DeWalt DWS520 Track Saw

By Ethan Bickford on Tool Reviews

DeWalt DWS520 Track Saw

DeWalt DWS520 Track Saw Review

Track saws have been around for a while but haven’t seemed to have hit the mainstream yet with many carpenters. But as avid track-saw fans we want to spread the word about these versatile, time-saving tools. We recently had the opportunity to see how the three major players in the track saw market stack up. Here we’re going to concentrate on the DeWalt DWS520 Track Saw.

Value of Track Saws

The beauty of track saws is that you simply line up the track with where you want to cut, and as long as the track is on the finish side of the work piece, the cut will run precisely along the edge of the track, with almost no splintering or tear out. Pre-scoring is only needed in the case of critical cross-cuts or where keeping a clean edge on the waste side is required. They are also excellent tools for solo carpenters especially those who don’t like wrestling full 4×8 sheets of ply onto a table saw.

 DeWalt DWS520 Track Saw Kit Includes:

  • DWS520 Heavy-Duty TrackSaw
  • 6-1/2″ (20mm arbor size)
  • 48-Tooth Ultra Fine finishing Blade
  • Blade wrench
  • 59″ Track
  • Kit Box

Product Features:

  • Zero clearance TrackSaw cutting system delivers precise, straight, splinter-free cuts
  • For use with TrackSaw dual-edged tracks for perfectly straight cuts in both directions
  • On-track cut depth: 2-1/8” (54mm) @ 90°, 1-5/8″ (41mm) @ 45º;
  • Depth scale accurately indicates exact depth of cut accounting for track thickness
  • 12A, 1300W motor
  • Continuous Anti-Kickback mechanism and riving knife prevent kickback
  • Low profile blade guard for confined spaces
  • Straight Plunge Mechanism for optimal ergonomics
  • Universal 1-1/4″ Dust Port for 90% efficient dust collection with vacuum

DeWalt DWS520 Track Saw  Specs:

  • Power:                                  12 amps, 1300 watts
  • No Load Speed:                  1750 – 4000 rpm
  • Blade Diameter:                 6-1/2 inches (165mm)
  • Bevel Capacity:                   47 degrees
  • Max Cut at 90 degrees:      2-1/8 inches
  • Max Cut at 45 degrees:      1-5/8 inches
  • Tool Weight:                        11.5 pounds

DeWalt DWS520 Track Saw

First impression:

The DeWalt DWS520 is a very solid feeling tool with clean castings and very good fit and finish with excellent ergonomics, arguably the best in our tests. The handle is very comfortable with a lot of over-mold for a nice grip.  DeWalt struck a nice balance here, the handles are big and wide enough for someone with larger hands but not so thick as to pose a problem for someone with smaller hands.

The design of the DeWalt track is different from other track saws on the market. With a single guide rail in the middle of the track and two anti-splinter guards, one on either side. The solid feel of the tool is understandable given that at 11.5 lbs the Dewalt is the heaviest saw in the test.

The side of the blade housing is low profile, very flat and even has low friction strips on it allowing close cuts on finish materials without scratching them up and reducing risk of binding the saw. The high-quality stock blade is designed for finish cuts and so it takes a little longer to cut but gives really amazing cut quality with edges that are ready for assembly or glue-up with no sanding needed. One of the rare times when the stock blade is actually worth keeping on the saw, as it provides excellent finish cuts.

Safety:

We were impressed with the safety of this tool, DeWalt is arguably the safest track saw on the market. It has both a riving knife and a unique anti-kickback device which is integrated into the base of the saw. When engaged this cam mechanism will catch and grip the rail at the center of the track if the saw starts to travel backwards, helping mitigate kickback.

Power Cord:

The cord is a generous 12 feet. Allowing the use of the saw without an additional extension cord assuming you’ve already got power to the work area. The cord protector exits the saw perpendicular to the cut line and track which makes it much less likely to get caught on the back of the track.

Dust Collection:

We liked that the 1-¼” dust port swivels but was stiff enough that it will stay where you put it keeping the hose out of the way during long rips in plywood and trim stock. The port accepted 1-¼” hose snugly and without any adapters needed. Also a 1-⅞” vac hose will fit over the outside of the dust port.

The dust collection is fantastic, and on par with the other two saws, with only a small amount of sawdust left after a full length rip in ¾” plywood, most of which came out of the bottom of the cut. Running the saw on top of a piece of extruded foam would probably help prevent even this dust from escaping.

Bevel Range:

Bevel range is 0 to 47 degrees allowing for slight back-bevel for corners. Oddly there is no positive stop at 45 degrees. I would like to see this feature added on the next iteration of this saw. Unlike traditional circular saws which only have one bevel lock knob, the bevel adjustment on the DeWalt features locks front and back of the blade housing allowing for a very solid lock to improve accuracy and consistency on bevel cuts. I find that track saws are pretty prone to tipping when beveling at 45 degrees so extra caution is needed when performing these cuts.

DeWalt DWS520 Track Saw

Using the DeWalt DWS520 Track Saw:

When placed on the track the DWS520SK feels very stable with no appreciable wobble or rocking.

