Last week at the JLC Live show in Providence, R.I. Festool was demonstrating their new crosscutting track saw system designed for carpenters. Throughout each day of the event, show participants gathered around the demonstration area in groups and most walked away eager to get their hands on one. The system, which has been a big hit in Europe for a while now, is due out in the U.S. this coming fall.
The HK 55 EB, and it’s 18V cordless cousin, the HKC 55 EB mount to a short rail or track. Unlike Festool’s original track saw system in which the saw stays above the track until it’s plunged into the material, the HK and HKC blade stay below the track at all times. The track, which is available in three different lengths, retracts after you push through the cut. Equipped with a 6-1/2-in. circular saw blade, the saw provides a cut depth of 1-15/16” straight down and 1-7/16” at 45 degrees when mounted to the track. The saw’s crosscutting capacity runs from 10”, 16-1/2”, and 27” at 90 degrees, depending upon the length of the track. The saws are also compatible with Festool’s FS guide rails, though the TSC saw isn’t compatible with the HK rails.
Both saws have a riving knife built into the blade guard. You’ll need to use one of the thin kerf saw blade options (Standard, Fine, Rip) to take advantage of the integral riving knife. The saw will come with the standard blade (500 461).
Although the saws are designed for crosscuts, they also can be setup quickly to make plunge cuts. Blade depth is adjustable too, and Festool shifted from metric to imperial numbers on the depth adjustment settings. The blade adjustment accounts for the depth of the rail, so it’s accurate without having to second-guess anything.
The guide rail can be adjusted to make angle cuts up to 60 degrees thanks to stops beneath the rail that register on the edge of the work piece. The demonstration of this feature was impressive to watch because it illustrated how quickly the user can make repeatable angle cuts that are flawless. The saws both bevel up to 50 degrees, so compound miters are possible too.
The track system is designed similarly to the original track saw in that the edge of the rail aligns on the cut mark so there’s very little setup time. The rails have non-slip foam on the bottom too so there’s no need for clamps.
Festool said that they weren’t sure yet what the price point was going to be. A couple of the carpenters I spoke with said they would buy it if the price was near Festool’s track saw, which starts around $600 for a corded version. Most of them wanted to see it offered at a much lower price, though – which seems fair. The system will come with only one rail, which is shorter than the one offered in the TSC kit. This saw will be competing with the sliding compound miter saws. Imagine running trim along the rake, or siding, or soffit and fascia material for that matter – from a scaffold or lull without needing a mitersaw mounted to the staging. You’ll get the same level of accuracy from this saw without the setup time.