Best Circular Saw Guide Rails and Buying Guide - 2019
If you have ever worked with wood and power tools, I am sure you understand the importance of quality. There is nothing worse than buying a piece of equipment for it to break as soon as you use it. That is even more true when you are talking about precision and safety kit.
In this article, we are going to be taking a look at the best circular saw guide rails and also including a buying guide too!
Best Circular Saw Guide Rails - 2019
Circular saw guide rails fall into both of those categories that I have just mentioned. You want your cut to be straight, without the saw slipping off with disastrous consequences. First of all, let me show you the saw guides in question:
Last update on 2020-12-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
As you can see, there are differences in saw tracks that you can buy. You may already know which one will suit your needs, but if not, then keep reading for our buying guide. First of all, though, we will look at the individual saw guides in a bit more detail.
1. Festool FS-1400
Festool is a name of tremendous respect in all things power tools. And the FS-1400 is no different. This circular saw track will allow you to make exact cuts on any wood that your saw can handle. Not only will it handle it, but it will do it very well. You can rip or cross-cut, or make any angle cuts that you wish up to a massive 55.1 inches long. That is the longest in the selection today.
The dual clamping strips on the underside of the guide provide an excellent grip on materials, but you do need to ensure that you have a clean surface for any non-slip strips. The use of the anti-slip strips will enable you to get set up and ready to cut very quickly when compared to some that require separate clamps.
We also like the anti-chip strip that runs along the cutting edge of the guide, but there have been some reports of having to cut through this before you make your first real cut. While this is not something that we encountered, it may be an issue if you use a different brand saw. Our TS saw worked perfectly, and eliminated splinters almost completely.
Things We Liked
- Long enough to cut almost anything that you will need to
- Easy to get extensions
- Accurate cuts
- Quick and easy set up
Things We Did Not Like
- Anti-slip strips become ineffective on very small work-pieces
- It is quite expensive
If you have the money and want high quality, this is the track for you. However, it is not the most portable of the pack that we have. But, if you are working in a shop, then that is not going to be an issue.
2. Kreg KMA2700
Kreg hasn’t been in the game of woodworking as long as other competitors in this article, but they still have made some excellent equipment. As a company, they are about sixty years younger than Festool, but because of that, they do not charge as much money.
This circular saw guide goes against the grain a little in terms of design. The majority of saw guides have a track that you run the base of your saw along directly. However, Kreg, being known for their jigs, have made a sled for your saw to sit. That is meant to improve the accuracy of the saws. But we did find that there was slight play in the sled, which disappointed us a little.
If you want to use this saw to produce manageable sized pieces of wood, then it is excellent. If you want to get accurate, final cuts, then you may be better with the Festool.
The anti-slip strips did give us some peace of mind, however. But again, you need to ensure that you sweep you work off first.
Things We Liked
- Long enough to cut large pieces
- Will fit MOST saws with the jig
- Easy to use and extend
- Cheaper than Festool
Things We Did Not Like
- Less accurate than Festool
- Different amounts of play in sleds
If you handle a lot of big pieces of wood that you have to cut down to size before the final cut, then this is a pretty good track. I would not want to use it for my final cuts on high precision work, though.
3. Makita 194368
Makita is Makita. Another one of the biggest names in woodwork and power tools. This track is also the second-longest in this article with only 0.1-inch less length than the Festool. However, it is the heaviest in the category, even if it is by only ~0.6lbs.
Although there have been some reports of this track not being overly accurate, I do wonder if they have had transportation issues, as the one we have tested was almost as good as the Festool. One thing that we did dislike, though, is the inability to use any other brand tools without an adapter. I think that making a saw guide for only one saw is a little short-sighted of Makita.
We did like the anti-chip system that they have used. It provided an almost chip-free cut without much effort.
Things We Liked
- One of the longest in our list
- Easy to extend with accessories
- Attachments readily available for other power tools
Things We Did Not Like
- Clamps required for this guide
- Some people have had issues with the trueness of the track
Honestly, they could have made a better circular saw guide. If you are looking for a high-end guide, I would still advise the Festool. However, we did not have any of the issues that some people have found, that may not be something that you want to risk. Yet, if you do, Makita has a pretty good returns policy, so you can buy it in confidence of getting a replacement if you insist on Makita.
4. DEWALT DWS5100
DeWalt is another massive name in tools, and for a good reason too. However, this guide is a bit different from the others. The DWS5100 is a ripping guide that allows you to rip any length of wood in widths of up to 14.5-inches.
If you already own a circular saw track and want to rip the wood down quickly, then this ripping guide is perfect. We did find that you have to have a relatively straight edge for the guide, though. However, with a nineteen-inch straight edge, it will glide past some of the waves that you may encounter on the side of the wood.
