Festool TSC 55
The Festool TSC 55 track saws offers the ultimate in speed and precision wood cutting without the cords
by Thomas Philips | 03 June 2015
As an avid Festool fan, this week is a very exciting week, as Festool USA has introduced a series of awesome new battery operated tools that up until now haven’t been available in America. And one of the tools that I personally couldn’t wait to get my hands on was the Festool TSC 55 track saw, a cordless version of their already awesome TS 55 REQ track saw that I use on a huge variety of projects for my home.
If you caught my previous article on Festool’s corded track saw lineup, then much of this article is going to sound similar. But whether you’re new to Festool or already own one of the other Festool track saws, I have to tell you that the new TSC 55 opens up a new world of flexibility. It takes everything that’s great about the traditional track saw and adds in a new level of freedom, letting you cut wood precisely and quickly anywhere you need to.
Before I tell you about the Festool TSC 55 specifically, however, let me give you a quick primer on Festool’s entire track saw family.
Festool Track Saw Overview
No matter what your woodworking experience, if you decide to undertake a project around your home, whether it’s building a piece of furniture, customizing a closet, making a repair to your home, etc., chances are you’re going to have to cut sheet goods (think a sheet of plywood, melamine or the like). But as you’ll discover, it’s very difficult to get an accurate cut on such a large sheet of material. Table saws are one option, offering optimal cut quality, but maneuvering such a big sheet can be difficult and dangerous. A circular is another option, offering easier maneuverability, with disadvantages being innacuracy and poor cut quality.
Neither option is ideal, which brings me to the third option: Festool track saws. They take everything that’s good about the prior two methods – easy maneuverability and superb cut quality – but they combine them in a single, easy-to-use and incredibly safe package. Simply put, there’s no easier, safer or more accurate way to cut sheet goods. Lay the Festool track wherever you need to make a cut, place the Festool track saw onto the track and make the cut. It’s as simple as that. The cuts are smooth and splinter free, there’s no need to maneuver large sheets to make a cut, and you can make any cut you need to, whether it’s a straight cut, tapered cut or mitered cut.
Up until now, however, there was one caveat: to use a Festool track saw, you needed power and a dust collector (assuming you didn’t want to cut in a shroud of dust). Festool only offered their track saws in corded models, meaning that to use one, you needed access to a power outlet and you needed to have a dust collector nearby. The Festool TSC 55 changes everything, giving you exactly the same precision and ease-of-use as the corded models but letting you cut the cords completely. You can take it anywhere and use it anywhere, no dust collector or power needed.
So how well does it work and should you get one? Read on to find out.
Festool TSC 55 First Look
The reason I’m calling this a first look as opposed to a review is simply because I haven’t spent as long with the TSC 55 as I have with my other track saws. I will say, however, that in the short time I’ve used it, the strengths of the TSC 55 are immediately evident.
Functionally, the cordless TSC 55 and the corded TS 55 REQ are the same. Both saws use the same guide rails, both saws offer 1-15/16″ cut capacity, both saws will give you incredibly clean and accurate cuts equal or better than that of a table saw, and both saws feature the same Festool tech: plunge capabilities with micro adjustable depth setting, spring loaded riving knife, bevel cuts from -1 to 47 degrees, rotating dust port and FastFix blade changing system. What this means is that if you’re trying to decide on which of the two Festool TS 55 track saws to get based on features, you can’t, as they’re both equally great.
Which brings us to the main feature of the Festool TSC 55: the batteries. Unlike the TS 55 REQ that requires a cord and dust collector, the TSC 55 is completely cordless. Power is handled through either one or two Festool 18V / 5.2 Ah batteries, while dust collection is handled by the included dust collection bag (although it can still be used with Festool dust collectors as well). When equipped with one battery, the TSC 55 notes a saw blade speed of 2650 – 3800 rpm, while the blade speed with two batteries ranges from 2650 – 5200 rpm. For the sake of comparison, the corded TS 55 REQ notes a blade speed of 2,000 – 5,200 rpm. In other words, if one saw can cut it, so can the other one. And while I haven’t performed an actual cutting test involving total length of material cut, Festool specs note the ability to cut 100 meters of sheet goods on a single charge, which is a massive amount of material for both diy and professional use.
So what do I think about the TSC 55 and why did I opt for one? For me it’s about convenience. I absolutely love my corded TS 55 REQ, and I would never consider parting with it. It’s a staple in my shop and I’ve used it on countless projects, as it’s one of those truly revolutionary tools. The caveat is that there are times when I’m working on something outside my shop where I wished I could make a quick cut (or cuts), but I have to bring out extension cords and the dust collector just to make them. The TSC 55 completely changes that, giving me in the ultimate in flexibility and speed along with the accuracy and precision I’ve come to love from my other track saws.
When I installed my hardwood flooring, for example, I used my corded track saw to make perfectly precise cuts around the outside of the room so I could add a border. The problem, however, is that I was doing one room at a time, so I had to bring out my track saw, extension cord and dust collection to make only four cuts. The TSC 55 changes that, as tasks like this can be accomplished twice as fast as there’s virtually no setup required – set your track, make your cut and you’re done. I can already tell you that for any projects involving a few cuts, it will become my go-to track saw.
In addition to the speed savings when needing to make a few quick cuts, the second area that for me was an even bigger selling point was for making cuts on the spot. The first thing I did with my new TSC 55 was take it outside to my garden, where I just completed a series of new raised beds. Every cut I made was accomplished with the TSC 55, and the flexibility of being able to do it on the spot with such accuracy was amazing. While I could have used the corded TS55 REQ, running four extension cords just to make the cuts wasn’t my idea of a fun afternoon. That project alone confirmed I made the right choice in adding the TSC 55 to my tool arsenal. For anyone that works in an area not easily accessible with a power cord, the TSC 55 really is the saw you’ve been waiting for. I have a summer full of outdoor projects already slated for the TSC 55, and I know I’m going to save time and get better results because of it.
Festool TSC 55 Conclusion
Should you get the Festool TSC 55? For me, if I had to choose one saw and all my work was done in my shop near a power supply, the corded Festool TS 55 REQ would be my choice. I love it and couldn’t work without it. If you already own the TS55 REQ and find yourself setting up a dust collector just to make a few cuts on a regular basis, I highly recommend adding the TSC 55 to your collection. The dust collection is still superb, and the speed savings will make you wish you had one a year ago. Lastly, if your work takes you outside on a regular basis or to places where a power supply isn’t easily accessible, I’d make the TSC 55 my first choice. You’re not sacrificing any power or functionality compared to its corded brother, but you’re gaining a tremendous amount of flexibility. Whichever saw you use, it’s going to change the way you work.
To learn more about the Festool TSC 55 and the full lineup of Festool track saws be sure to check out the official Festool website. Pricing for the TSC 55 Basic (which includes the TSC 55 saw, carbide blade, chip collection bag, splinter guard and Systainer) is $465, while you can also opt for the TSC 55 Plus-XL ($725) and TSC 55 Plus-XL-FS ($825), the first of which adds in two batteries and chargers while the second adds in two batteries, two chargers and a 1400mm guide rail.