Best Circular Saw Guide Rail
When it comes to clean cuts, not many people think of a circular saw. They have a reputation for tearing up boards pretty good, even when used properly. With a simple accessory, we found that you can get table saw clean cuts when you’re using a circular saw provided you have the best circular saw guide rail for your needs.
We took the time to figure out which were recommended, test them out, and figure out which of them we felt deserved a spot on our list. If you’re in a hurry, however, you can’t go wrong with our favorite.
Undoubtedly our favorite for its combination of precision machining and excellent price, the C50 is just the right size for most people as well. The easy clamp added to our attraction and in the end, you’re not going to beat this one out unless you’re willing to spend twice it’s cost.
In This Article:
- 1 Top Pick
- 2 The 5 Top-Rated Circular Saw Guide Rail
- 3 Why Use a Circular Saw Rail Guide?
- 4 How We Selected the Rails
- 5 Our Testing on Circular Saw Guide Rails
- 6 Top 5 Circular Saw Rail Guides
- 7 Using Your Circular Saw Guide Rail
- 8 Making Your Own Rail System for Circular Saws
- 9 Circular Saw Rail Guide FAQ
- 10 Straight Cuts, Easier Assembly, Why Not?
The 5 Top-Rated Circular Saw Guide Rail
|Best Overall||E. Emerson Tool Co. C50 50-Inch All-In-One|
|The Professional Option||Festool FS-1400/2 55″ Guide Rail|
|Longest Stable Track||EZSMART Track Saw System 108″|
|Best Small Circular Saw Guide Rail||Kreg Rip-Cut Circular Saw Guide|
|Our Budget Pick||Bora WTX Clamp Edge and Straight Cut Guide for Circular Saws|
Why Use a Circular Saw Rail Guide?
For many people, the use of a circular saw guide rails can seem unnecessary. And if you’re a steady hand with a circular saw anyways you’re probably used to laughing at people who think of circular saws as leaving unclean cuts.
We thought much the same way, but we like to pick up and check out anything we can so when it got tossed on the table we decided to go for it.
In practice, the best rail guides allow for a ton of utility. For instance, making repeated cuts of the same width becomes very easy with many of the guides that we used. If you’re ripping, for instance, 16” wide sheets of MDF then you’re probably used to having to make a line for each, double-checking it, and then going for each cut individually.
And left hoping there’s not too much deviation.
A clamp-on guide makes repeated cuts easier.
They also make the saws a bit safer to operate, since there’s no danger of them pitching off to the side where the rail is located. We found that our reviewers who were nervous about their circular saws liked them quite a bit, they make safer positions for the hands a little bit more intuitive.
Lastly: even a skilled woodworker is going to get a smoother cut with a good circular saw guide. They’re not a compensation for skill, instead, they’re something which can enhance the skill of someone who’s already good.
In the end, it depends on the model you purchase, but they all have the same general line of thought behind their construction.
Basically: if you want to make precise, clean, repeatable cuts then a guide rail for your saw is an excellent idea.
How We Selected the Rails
When it came down to it, we couldn’t really tell the difference with just pictures in many cases. Instead, we covertly added a couple of posts on woodworking forums asking about them.
The usual answer was to build your own, but we felt that wasn’t the best option for everyone. If you have the ability to do metalwork in your workshop then you’ll find we cover the process to make a simple one further down.
Once we had a decent list of brands and sizes that people recommended for home use, we began to take a closer look and see, which of them people complained about the most online.
We compiled a list of eight different guide rails and ordered them and began to come up with the testing process we’d later use.
We took into account all of the following during our decision.
We found out something unfortunate quite quickly: without clamps, the bigger circular saw guides are hard to use on smaller pieces of wood.
With clamps, you can work out to the limit of the rail with no problems and even move the rail along for extra-long cuts in most cases.
Ideally, a rail would be ultra-light and stay exactly where you put it down.