After the first cut, you will have a perfectly straight edge for your next. So, if you have a wavey first edge, we recommend over cutting it by an inch or so, then turning the piece over and cutting the other side. One downside is that you need to have the specific saw for the guide.
Things We Liked
- Small and compact
- Lightweight and easy to transport
- Very accurate
- Will cut any length
Things We Did Not Like
- You need the specific DeWalt saw
- Maximum cutting width of 14.5-inches
If you do a lot of ripping of material, and you have the compatible saw, this may be better than any of the alternatives on this page. It is quick and easy to use and very lightweight.
5. Bora WTX Clamp Edge
The Bora WTX is another different contender in this article. The other items have been specific circular saw track guides, whereas this is more of a clamping straight edge. However, Bora has thought about people who want to use a track instead of a straight edge and make a saw plate that you can run along the track after attaching your saw to it.
The great thing about the plate is that you can use it with almost any saw that you own. All you have to do is clamp your saw to the base with the provided clamps. The play that you can find with some guides can be taken up with the adjustable pad on the bottom.
The track clamping system is ingenious, too; the track has inbuilt clamps that run along the underneath that allows you to position the guide and clamp it to the edge.
Things We Liked
- Cheaper than the others in our list
- Easy to use
- Extensions available
- It works with any saw or tool with a straight edge
- It clamps on any size of wood
Things We Did Not Like
- You may need to use a rubber or wooden mallet to free the sliding clamp if you do it too tight
- May bow if you clamp a very long workpiece very tightly.
This piece of kit is an excellent addition to any shop. However, I would certainly use it as an addition to a standard saw guide such as the Festool.
Now that you have seen what we think to the saw guides in this article, we will talk a bit about what you need to think about when buying a saw guide:
Buying Guide for Circular Saw Guide Rails
In this guide, we are going to be looking at the primary considerations that you should take into account when looking for a circular saw guide. Although more often than not, they are just long strips of metal, there are advantages and disadvantages to each type.
Here is a list of a few things that you need to consider:
- What is a saw track?
- What are the uses?
- What to look for when buying one.
Although some of you may know the answers to these questions, we get asked them quite often. Therefore, we are going to look at each of these points in a little more detail below.
What Is A Saw Track?
A saw track is a highly engineered straight edge that you run a saw along to get straight cuts. There are still various styles that you can buy from different manufacturers. They will all have slight differences, but the majority of the principles are the same. The main differences that you will see throughout the items, and this article are the following:
There are usually two types of clamps for keeping your guide on the workpiece. Integrated clamps, seen on the Bora WTX, and track clamps that you insert into the track from underneath. They are on the majority of the others in the first section, but they are often accessories sold separately. You can use standard G-clamps, sash, or spring clips, but ensure that you do not foul the operation of the saw.
The saw guides that don’t come with clamps, often have non-slip pads running along the bottom of the track to stop it moving.
While clamps are essential for safety and accuracy, you need to understand the track systems. If you don’t, and you buy the wrong guide, you will not be able to cut anything at all. The track is what the saw runs on. It is often a protruding or recessed part of the guide that matches up with the opposite shape on your saw plate. If you get the wrong one, your saw will not fit.
A lot of manufacturers have different stances on how to produce their tracks. Of course, they all want you to buy their systems in full. But some do see that if you already have one saw from a different manufacturer, they would rather you bought the guide form them instead of the saw’s manufacturer.
That means that you will have to check the compatibility of the saw unless you buy a clamping straight edge like the Bora WTX. That straight edge will work without any tracking system. That may leave you asking: Why buy that one at all if you can use a straight edge? Well, first of all, guide rails are designed to be super straight, while other things may not be as straight. Plus, they are deep enough to run a saw up against without it slipping over and cutting into your straight edge. That is not to mention the accessories that you can use with the guide too.
Some guides, such as the DEWALT DWS5100, do not have tracks for a saw to run along as such. That is an integrated guide used for ripping lengths of wood all the same width. It has a straight edge that butts up against the side of a piece of wood and then supporting arms that hold a specific saw straight while you rip it.
Depending on what brand guide you choose, there is a plethora of accessories that you can get for them. The majority of guides that you get come as a single piece of track alone. That means that to rip a board, for example, you need to mark out two points and clamp the guide to the board on those markings. If you clamp it slightly wrong, your cut is going to be incorrect. That’s why you can buy accessories like square edge jigs.
Some of the other additions that you can buy for the guides are:
- Router clamps. – These allow you to have the accuracy of a track, but with a router. Ideal for cutting rabbets and dados if you do not have a table router, or if the workpiece is too long.
