We recently did an article on track saws vs table saws to help you decide which is right for you. I’m a sculptor, and my studio space is actually what should be my living room. Obviously, space is very limited. I have a table saw but try my best not to use it because it gets dust everywhere, and I can’t maneuver material easily without taking the saw outside. Enter the Festool TSC 55 KEB Track Saw. This tool replaces the TSC 55 REB—at the same price—but with an optimized thin kerf blade and Kickback stop feature. It seemed like the perfect solution for my needs—and I didn’t need to figure out how to fit it through my front door!
TSC 55 KEB Track Saw in My Living Room
I made some immediate adjustments to my layout to accommodate the new Festool TSC 55 KEB track saw. The center of my one-car garage-sized studio hosts a 2-foot by 7-foot workbench. After cutting 2’x4’s for the top and then covering that with 1″ rigid foam, I was ready to start cutting full 4×8 sheets of plywood inside my studio. I would have never been able to do this on the table saw.
K is for Kickback Stop Technology
The TSC 55 KEB does something we don’t like and something we do. First, they ditched the integrated riving knife. That means you can more easily pinch the blade. It also means blade kerf isn’t nearly as important as it used to be with respect to what blade you choose (though it certainly affects performance). We liked the riving knife and it’s perplexing to see it gone.
In lieu of the riving knife, however, Festool added an innovative Kickback stop technology. By design, it reduces the likelihood of kickbacks by using a spring-loaded piece of metal that looks like a small riving knife but isn’t since it doesn’t sit in the cut. Instead, it follows beside it on the workpiece. The Kickback stop senses the moment the blade or saw lifts up from the material.
I tested this out by deliberately causing kickback a few times—don’t try this at home, please! The saw jumped up and back about 1/4″ to 1/2″ and the blade completely stopped—almost instantaneously. As soon as a kickback event triggers, the saw immediately resets so it can go back to work as if nothing happened. It was very impressive and a welcome safety feature.
Kickback stop also works without damaging the blade—and typically not the material you’re working on.
Amazing Dust Collection
According to Festool, the Festool TSC 55 KEB Track Saw dust collection bag picks up 90% of the dust. With a Festool dust extractor, the saw clears 98%. A small dust extractor stayed connected to the saw for most of my cuts. I pulled out the dust bag when my hose was too short to make a diagonal cut across a 4×8 sheet of plywood. I can honestly say that, after making the first dozen cuts, I encountered more dust putting the TSC 55 track saw back in its case than the entire time I was using it!
Reviewer’s Note on the Dust Bag: The dust bag is not without its flaws. It comes with a cap that keeps the dust from spilling out when you’re not using it. It also tethers to the bag so you don’t lose it. This is all well and good except I had the cap get caught between the workpiece and the saw (see photo) so it stopped the saw from moving forward. You can, however, flip the dangling cap over. That keeps the cap out of the way. Festool just needs to add a clip on the bag to hold the cap in place.
One of the only real gripes people had with the older Festool TSC 55 REB track saw dealt with the lack of power. After watching many hours of official Festool training videos with Brian “Sedge” Sedgeley, I can say that Festool will tell you you’re doing it wrong. The issue comes from most people trying to use the blade that comes on their saw. This blade is meant for cutting 3/4″ plywood, MDF, or OSB. To cut thicker stock you should use a blade with less teeth such as Festool’s 12 tooth rip blade.
With that being said, Festool increased the power of the TSC 55 KEB track saw and designed a new line of thin-kerf blades just for this tool. I used the plywood blade on MDF and MDO and even gang-cut nine 2x4s at once. This saw cut as fast as I could push it through. It also did it with super clean, splinter-free edges. There was no burning on the edges either.
TSC 55 KEB Controls
Most of the controls of the TSC 55 are easy to use and well laid out. My saw has imperial measurements on the depth gauge. Festool also included a metric scale that could be applied later if the user prefers.
The only issue I had with the controls involved the cams that lock the saw to the track. The front one worked fine, but the body of the saw blocks the rear one. In the official Festool training videos of other track saws, Sedge tilted the saw to 45 degrees to lock it on the track before returning it to 90 degrees. I found it was easier to simply remove the lower battery. Evidently, this remains a long-running problem with Festool track saws!
The track on the Festool TSC 55 KEB Track Saw is well-made and operates very smoothly. I wish the saw would lock in when tipped at a 45-degree angle. Instead, you have to hold it in place with one hand while controlling the saw with the other. You can lock tracks together with two guide rail connectors (or at Amazon). I bought a second 55″ track which let me cut 4×8 sheets of plywood diagonally.
I also bought a Festool bag to protect my track and was disappointed in the bag because it only has padding on one side of the bag. There are better bags available for half the price.
Build Quality and Ergonomics
Like most Festool tools, this saw is built very well. It doesn’t feel delicate (I still wouldn’t want to drop it off the roof of a house!) The TS 55 KEB track saw should last a lifetime if you take care of your tools. It lacks the ruggedized feel of some tools meant for industrial use. Instead, this tool has a refined feel meant for use in a cabinet shop. It also means it is easier to clean the sawdust off of it vs rubbery, overmolded tools. It has great ergonomics and is comfortable to use all day long. I did not feel any strain on my wrist no matter what angle I held it.
In my opinion, the Festool TSC 55 KEB Track Saw is currently one of the premier track saws on the market and is aimed squarely at users of Mafell track saws. With 36V and a redesigned line of blades, it has more than enough power to quickly cut through any job. Festool has always been a leader in dust collation and this new track saw is no exception. Whether this is your first track saw, you are looking to upgrade your current model or you want to move to a cordless model, the Festool TSC 55 KEB Track Saw will definitely serve you well and should stand up to the rigors of heavy day to day use. Cabinet and furniture makers should give this saw a serious look.
You can pick up the Festool TS 55 KEB in the following configurations:
- TSC 55 KEB Basic (no batteries or charger or rail): $499
- Festool TSC 55 KEB Plus (with 2 batteries and charger, NO rail): $699
- TSC 55 KEB PLUS FS (2 batteries, charger, rail): $799
- Model: Festool TSC 55 KEB Track Saw
- Battery voltage: 18 or 18 X 2 Volts
- Cut angle: -1 to 47 degrees
- Max cut depth (0/45 degrees): 2-1/8″ (55mm) / 1-11/16″ (43mm)
- Saw blade: 6-1/4 x 1/16 in. (160 x 1.8mm)
- Speed (no load) 1 Battery: 2650 – 3800 min
- Speed (no load) 2 Batteries: 2650 – 5200 min
- Weight with 2 batteries: 12 lbs (5.3 kg)
- Warranty: 3 years