Circular saw w/ guides to replace tablesaw - accuate enough? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 18 Old 03-15-2017, 12:39 PM Thread Starter
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Circular saw w/ guides to replace tablesaw - accuate enough?

Something I've seen discussed recently is the idea of using a high-quality circular saw with a set of jigs and guides as the primary shop saw - to replace a tablesaw in fact.

There are a few commercial systems available (EZ Smart, for instance) and numerous plans for jigs and track-style guides that allow one to make pretty much any conceivable cut. These are all less efficient than a tablesaw due to increased setup time needed for each cut, but the supposed promise is increased safety and obviously the cost-savings from not having to own a tablesaw. For me, the safety aspect is significant - a heavy saw can throw a board much harder than a lightweight handheld one can.

It's pretty apparent that woodworkers are divided on whether these systems can replace a tablesaw, but most discussions seem to center on the efficiency aspect. Being a hobbyist, that's just not very important to me. If it takes two minutes to prepare for a cut. instead of 30 seconds..that's fine.

But what I haven't seen discussed are the accuracy and precision aspects. I know that with high-end tablesaws you can achieve extreme precision and repeatability on the first try. Is that likely to be achievable with a good circular saw setup? Being relatively novice, I'm not even sure what would define "precision and repeatability".

Thanks for any feedback - this will help me decide where to put the several hundred dollars I'm willing to spend on a saw setup! (wish it were more )
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post #2 of 18 Old 03-15-2017, 12:57 PM
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I subscribed, i would like to see what others have to say about this as well. I own a table saw and a circular saw. My table saw is an entry level saw to me because it's just one of the portable ones.
I have a Dewalt circular saw that I really like.

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post #3 of 18 Old 03-15-2017, 01:47 PM
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in a word, no.

as a cobbled up for limited use, such devices will work as an upside down circular saw.

a 10" table saw has a bigger blade than a 7.25" circular saw and in real bad theory a kickback will hurt less since the tooth velocity will be less.

the overlooked bit: odds of a kickback using a jury rig circular saw likely to be 10-20 times higher than a table saw.
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post #4 of 18 Old 03-15-2017, 02:19 PM
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like comparing any 2 woodworking tools, one is better at some tasks then the other. I'm sure a track saw can do some things better than a table saw.

but the table saw will win the overall ace with out a doubt. accuracy and repeatability definitely at the top of the list. I can shave a 1/64" off a board on my ts. I would bet the track saw has that much slop in the guide system or more.
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post #5 of 18 Old 03-15-2017, 02:30 PM
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I have and use both. I have a Craftsman Zip Code saw and use a sled for accurate cuts. Though because of my tiny shop, I mostly use a guide and circular saw (Milwaukee with a good Freud blade) to break down sheets of plywood, and sometimes to do most all the cuts needed for a project. With the guides I can split a pencil mark if I need to. And if I measure accurately enough, I can stack multiple pieces and feel practically no difference in size. I also have made a panel gauge (like a LONG marking gauge) that I can set to make repeat cuts, as it will set the edge of the guide the same distance from the edge of the plywood. I keep dropping hints for a tracksaw around Christmas and birthday time, but nothing yet...

And I just posted this info on the guides and links to another previous post for my cutting table in this thread:
I can set up the table behind my truck, slide plywood out onto the cutting table, cut it down to size, then carry it around to my shop.

As for my guides, I built my guides from a full sheet of 3/16" hardboard and three 6" wide strips of good 1/2" plywood. Key thing building these is to make sure the 1/2" plywood strips are STRAIGHT. You can use the edge of the sheet of hardboard as a guide to rip the strips from the 1/2" sheet, or one of the commercial guide bars available. Then, on a FLAT surface, I glued the 3 strips onto the hardboard leaving enough room to run the saw down both sides of all 3, giving me three 8' long two-sided saw guides. I cut one into a 3' & 5' guide, and put the third one away for a backup/extra. Even added a cleat under the 3 footer, making sure it was square and I can just butt it up to the edge of the plywood and get a square cut quickly.

And if I change blades and the guide no longer matches or if the edge got dinged, I run the edge of the guide on my tablesaw rip fence, set so that it rips a blade thickness from the 1/2" ply only, then recut the guide edge with the circular saw.

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post #6 of 18 Old 03-15-2017, 04:34 PM
where's my table saw?
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here's the biggest iussue ...

You can use a straight edge guide to rip large sheets accurately all day long. Measure in a either end or use the zero clearance and cut away.
Now for cross cutting accurately pieces that are 4"- 12" wide, maybe wider..... you can use a crosscut "JIG", not a guide like these:

I drew this one up years ago for a similiar question:

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)

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post #7 of 18 Old 03-15-2017, 05:51 PM
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I believe a circular saw can be accurate with the right set-up within its size limitation. I am not comparing it to a table saw. Why bother. A track set up home made or Festoool style or edge set-up will give a fine straight cut suitable for many applications.
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post #8 of 18 Old 03-15-2017, 06:12 PM
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post #9 of 18 Old 03-17-2017, 11:30 AM Thread Starter
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Good stuff, thanks everyone!

What I am taking away from this is 1) a good tablesaw is (probably) the most accurate and straightforward to setup for cuts, and b) a good circular saw with simple jigs (can) be very accurate.

The difference in safety is something I'll need to look into more. I hadn't thought about the kickback potential with a circular saw, I guess just because when it has happened to me, during rough construction, it's been a minor issue. But that was cutting boards which weren't clamped down, so the equal and opposite reaction by the board "absorbed" some of the kick.

