I think about 12 minutes after the circular saw was invented, someone figured out that if you used a straight piece of something to run the saw against, you would get a straighter cut. Festool has taken this simple concept and made the guide rail a convenient, must-have precision accessory. "Must-have" is no understatement: Festool circular saws come with a 55" guide rail, and Festool multi-function tables come with either a 32" or 42" rail (depending on which table you buy). Therefore a lot of people have the shorter rails from the get go. For longer cuts, you can join shorter rails using a pair of connectors. We’ve been finding that a lot of folks ask us for the longer rails. A long rail will give you smoother cuts, and everyone seems to like being about to throw a piece of scrap down on a couple of saw horses, put a long board on top of that, lay out the cuts and have one long rail to accurately and precisely guide the cutting. When you place your circular saw on the guide rail, the guide rib on the rail engages the guide slot on the tool, so you get a perfect cut. You get a lot more stability and precision moving a saw on a guide rail than trying to move a large board over a small contractor’s saw.
But wait!!! There’s more!!! The really cool part of the Festool guide rail system is that, unlike clamping a bit of scrap as a rail, the Festool guide rails have a channel running underneath for sliding clamps that will clamp anywhere along the length of the rail, without getting in the way. Festool circular saws fit on the rails with no problem, and the rails have a replaceable anti-splinter tape on the edge for cleaner cuts. You can also adjust the saws for minimum play. Not only are the saws usable with the rails, but you can get very, very good cuts with a Festool jigsaw using an attachment to attach the saw to the rails. Festool routers also work with the rails for dados and rabbits, with stops are available to precisely locate your cuts. Two rails are specially designed with holes for using a router, with some additional attachments for drilling regular holes for all sorts of 32mm joinery. I would suggest that before you automatically assume that you need the longest rail with the holes for doing shelf pin holes, consider if you need a giant run of holes or if there are breaks in the hole pattern for fixed shelf. If that’s the case, the shorter rail will be less expensive and a lot easier to handle. The rails are available in eight different lengths, from 32" to 197".
New for 2009
Festool has now introduced the most important accessory for the rails EVER. The new Parallel Guide
allows you to set up a board and slice it off just like bologna. This means no layout. This means keeping everything square without having to fiddle with the rail. Most important it means consistency for a series of cuts. And the most important thing, whether you need to slice off lots of narrow or wide boards Festool finally closes the gap between what you can to with a stationary panel saw and a portable, set-it-up-anywhere portable Festool circular saw.
Note: People will want the guide as a full set (P00108) although in theory you could just use the parallel guide by itself for wide cuts to 25 19/32". For narrow cuts you need the extension set. In practice the only reason to purchase either part by itself is if the original kit gets damaged. The guide rail is not part of the parallel extension kits.