TRACK saws have seen a quiet revolution. Initially, users had to contend with high prices for saw and track, but clearly the advantages outweighed the cost and they were widely adopted, writes PETER BRETT.
I, for one, cannot do without both my corded and cordless tracksaws, and they are regularly used – both onsite and in the workshop.
But, as often happens, when a market is established, other manufacturers look to take advantage of it and launch their own models. To the advantage of the consumers, these models are often very competitively priced and sophisticated enough not to disappoint.
Draper must surely be in with a shout for the 2019 Ingenious Packaging Award that I have just invented. It would seem easy and obvious to package the guide tracks and saw separately, but Draper has designed a clever packaging that includes both saw and track in one to reinforce the idea that, unlike other saws, it is an inclusive package at a very competitive price.
Two 700mm long tracks are supplied in the package, along with a joiner bar kept in the gap under the guide slot. It takes but a few minutes to join the rails with the hex key supplied. At 700mm, the rails are just about long enough to skim a millimetre or two off the top or bottom of a door, but an investment in some rail clamps and maybe a longer rail would be advantageous. It is also handy that the rails have a similar profile to several other manufacturers, so borrowing could happen!
Draper has not skimped on the all-important rubber strips under the rail that provide enough friction to keep the rail in place on the workpiece (along with clamps – for safety reasons). These strips are about 20mm wide and quite robust, so should last a while. A sacrificial strip along the blade edge is slightly overwidth. The user will need to run the saw down this strip to give an accurate indication of where to place the blade when lining up on a real workpiece.
We have always associated Draper tools with competitive prices and sound quality and this saw really does deliver in this respect. For a retail price of around £120, this plunge saw is not lacking in the features seen on many, more expensive brands.
The build quality is good and all the controls work smoothly. For example, the base is a neat alloy casting that is rigid and strong. The bevel adjustment scales are clearly marked and made in solid black plastic/nylon material that inspires confidence of long-lasting performance.
Two nylon adjusters on the base allow users to take up any free play in the rail so that the saw can move down the cut without any sideways movement that might cause inaccuracy.
On the front of the base for freehand use, there are two marks showing the blade path for 90 and 45 degree cuts.
The Draper Blue plastic body is also strongly made with enough grippy rubber on front and back handles for comfort and safety. By having hands firmly on these handles when using the saw, it ensures that they are well out of the way of the whirling blade. A key feature is the plunge scale. This has two markers on it – one to indicate depth when used with a rail and one for without a rail. The accuracy of these is very important because users need to be able to set depth of cut exactly when plunging into floors, for example.
Another key feature is the design of the blade guard that allows the use of the saw right up against walls. The blade is then only about 15mm away from the wall and is therefore about as flush a cut as can be achieved with this type of saw.
Safety is also built-in with the trigger start. The user needs to push up the black switch on the back of the main handle before the trigger can be pulled to start the motor. This switch also frees the plunge action ready to plunge into the workpiece. It is noticeable that the plunge mechanism spring is well calibrated. It has enough strength to lift the blade quickly, but is not so strong that plunge cuts cannot be achieved smoothly.
An electronic brake stops the motor within a few seconds when the trigger is released. For blade changing, a ribbed lever on the main handle is raised and the saw can be plunged to the point where it locks, revealing the blade clamping screw (hex key located in the front handle). A spindle lock next to the main handle is then engaged so that the blade can be unscrewed and replaced.
The all-important performance test
In any tool category there will be some users who demand a lot and some who only need enough accuracy/power etc to do the job. Happily, I can report that the Draper saw outperformed my expectations because it was easy to use and set up. I used it on timber, plywood, MDF and chipboard – the usual run of materials that it would face in a working day - and the GP blade coped well.
The controls feel smooth, instinctive and in the right place for safety and easy handling. As I have learnt the hard way, the output from a plunge saw is only as good as the input. Making accurate measurements in the first place and taking care to line up the cut lines will ensure a spot-on result - as will ensuring that the rails are not twisted (don’t drop them!) and firmly clamped in place in use.
The 1200w motor has enough power to cut solid timber worktops, but keep an eye on the TCT blade, because another thing I have learnt is that they work hard and need replacing more often than you think for consistently good results.
So, this Draper plunge saw delivers on both performance and price; you can’t argue with that formula.