Anyways, thanks for the insight and for the jig ideas. Might have to try building a few of these and see if they're "good enough"...or if I still want a table saw.
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post #10 of 18 Old 03-17-2017, 11:42 AM
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Following advice on this forum, I made a simple guide and bought a fine tooth blade. Was able to cut sides for a cabinet.
Some of us have to make do with just a B&D folding bench and no room for a dedicated shop.
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post #11 of 18 Old 03-17-2017, 11:55 AM
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For straight forward rip and crosscuts a jigged up circular saw can give very acceptable results. Bevel cuts on the other hand are far more easy to do with a table saw, and in my opinion, more likely to produce desired results. I'm probably a little closed minded about this but I think that comparing the table saw and the circular saw is a little like comparing apples and pears even if the pear is jigged up. Oh, and safety should be a non issue also IMO as both tools if setup and used correctly are very safe to use.


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post #12 of 18 Old 03-17-2017, 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by woodnthings View Post
that looks almost exactly like mine just a lot prettier.
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post #13 of 18 Old 03-17-2017, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by desertsp View Post
Being relatively novice, I'm not even sure what would define "precision and repeatability".
I say this with sincerity and without sarcasm--

The definition of "precision and repeatablilty" starts with "practice."

My set-ups and tools haven't gotten better over the years, but my precision and repeatability certainly have. (edit--and I have no explanation for it other than practice and experience).

That being said, the one drawback I've found with my homemade jigs and fixture is that a store-bought jig is going to be more accurate, and it's a whole lot easier to buy one than spend too much time trying to make one with no guarantee of good results. If I could make precision jigs (like some people can, obviously) then I probably wouldn't need to make my own precision jigs because, personally, I'd have to have the precision tools to make the precision jigs. Make sense?

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post #14 of 18 Old 03-17-2017, 03:49 PM
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...and then there are the track saws!*

They range from the industry leader Fe$tool to the lower end models like the Scheppach (like I have) and the Grizzly version, which is the exact same saw and tracks, just different paint scheme.

I use mine to break down the larger pieces of sheet goods until I have a manageable piece I can run through the table saw. An example is cabinet pieces. I try to buy the plywood and get it ripped (or cross cut) at the store into at least two pieces. Once home, I can break them down further and then rip them to size on the table saw. I guess I am getting too old to handle the bigger pieces, and if it takes a little longer, I am good with that.

Another thought - I have used the track saw to rip a straight edge on bowed boards. To do it right, I place a second board next to it to support the track.
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post #15 of 18 Old 03-17-2017, 07:29 PM
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I use an EZ-smart guide mated to a Festool router and a Festool track saw, quite accurate and when used on sheet goods perhaps more accurate than many small to medium table saws due to the 4' x 8' panel moving around as it is cut. Someone gave me the EZ-smart guide and my Festool track is 40" so I use the EZ guide. Not perfect but highly workable. I've used the EX guide/router combo with a long 1/4" router bit as a joiner with superb results and that is with the little 1010 router, I wouldn't have believed it possible if I hadn't done it on 1 1/4" walnut.
Track saws have a real hard time kicking back as the blade doesn't get sideways in the cut, it's never happened to me. Same with home made guides as long as you keep them hard against the guide. An important variable is the saw, many of which allow a good deal of flex in the rear support bracket. You want as rigid a saw as practical.

No way I'm giving up my track saw or my TS.
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post #16 of 18 Old 03-17-2017, 09:34 PM
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I've seen nice cabinets built with only a portable circular saw. I know a skilled woodworker can do good work with a good skilsaw But, a table saw is more versatile, more precise, and more capable with a larger blade and more powerful motor.
I use both saws and feel I need both saws. The portability of a good Skilsaw and the ability to Saw a large piece into smaller pieces justifies the purchase. The table saw is the center piece of my shop.
Basicly I'm saying you need both.

If you don't have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?
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post #17 of 18 Old 03-17-2017, 11:07 PM
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The other day I had to cut a 3" long piece of wood, 3/4" wide x 1/4" thick, into 1/8" x 1/4" strips. Piece of cake on the table saw. Make me a believer and tell me how a track saw could cut them. I never used one, but can't see how those cuts would be possible.
I would hate to be without the table saw. If you try a track saw, I would lower the blade on the ts, and put a piece of wood on it and use as a table for a while, before selling it.

There are many times I need to make a cut that takes less than 10 seconds, to set the fence and cut. I wouldn't have the patience to set up a track saw for a quick cut.
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post #18 of 18 Old 03-28-2017, 06:41 PM
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While you can do all these things with a circular saw and jigs, the additional time really adds up.

You will also inevitably run into certain cuts which are more dangerous with a circular saw than a tablesaw.

I watched my dad run his hand through a table saw when I was young, and have a healthy respect and fear for my tools.

I take a lot of extra precautions with my table saw, including:
-using a push stick that runs along my fence
-never standing behind the wood I am feeding in, but standing behind the saw and to the side of the wood
-always turning the saw off immediately when done with a cut
-lowering my blade religiously
-always using a featherboard

These are fairly common safety things, but I watch people ignore them all the time.

Even after doing all this, it takes much less time to make quality consistent cuts than with a circular saw and guide.

I made my first pieces of furniture without a table saw, and not only was it painfully time consuming, I felt it ended up being more dangerous than appropriately using a table saw, due to the ways I had to setup some of the narrower cuts.
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