Unique Plunge Mechanism:

The saw has a unique linkage actuated plunge mechanism that makes for a different plunging action from other track saws on the market.   I’m used to using another brand of plunge saw and I found this to be awkward at first but quickly got the hang of it.  The plunging action moves the saw forward and down rather than rotating down on a single pivot like other track saws. So the feel is different and requires a different technique. It works better to push the saw with the heel of your hand rather than the web between your thumb and forefinger. It takes a little getting used to if you’re familiar with other saws but once you’ve got the motion down it’s just fine.

Power:

The 12 AMP motor offers ample power for cutting sheet goods and hardwoods.

The feel of the saw on the track is quite smooth but not the greased lightening feel of the Makita we tested, I’d consider this a matter of personal preference but I like the less slick feeling on the track.

There was some noticeable high-frequency vibration on start-up and during use but nothing alarming and nothing that affected cut quality in any way.  The soft start motor did prevent the jerking feel that you sometimes get from traditional motors and the constant speed control kept the saw moving through ¾” hardwood ply and 2x framing stock with little bog down. Track saws in general won’t sail through a cut like a 7-¼”, 15 AMP circular saw, but they shouldn’t, as they are designed primarily for precision work.

Depth Stop:

The depth stop is a simple lock nut affair that doesn’t offer a fine adjustment. But I’ve found that the need for a fine adjustment is very rare. At most you usually need to prevent cutting through sub-floor or some such and its easy enough to set it within 1/16” or so. I would like the knob to be a bit larger in diameter and easier to grip.

The depth gauge is in inches, unlike the Festool and Makita, and is calibrated for track use only, which makes sense since this saw will almost never be used without the track. Overall the depth setting and gauge is a nice simple setup that is straightforward and easy to use.

Variable Speed:

The variable speed dial is easy to find and easy to spin but is inset into the body of the saw to help prevent unintentional changes. This is not a setting that I have changed much as the vast majority of cuts in wood call for max speed. In use I set it and forget it because most everything I cut is some variation of pine or hardwood plywood.

Blade and Cut Quality:

There are blades on the market for cutting a wide variety of materials and the adjustable speed means you can set the speed to match. The DeWalt has the lowest overall blade speed which could be advantageous when cutting very hard woods and other materials requiring a lower blade speed.

We tested this saw with the blade provided as well as a high quality Frued 48 tool plywood and Finish blade designed for track saws.The quality of cut with both blades was outstanding.

Blade Changes

Locking the plunge and arbor for blade changes is a little finicky. First you need to rotate the plunge lock lever to lock the plunge depth at level that allows access to the arbor bolt. Then the arbor lock needs to be depressed while the blade is spun with the on-board Allen key to lock the arbor. Once pressed, it locks the arbor allowing for blade change. I’d like to see a slightly simpler blade change mechanism. Blade changes on the DeWalt are not as quick as the other two saws in our test. If you change up materials a lot and need to change blades frequently this may be a downside of this saw.

Accessories

There are a decent number of accessories available for the DWS520.  A router base for use with the guide track, track clamps, and a miter gauge that attaches to the track. I haven’t had the chance to use the router base or the miter gauge but I have used the clamps and like them a lot. They’re quick release style but have a square stock bar that slides into the t-slot on the bottom of the track and slides along it allowing you to clamp nearly any length of stock. They are very simple to use and clamp firmly.

Room for Improvement?

Track saws all have a way to adjust the slot in the base plate of the saw to grip the track sufficiently to prevent the saw from wiggling its way down the track. The track adjustment knobs always require a little tweaking out of the box. The DeWalt requires a screwdriver or Allen key to loosen the lock screws on the adjustment knobs.  A tool-less adjustment would be nice but in this case the lock screws will help keep the adjustment from changing during use. So I see this as a trade-off between ease of use and longer term accuracy. There was a slight difference in adjustment from track to track. But slight enough that unless you’re performing a very critical finish cut it didn’t adversely affect cut quality.

Overall Impression:

I’ve been very impressed with the DeWalt DWS520 Track Saw and DeWalt’s attention detail.  This saw is a prime example of the hard work DeWalt put into making their tools more comfortable to use for long periods.

A fantastic tool with some nice unique features like the anti-kickback cam in the base plate, dual-sided tracks for additional wear and more cutting options especially in tight quarters where spinning a long track around may not be an easy option.

The quality of cut is truly outstanding. The bevel range is excellent and the bevel locks are solid. The dust collection will have you and your clients breathing easier. This saw gives you table saw (or better) accuracy with amazing portability. While these tools have generally been in the realm of cabinet makers almost any carpenter would benefit from having one in their arsenal.

The DeWalt DWS520SK is a great option if you’re in the market for a track saw.

How Much and Were To Buy?

The DeWalt DWS520 Track Saw is available online here for approximately $490.00: DEWALT-DWS520K-6-1-2-Inch-TrackSaw

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Ethan Bickford

Carpenter / Remodeler / ACC Photographer

Ethan Bickford has a long history with carpentry. His father worked as a contractor for many years and taught him the ins and outs of home repair and remodeling from a very young age. Since then Ethan has kept up his skills and knowledge by doing handyman work while in college and eventually started his own carpentry and remodeling company which he’s been running for the last three years. Ethan loves teaching and advising on tools and techniques and is a big fan of quality workmanship. His motto is: “Do it right the first time!”

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