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Cutting track

4314 Views 19 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  Brian
I am getting rather fed up with laying a piece of track, nicking it with a needle file, lifting it, talking it to the vice, carefully sawing each rail whilst praying the last cut won't yank the rail out of the sleepers and in the worst case bending it.

As the ads say there has to be a better way? Ideally I'd like to cut in place. I've heard mention of using a Dremel. Do they work? and can you get the cutting disk at right angle to the rails without having to buy a flexible drive shaft.

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I had a piece of balsa that I pushed into the track, then cut out two deep 'tranches' for the rails to sit in where it had been marked. Then, I mark where the track has to be cut, put the jig just before it and saw through with a small tenon saw. The end sometimes needs tidying up with a needle file, but most times it's OK.

I have also used a Dremel off eBay for £20, but one of the discs flew off and almost took my eye out
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Any of the micro drill will do the job perfectly but beware the cutting discs are very very brittle. They are fine if you cut vertically down but any sideways movement & they break - buy lots of spares! I have cut with these actually on the baseboard with no problems.

Safety first with any rotary power tool. Bits can & do fly off. Always wear goggles - it is only for a few seconds so there is absolutely no excuse.

I haven't tried them but track cutting pliers are well advertised - I have tried a good quality pair of electricians wire cutters & they worked OK but note the good quality bit. Not sure about cheap ones.


XURON Rail Cutters 2175B ($10.49)QUOTE Quite simply the finest track cutter of its kind on the market anywhere, at any price. Its Micro-Shear® cutting action cuts quick, cuts clean, cuts square with a lot less effort than conventional compression cutters. Exclusive Xuro-Rubber™ cushion grips and Light Touch™ return spring for operator comfort and convenience. The track cutter's blades should be positioned on the top and bottom of the rail for the cleanest cut. Rated for Z, N, and HO gauge.
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You must heed the safety warnings already given. First time i had a disc shatter on me I felt very lucky and didn't pick the drill up until i had bought safety glasses.
Don't even consider the following until you have some.

You do not need an extension lead. You can cut the track with a slight angle in and then turn the track on the spinning blade and grind it flat.


we really need a pic of a miro drill and a pic of safety glasses next to each other at this point.

I have to agree with Dennis. The Xuron Track cutters are very good. They don't only cut the Track, but they cut down the work as well.
I use a cordless Dremel and I cut on the track table. I use Dremel cutting disks and have never had one break (shatter) in 3 years. Keep it at quite a high speed for cutting metal: 6/9.

You have to get low-down close to the track, mark the cut line with a pencil, then cut with the device as parallel as possible to the track. You need to cut with the scrap to the right, holding the machine in your right hand, good track to the left. Unfortunately as the disk rotates anti-clockwise, the sparks and bits of metal fly into your face - so always wear protective eyewear and a full face shield if possible.

The cuts come out very neat indeed.

If you are say cutting a track piece in two and are planning on re-using the piece cut off, you have to turn it around 180 degrees and trim the ends to neaten-off the profile.
I use a Dremel with diamond wheels, they dont wear or shatter, buy the biggest you can find.
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The Dremel cutting disks are I think fibre based & I too have used them.

The ones that break are those that were sold by my local model railway shop for cutting track. They were very thin, grey, & very brittle. You most certainly could never have ground anything with them.

I still advocate goggles for cutting as bits can fly off the material being cut just as easily as from the stone. It is just good workshop practice.

Thanks for all those replies. I take the point about the goggles. I've only got one set of eyes/

Warning! If you are cutting off small end pieces of the rail(s) using Xuron micro side cutters, be careful as the off cuts can eject in more than one direction.
If you examine a pair of Xuron micro side cutters, stamped on one of the legs is "use goggles at all times", certainly on my cutters it does.
I was told, when cutting any suitable metals, to hold the heaviest part and place the flat part of the cutting blades to the right hand side of the cutting line.
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These Xuron cutters sound like the bees knees and the cats pyjamas (though why a cat should need pyjamas I don't know. I always think that our cat bears a strong resemblence to a pyjama case filled with a loosely connected alliance of bones. I mean where does the spare fur go when she folds her legs to sit sphinx like on the window sill). Meanwhile...

Will these wonder tools cut track in place or is one side of the cut less than useful afterwards?

I think maybe we should have a goggles thread as well!

Hi all
I have been laying around 70 - 80 yards of Peco code 100 Streamline track over the last few weeks and I've exclusively used a Xuron cutter. I have previously on other layouts used Mini drills with metal slitting discs, Razor saws with a suitable rail retaining block (wooden block with two groves cut in it to match the track width. I've even used a junior hacksaw! Of all, the Xuron is by far the quickest and easiest to use.
Only drawback with the Xuron is the fact that you have to file the rail ends to remove the cutting burr left behind and also the Xuron won't easily cut track that's been laid already. i.e. if you needed to install an isolating section after laying everything.

The cost of the Xuron is little compared to the time saved! Would recommend anyone undertaking track laying to invest in one
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So how many Zurons have you broken ?, I think I'm on my fourth pair, the dont give any warning of impending failure, they just simply crack beneath the cutting edge and the bits fly across the room. I think I'll post this as a record
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Xuron cutters have several types for different applications and metals. Can it be that you have the wrong model? Like most metal tools, eventually the metal cutter blades will suffer from metal fatigue and break, especially if used to often cut harder metals than model railway track.
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That's another reason to convert to N-Gauge ... the rails are thinner.
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So far I haven't noticed any loss in cutting ability nor has there been any need to purchase another Xuron due to the cutters breaking. As stated by "double00", cutting things other than what the device is intended for, will lead to failure of the cutters. I can only speak from my own results they have been superb!
Don't forget the instructions supplied clearly state that if the rail is "00" or "H0" it must be cut top to bottom, while "N" or smaller can be cut sideways on. This is the problem when trying to cut already laid "00" track. You can't get the cutters under the rails when its fixed down on the baseboard! So, sideways cutting is the only option and not recommended! Perhaps a minidrill with slitting disc or a razor saw is best in this situation?
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I bought a pair of Xuron cutters on my way home tonight. They're really rather good. I've added a little wrinkle to the cutting operation -
When you are about to make the cut, put the cutter and rail inside a plastic bag - see through is best - and /then/ squeeze. If the offcut does decide to fly, it gets caught in the bag.

QUOTE So far I haven't noticed any loss in cutting ability nor has there been any need to purchase another Xuron due to the cutters breaking

Depends how much track you cut. I think breakages are in direct proportion to track laying. Xuron theory.

They do snap with use, but it's never stopped me from buying another pair either.

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Well I've laid just over 80 yds so far and not a problem!

Highly recommend a Xuron for "00" track cutting, but not sideways on.

Only use them top to bottom on code 100 rail.
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