- Jigsaw clamps. – As I am sure you are aware, if you end a cut halfway down a piece of wood with a circular saw, the cut is not perpendicular to the ground. Jigsaw blades allow you to have the straight cut that you want in this situation.
- Square edge Jigs. – I suggest getting one of these as soon as you can. They make marking and cutting straight cuts a breeze, with far less room for human error.
- Miter edge jigs. – Cutting angles are sometimes very tricky with a saw guide. However, if you use a miter edge jig, you can set the angle that you want very quickly.
- Various adapters for different saws. – Perhaps you have a plunge saw or mini circular saw. You can get adapters to fit them onto your saw guide. (Make sure that there is an adapter available before you buy one.)
- Saw Stops. – Using saw stops gives you a more substantial possibility of work with a saw guide, such as mortices of the same length.
The cut type of a saw guide is pretty limited to straight lines. However, there are a couple of different cuts that you can do with them. As I have already explained, you may want to do miter or angled cuts, which will mean that you have to ensure that your guide is compatible.
It is not just the guide that you have to check for the ability of angled cuts; the saw has to be able to do them too. However, you can buy attachments for some guides to allow plunge saws, etc. to do angled cuts.
What Are The Uses Of A Saw Guide?
First of all, have you ever tried cutting a very straight line with a circular saw alone? If you have, you will know that it is very time consuming and difficult. Therefore, the easiest way to cut a precise, straight cut is to use a saw guide.
As I have said earlier, you can use a guide to cut straight, precise lines anywhere from a 90-degree to up to 45-degree angles every single time. That is, providing that it is all correctly set up.
Not only does the saw guide maintain accuracy, but if you use one that has splinter guards, such as the Festool FS-1400, Kreg KMA2700, or the Makita 194368, it will also give you a better edge than if you do not use one.
Advantages of A Saw Guide
As you have seen throughout this article, there are many advantages to using a saw guide:
- Straight edges.
- Accurate cuts.
- Less splinters.
There is not a lot more to say on this subject. If you want a clean, straight cut, then you NEED a saw guide. Some guides do have advantages that others do not, though. We will go through those in the What to look for when buying one section further in the article.
Disadvantages of A Saw Guide
Of course, as with everything, it is unfortunate that there has to be some disadvantages. However, the main problem of using a saw guide is that you need to have the room to use it. Alternatively, you need to have varying lengths of guide to accommodate the size of wood that you are cutting.
There are various ways in which you can get around this, though. For example, for anything small, and up to about 10-inches wide, you can use a sliding compound miter saw. After that, you may be able to cut up to 18 or so inches by turning the wood around. But that is not the recommended way to do it.
So, you have a piece of wood that you need to cut that is, say, 25 inches wide. That is where the Bora WTX helps you out. But if you have one of the other guides, you could cut it down to size, if it is one that you can join together. Don’t forget only to do this if you have another full-length guide, though!
What To Look For When Buying A Saw Guide
Now that you have read the information regarding each of the circular saw guides that we have provided, and all of the other information, you should have a pretty good idea of which you need. However, there are some things that you need to consider when you are buying one:
- Safety features. – Safety should be your main priority with everything that you do. Ensure that you have suitable non-slip strips on the bottom of your guide, at the very least. Preferably the ability to clamp it, even if they don’t come supplied with it.
- What you want to cut with it. – If you only ever want to rip material, then you are probably better with the DEWALT DWS5100, so long as you have the correct saw. That is because it will cut any length of material, as it runs alongside the saw. However, if you cut longer pieces at different angles, then the Festool FS-1400 is going to be the preferred option if you have the accessories.
- Where you will use it. – If you have a large workshop and you only ever work in there, then a longer guide will be perfect. However, if you travel a lot for your work, then you may be better using a smaller, more compact track such as the Kreg KMA2700 as it comes in two parts.
- The saw that you are going to use. – There isn’t a lot to say about this. Just make sure that your saw is compatible with the guide!
- Accessories available to you. – Before you buy a guide, you could do with writing down everything that you plan to do with it, such as routering, etc. Then, ensure that the guide you are looking at buying has all of the attachments that you are going to need. Even if they don’t come as a complete package, knowing that you can get them will give you peace of mind.
We have reviewed some of the Best Circular Saw Guide Rails and written a buying guide to help you find the perfect product for you. However, as I have said, take some time to figure out which you need for what you are going to do before buying one. In my humble opinion, I would have to say that my favorite of the bunch is the Festool FS-1400 with the accessory kit that I mentioned above for shop use and the Bora WTX for work outside the shop.