A great saw—in spite of a couple of flaws—that will make fast work out of long miters. Even compound miters.
The carpentry field requires you to have a plethora of tools at your disposal. Each piece of equipment is unique in its abilities and limitations.
Power saws, for instance, are as varied as skittles and each one has a place in your tool vault. From the lowly—but crucial—circular saw to the arc cutting jigsaw, all fulfill a necessary element in wood crafting.
I am always on the lookout for new tools to add to my inventory so when ProToolReviews asked me to review the Makita Track Saw I was intrigued. What can a track saw add that my others cannot?
The Makita brand has been one of my favorites for years. Makita makes a great saw that is a proven performer in the field. Outstanding stock blades and direct drive motors on several of their saws have set them apart from the field.
The Makita SP6000J arrived in mint condition. The saw itself comes in a form fitting hard case that is well built and stackable. Makita also sent along a guide rail, rail clamps, and their rail angle guide. All the components were equally well packaged and undamaged.
After unpacking, I took some time to familiarize myself with the different components before I put them to work. The Makita Track Saw was accurate right out of the box and needed no adjustment for 90, 45, or 22.5 stop sets.
The rail was perfectly straight and flat when laid on sheet goods and held its place well.
My son, Matt—who is also my business partner—and I were in the beginning stages of a banquette and table build so what better way to put this new addition through the paces?
Guide rail setup is straightforward
The guide rail has several rows of gripping strips on the side that contacts the work surface and it does an amazing job of keeping the rail in place.
When you first use the rail you will need to adjust the rail slides on the saw. Adjust the two round knobs should until you have no lateral movement on the rail while maintaining a smooth sliding action.
I should also mention that as part of the setup you will need to make a pass through a piece of scrap to allow the saw to align the chip guard (black rubber edge on the outside of the rail) with the blade. This allows you to align properly the rail for your cuts.
First cuts: scoring a line
After the alignment pass, I proceeded to make the first cut. I was sawing some birch veneer panels so I opted to use Makita’s’ innovative score setting.
On the side below the trigger housing, there is a green button that, when depressed, only allows the saw to cut 2 to 3 mm deep (~1/16-inch).
This feature reduces chipping of the veneer because the saw does not bring panel waste from below up through the cut.
The results of this first cut were impressive: a clean, accurate, chip-free finish. Subsequent cuts were also above par.
The real test: Expensive plywood
The first real test was to break down some 3/4-inch cabinet grade panels into build components. Cross cutting panels on the table saw in our shop has always been a two-person gig as the left-hand outfeed is only two feet wide.
The Makita Track Saw made this a breeze. Placing the sheet on our build table, I was able to comfortably and accurately saw the sheet to size on my own.
For this exercise, I did not use the angle guide but simply aligned the track with measurements I had made.
Depth Scale: Metric. Really?
A depth scale in front of the motor is simple and well laid-out, though it is in metric. Most carpentry work in North America uses imperial measurements, but with a few calculations on my slide rule and abacus, I was able to set the depth to 21 mm—or a hair over 3/4-inch.
Plunge Cutting: Effortless
The reverse plunge action of the Makita Track Saw takes a little getting used to for those of us familiar with plunge-cutting using a standard circular saw. Once you acclimate, the action is smooth and effortless.
Depressing the plunge release button on the handle opposite the trigger is natural and Makita did a great job with ergonomics.
Dust Collection: Good—and flexible
The dust collection for this system is above average, leaving little residual sawdust and scant airborne particles. While Makita does have a dust bag accessory, we connected ours to *cough* Festool’s dust extractor system that fits it perfectly.
Now that I mention it, the case fits the Festool Systainer boxes perfectly as well.
Even Matt—who scoffs at anything not Festool—was impressed.
After breaking down several panels, I used the rail clamps to hold the track to the sheeting.
The clamps are a nice feature, easy to use, and plenty capable of securing the track to the work piece when you need that *extra* level of security.
Variable Speeds: A nice surprise for laminate cutting
One unique feature added to the Makita Track Saw is a thumb wheel below the trigger that allows you to set the saw speed from 2000 to 6400 RPM.
Why you ask? Plastic laminates and other composite sheets will melt at high RPM.
The adjustment allows you to cut a full range of modern materials. The 12-amp motor also features soft start technology, ending torque-related mishaps as well as electronic speed control that keeps your RPM up during the cut.
