Have you ever tried to wrestle a full sheet of 3/4” plywood or MDF through a table saw? Or tried to get a perfectly straight cut in sheet goods or dimensional lumber with a circular saw? If your experience is anything like mine, it more often than not ends badly, with a less-than-perfect cut, and a higher-than-desirable number of unprintable adjectives. Since their introduction several years ago, track saws have become increasingly popular as a way to avoid bad cuts – and bad language. Recently, the folks in Yellow and Black sent us a DeWalt FlexVolt TrackSaw. We’ll take a look and see if this cordless tool has what it takes to make the (straight) cut.
For those unfamiliar with the genre, track saw systems use a dedicated saw, with a shrouded blade, that fits into and rides along a perfectly straight metal track. They make dead-on accurate cuts, with nice, clean edges – and no wrestling required. They’re excellent for ripping down sheet goods, truing the edges of lumber for jointing, cutting laminate tops, cutting down doors…pretty much any chore where you want a perfectly straight cut.
Weighing in at around 12.5 pounds, the DeWalt FlexVolt TrackSaw is a whole lot lighter than any table saw I’ve come across. This is a huge advantage for anyone who has to do a lot of work on-site; the TSTAK case is a whole lot easier to schlep around than a table saw. Besides portability and ease of use, the TrackSaw’s ability to make accurate diagonal cuts and to start smooth plunge cuts in the middle of your work piece give it a further edge over the table saw.
DeWalt provided us with the kit version of the DeWalt FlexVolt TrackSaw, the DeWalt DCS520T1. The saw comes in a TSTAK box, with separate compartments for the saw, battery and charger. Everything fits snugly, so your expensive tools won’t be rattling around in there. There’s also a fair bit of extra room, to slip in an extra blade or two, a pair of clamps, protective gear, and even an extra FlexVolt battery.
The DeWalt FlexVolt TrackSaw is basically identical to the highly-rated DeWalt DWS520 – minus the cord. The saw gets its power from a beefy 60V DeWalt FlexVolt battery. The kit version comes with a 6.0 Ah battery, and a 9.0 Ah battery is available separately for those with a LOT of cutting to do. The FlexVolt system, in case you’re not familiar, uses a battery that senses whether the tool requires 20V or 60V, and provides the correct juice. This means the FlexVolt battery is backwards-compatible with any DeWalt 20V MAX tools you might have lying around – a nice bonus benefit!
The DeWalt FlexVolt TrackSaw looks like it was constructed with the job site in mind; it feels very solid, and features a magnesium base and a powerful brushless motor. A variable speed dial lets you match the speed to your material, with a range of 1,750 to 4,000 RPM. A retractable riving knife follows the blade to prevent binding in solid wood, and a 1-1/4” swiveling dust port collects up to 90% of sawdust, with a shop vac or dust extractor connected.
A blade brake on the DeWalt FlexVolt TrackSaw stops the blade very quickly after the trigger is released This is a good safety feature, even though it’s not quite as critical since the blade is enclosed by the shroud. Here’s the official spec list, followed by a short promo video from DeWalt:
• Zero clearance TrackSaw(TM) cutting system delivers straight, splinter-free, precise cuts
• On track cut depth: 2-1/8″ @ 90 degrees and 1-5/8″ @ 45 degrees; depth of cut scale accurately accounts for thickness of track
• Continuous anti-kickback mechanism and riving knife prevent kickback when engaged
• Straight plunge mechanism for optimal ergonomics
• For use with TrackSaw(TM) dual-edged tracks for perfectly straight cuts in both directions
• Cordless convenience with the power of a corded tool
• Enclosed low profile guard gives a 90% dust extraction capability
• Bevel Capacity 47°
• Blade Diameter 6-1/2″
• Max Cut at 45° 1-5/8″
• Max Cut at 90° 2-1/8″
• No Load Speed 1,750 – 4,000 RPM
• Power Tool Type: Cordless
• Tool Height 10″
• Tool Length 12″
• Tool Weight 12.5 lbs.
Getting The DeWalt FlexVolt TrackSaw Ready To Make The Plunge
Prepping the DeWalt FlexVolt TrackSaw for its first ride on the rails only takes a couple of minutes. Step one is to take the slop out of the saw-to-track connection. When you first set the saw on the track, there’s a bit of side-to-side play to get rid of. Two adjustment knobs, one up front and one in the rear, make that easy to do. In the manual, they use a hex wrench to adjust track play; if you go that route, it’s a 2.5 mm Allen wrench. It’s a whole lot faster to just grab a narrow slotted screwdriver. Just loosen the two set screws, adjust the knobs until the slop is gone, and re-tighten the set screws. Just make sure the saw still travels freely along the rails before you snug things up.
The final step is to trim the rubber anti-splinter edge from both sides of the track. Just set the blade depth to 3/16”, set the track on a flat, sacrificial surface, and run the DeWalt FlexVolt TrackSaw from end to end. Then turn it around, and do the same to trim the edge on the opposite side. Now you have a perfect, zero-clearance edge on both sides.
The saw comes with the blade already installed. The saw takes a 6-1/2” blade, and the 42-tooth blade that comes with the saw provides a really nice, smooth cut.
