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Portable table saw or track saw for begging woodworker?

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Forum topic by Papa_Bear posted 10-23-2020 06:48 PM 1031 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Papa_Bear

16 posts in 34 days


10-23-2020 06:48 PM

Topic tags/keywords: questions power tools saws help a noob out

Hi everyone.

First time poster and new to woodworking.

My wife and I recently decided to build a house. Since making the decisions we’ve learned that we have to install our own yard fence and ultimately the cost to finish the basement was more than we were comfortable with. A friend suggested we finish the basement and build the fence ourselves and to make a long story short the entire thing has sent me down a path I never expected.

I love working with wood, and I’m going to turn it into a side hustle, which brings me to my question… Is a portable table saw or a track saw more appropriate for a begging woodworker who enjoys building furniture and cabinets?

I’m teaching myself different jointery techniques via YouTube and at present I am using Japanese pull saws to create basic joints. I am crious to learn about how I can use either of these saws to improve efficiency and quality of what I build.

Tools I’ve already purchased:
- drill press
- 12in compounding double bevel miter saw
- drill/driver set
- full set of imperial chisels
- 13in portable 2 speed plainer
- 2&1/4 HP plug router
- assorted japanese pull saws

Thanks in advance and please remember I don’t pretend to know anything about the tools in question or the woodworking craft. I am very eager to learn and appeiciate any constructive ideas in addition to pros/cons of each tool.

-- Papa Bear


21 replies so far

View Loren's profile (online now)

Loren

10782 posts in 4559 days


#1 posted 10-23-2020 06:58 PM

Track saw accessories add up. You can make a rudimentary table saw out of a circular saw. There was an old FWW article where Frank Klauz advised doing this.

I’m not a fan of portable table saws for “real” woodworking, but I am a fan of the Jimmy Jig .

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BlasterStumps

1846 posts in 1351 days


#2 posted 10-23-2020 07:27 PM

I just finished putting together a new desk for myself. I found the track saw was very handy in making it. I cut the top, the shelf and tapered pieces for the legs on it. It is only plywood and melamine but works for me. Here are a couple pictures showing the desk and the cutting table for the tracksaw.


-- "I build for function first, looks second. Most times I never get around to looks." MIke in CO

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controlfreak

1385 posts in 513 days


#3 posted 10-23-2020 07:34 PM

I got a Kobalt job site saw because I need to wheel it outside for long rips. I hate the saw because I need a speed square to align the fence to square to the blade. On the plus side it was less than $300 when I bought it. I can get buy with it for now. As for a track saw I got the Grizzly on sale with the saw and track as a kit. My saw is far to small to attempt to cut a full sheet of anything so I like a track saw. I got tired of clamping a guide that was a pain to align and would often let the saw drift while extending my reach. I say get a new Trak saw when a black Friday event hits if you want one and be on the lookout for a used TS of your choice.

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CWWoodworking

1130 posts in 1090 days


#4 posted 10-23-2020 10:44 PM

Table saw is more important. But you will still need a way to break down sheet goods. At first you could use a circular saw and straight edge to get by. If your battery system has a circular saw, I’d get that

I use a portable in a full time setting. It works fine.

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SMP

2852 posts in 817 days


#5 posted 10-24-2020 12:09 AM

Depends on what you plan on building and how much you want to spend. You already have the tools for the fence.

The first couple cabinets I built I just had Home Depot cut the plywood to size(first 2 cuts free and rest are 50 cents each), i had a drill and kreg and thats all i needed.

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Eric

696 posts in 784 days


#6 posted 10-24-2020 12:17 AM

Invest in the table saw if you are going to pursue woodworking. With a little ingunity one can rip sheet stock down

-- Eric, building the dream

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woodbutcherbynight

6587 posts in 3320 days


#7 posted 10-24-2020 01:41 AM

The table saw will have more usefulness in the shop long term. BUT like others mentioned breaking down the sheet goods to a size you can use on the tablesaw effectively is a must. You can make your own and with some time and effort it can be quite accurate.

That being said a side hustle will sometimes require on site work making a portable unit a good thing to have in your arsenal of equipment. I made two units, one for a small Table saw, and one for a small miter saw. Got everything used and fixed issues as I went. The shop at home has a large tablesaw and several drill presses, bandsaws, lathes etc etc. Take in mind like many here I have been gathering equipment for the shop for 20+ years. It would be rare to get rid of a piece of equipment. Mostly I just upgrade and the additional units become set for certain task, speeding up the work flow.

