Festool HK Portable Carpenter Saws
Festool Portable HK 55 EB and HKC 55 EB Circular Saws
I recently traveled to Festool’s headquarters in Wendlingen, Germany for their media event. At the event they introduced a new line of portable circular saws with the HK 55 EB and HKC 55 EB. Since the event we’ve had a chance to get hands on experience with these new saws on the jobsite and we’ve been quite impressed.
The Festool HK portable circular saws are certainly a carpentry game changer. Especially if you’re a remodeling carpenter or framer. The Festool HK saws are a 6-1/4″ [160mm] sidewinder saws, that delivers miter saw results and accuracy! Targeting carpenters and cabinet makers, Festool designed the saw to provide the accuracy of a track saw with cross-cutting, and plunge cutting abilities.
Making Accurate Carpentry Cuts in the Field
I remember as a novice carpenter being so proud of my AC plywood, site-made, circular-saw, rip jigs. I had two; one was 54” and the other was 96” long. These rip jigs were my early versions of a track saw, minus the plunge cut. They consisted of a straight rip of OSB plywood and a smaller 1×2 ply strip as a fence guide. Add two screws or clamps as hold downs, and I was able to rip sheet goods as good as a panel saw, but not as fast. At that time, I did not own a table saw and the only other option was a chalk line cut. Years later, I bought a table saw but I still used the guides for sizing sheet goods, before finishing them on a table saw.
Fast forward 15 years or so to the invention of the track saw, I now own a Festool TS55 with a short and long track. Similar to my old plywood rip guides, but better, the TS55 allows me to make precise work shop quality cuts on my finish carpentry job sites. This track saw propelled me into a level of professionalism with my customers due to it’s accuracy, integrated dust collection, and added safety features like a riving knife. While this track saw is amazing, I would never bring it on a job site that was not at the finish carpentry stage.
When framing, if you want repeated, same angle, and accurate cuts you use a miter saw or a wooden jig, and a circular saw. But let’s face it, framing lumber can be long, and heavy. Without long outriggers, using a miter saw is not that easy, or fun.
That’s where Festool’s new HK saws, bring the saw to the wood.
Festool HK 55 EBQ Corded and HKC 55 EB Cordless Circular Saws
The HK 55 looks and operates similar to a sidewinder circular saw. It has a bevel capacity from 0 to 50 –degrees, with some very nicely added features. Probably the most exciting feature for me is the HK 55 saw fits into Festool’s track saw guard rails and come with Festool’s new FSK Cross Cutting Guide Rail.
If you’re not already salivating at this thought, then think about the ease and flexibility of having a circular saw, a track saw and also a portable hand held miter saw, all in one, at your disposal. We all love the miter saw for its accuracy, but you have to bring the work to the saw. The HK 55 saws bring the saw to the work! Envision yourself cutting rafters at the pile, stair stringers and even trim cuts up on staging – without a miter saw. What’s even more exciting is that Festool is offering this saw in a corded and a one-battery 18-volt cordless version.
Festool HK 55 Saw Features
Both saws have similar features, they’re both blade right, bevel to 50-degrees, and have a depth of cut at 90-degrees of 2″ on the track and 2-3/16″ off the track, as a standard sidewinder. The two saws ship with a 20mm bore, thin kerf 18-tooth blades, and Festool is offering a wide variety of specialty blades.
The depth of cut lever is new on this saw and I think better. It’s located on the rear of the saw near the dust port. To operate the lever you use your thumb and forefinger and pinch them together. It’s an intuitive movement and a smooth and easy adjustment. The depth scale has two scales indicating blade depth with or without the track system.
For storage and transport, both saws come in a Systainer 4 T-Loc container. The depth of cut scale comes with the Imperial scale markings painted on. Thanks for paying attention Festool, we appreciate it.
New Cleantec D27DM – AS/CT Dust Port Connector
Festool improved the dust hose connection to the dust port. The new connection is available now as an accessory and proved a better, more secure connection of the hose to tool. The HK 55 saws are compatible with the older version Festool dust sleeves too. The new sleeve connector, part # is 500669 for the standard D27 mm hose and 500668 for the sleeved D27/22 mm hose, will prevent the hose from disconnecting as you move the saw.
