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Pot stirring time -- tracksaws (or is it track saws?). - Printable Version

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Pot stirring time -- tracksaws (or is it track saws?). - Rob Young - 03-13-2019

I don't work much with sheet goods but in the past I've always used a sorta junky circular saw, but with a decent Freud plywood blade, and a home-made guide to break down the sheets.  1/4" or so over size then over to the table saw which has yet another Freud plywood blade and a ZCI. And often times I'll still add a line of blue tape to the exit side (bottom side for TS). Really does help.

But to the point, I've got on my short list at least two, maybe three projects that are calling (screaming) for sheet goods : bathroom vanity (maybe 2), matching over-the-toilet cabinet and I need to make some additional storage cabinets in my garage. As I've never really like futzing about with the home-made guide I decided to pop for a tracksaw.  After much consideration and thought I went with the Grizzly full size model, two lengths of 55" track and once again, an upgraded Freud blade.

And remember, when I say Grizzly here it really means Sheppach because this same saw and rails show up under at least four different names including Sheppach, Aldi/Workzone and Wen.

Sure, I know what many will say, "Go look at the reviews, the Griz always finishes last."  Well, I did that and often times (all of the time perhaps) they were using the stock blades. And it was also well documented a few years ago there was a problem with the Griz track having its slick-strips too close together so the saw rocked on the track. Finally, the dust extraction is less than stellar in the not-Festool/not-Metabo brands. The cheaper you go, the messier they get.  I got all that.  But all of these can be addressed easily.

1) Got the Griz Track Saw + 55" track + clamps for less than $200 (plus about $20 shipping and some tax).
2) Added the 2nd rail so I could run a full 8' if needed.
3) Picked up a Freud LU79R006M20 160mm x 48T thin kerf plywood and melamine blade for just over $20 on Amazon (just checked and the deal has vanished, regular price is about $45 which is still reasonable).
4) I have several rolls of blue tape which works magic.
5) Out of the box, it seems that Griz/Sheppach have fixed the issue with the slick strips being mounted to close together. No side to side rocking of saw. Nice and perpendicular to the track right out of the box.
6) Put tape over the gaping holes in the blade cover and hook up to something with at least 100CFM of air moving ability and things stay pretty clean. No, not Festool/Metabo clean, but acceptable.


Here's a few test x-cuts using the stock Griz blade (tiny little chunks of carbide and just not that great of a blade). 
[attachment=17277]
Obviously a terrible cut in the paper thin veneer (this is the track side or exit side for the blade, the show side would typically be down and I'll show that later but it was supported on some rigid foam insulation).  The right side is the "Waste" (marked with a "W"), the left side would have been under the track and is marked "K" for "Keeper".  The waste side isn't even suitable for a break-down cut in my option.  More on the tearing that is happening on the keeper side later.

Here's what happens with the same blade but adding some blue-tape to the cut-line. When peeling it back off, work at a low angle and with the grain of the veneer so as to not pull out chunks of the veneer!
[attachment=17278]
Better, this is the sort of cut I think of as a break-down cut on the waste side. A bit of splintering but nothing running way in like before. The keeper side is ever so slightly better too.

Now swap out the Griz blade for the Freud blade.
[attachment=17279]
Looks about the same as the Griz blade with the blue tape.  Sort of what I expected because that's also what the waste side (and keeper side) look like when I use my home-made guide. Acceptable but not great on the waste side. Biggest bit of tear-out on the veneer is on the "D" of Freud and looks to be maybe 3/16" long.

Finally, Freud blade plus blue tape
[attachment=17280]
Very nice. Certainly well within the quality I could expect on the table saw too.

Now, about the tearout in general and especially on the keeper side no mater which blade was installed.  It seems a bit much without the blue tape. Why would that be?  Well, it looks like Griz doesn't have quite the right thickness strip installed. Out in front, at the point where a blade cutting maximum depth would be exiting the top side I can slip in two playing cards under the strip. This is the weight of the saw holding down the rail. In the center of the saw, one card and almost two go in.  If I put my weight down on things like I was pushing the saw, pretty much just one card.
[attachment=17281]
This tells me that the ZC strip isn't making contact with the work. A little rough measuring with my calipers and I come up with about 0.5mm thinner strip than it needs to be.  The strip is about 1.7mm thick but sits in a "rabbet" that is closer to 2mm deep so having a few extra tenths of a mm would be nice to guarantee contact.

Here's the "show face" that would have been held down on the rigid foam.  Just two pics instead of 4 since I never added blue tape to this side. It is VERY hard to tell the Griz blade cut from the Freud blade cut but maybe the Freud blade cut is ever so slightly better.

Griz Blade on show face:
[attachment=17282]

Freud Blade on show face:
[attachment=17283]

In closing, what got me thinking about all this stuff was a perfect storm of projects bubbling to the top of my list, prices (Griz deal, Freud deal) and catching a YouTube video out of the corner of my eye one day when I was doing other stuff on the PC.  Peter Millard does custom work in and around London from a tiny little shop. Mostly an MRMDF and Domino guy but uses his Festool tracksaw a lot. And he has a few other videos about testing "entry level" track saws and a series where he takes the Sheppach (as sold by Aldi) and sets it up. While he doesn't do the blue-tape trick, he does experiment with different blades and rubber strips with some similar results to mine.

Here's the first video in the series.  




I think I'll be just fine with the Griz tracksaw and upgraded blade and just to be safe I'll keep some blue tape on hand.  I'm going looking for some thicker rubber to replace the ZC strip on my tracks and I may test again. But honestly, I'm already getting better results than my old method. 

