Rail Guided Saws

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Are these circ-saws-on-steroids worth their plump price tags? We test 5 models to find out.



Why buy?

Sleek and sexy, smoothly riding a shiny aluminum rail, leaving in its wake not a tattered mess, but crisp, clean edges ... one thing is certain: This isn't your father's circular saw. Dad, meet the rail-guided saw--the next generation of portable circular saw.

Rail-guided saws beat other circ saws hands down in four areas:
• They crosscut splinter-prone veneered plywood as well as or better than a good tablesaw and a top-flight blade.
• Cutting any odd angle is a breeze.
• When you need to start a cut in the middle of a workpiece (a sink cutout comes to mind), a rail-guided saw makes the job faster, safer, and more accurate than any other method, partly because the zero-clearance edge of the rail shows exactly where the blade will cut.
• Finally, hooked to a vacuum, the guards that surround the blade increase dust-collection efficiency, leaving the floor nearly as clean as the cut.

 

With quality, though, comes cost. The lowest-priced saw/rail pairing at the time of our test would set you back $465; the most expensive cost $625 with its 75" rail. (Add $125 more for the 55" extension and connectors that let you rip an 8' sheet of plywood.) For about the same price, you could instead buy a good contractor-style tablesaw with a clean-cutting blade.

 

So, are rail-guided saws worth it? We challenged five machines in a variety of hardwoods, softwoods, and sheet goods to find out. Here's what we learned.