Look around find a good used TS and refurb it some. Get to know how the saw works inside and out. No production table saw has the broad capability of my own Twin Table Saw set up. Not only has large capacity, it holds tools and jigs to keep the work flow going smoothly.

Be creative, enjoy the journey.

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

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Papa_Bear

16 posts in 34 days


#8 posted 10-24-2020 02:40 AM

I’d first like to say thank you to everyone for your responses. I truly appreciate all the input, but I feel like I’m too new to woodworking to fully grasp all the knowledge being shared.

Let me clarify a few items to hone the discussion a bit.

I know my focus will be furniture and cabinets. I’ve already build a few items and I find no joy in build fences or other utilitarian stuff. I’m doing the fence for our house as a partial exercise to save money.

Second—I’m a stay at home parent with 3 young children under the age of 4 who within the next few years will be in school full time so can dedicate the lion share of my “free time” to woodworking.

Finally—although we all have budgetary and financial constraints to contend with I’d like to know what ya’ll think is “best” to get started with. I feel like owing a sawstop style table saw is the ticket, but based on research it seems like having a good track or circular saw is a vital part of any functional shop.

Being new to the craft I can’t tell if I’m buying into spin or common sense. So where do I start?

I love the suggestion to buy used and learn but I don’t know what a good buy looks like. Any suggestions for a good used table saw to start with?

I also love the idea of buying a circular saw that takes the batteries I’ve already purchased. As far as circular saws go any ideas on Worm Drive vs the latter?

Again—thank you all! I sincerely appreciate all the ideas and advice.

-- Papa Bear

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woodbutcherbynight

6587 posts in 3320 days


#9 posted 10-24-2020 03:32 AM

Here is the rub, you can make lots of things with just a handsaw (inexpensive) a #4 plane cordless drill and a square. You don’t have to have every big boy tool to accomplish a project. While in Iraq I had very limited tools to make stuff and yet managed. That experience helped alot when I returned.

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

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therealSteveN

6619 posts in 1485 days


#10 posted 10-24-2020 04:11 AM

Neither of your choices are much good at making curved cuts. For your straight cuts you can do a very good job using a circular saw. 50 to 130 bux, and a straight line rip jig for another 50 to 75.

For curves either a lower priced Jigsaw, or a higher priced bandsaw will help there.

Straight cut circular saw jig is pretty easy to make, and because you cut the sled to fit, after attaching the fence, you don’t need to have crazy accurate measurements to get it o work out. Check the link below.

https://www.rockler.com/learn/circular-saw-cutting-jigs

Also plenty of medium priced accessories to keep your saw straight, so you don’t need to pay for a track saw to get accurate straight line cuts. For cabinets, and a lot of furniture that is the start point.

-- Think safe, be safe

View Papa_Bear's profile

Papa_Bear

16 posts in 34 days


#11 posted 10-24-2020 02:57 PM

Thank you woodbutcherbynight and therealSteveN for your input.

woodbutcherbynight—do you prefer pull or push saws for cabinets and furniture? I’ve got a few pull saws but I’m not married to them—they are cheap and I purchased them to start making.

therealSteveN—would a 9in table top bandsaw or a Jigsaw be a better investment? It seems like the Jigsaw is a better use of money at the start but I can see how a small bandsaw could come in handy.

Thank you again everyone! This has been so helpful.

-- Papa Bear

View therealSteveN's profile

therealSteveN

6619 posts in 1485 days


#12 posted 10-24-2020 03:14 PM

therealSteveN—would a 9in table top bandsaw or a Jigsaw be a better investment? It seems like the Jigsaw is a better use of money at the start but I can see how a small bandsaw could come in handy.

Thank you again everyone! This has been so helpful.

- Papa_Bear

I have owned several bandsaws, and a small 10” one I had was decidedly the worst of the bunch. For me anyhow I would use the starting place for a BS to be truly helpful in the shop, start at the 14” Delta, or one of it’s many clones. Older ones still running well are often found in most areas, or brand new the Harbor Freight 14” BS is entirely workable.

