How to choose the best table saw blade
By Mark Adams, Senior Editor Wood Tools Magazine
When I first started woodworking I remember that you just used the blade that came with the table saw for all of your cuts. Rip cuts, cross cuts, didn’t matter. When it wore out you just replaced it with the same type of blade. The concept of using blades designed for different type of cuts in a home workshop was still a few years away.
But fast forward from the days of bell bottoms and you quickly realize that the tools that are available for the home workshop equal or surpass the commercial tools of a few decades ago. They have also become highly specialized.
One of those tools that have seen the most change is the saw blade. There seems to be a saw blade for every conceivable cut or different material, doesn’t there? This obviously leads to some confusion about which type of blade to use and creates the question, what is the best table saw blade?
In the rest of this article, I’ll try and give you a quick primer on some of the differences and try to help you pick the blade that’s best for you.
Best Table Saw Blade Buying Guide
Rip, Crosscut and Combination blades
Rip blades are usually more aggressive than other blades. The standard on a 10 inch table saw blade is 24 teeth. This is the ideal number to cut aggressive and quick straight line cuts with the grain of the wood. The tip of the blade is parallel to the table top so when you cut you get a flat cut on the wood. Flat tip blades like this are also perfect for making thin dados in rails and stiles when you intend to insert a thin wood or glass panel.
Crosscut blades are designed to cut end grain. They start out at 40 teeth and the smooth fine finish blades have 80 teeth. The rule of thumb by the way is the more teeth, the smoother the cut.
These types of blades are also what are used in miter saws. I use an 80 tooth crosscut blade in my miter saw and really no longer need any type of backer board or zero clearance insert. The end grain is so smooth that I don’t even need to sand.
Miter saw blades have a different tooth or “hook angle” than rip blades. The different angle simply cuts better in end grain. Rip blades or blades not designed for crosscutting can lift up the wood a little especially on sliding compound miter saws, so just verify that the blade your buying is designed for your type of saw. It should be listed in the description or on the packaging.
Combination blades are the jack of all trade blades. Unless I am doing a large amount of specialty cutting like ripping lots of long boards, I just keep my combination blade in my table saw. I would suggest you consider a higher tooth blade (say 60 teeth or 80 teeth) and you should get smooth cuts free from tear out.
To insure tear out free cutting, install a zero clearance insert and you’ll be amazed at how smooth you cuts will be. You can certainly make your own or if you value your time you can pick them up for about $15 to $25 bucks. Here are some commercial examples.
My first dado blade was a simple stack and shim blade. It worked fine for rough cutting on say 2 x 4’s but left a lot to be desired on say plywood or melamine or even hardwood. Tear out was tremendous. It was a series of ¼ inch blades and some shims. It was also rather had to create the width I wanted unless it was exactly ¼, ½ or ¾. Inexpensive dado sets still work like this today.
My next blade was about a $200 freud dado set. I remember my wife about killed me… But that blade could cut about any width that you could imagine, even plywood widths. If you’re not aware ¼, ½ and ¾ plywood widths are not as wide as their namesakes and require specialized adjustments to cut dados.
Smooth, no tear out cuts that rivaled any fine finish blade, btw. Take a look here. The beauty of this and other top of the line dado blades is that there are different width blades that allow you to create any width you need
Carbide vs HSSteel
HSSteel or high strength steel has been around for many years. It is very sharp and can cut extremely well. It is typically priced less than carbide tipped blades but the tradeoff is it will dull much faster than carbide.
Since carbide keeps its edge so much longer than HSS, carbide has about replaced HSS as the new standard. Although the price is more, I always buy carbide when available and because it lasts so long, it’s cheaper in the long run.
Sharpen vs buy a new blade
Yes you can sharpen either a HSS or carbide blade. Check into sharpening services in your area for professional results. I’ve seen prices range from $20 to $60 per blade. OK, you’re now thinking it would be about as cheap to buy a new blade. I agree. But it’s your choice.
You can also sharpen the blade yourself using mini diamond honing paddles. See examples here. Just keep the paddle parallel to the flat part of each tip and you’ll probably be fine. I’ve sharpened like this for years now.
Or you could just buy a new blade after tons of cutting with your carbide blade.
Saw blades used to all be 1/4 inch wide. As technology has improved most blades have become thinner. The theory is that the thinner the blade, the less material is removed and the easier the saw motor has to work. Good thought around. However with a thinner blade there is the possibility of the blade wobbling and vibrating.
This is not an issue with good quality saw blades. You will see anti vibration groove cuts in the blade that actually stabilize the blade while cutting.
This is not a major issue in modern woodworking, but something you should be aware of. If you do fee the need to stabilize your blade here are some options.
Well, that about wraps up our table saw blade talk. I hope this quick primer answers the question, what is the best table saw blade!
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