Understanding Table saw blades _ Always find the perfect one

Understanding Table saw blades | Always find the perfect one

A while ago I posted an article on this website to find the right table saw for your workshop.
It’s a good thing to have a table saw that matches your needs and your workshop.

However, a table saw is useless without a good table saw blade.
But that is no rocket science, and I guess you already knew that.

When you think about a table saw blade, you want one with which you can make smooth, safe cuts.
A saw blade that gives you clean edges, so you can build quality stuff.
Every woodworker dreams of that, isn’t it?

You need that good saw blade, and you are determined to buy one quickly.
But if you step into the (online) store you lose all courage.

It seems as if you are inundated by the range of saw blades.
There is like no end to the list of different brands and types.
That can make you rather buying the first saw blade you come across, then figuring out which one is best for you.

I know how that feels because I was once at this point too.
When I wanted to buy my first table saw blade, the huge range of table saw blades seemed unclear.
When I searched for more information, it felt as if everything was getting even more complicated.

To help you with this, and to clarify the wide range of table saw blades, I have made a checklist.
That checklist contains everything you need to know about saw blades, in order to make the right choice.

All the important properties that a table saw blade needs for that cut you dream of, are described briefly in this blog.
Read this article carefully, and you will see that for the rest of your life you will never have trouble understanding table saw blades again.

Read, learn, and start making perfect cuts.

First step: ask yourself a few questions

Before you even start looking at  table saw blades, it’s good to think about what you need a saw blade for.
By answering the questions below, you can start your search more specifically.

So think about this briefly to save time in your search.

What type of saw should I use?
Not every saw blade is designed for the type of saw you use (table saw, miter saw, circular saw, …).
If you use the wrong type of blade for the saw, chances are you will get poor results, but much worse, this can be dangerous.
So before you buy, always be sure to use the correct saw blade for the tool.

What types of cuts do you have to make?
You can make two types of cuts: crosscut (cutting across the grain) or ripping (cutting with the grain). 
You can choose a saw blade exclusively for crosscutting, a saw blade only for ripping, or a table saw blade that can do both cuts.

What materials need to be cut?
The type of material that needs to be cut will affect your choice.
Are you going to cut a wide range of materials, or are you going to cut a lot of a single type of material?
That specialization will affect the choice of the saw blade you will need.
You can make the choice to build a collection of specialized blades, or you can buy one blade that can make all kinds of cuts.
Both will have pros and cons.
A specialized table saw blade will always give better results, but are you willing to change the blade when you change between cuts?

How to find the perfect table saw blade

For every cutting operation, a table saw blade has been designed that will give you the best results.
For example, there are special saw blades for crosscutting timber, ripping timber, or cutting plywood and panels.
Combination blades are also offered that are designed for both crosscutting and ripping.

If you often change between different materials that you want to cut, then universal table saw blades are designed to make all types of saw cuts.

Whatever your choice, from here on, the quality of the cut will be largely determined by kerf width, the number of teeth, saw blade teeth quality, the size of the gullet, the tooth configuration, and the hook angle.

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Kerf Width

What is kerf on a saw blade?

The kerf is the width of the slot left by the saw blade when you cut into the material.

How to find the right kerf for my table saw?

The width of the kerf will depend on the type of table saw you own.

Table saws powered with a motor less than 3 hp require a table saw blade with a kerf less than 3.17 mm or 1/8 “.

A thinner table saw blade will have to remove less material and therefore requires less power from the saw.
With an adapted saw blade, you will not only put less stress on the table saw, but you also not risk that the saw blade will jam while sawing.
A kerf that is too wide can also cause slowing down the blade.
Blades that are too wide will cause friction to burn the wood, and heat up the blade.
This will result in curvature.

The disadvantage of thinner saw blades is that they are more sensitive to vibrations.
Vibration damping systems, such as those used in Freud saw blades, have been developed for this purpose.
This allows saw blades with a thin cut to compensate for the slight loss of stability.

If you have a table saw that is driven with a motor higher than 3 hp, you can choose to use a saw blade that is wider.
For this you can use saw blades with a kerf that is wider than 3.17 mm or 1/8 “.

Number of teeth on the table saw blade

Remember this: table saw blades with more teeth will give a smoother cut, and blades with fewer teeth will remove material faster.

