How do you cut perfectly straight with a circular saw?
The answer is you can’t unless you use a circular saw guide rail (track system) or press your saw against a straight edge.
Circular saws are great tools. They are able to make a wide variety of cuts and because they are so useful, you will find one in almost every tool shed or workshop out there.
However, circular saws have a major flaw, which is their inability to make very accurate cuts easily. Sure, with a lot of practice and a very steady hand one can make accurate cuts, but it is very difficult. Also, it is very easy to make mistakes; one slight slip of the hand and your cut is ruined.
That is where a circular saw guide rail or circular saw track system comes into action.
As the name indicates, circular saw guide tracks are tools that you install on your work that enable you to make ultra-precise cuts with ease.
In this article, I am going to go over several advantages of using a guide rail, as well as explain the two different models of guide rail that you can use.
Best Guide Rails for Circular Saw
For those who are in a hurry, here are the recommended guide rails that work very well.
#1. Kreg KMA2700 Circular Saw Track
Kreg tool is well known for their quality. They launched their first Accu-cut circular saw track system in 2017. The KMA2700 comes with two tracks of 26.5 inches each. By connecting the two tracks to a total length of 53-inches, you can cut plywood panels and MDF up to 48 inches long.
Slide the cross-sled on to the guide track and fix your saw on the sled with clamping screws. You can mount the saw with blade on the left or right. Both will work fine on KMA2700.
Here is a video that explains how the Kreg Accu-cut track system works.
As you can see from the video, it is very easy to use. If the wood surface that you are cutting is flat and even, then you do not need to clamp the guide rails. The anti-slip strips that are attached below the tracks will hold them on place.
- Accuracy: Precision machines guide tracks made out of high-quality aluminum.
- Vesatile: Ability to do rip, crosscut and make angled cuts up to 48° long in MDF, plywood, and panels.
- Quality: Anti-slip, anti-chip strips hold the trach in place and prevent splintering.
- Ease of Use: Starting block supports the saw at the beginning of the cut, allows normal blade guard operation.
- Only 48-inch maximum length of cut
The KMA2700 guide tracks work great; the only downside was the length of the rail. With 48 inches max, many users felt that the length of cut was the biggest limiting factor of the otherwise excellent equipment.
But now with the new XL expansion kit, you can cut up to 100 inches.
#2. Makita 194368-5 55-Inch Guide Rail
#3. Bora, 543050, Clamp Edge, Aluminum, 50 in. Size
#4. E. Emerson Tool Co. C50 50-Inch All-In-One Contractor Straight Edge Clamping Tool Guide
#5. DeWalt DW3278 Circular Saw Rip Fence (Budget Pick)
Circular Saw with Guide Rails
A circular saw with guide tracks attached to it is called track saw. The track saw or plunge cut saw works essentially the same way how you use a circular saw with guide rails systems.
You can find out more about track saw here.
Types of Circular Saw Guide Rails
There are mainly two kinds of circular guide rails that you can use with a circular saw.
- DIY Rip Fence
- Standard steel/Aluminum guide rails
1. Simple DIY Fence
It is possible to make your own guide rail using a mixture of materials, tools, and your own technical knowledge. Although they are often referred to as rip fences, I am going to refer to them as guide rails in this section because they serve the same purpose of helping you make accurate cuts.
If you have no idea what you are doing, you can always look up a guide online on how to make a DIY guide rail. There are literally hundreds of guides that give you step by step instructions on how to do it yourself. Now, I personally think you should stick with buying one. But, if you do feel like giving yourself a challenge, making one yourself is perfectly fine.
I would advise caution when building your own rip fence, make sure you follow whatever guide you are using to the letter. It is very possible that you will make a single mistake and make the whole effort pointless.
There is also a chance you could accidentally hurt yourself as well. Unlike standard guide rails, rip fences only act as support on one side. You have to push the circular saw towards the fence and move it forward to make the cut. So, make sure you have a good idea of what you need to do before you start.
2. Standard Circular Saw Guide Rails and Track Systems
They are typically made of aluminum or steel, but there are cheaper models made of wood (and DIY models are often made of wood).
Buying Guide: Circular Saw Rail Systems
There are a lot of guide rail models out there, so you have a lot to choose from. In this section, rather than give you a very specific recommendation, I figured I would give you a broad idea of what features you should look for.
Buy the guide track that has sufficient length for your tasks. The common sizes available in the market are 36-inches and 50-inches in length.
The material used to manufacture the tracks is another important consideration. The guides from the reputed brands are usually made out of steel or aluminum.
Steel offers more precision, wear-resistance, and sturdy operation. However, they are heavy.
On the other hand, aluminum tracks are lightweight, less expensive and sufficiently accurate.
In general, I would recommend getting a guide rail that has a foam rubber on it. Foam rubber is really good for preventing slipping when you are cutting material.
You also want a guide rail that has both a splinter shield (helps to further prevent splintering) and that also has a good coating of lubricant on it.
Benefits of Using a Circular Saw with Guide System
Are you an experienced woodworker who feels that tracks for boys who can’t cut straight? I can resonate, but in my experience, a guide track works fantastic when you do long rips and size large panels.
Advantages of using a guide rail
So, you may be skeptical about whether you actually need a guide rail or not. For many saw owners, it may seem like an unnecessary attachment. In this section, I am going into detail on the various benefits of using a guide rail when cutting materials.
I am not only going to cover the more obvious benefits (such as more accurate cutting), but I will also go into detail on the less obvious, but still valuable benefits of using one. So stay with me.
So, let’s start with the most important and most obvious benefit to using a guide rail, which is the accuracy of the cut. If you want to consistently make accurate cuts with a circular saw, then you either need years of practice or a guide rail. Even if you have years of experience using the best circular saws, jigsaws, etc., you can still make annoying mistakes when cutting materials.
In order to make accurate straight cuts with a circular saw, use guide rails.
A good circular saw rail will ensure that you never make a mistake when cutting material. With a guide rail, an amateur DIYer can make cuts that professionals who have been using circular saws for decades would struggle to make.
Prevents splinters and tears on material
Improved accuracy alone would be a good enough reason to buy a guide rail for your circular saw, but there are other advantages as well.
For example, using a guide rail can help prevent splinters and tears on your material. This is especially noticeable around the edges of whatever material that you are cutting. For some, this won’t be as important of an advantage as the improved for accuracy, but for others, this feature will come in very handy.
Keeps your work surface undamaged
I know a lot of us out there are used to our work surfaces being scratched; it’s an unavoidable consequence of using a circular saw. However, a guide rail can help keep your work surface unblemished. Guide rails will keep brand new work surfaces looking pristine since the base of the saw will not scratch on the work surface.
Again, I know this isn’t a major issue for most people, but it is still an advantage worth noting. On its own, it may not mean much, but when combined with the other advantages it might convince some of the value of using a guide rail.
It is an additional piece of equipment that you have to carry to the workplace.
While a DIY fence may be cheap to make, a well-fabricated steel guide rail incurs additional expenses.
It takes time to setup. While it will not slow you down too much, the experienced users may prefer the ease of cutting without spending time on setting up the rails.
Finally, there are situations where you cannot attach a guide rail. In such cases, a steady hand and lot experience are very advantageous.
By now I hope you see the value of a circular saw guide rail. I really can’t overstress just how useful they are. It doesn’t matter whether you are an amateur woodworker or a professional with twenty years of experience under your belt, you can benefit from using a circular saw guide rail (or building one yourself if you decide to do that).