Unfortunately, in the real world, we found this to not be the case. We sought to balance the weight with their tendency to stay put. They weren’t always 100% connected but we noticed that heavier rails tended to move around much less than the ultra-light options.
Stability and Attaching Mechanism
Some of these were definitely harder to work than others when it came time to clamp them to the workpiece. There were also quicker options available which we quite liked with the good brands but felt a bit unsteady with a couple of the budget options we tested.
Ideally, the guide will stay in perfect position no matter how much you abuse it. In practice… well, most did just that and none strayed dangerously. Let’s be honest here: it’s kind of hard to screw up a saw guide too badly.
Our Testing on Circular Saw Guide Rails
When it came time to test we really just decided to get down and do some cutting. Not a whole lot else to test with these except for ease of use and their stability.
In the end, we decided to do the following:
- We took a 48”x24” piece of MDF and ripped it in one-foot sections to see how quickly the guide could accommodate repeated cuts.
- We tested the guides with pieces of wood that were shorter than the rail’s length to see if they got unwieldy.
- We also tested the rails for longer cutting by resetting the guide forwards on the workpiece.
- Finally, we tried banging against the rails a bit to make sure they’d hold up against light abuse for the best end results.
In the end, we kept the five best, deciding that the rest of them weren’t going to make the cut.
They broke down as follows:
- The E. Emerson Tool Co. C50 50-Inch All-In-One was our favorite for the most part. It’s an excellent guide with accessories available to run other tools as well.
- Meanwhile, the Festool FS-1400/2 55″ Guide Rail was in a similar position but was undoubtedly the smoothest of all the rails we tried. It’s expected of the brand, but so was the high price tag.
- The lightweight EZSMART Track Saw System 108″ was the longest of the tracks we tested and perfectly portable while maintaining a firm grip on the workpiece. Expect to pay quite a bit for it, however, and be aware the shortest available option is 54”.
- For shorter workpieces the 24” Kreg Rip-Cut Circular Saw Guide is a great option. It only reaches out to a couple of feet however so it may not be appropriate for all uses.
- Lastly, the Bora WTX Clamp Edge and Straight Cut Guide for Circular Saws was the longest cheap circular saw guide we found. If you need one for handling larger construction projects around the house then your money will be well spent.
We’ll put it this way: all of the above are good. It’s just a matter of required length and whether or not you’re willing to spend the extra money to get a contractor-grade toolset. With any of these, you’ll be able to make straighter, more precise cuts easily.
Top 5 Circular Saw Rail Guides
When it came down to it, the biggest differences were in length but when you’re looking for the best that means little things can suddenly become big ones. Read on as we explore the good and the(relatively minor) bad of our favorite rip guides.
E. Emerson Tool Co. C50 50-Inch All-In-One
At a Glance:
- Length: 50”
- Weight: 3.92lbs
This lightweight tool was undoubtedly our favorite. Smooth and versatile we were able to quickly move it through all of our testing and those reviewers who gave it a shot found it simple and fast when it came to setup.
There are smaller options available of this tool but if you’re only going to pick up one guide… well, the extra-strong nylon clamp gave us no trouble no matter what we were cutting. It was easily the second most stable of the ones we tried out.
The price is a little bit high but fairly modest in comparison to most rip guides. This one, in particular, is high-grade aluminum and contractor-ready while still being a viable purchase for the home hobbyist.
It’s not going to square itself, of course, but ultimately simplicity is exactly what you want in a guide. There are also attachments available to make it work with a router, taking it to the next level of usefulness.
The Professional Option
Festool FS-1400/2 55″ Guide Rail
At a Glance:
- Length: 55”
- Weight: 5.95lbs
While weighing a little bit more, this was the highest quality of all of the differing circular saw rail systems that we tried out. We’re just not sure the expense is worth it for the average person, although if you’re making high-grade furniture it would likely be a worthy investment.