Both saws have a rear dust port with a small swivel. Saw dust can exhaust freely out the port, collected with a dust extractor or with a dust bag. The dust bag Part # 500393, is an optional accessory and works extremely well at collecting and stopping airborne dust. It has a spring type frame, allowing it to be folded for easier storage.
One thing I did notice was that if you tilt the saw forward collected dust in the bag will spill out of the tool.
Blade Guard and Riving Knife
The HK 55 saws have a built-in riving knife at the bottom of the blade guard to prevent kerf binding kick backs. I really like the blade pendulum guard lever placement. Festool placed it in the front middle of the saw and it’s not only a nice placement but it’s not on the side of the saw, allowing a tighter cutting clearance on the right side of the saw.
The saw has two sight lines, one for circular saw cutting and the other for use with the track systems.
There is a spring assisted lever, near the dust port, that controls the plunge function. The spring assist allows the saw to easily raise and lock and lower for plunge cuts.
Depressing a spring lever near the dust port easily raises and locks the saw in place, enabling plunge cutting. Once the handle is pushed down on, the saw easily and smoothly lowers.
Track Saw Cutting
“Track saw cutting,” I just love the way that sounds. To me it means accuracy, professionalism and proficiency – sure I can cut a straight line with a chalk line but if you’ve ever used a track saw, there’s really no comparison. The HK 55 saws are compatible with all Festool FS tracks.
Festool FSK Crosscut Guide Rail
I first used the HK 55 saw and crosscut guide rail system at the JLC Live convention in Rhode Island. The crosscutting guide rail looks like a mini track saw guard rail. It has a replaceable splinter strip, that the user trims on first use. The splinter guide allows the left side of the saw blade to precisely cut along the edge of this splinter guard.
The length of the cross cut capacity at 90 degrees.
- FSK 250 which is 9-7/8”
- FSK 420 which is 16-1/2”
- FSK 670 which is 26-3/8”
The crosscutting guide rail connects to the HK 55 saw shoe plate, and like the TS 55 saws, has shoe plate alignment adjustments. A slot in the shoe plate indexes onto the tracks T-rail and a bungee cord, spring loaded clip allows the saw to slide along Teflon strips on the track.
On the bottom of the track are anti-skid strips and two pins. The pins align with the board edge being crosscut, and stay in place to allow the saw to slide. The left pin adjusts in a series of notches allowing the user to sleeve bevel degree cuts.
The crosscut guide cuts
- 0 to 45 degrees to the left
- 0 to 60 degrees to the right
Crosscutting is as simple as registering the two pins on the bottom of the track against the board, and on your cut line. Hold the rail down with your left hand, activate the saw, make your cut and allow the saw to slide back toward you.
A Festool zippered, and padded carry bag is sold separately, as an accessory.
HKC 55 EBQ Cordless Circular Saw
The Festool HKC 55 is the cordless saw and operates with one battery. The HKC 55 is not as powerful as the HK 55 corded saw, with 4,800 RPMs vs 5,200 RPMs. Both saws come with thinner kerf blades than the TS 55 track saw. The HKC 55 will work with a dust extractor but does not have a remote Bluetooth activation – yet!
The HKC 55 battery charger has an integrated cord wrap on the bottom of the charger. Festool listened to user frustration when trying to store the charger and the cord would get jammed into the box. This not only put stress on the cord, it was messy and annoying.
Using the Festool HK Saw
Cutting with the HK 55 saw is as simple as placing the saw on the stock, butting the track stops to the stock edge, and then sliding the saw forward on its rail. When the saw finishes the cut, its lifts up, and the track springs automatically bring it back to its starting point. The front edge of the saws shoe aligns perfectly with the saws blade. This set up allows the user to make repeated, precise cuts.
The HK 55 is all about bringing the saw to the material. We were framing a pressure treated deck with 16-foot 2x12s. Having the ability to square, size and crown at the lumber pile was a great time saver with the HK55.