The bevel guide located at the front and rear has an easy-to-read layout as well as 4- and 22.5-degree positive stops.
The maximum bevel is 48 degrees, which aid in those funky angles remodelers run into. And if you find the occasion to use it, there is also a 1-degree counter bevel. Why is that important? A 1-degree relief bevel allows for extremely tight joinery when fitting panels.
Compounds Miter Cuts—reeeaaalllly looooonnnnggg ones
The best feature for me personally is the Makita Track Saw’s ability to make long compound miter cuts. What used to be the domain of the table saw and a taper jig can now be done quickly and accurately with the track saw.
Makita has included a button that clips the saw to the rail allowing you to bevel the body of the unit while the plate stays in place on the track.
This process is further simplified by the blade entering the work surface at the same place, whether square or beveled.
This innovative track angle accessory allows you to set the angle, rotate the bevel, and cut textbook compound miters as long as you want.
Final Thoughts: It is a keeper
A track saw has a definite place in your tool corral if you break down panels for cabinetry, straighten crowned lumber, or need quick and accurate compound miters.
The Makita SP6000J is certainly more than capable of producing excellent results while being easier on the budget than a lot of their competitors. The only flaw I could find was the lack of a riving knife, which can lead to kickback if you are not cautious.
Otherwise, it’s a solid performer in the field or shop.
Makita track saw key features (per manufacturer)
- 12 Amp motor with variable speed control dial (2,000 — 5,200 RPM) for optimum performance in a variety of materials
- Large cutting capacity (2-3/16″ at 90° and 1-9/16″ at 45°)
- Bevel capability (-1 to 48°) with positive stops at 22.5° and 45°
- Close to the wall cutting (11/16″) for expanded cutting applications
- Ideal for cutting large wood panels and other wood materials in confined areas
- 1-1/2″ OD dust port directs material away from the operator and connects to a vacuum system
- Electronic speed control maintains constant speed under load for smooth cutting
- Built-in current limiter helps prevent motor burnout
- Soft start feature for smooth start-ups
- Easy-to-set depth adjustment with large scale
- Smooth and convenient plunge release lever for operator comfort
- Magnesium components deliver a well balanced and lightweight saw at only 9.7 lbs.
- Dual front and rear bevel supports provide additional rigidity for precise and accurate bevel cuts
- Precise bevel cutting as the position of the blade enters the material on the same cutting line whether cutting straight or bevel
- Locking lever holds the blade in position so that the wrench can be inserted through the hole in the blade case for easier blade installation
- Blade wrench attaches to the saw for fast and convenient blade changes
- Built-in depth stop allows a preliminary cut of 1/16″ to be performed before the entire material is cut through for clean and splinter-free cutting
- Rubberized handles for added comfort
- Large 1-7/16″ rear dust port directs material away from the operator and easily connects to a vacuum system
- Includes a premium 48 tooth carbide tipped blade
- Optional guide rail system interacts with the saw base to provide smooth, perfect, dead-on straight or bevel cutting (available as SP6000K1)
- Saw base is attachable to other guide rail systems in the market
- Optional Accessories: Guide Rail: 117″ — 194367-7, 54″ — 194368-5 Clamp Set: 194385-5 Rip Fence: 165447-6
Makita track saw specifications:
- Mode: Makita SP6000J
- AMPS: 12 Amp
- Blade Diameter: 6-1/2″
- Arbor (mm): 20 mm
- Max. Cutting Capacity (at 90°): 2-3/16″
- Max. Cutting Capacity (at 45°): 1-9/16″
- No Load Speed (variable speed): 2,000 — 5,200 RPM
- Watts Out: 1,800
- Bevel Capacity: 48°
- Bevel Stop: Yes
- Blade Location: Left
- Depth Adjustment: Yes
- Electric Motor Brake: Yes
- Overall Length: 13-3/8″
- Weight: 9.7 lbs.
- Power Type: Corded
- Includes: 48T carbide-tipped saw blade, hex wrench, interlocking tool case
- Warranty: one year
- Price: $374.99
—This article originally appeared on ProToolReviews and is written by Richard Kent, a professionally trained journeyman carpenter who co-owns Kent Made, a stair and trim installation company in central Florida.