July 23, 2021
The famous words of Abraham Lincoln always ring in my ears every time I feel the need to replace my saw blade. He said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first hour sharpening the ax.” Of course, the blade of an ax is incomparable to the saw blade. Yet, the principle behind this quote still applies to my saw blade. So, if I want my saw cut efficiently, I need to replace or sharpen its dull saw blade.
But replacing a dull saw blade often poses a problem for beginners and newbies in woodworking. Given the many saw blades in the market today, it will be a tad confusing to select the best saw blade replacement for a saw. Hence, if you are looking for a replacement for your dull saw blade, you might as well learn more about saw blades.
Understanding Saw Blade Teeth and Its Effects on the Quality of Cut
Saw blades differ from each other in several aspects and respects. So, when choosing a saw blade, you need to consider the following essential factors to narrow down your choices and help you zero in on the perfect saw blade for your needs:
Number of Teeth
There are compromises when it comes to the number of teeth of a saw blade. If you opt, for example, for a blade with more teeth, you can get a smoother cut, but you will be a bit slow in cutting the material. Nevertheless, if you go for blades with fewer teeth, you can cut the material faster, but you would end up with an unclean cut.
If you use, for example, a 10-inch blade for ripping lumber, you will notice that it usually has only 24 teeth. But it can remove more material along the grain’s length. Yet, you would indeed compromise on the smoothness of the cut.
On the other hand, if you use a crosscut blade, you can make a smooth cut across the wood grain, sans tearing or splintering. Crosscut blades have teeth that number between 60 to 80. Since each tooth will need to remove fewer materials as the tooth count increases, the crosscut blade can make more cuts as it plods through the material as compared to the ripping blade.
Consequently, the crosscut blade necessitates slower feed rates, resulting in a cleaner and smoother edge. If you are using a high-quality crosscut blade, you can make the edges of the cut very polished. Therefore, you need to determine whether you will use the saw blade for crosscutting or ripping at the onset of choosing a saw blade.
However, if you are unsure whether you will crosscut or rip, you can settle for a combination blade or general-purpose blade. These blades feature fewer teeth than those of the crosscutting blades but more teeth than the ripping blades. Thus, they could handle either cutting type.
Blade Tooth Configuration
Another factor to consider when choosing a blade is its shape and how the teeth are set or grouped. You should figure out how the teeth are configured, for their configuration may tell you whether the blade is suited for crosscutting, ripping, or laminates. The following are the different teeth configurations you should take note of:
Flat-top (FT): If you want to rip soft and hardwood, you can go for the FT teeth. The FT is engineered to provide you with the most efficient cutting results. It can cut and rake materials with ease and quickness. Moreover, it is very efficient in removing material.
Alternate Top Bevel (ATB): If you look closely at the teeth of an ATB blade, you will notice that the teeth alternate between left and right-hand bevels. Such an arrangement of teeth produces a smoother cut, especially when you are engaged in crosscutting veneered plywood and natural wood. You will also notice that the ATB appears like a knife-like edge on each side. Such a configuration likewise produces a cleaner and better cut than that of the FT.
Combination Tooth (Comb): You will also find combination blades that are perfect for ripping and crosscutting. You will see the teeth of these blades configured in a series of five teeth—four ATB teeth and an FT tooth. These blades come with a large gullet between each group.
TCG (Triple Chip Grind): The TCG configuration is best at cutting laminates, plastics, and MDF. You will find the teeth of this blade alternating between a raking tooth and a trapeze tooth. You can also find the TCG configuration in metal (non-ferrous) cutting blades.
(Hi-ATB (high alternate top bevel): The Hi-ATB setup is utilized for very fine crosscutting. It is also used to cut through melamine. It is used for cutting materials that are susceptible to chipping. Its high-bevel angle intensifies the knife-like action at the blade’s edge.
You may have heard of the gullet as referring to the throat. Yet, gullet may also mean the in-between space of the saw teeth. This space has the primary purpose of allowing for chip removal. When ripping, you would usually feed the material faster; hence, larger chip sizes are produced. The gullet, therefore, must be deep to handle a large material amount.
However, the chips in crosscutting blades are fewer and smaller per tooth. So, you will see that the gullets are smaller likewise. Moreover, on several crosscutting saw blades, you will notice that the gullets are purposedly made small to prevent a high-speed feed rate. Such a high-speed feed rate can become problematic when using miter or radial-arm saws.
If you look closer at the gullets of combination blades, you will notice that their gullets come in large and small sizes. The larger gullets, in-between groups of teeth, while the smaller gullets come between two teeth of the group to prevent a high-speed feed rate when crosscutting.
The hook angle is crucial to the blade operation because it affects the operation of the blade. If the blade comes with a positive hook angle of 20 degrees, for example, this hook angle can be very high, and it will produce a highly aggressive cut and a feed rate that is fast.
On the other hand, if the blade has a negative hook angle, it can slow down the feed rate and preclude the tendency of the saw blade to ascend or climb up the material that you are cutting.
If you have a ripping blade, you will notice that it has a high hook angle. It can, of course, provide you with a fast and aggressive cut.