Would I get better results with the Festool out of the box. I have no doubt I would.  Also would get better results with the Makita or DeWalt out of the box too. Investing and extra $20 for the Freud blade on top of the $200 (plus some tax, shipping and an extra 55" rail so call it $300 all-in) I'm getting better results than before and with maybe another $20 upgrade to the ZC strip I should be doing great. So it comes down to $350-ish money vs Festool at around $700 (plus some shipping, $50?) for the TS55 + one 55" track. And if Festool's TS55 warranty is like those of the sanders, it can be voided if you don't use an approved dust extractor. That is pure speculation on my part as I haven't read the details on the TS55.

The EurekaZone was an option since that could be fitted to my existing circular saw.  But since my circular saw doesn't have any dust collection features and it just isn't all that great I dropped that from my list.  It also seems the Kreg has entered the tracksaw market in a big way but it is a bit more cash than I want to drop right now and there isn't much of a history with the design yet.

Interesting to note the Griz/Sheppach has a riving knife at its price point. So while I loose a little cutting depth vs my old circular saw, I can gain a riving knife.

So occasional use, particularly for sheet good break-down it is $350 vs $750. I can live with the noise of the Griz motor and my shopvac since I already have good 3M muffs.  I can live with the bit of junk spewed out under the blade.  I (believe) I can resolve the ZC strip issue and I've always got plenty of blue tape on hand so I can get a perfectly acceptable cut to me.


RE: Pot stirring time -- tracksaws (or is it track saws?). - Phil Thien - 03-13-2019

Good review.

Can you just add a layer of tape to the zero clearance strip?


RE: Pot stirring time -- tracksaws (or is it track saws?). - paulJohnstoneJr - 03-14-2019

Nice post, I was in a similar situation as you.. I ended up with the Makita , and I love it.

Festool has just gotten out of control, IMO. The Festool track saw (and their other tools) were sort of reasonably priced when they first came
out , but years of annual price increases have just made them not practical.. I almost bought the Festool track saw when it first came out, but I refused to pay about $100 for a plywood blade (at the time, no one made a compatible one, or at least I could not find one).. $100 for a circular saw plywood blade is just plain gouging..


RE: Pot stirring time -- tracksaws (or is it track saws?). - Rob Young - 03-14-2019

(03-13-2019, 11:20 PM)Phil Thien Wrote: Good review.

Can you just add a layer of tape to the zero clearance strip?

It would take a few layers, yes.

The ZC strip is a consumable item anyway so finding source of some 2.5mm-ish stuff is a worthwhile exercise anyway.


RE: Pot stirring time -- tracksaws (or is it track saws?). - fredhargis - 03-14-2019

(03-13-2019, 10:24 PM)Rob Young Wrote: I think I'll be just fine with the Griz tracksaw and upgraded blade and just to be safe I'll keep some blue tape on hand.  I'm going looking for some thicker rubber to replace the ZC strip on my tracks and I may test again. But honestly, I'm already getting better results than my old method. 



So occasional use, particularly for sheet good break-down it is $350 vs $750. I can live with the noise of the Griz motor and my shopvac since I already have good 3M muffs.  I can live with the bit of junk spewed out under the blade.  I (believe) I can resolve the ZC strip issue and I've always got plenty of blue tape on hand so I can get a perfectly acceptable cut to me.

In the end that's all that matters. As for stirring the pot; maybe.....but it was interesting information.


RE: Pot stirring time -- tracksaws (or is it track saws?). - JDuke - 03-14-2019

Stirring the pot is good in some cases, especially if it helps the problems boil out to a wider audience and possibly get fixed.

I’m sure someone here has a source for a 2.5mm thick strip of the rubberized sacrificial tape, maybe even the replacement strip designed for dewalt or one of the other track saws would work.


Duke


RE: Pot stirring time -- tracksaws (or is it track saws?). - fredhargis - 03-14-2019

(03-14-2019, 08:18 AM)JDuke Wrote: I’m sure someone here has a source for a 2.5mm thick strip of the rubberized sacrificial tape, maybe even the replacement strip designed for dewalt or one of the other track saws would work.


Duke

I wondered the same thing, so I did measure some I had (Festool). It's 2.2 mm thick.


RE: Pot stirring time -- tracksaws (or is it track saws?). - Rob Young - 03-14-2019

(03-14-2019, 08:18 AM)JDuke Wrote: Stirring the pot is good in some cases, especially if it helps the problems boil out to a wider audience and possibly get fixed.

I’m sure someone here has a source for a 2.5mm thick strip of the rubberized sacrificial tape, maybe even the replacement strip designed for dewalt or one of the other track saws would work.


Duke

I believe the Peter Millard guy I mentioned above found that he could source 2.5mm strip from Makita replacement parts.  I just haven't done the leg work yet.


RE: Pot stirring time -- tracksaws (or is it track saws?). - ®smpr_fi_mac® - 03-14-2019

Neat write up. Thanks. I'm not currently in the market for a track saw but would eventually like to add one to my arsenal, especially if I start doing more projects that require sheet goods.


RE: Pot stirring time -- tracksaws (or is it track saws?). - jteneyck - 03-14-2019

Very nice writeup.  Are you satisfied you can cut parts to final dimensions?  Maybe I missed it but I don't think you addressed that aspect.  Unless that's possible, and repeatable to at least 1/64" accuracy, I don't see much benefit over what I've been doing, which is very much like you were doing before.  

John