This one is made specifically to work with track saws, so if you’re willing to drop the money on one of those advanced saws in the first place then you’re probably not going to balk at the price. That said, we found it worked just fine with the Makita we tested it with.
It did have some trouble keeping in place with particularly small pieces, but we found that it was incredible over about the 24” range. It’s remarkably precise outside of that range.
Overall, this is a professional grade saw track and we won’t begrudge the price. Those who really need the difference in quality probably won’t hesitate.
Longest Stable Track
EZSMART Track Saw System 108″
At a Glance:
- Length: 108”
- Weight: 9lbs
This was the longest default rail system we tried, although the Festool is modular and it can be expanded to a similar length. It held well, but we certainly don’t recommend it for smaller workpieces for obvious reasons.
It also allows for beveled cuts which most in the same price range can’t touch. This particular saw rail system comes in two 55” pieces which are easy to attach.
Unfortunately, the clamps are a bit more of a pain to use than with our top pick or the expensive Festool but it’s a small price to pay as this track was remarkably stable through the whole of its length and 108” is no small feat.
The real question is if you really need the excess length. If you’re regularly ripping in the 72”+ range then this is the guide for you, but most people will be just as well served with something in the 50-55” range.
Best Small Circular Saw Guide Rail
Kreg Rip-Cut Circular Saw Guide
At a Glance:
- Length: 24”
- Weight: 2.45lbs
While not our go-to pick, this one worked remarkably well on smaller pieces that gave even our favorites trouble. Combined with the great build quality and low price we decided that it had to make our list.
This would be an ideal rail system for those who’re just trying to make precise cuts on smaller pieces of wood. It readily handled 2x4s for instance, without us having to do any extra balancing.
That said, the smaller size also makes it the exact wrong guide to use if you’re looking to cut paneling, tabletops, or other larger pieces of wood.
The biggest problem in our eyes is that the rip fence on the saw is made of plastic. It held up without any damage during our testing but it may not be the right tool if you’re planning on daily use. It’s cheap enough that it would be a good stop-gap for a beginning framer.
Our Budget Pick
Bora WTX Clamp Edge and Straight Cut Guide for Circular Saws
At A Glance:
- Length: 50”
- Weight: 2.4lbs
If you’re looking for a cheap, but effective, guide system for your circular saw then you’ll be well served with the Bora WTX. It’s no miracle of technology but it’s a solid piece and the price makes it well worth a second glance.
Keep in mind that it’s not on par with the other four when it comes to stability. If you’re going to lean heavily on the rails guiding your saw then you should probably give this one a pass, but for those who aren’t heavy-handed in the first place.
There’s a tiny bit of flex when pushing heavily, so try to use it more as a guide than as something to lean against. We didn’t find it really mattered for most of the people who used it, but it is something to be aware of. The clamps work quite well, it’s just the metal isn’t quite as hard as they’d like.
Ours also came with some sort of sticky residue along the side. We cleaned it off with isopropyl alcohol before we began using it and we’re not sure if it was a quality control defect or if it’s normal. We did see a few other reports of it but it didn’t seem ubiquitous.
Using Your Circular Saw Guide Rail
Rail guides can vary a bit in how hard they are to use. The simpler ones are just a piece of aluminum that clamps down. It’s up to you to work on making sure that you know how far the shoe of your saw is out from the rail once pressed.
Most will allow you to place the saw a lower edge. From there you adjust the depth of the cut to compensate and run the saw along the aluminum track and the higher guide bar which will hold your shoe in exactly the same position.
Others will actually allow you to attach your saw to them. For these models, it’s important to make sure that your saw is compatible, although most manufacturers these days are making universal mounts.
For the most part, that’s all you’ll have to do. Once the circular saw has been mounted properly you’ll want to use a carpenter’s square to make sure that any rips you make are perfectly straight across the board.
Once squared, make sure to run the saw blade on the outside of the mark you’ve made. The kerf will remove some material from the workpiece as it goes through and that means you want to take off the material on the piece you’re not cutting to size.