The HK Carpentry Saw with the FS420 track mounted to it, is surprisingly light in weight and not awkward with having a 16-½” track mounted to the base of the saw. Not having to pullout your speed square for every cut is priceless when you own a Festool HK 55 Carpentry Saw.
We also used the HK 55 on the same deck project when it was time to install the PVC decking. We brought the HK 55 to our pile of 20’ PVC deck boards, squared them all off and cut them to length – with flawless results. The Festool HK saw cut the PVC decking easily and we observed no chips just a smooth clean cut and once again saved time from bringing it to the miter saw. I would normally swap out blades, have one for frame and one for finish work, but being on site with the one blade, we wanted to try it out. After that went well, I took the HK55 off the FS 420 track and used it as a track saw on my 55” Guide Rail to perfectly size the deck boards to length with the proper margins. What a time saver!
We found the Festool HK saw does not have a distinctive raspy noise upon start up. When we dialed the variable speed selector knob to 6, full speed, it leveled out to a traditional sidewinder saw noise level. Lowering the variable speed selector knob to a lower setting the saw was smoother sounding.
We feel the saw is louder than competitors saws, possibly being the blade. It sounds similar to other thinner kerf blades.
The “Fast Fix” lever is great and really innovative. The fact that you don’t have to be fumbling hand over hand to hold a wrench and push a blade lock button is great. In fact, our team felt that all saws should have this feature. Inside the easy fix lever is a hidden Allen wrench to change the blade. No more loss of wrench from being awkwardly placed and clipped to the outside of the tool.
Festool HK Improvements?
Depth of Cut
This saw is aimed at the framing side of carpentry, and most of the time were making square cuts. Although we were able to use this saw to cut rafter’s, it was not able to make bevel cuts like equal pitched jack rafter’s and hip cuts. This is due to the lesser depth of cut, while attached to the FSK track.
The blade is only a 6 1/4″ diameter blade, and will only cut 2x material on a 45º bevel, if taken off its track. We question Festool’s logic here, if you are buying a track enhanced saw to make perfect cuts, why would you want to take it off the track?
Note: Festool does have a saw in Australia the HK85. The HK85 will cut 85mm (3.34”) at 90 and 62mm (2.44”) at 45 also will bevel at 47mm (1.85”) at 60 degrees. We now need to have Festool release a HK85 in the US market.
No Rafter Hook
We hope the next generation HK saws will add a rafter hook. The HK 55 was great while working from the pile of building material. We did have a fair amount of cut time while working off the saw horse table. The lack of a rafter hook meant, we rested the saw on the ground, which was mud. We felt bad about this and eventually used a scrap of wood to rest the saw on. Resting the saw on the ground created three issues. One is a trip hazard safety issue, two we had to bend down each time to reach for the saw and three, we were worried that the Carpentry saw track could be damaged if possibly stepped on. If the HK55 had a rafter hook, we could have hung it from the saw horses, the table top we use to cut on, or my MFT table that was also used on site. Our only concern with adding a hook on the HK/HKC saw’s is where exactly is there room to fit one.
In this day and age all saws should have a hook, especially a saw aimed at framing. People often think the term rafter hook means you have to be framing a roof. This saw is more likely going to be designated as a “ground” saw. It’s awesome for cutting rafters on the ground, and a rafter or framing hook would be a welcomed addition.
Movable Point On FSK Rail
On the FSK Rails, we found it really tough to adjust the “moveable point” knob [no name for it]. The adjustment was not easy and slowed us down a bit.
Festool HK Carpentry Saw Video Review
I really do see the HK 55 saws as game changing technology and go-to tools for rafters, stringers, gable walls, trim, etc. It gives the carpenter the ability to make miter saw quality, straight or angled or beveled cuts with miter saw accuracy. The FSK420 crosscutting rail makes this saw into an accurate, repetitive cutting machine. Being able to make repeated 50-degree cuts over and over without tracing a line, using a square, or carrying the board to a miter saw is going to save time and a lot of lumber hauling.
Who would’ve thought that I’d be using a track saw to frame! Go figure, and Go Festool!!
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