Making A Saw Board / DIY Track Saw Homemade Machines & Jigs
These days, it seems that nearly every major power tool manufacurer is making their own version of a track saw, and these tools have become very popular lately. They all work in a very similar way, and share another common trait: they are all fairly expensive. By all accounts, these are probably well worth the money if you will use one on a regular basis. Some woodworkers have even started using a track saw system exclusively, and don’t ever use a table saw.
Of course, before there were track saws there were regular circular saws, used for free hand cutting of lumber and sheet goods (plywood, etc.). At some point, someone made what is known as the “saw board” and this is a simple guide for making fast and accurate cuts on sheet stock, and also very straight rip cuts on boards. What distinguishes a saw board from an ordinary straight edge clamped on as a guide, is that a saw board is tailor made for the saw it is used with. The saw rides on it, and you just need to line up the edge of the saw board with marks on the sheet where you want to cut. In this way, it is very much like the more expensive track saws.
I have used one for years and cut most of the plywood used for this kitchen with one. These are easy and inexpensive to make, and can really save a lot of time and frustration when cutting sheets of plywood for a project.
Since I will be doing a few storage cabinet projects for the new shop, I made two new saw boards to replace my older ones that were getting worn out. I have details of the build below, plus I made a video, and that is at the bottom of the page.
The first step was to figure out how wide the base should be. It needs to be wide enough for the broader side of the saw’s shoe to ride on, plus room for a guide strip and space to clamp it down. For most corded saws, this will be in the 8″ to 10″ range.
For mine, I chose to use 1/2″ melamine. It has a particle board core which will keep it flat and straight, and a slick, maintenence free surface finish for the saw to ride on. I also made two lengths: an 8′ for ripping and a 4′ for cross cutting:
For the guide strip, I cut pieces of solid wood, about 1-1/2″ wide and 1/4″ thick:
These are fastened to the base using 1/2″ screws and polyurethane adhesive. To ensure the strips are accurately placed, I cut a very shallow groove in the base on the table saw, with the straight factory edge against the fence. There are other ways to make that layout line (pencil and a combination square, for example), but I prefer to do it this way.
With the guide strips fastened, the saw boards are ready to use. The first cut is to trim the base so that it is exactly in line with the blade. This is the beauty of this simple jig: after you have made it, you can just line the edge of the saw board up with the marks you make on the material you want to cut, and the saw will cut exactly to those marks. It also elliminates a lot of the chip-out, since the edge of the material is under the saw board.
To set the depth of cut, put the saw on the saw board and line it up with the edge of the material you will be cutting, and lower the blade until it extends down below the wood by about 1/4″:
And it’s ready to cut.
I use these to break down sheets into smaller sizes and then make the final cuts on the table saw, but these can be used for very accurate finished cuts. Handy to have a pair of folding saw horses to set the sheets on to do the cutting. That way, the cuts could be made outdoors where there may be more space.
I made a short video about making and using it: