Rough uk prices for saw + 1.4M rail (in 2014) are:
- festool TS55 (~£400)
- makita SP6000 (~£300)
- mafell MT55 (~£500)
- DeWalt DWS520KR (~£300).
Festool are the grandaddy of the pack, having invented guide saws in the 1960s and holding a patent on key technologies that barred their German competitors (all of the above, bar Makita) until it expired in 2008.
From that point there has been a steady flow of competing saws entering the market, starting with DeWalt in 2008.
Bosch have one too – apparently they worked with Mafell on it (Mafell might even manufacture it, depending on what you read) – but it is rather reduced in functionality compared with the MT55. Since the MT55 is not much more expensive you are probably better saving your pennies and getting that.
Quite recently there has been a very cheap entry to the market (variously rebranded as Grizzly in the US and Woodstar/Scheppach in Europe).
Obviously you are going to get the same levels of quality as the more expensive models, but assuming it works and does not blow up or chop your limbs off in under 12 months, it represents excellent value for money (<£200)
- Festool and Makita (joint 2nd)
honorable mention DeWalt.
Mafell is the connoisseurs plunge saw, heavier and more powerful than the Festool and Makita, and the one you would go for if you had to use it for a living.
Praise for the festool and the Makita is almost universal. Festool tools are excellent quality and part of an elaborate system of interchangeable tools and gadgets and seem to generate an Apple-like mania with their (many) fans.
Some might find this kind of full-on enthusiasm a bit off putting, but the many reviews and comments I read seemed genuine and well thought out. It is also true that Festool are roundly dinged on their pricing, which is generally outrageous.
If you are not interested in buying into the Festool way-of-life then the Makita is for you – it is good quality, very reasonably priced and has slightly better functionality than the Festool.
Dewalt seems to get mixed reviews, although I suspect some of the negativity stems from snootiness about DeWalts recent attempts to appeal to DIYers rather than trade.
there are small differences between all the saws, some of the highlights are:
- + the mafell has the biggest engine
- – the mafell is heaviest
- – neither the mafell nor the makita has a riving knife
- + the mafell and the makita have a scoring features that reduces chipping on easily chipped material
- + the makita has a device to hook the saw to the rail when cutting a bevel – this allows it to sit on the rail unsupported without tipping over.
- – the makita has an annoyingly short power lead (6’)
Note that nearly every plunge saw on the market works with Festool rails, but the opposite is not true. This is because Festool have had the market to themselves for 50 years, and they only care about making their own equipment interoperate (which it does, beautifully)
Which one did I go for
the festool. This is a decision that looks set to cost me a fortune long term. I am already scouring ebay for a festool table.