A nice Jigsaw is a tool you just can’t beat for price, versus utility. Generally cheaper than a router, they can do a lot of work. By sticking with Bosch brand blades, you could conceivably get by using one for a starting tool. A track/straight edge similar to the straight line rip jig I showed above could make straight lines.

Your one thing to make sure is to have blades that would allow for a very clean cut on the material you are cutting. You would probably need to buy online, but they really do have a blade for everything, and using the correct blade goes a long way to limiting a frayed edge.

-- Think safe, be safe

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Papa_Bear

16 posts in 34 days


#13 posted 10-24-2020 03:53 PM

Jig saw and a circular saw with the right blades it is!

Thank you, therealSteveN!

Is there any wisdom on blade material or number of teeth? Or should I just trust the manufacturers description of the blades intended purpose?

-- Papa Bear

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Rich

6141 posts in 1501 days


#14 posted 10-25-2020 05:00 AM

I see some good advice here, and some that’s clownish.

To start with, there are track saws, and there are track saw systems like the Festool MFT. A track saw like DeWalt, Makita and others will break down sheet goods efficiently. The MFT is a complete system.

You mention that your goal is cabinetry and furniture. The MFT can do both. Any rip or crosscut operation can be carried out on it with precision. All of the essential cuts for a cabinet are supported. For a cabinet, the critical areas are ensuring the face frame and door frame rails and stiles are cut exactly and squarely. That’s what ensures they glue up square. Same for the carcass.

I am a local rep for DeWalt, Festool, Sawstop and others. If we could spend time together, I could expand more on your options. Here, it’s not practical to go into that level of detail, and it would be drowned out by the noise anyway.

Cabinetry is really simple when you break it down. Hang in there, and you’ll be able to create the results you are looking for.

There are many ways of doing it right, and more ways to screw it up.

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

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therealSteveN

6619 posts in 1485 days


#15 posted 10-25-2020 07:29 AM



Jig saw and a circular saw with the right blades it is!

Thank you, therealSteveN!

Is there any wisdom on blade material or number of teeth? Or should I just trust the manufacturers description of the blades intended purpose?

- Papa_Bear

Below is a link for Bosch jigsaw blades. Look each application over, some have duplicates for, let’s say softwood. Often you will then get other info for fast cutting, or maybe clean, smooth. Generally the description words will lead you to the best choice for any particular job.

https://www.boschtools.com/us/en/boschtools-ocs/t-shank-jig-saw-blades-for-wood-22547-c/

For circular saw blades, most of the regular ones will have a 7 1/4” diameter blade, with a 5/8” arbor hole. There are some saws, unfortunately some of the lower priced ones that have differing diameters, and arbor holes sizes. I would suggest passing the off size tools, and spend a few more bucks to get one with standard sizing. Generally the saw will be of better quality, but mostly because they will allow you to more easily find blades, but they too will be from the regular makers, and will definitely be of better quality.

For your stated work, cutting plywood for cabinets I would suggest buying a carbide tooth plywood cutting blade, like the one shown below. I have this blade, and it gives a very clean cut using a plywood cutting jig.

https://www.amazon.com/Freud-Ultimate-Plywood-Melamine-LU79R007/dp/B002IPHGA2

For the best results cutting plywood, you want to put the show face, the face you plan to see down. I also cut mine with slight penetration through the plywood, into a 2” thick 4×8’ sheet of that pink foam sheathing. It allows good support of the piece you are cutting, and if you only go 1/8” to 1/4” through the plywood, it keeps the foam in good shape, so you can use a sheet of it for a long time.

Cutting the good face down, the blade comes out, and you have a backer, so splintering, and chipping if you get any is very slight compared to face down, which is generally more ragged, but with that blade even the cut side, is pretty slick.

If you get to doing a lot of ripping of boards, or cross cutting there are blades just for that, just like with the jigsaw, and using the correct blade always gives the best appearing cut. Did I mention this making low cost cabinets, and furniture can get costly. But it is fun to do, and over buying them made, you can save a lot of $$$$$ Thing is starting out in any hobby, can be costly getting the equipment.

Looks like Rich is selling you a tracksaw. Ask him how guys cut plywood sheets for appearance before there were tracksaws? If he’s honest, he’ll tell you just like I am telling you to. I got the impression keeping the costs as low as possible was what you wanted to do.

-- Think safe, be safe

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