All You Need Is a Track Saw
How to break down plywood and other sheet goods efficiently, accurately, and without a tablesaw.
Synopsis: Accurate cuts on a track saw require a thoughtful sequence. This article shows an efficient method, including tips for setup, squaring up the plywood, and making rip cuts and crosscuts.
When I got my first track saw years ago, it was an absolute game changer for my trim carpentry work. No more trying to shove full sheets of plywood through a small job-site tablesaw. But for those first few years, I was really only using the tracksaw to break down sheets of plywood into their rough parts, which I would then run through the tablesaw for final sizing. I didn’t have confidence in my ability to get consistently sized parts, say for building a bank of cabinets, without the aid of a fence. But as I’ve refined my techniques, I now feel comfortable processing a stack of plywood into a variety of consistently sized parts and pieces, all without a tablesaw.
Track-saw setups are available from Festool, Makita, and DeWalt, among others. But keep in mind that many parts of these systems are cross-compatible. My saw and tracks are both made by Festool, but the zero-clearance strip on the track, and the clamps I use to secure it to sheet goods, are both made by DeWalt. Similarly, my dust hose is made by Bosch, and I often connect it to a Ridgid vac.
Whichever tools you use, accurate cuts require a thoughtful sequence. I’ve tried lots of different workflows for processing sheet goods—laying out the full sheet while trying to account for sawkerfs, cutting each piece out one at a time, and more. I find the method shown here to be the most efficient, and it’s become my standard practice. After establishing two edges that are square to each other, work from one side of the sheet…