Portable Plunge Cut Saw System
I bought the Festool saw and two guide rails (each rail is 55") with connectors last year and have been very happy with it. It is very handy for onsite trimming. The blade it comes with cuts very smooth, with little chipping on plywood and the cut edge feels like it was planed. Just make your cut marks, line the guide rail up with your marks, and make your cut. The guide rails stay in place very well without clamps, but they do make clamps that fit into a groove in the guide rail, which come in handy once in a while.
For cutting up sheets of plywood, it is faster if you buy a sheet of 1" thick foam insulation board, lay your plywood on top of that, set your blade depth to about 1/8 below the ply and make your cuts. One 4X8 sheet of styrofoam will actually last quite a while before needing to be replaced.
The Festool saw can't be beat in the field, but if you run a serious shop, I'd think the Festool would be out of place... too tedious setting it up for each cut. Get what you need for the shop, *and* get the Festool for the field - it'll pay for itself the first year.
I agree. The Festool is only useful for on-site work. I have the saw with three guides, three of their vacuums which I use nearly every day, and their Rotex sander which I use nearly every day and is our main sander (we outsource our doors/drawers, etc.).
I rarely use the saw now, but carry it on the truck for that occasional cut on-site.
I have used this Festo system for 5 years now. It works great for doing on site work including building cabinets. If you are going to rip 8' long sheet goods, then I'd recommend getting the appropriate length rail. I started with two shorter ones which I would fasten together for long rips and found that there was some lateral flexing at the joint. It was also inconvenient to go from a rip to a crosscut and then back to a rip.
I also found that it paid to rip a reference edge on sheets of ply because the factory edges are often off quite a bit. Since you are measuring both ends of your cut to establish marks to lay the guide on, if the factory edge is off, it shows up with the middle of your cut either being too wide or too narrow. For cross cuts, I use a square to establish my reference line for the guide. I'll check the factory edge. If it's good, I'll us it, but more often than not, it's off.
Initially the rubber strip that serves as the edge of the guide is pretty accurate. Just put it on your marks and cut. It's easy to get within 1/32nd inch or better for accuracy. Relatively rapidly, this accuracy decreases as blade wobble eats into the rubber strip. The end result is you tend to cut your material oversize. With time, I learned just how much I had to cheat the rail to the inside of my marks and I was back within that 1/32nd range again. Alternatively, you can replace the rubber strips more frequently.
Obviously, accurate measuring and marking are critical. A fat carpenter's pencil doesn't cut it. It helps to keep the running surface of the rail and the base of the saw waxed for smooth operation.
As others have pointed out, the Festo saw and rails don't replace a good sliding table in a shop situation for speed and repeatability, but it is definitely way better than a chalk line or wooden guide and circular saw. It doesn't take up much space and it sure beats manhandling full sheets across a table saw. The ability to hook up a Shop Vac to extract sawdust is a great feature. Cost wise, my setup actually cost more than most of the smaller sliding tables like the Excalibur.
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