However, if you are using a sliding compound miter or radial-arm saw, you will notice that its blade got a negative hook angle. This is because the blade needs to inhibit the fast feed rate and prevent the binding of the saw blade to the material.
The Kerf Width
Another factor worth considering is the kerf width. You will find full kerf and thin kerfs. Full-kerf blades usually cut around 1/8″ slot on the material, and they are intended for saws with 3HP motors. Thin-kerf blades, on the other hand, are designed to remove fewer amount of materials. It requires, therefore, less power for its operation and lets you cut material with the correct feed rate without binding during the cutting process.
The Quality of the Saw Blade Teeth
Another critical factor to consider choosing a saw blade is the quality of the saw blade. Saw blades come in different tips and qualities. If you want high-quality blades, go for those with thick carbide tips that come fused or brazed to the blade plate. The cutting tips’ quality will determine how long the blade will stay sharp and how clean it will be cutting. Moreover, it will determine how often you will be sharpening the saw blade.
Some high-quality saw blades come with carbides that have been formulated for specific applications. They usually have undergone the tri-blazing process for attaching the saw blade to the carbide cutters. This process, of course, provides additional durability and flexibility to the saw blade. It will be best likewise to look for blades equipped with C3-grade (micro-grain) carbide teeth. These blades let you resharpen the blades several times.
How Can You Choose the Most Suitable Saw Blade according to Blade Teeth?
Choosing the appropriate saw blade for your needs might be confusing if you are a beginner in woodworking. Yet, you can narrow down your options by asking yourself some succinct questions that could lead you to the ideal saw blade. Below is a rundown of the straightforward questions you need to ask yourself:
Types of Cut
When choosing a saw blade, you need to figure out what applications you will use for your saw. If you would use it to cut across and with the grain, you only need a combination or a general-purpose saw blade. However, if you only cut with the grain, you can always go for a rip saw blade. If you engage in cutting across the wood grain, you should go for a crosscut blade.
The thing is, if you go for the right saw blade, you can make your cut faster and smoother. You can prolong the usefulness of your saw blades if you use them accordingly. Moreover, you will save time and effort when engaged in repetitive tasks using the right saw blade.
For example, if you often change blades because your tasks entail ripping and crosscutting, you might as well go for a combination blade so that you can save time and effort in replacing the saw blade. If you’re indecisive about the type of cuts you would engage in, you can always go for a combination blade likewise. It is the perfect solution for such indecisiveness.
What Saw You Will Be Using?
There are different types of electric saws, and the saw type you are using should factor well in your choice of blade. Some saws have specific compatibility with some saw blades. If you’re utilizing a miter saw, you can use a blade characterized by a higher tooth count because you would usually use this saw to make a quick and accurate cut at various angles.
This saw, of course, is designed for making quick crosscutting. As such, it will need a higher tooth count for its blade.
However, if you use a table saw, you can use a combination blade, for you would surely use it for crosscutting and ripping. You don’t want to be changing blades more often whenever you transition from ripping to crosscutting. As such, a combination blade will be perfect for your table saw.
Which Teeth Count is Best for My Saw Blade?
The teeth count on the saw blade will depend on the length and type of the blade. For example, if you are using a 10-inch combination blade, you can opt for a 50 teeth blade, while a 12-inch blade with 60 teeth will also be a good option.
A standard 10-inch blade with 24 to 30 teeth will be good enough if you go for ripping. A 12-inch saw blade with forty or fewer teeth will also be good. If you engage in crosscutting, you can also select a 10-inch blade with 60 teeth or a 12-inch blade with 80.
Frequently Asked Questions
Aside from being aware of the critical factors to consider when choosing a saw blade, you can also benefit from being aware of the following frequently asked questions:
Are Blades With More Teeth Better?
It depends on which type of cut you would like to accomplish. Yet, as a rule, the higher the blade teeth count, the smoother and more refined the cut will be. Yet, there will be instances when you would want to rip or make a faster and rougher cut on your wood material. In such cases, you will find the blades with fewer teeth more suited for your purpose.
There will be instances, likewise, when you would like to create a high-quality finish, such as when you are cutting laminate. To accomplish a higher quality finish, you need to go for a higher-teeth-count blade.
The thing is, when a saw blade comes with fewer teeth, it usually has deeper gullets. Gullets, as mentioned above, are the in-between-teeth spaces. Besides, with fewer teeth, the blade becomes more aggressive in cutting.
Since blades create friction when cutting, they are also subject to wear and tear. Furthermore, they become dull after continuous usage. So, you need to change or replace them promptly. Otherwise, they will never be able to deliver the proper cuts that you desire. Instead, they might cause damage to your workpiece and may bring in more risk to the operator. Hence, you need to replace blades if you think they have become dull or risky.
The abovementioned factors to consider can help you choose a suitable saw blade replacement for your saw. Equipped with enough knowledge, you can quickly narrow down your options and eventually zero in on the ideal blade for the applications you intend to use your saw.
Jason is a 40-year-old woodworker, carpenter and author who have been involved in the woodworking and woodcraft industry with 17 years of experience. He is expertise in technical aspects, woodcraft and furniture building projects.