Lastly, be aware that many times guides can do things like lock back the safeties on certain saws. You shouldn’t be relying on your tool’s safety features anyways, but just be aware that a guide may leave a blade exposed for longer than you’re used to.
Making Your Own Rail System for Circular Saws
For those with the know-how, it’s surprisingly simple to make a decent guide with stuff you have around the home.
Two 2x4s screwed together and then held with c-clamps after squaring is a pretty commonplace solution. It can be found on job sites and in garages around the world.
Unfortunately, wood has a rougher texture than aluminum and it doesn’t prevent tearing nearly as much since the saw moves more roughly along the side of the guide. This can be helped by using a thin piece of wood to form the platform for the saw, but it’s still not an ideal way rail.
Basic metal fabrication skills and some stock aluminum pieces from a hardware store can be used as well. We’d suggest this, really all you’ll need is a hacksaw and some files to make sure the edges are one hundred percent straight.
These guides lack tracks, however, and if you’re planning on using a saw specifically designed for rails you’ll still have to pony up the money to buy one unless you have some pretty good machining tools around.
Circular Saw Rail Guide FAQ
We’ve done our best to yet again anticipate your questions. Read on and see if we’ve answered any more questions you might have. If we missed one, drop us a line in the comments and we’ll get back to you ASAP.
Q: How do I compensate for the platform?
A: It’s pretty easy for most people. You’ll have another ¼” to ½” of material and you simply need to drop the cutting depth of the blade a bit further.
Q: What’s a rail-guided saw?
A: Really expensive. Okay, apart from the high expense of these saws they’re meant to be mounted in the slots you see on some rail guides. These tools are picky so make sure everything lines up properly if you do choose to make the investment. Expect to spend around $500 for a “budget” version of one of these saws however and a steady hand with a regular guide rail will almost always let you bull through without any damage.
Q: Can I cut farther than the capacity of the circular saw rail guide?
A: Absolutely. However, it can get tedious depending on the size of the workpiece as you’ll need to keep moving the entire thing and reclamping it before setting the saw back in the slot. If you’re regularly cutting longer pieces… get a longer guide. It’s doable but you’ll get tired of it quickly.
Q: Why is there a strip of rubber or plastic on the side of my guide rail?
A: In some cases, especially with better rail guides, the piece is there to provide you with a customizable anti-chip length. It’s a bit of a pain if you’re planning on using more than one saw on the rail but in reality, the extra bit of customizability means the rail will be perfectly “tuned” for your saw’s size.
Q: What home tasks is a circular saw rail guide required for?
A: Around the home? Probably nothing if we’re being realistic. However, for hobbyists and others working with precise dimensions of expensive wood they can be a godsend. Anti-chipping means more material saved and less time spent refinishing the edges before moving on to the next stage of construction for cabinets and furniture.
Q: Are these guides dangerous?
A: Not any more than any other time you’ll be using a circular saw. However, you should be aware of how the various safeties on the circular saw work with the rail. We read more than one account of someone being surprised that their saw kept running with the guard back while using the rail. Not all of them ended with it just being a scary lesson and even a small slip with one of these saws is going to mean a trip to the ER.
Q: Can I use a rail guide system with a plunge saw?
A: We didn’t test this, admittedly. We just didn’t have access to one at the time of our testing. Fortunately, others have made sure to let us know that the answer is a resounding yes.
Q: Can I use any other tools with one of these rail guides?
A: Most of the models we tested had attachments for at least routers available. The ability to use these with other types of tools makes them a standout tool for precision carpentry, so be sure to check if you’re looking to expand your skillset.
Straight Cuts, Easier Assembly, Why Not?
The best circular saw rail guides can make chipping and flaked edges a thing of the past. Even the worst will let you get a straight cut as long as you can keep your hand steady. They may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you need one… you need one.
So, why not pick up the one which best suits your budget and needs today? This the modern era, they’re only a click away.