as well, however, I intended this blog post to focus on Festool, which is the de facto standard for track saw systems, so I won’t be doing any coverage of other systems.

Still, if anyone wants to post budget choices that they find work for them, feel free. It’s an open discussion. After all, the title of the blog is Track Saw Notes, not Festool Track Saw Notes.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View woodbutcherbynight's profile

woodbutcherbynight

10889 posts in 3872 days


#9 posted 12-31-2021 02:31 AM

The information Rich is presenting is a solid source of good information. Sure, the Festool is rather pricey but consider it the Gold Standard to compare others to. If I did alot more breaking down of sheet goods Festool would just have to be afforded. But like Leeroy, my champagne taste run afoul with my beer budget. LOL

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

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