Changing the blade is easy and straightforward. Plunge the blade to the lowered position, and lock it in place. Then hold the arbor lock down, and remove the blade with the hex wrench, which is stored inside the handle. It is NOT a reverse thread; turn the arbor nut counterclockwise to loosen, clockwise to tighten. Here’s a quick video from DeWalt, showing the setup and blade-change process:
Getting Edgy With The DeWalt FlexVolt TrackSaw
I made several test cuts with the The DeWalt FlexVolt TrackSaw, all of them in 3/4” cabinet-grade plywood. The saw is very easy to operate: push down on the plunge button, pull the trigger, and push the saw forward and down. It plunges very smoothly, and glided along the track easily, with absolutely no play.
I made some right-angle cuts, then set the bevel to make some 45-degree cuts. The bevel can be adjusted up to 47 degrees; the bevel angle is easy to adjust and locks solidly in, thanks to front and rear bevel locks. The DeWalt FlexVolt TrackSaw glided along smoothly for both types of cuts, and the anti-splinter strip stays right up alongside the blade, so on every cut I made, the cut edges came out very smooth and splinter-free.
The back of the track has four no-skid strips built in. They do a great job holding the track in place; I made cuts both with and without the clamps, and the track didn’t move off the marks I set. When I’m doing it for real, making cuts for a cabinet or other project, I’ll likely lock it in place with the clamps. Good lumber is too expensive, and I’ve been trying to cut down on the profanity…
The DeWalt FlexVolt TrackSaw also features an anti-kickback mechanism, that prevents the saw from traveling backward or coming out of the track. It’s fast and easy to engage or disengage, using a knob near the center of the base plate. It works great; when I engaged it, the saw wouldn’t move backwards in the track at all.
One thing to note: There is a swiveling dust port, and the shroud over the blade does a great job of directing almost all the sawdust through that port. The DeWalt FlexVolt TrackSaw doesn’t come with a dust bag, so unless you don’t mind sawdust all over you, and everything else close by, you might want to hook up to a shop vac or other dust-extraction system.
While You’re At It…
Yes, those are the among most expensive words in the English vocabulary. In this case, though, a relatively minor investment will provide a lot of additional utility and protection for your DeWalt FlexVolt TrackSaw.
DeWalt sent us two pieces of track, a 46” section and a 59” section. The track is also available in a super-sized 102” length. DeWalt also makes connectors, to attach any two pieces of track together. To protect the tracks, and make it easier to schlep them around, I bought the optional carrying case. It will accommodate both the 46” and 59” sections of track, with room left over for clamps and other odds and ends. To further protect the tracks, I kept the pieces of masonite they shipped with, and stuck them in the bag alongside the tracks.
The other accessory I bought was a pair of track clamps. Designed specifically for use with the DeWalt TrackSaw track, they hook into the channel beneath the track sections. They can be slid to any point along the track’s length, making it easy to secure the track to a pair of sawhorses or your workbench.
Wanna get even more use out of your track? DeWalt also offers a router adapter, the DeWalt DWS5031. The adapter enables you to use most routers with your TrackSaw tracks, to get perfectly straight routing along any line. The package includes adapters for use with DeWalt and Porter-Cable fixed base and plunge routers.
Time To Track One Down?
Although I’m not abnormally anti-social, and I bathe regularly, I still end up working solo much of the time. I’ve ruined more than one piece of material on the table saw, by not being able to keep it perfectly straight all the way through the cut. Using the DeWalt FlexVolt TrackSaw, I can safely and easily make perfect cuts in sheet goods or lumber of any size. My upcoming project list includes building some upper cabinets, cutting some angled filler strips out of oak, and cutting down some solid oak doors, so the saw won’t be spending much time in its cozy TSTAK case.
Overall the saw seems very well constructed. It has a very solid look and feel, and it’s comfortable and easy to use. For all the cuts I made, the DeWalt FlexVolt TrackSaw had plenty of power. Adjustments are all fast and easy, and the cut capacity of 2-1/8” should be more than sufficient for most users. The depth of cut slider doesn’t seem very robust, but it works well and is pretty accurate. One minor quibble: The bevel indicator isn’t very precise. It’s about 1/8” thick, and it’s hard to tell exactly where to position it to set the angle. A pointed indicator would be more helpful.
Getting on track is not for the faint of wallet. The DeWalt FlexVolt TrackSaw is available in three configurations: As a bare tool, for about $379; in the kit, with a 6.0 Ah FlexVolt battery, charger, and TSTAK case, for about $499; and as the kit with a 59” section of track, for around $579. That’s not cheap, but the quality is there, and for the pro who does a lot of off-site work, or solo work, it’s money very well spent. DeWalt backs the DeWalt FlexVolt TrackSaw and accessories with a three-year limited warranty and a year of free service. They’re also returnable for 90 days, to give you a risk-free chance to get your slicing and dicing on track.
Buy kit from the Home Depot
Kit with 59” track from Home Depot
Bare tool from the Home Depot
59” track from Home Depot
59” track from Rockler
Track clamps: Buy from the Home Depot