A ripping blade is designed to quickly rip through wood along the length of the grain.
Therefore, a ripping blade will have fewer teeth.
Depending on the brand, rip blades will have an average of 24 teeth.
With little effort, a ripping blade moves well through hardwood.
With a ripping blade, a clean, but rougher cut will be obtained.

On the other hand, you have a crosscut saw blade.
This type of table saw blade is designed to make cuts across the grain of the wood.
Due to the increased number of teeth (60 to 80 teeth), each tooth has to remove less material.
That means cuts made with this type of saw blade are smooth with a minimal chance of splintering or tearing.

Table Saw Blade Teeth Quality

How cleanly it cuts, how long the blade stays sharp.
How much sharpening you can perform all depend on the quality of the material from which the cutting tips are made.

Most high-performance saw blades have teeth with thick carbide tips. Those are fused onto the steel blade plate using a tri-metal brazing process.

When you are looking for a saw blade, look for table saw blades with at least C3 carbide teeth.
These types of teeth are thick enough to allow for a number of resharpening.

Size of the gullet

I will first explain to you what the gullet is, then you will soon realize what important role this plays when using the saw blade.
The gullet is the space or incision between two teeth.
The function of the gullet is to evacuate chips, produced during cutting, away from the cut.

When you make a ripping cut, the feed rate is higher and the chip size is also larger.
So, in order to be able to remove these large quantities of material in time, the gullet must be deep enough.

This is the other way around with a crosscut saw blade.
There, the chips are smaller and there are fewer chips per tooth.
That’s why the gullet will be much smaller.

The smaller gullets will prevent a fast feed rate when cutting and thus make it less aggressive.

The Tooth Configuration

The way the table saw blade cuts is affected by the shape of the blade tooth and the way the teeth are grouped.
Changing the shape of the tooth or re-grouping the teeth can determine whether the blade will work best for ripping, crosscutting, or other applications.

Below, I explain the most common tooth configurations and their applications.

Alternate top bevel (ATB)

Understanding Table saw blades _ Always find the perfect one

With this type of saw blade, the teeth of the blade will alternately have a right and left bevel.
The alternate top beveled teeth form a knife-like edge on the outside of the blade and will therefore give a smoother cut.
This is an ideal saw blade when you want to cut natural wood and veneered plywood.

Best buy selection

High alternate top bevel (Hi-ATB)

The Hi-ATB configuration is a variant of the ATB teeth.
The difference is that the Hi-ATB tines have a higher bevel angle.
This increases the blade-like effect of the side of the saw blade so that even smoother cuts can be made.

This type of saw blade is ideal for extra-fine crosscutting or cutting materials that are sensitive to chipping, such as melamine.

Best buy selection

Flat top (FT)

Understanding Table saw blades _ Always find the perfect one

When looking for blades for ripping hardwoods and softwoods, you will need saw blades with flat-top teeth.
A ripping blade is designed to remove material quickly and efficiently when cut with the grain.

Because of this tooth, wood flakes and splinters much less quickly.

Best buy selection

Combination Tooth (Comb)

Understanding Table saw blades _ Always find the perfect one

The word Combination blades say it all.
These saw blades are designed to be used for ripping as well as for cross-cutting.
The teeth on this blade are arranged in groups of five.
There are four ATB teeth and one FT per group of 5 teeth.

Between each group, there is a large gullet.

Best buy selection

Triple chip grind (TCG)

Understanding Table saw blades _ Always find the perfect one

If you need to cut hard materials such as MDF or laminates, you need a TCG saw blade.
With a TCG saw blade, the teeth will alternate between a flat tooth and a higher trapeze-shaped tooth.
This combination is also used for non-ferrous metal blades.

Best buy selection

Hook Angle

By changing the angle of the hook, the saw blade can have a completely different effect on the cutting.
A table saw blade with a high positive hook angle, where the tooth leans slightly forward at an angle of about 20°, will produce a very aggressive cut and a high feed rate.
This type of hook is used on saw blades for ripping wood.

A negative hook angle, where the hook will lean back slightly (about 6°) will cause the feed rate to be slower.
This type of saw blade is often used with radial arm saws and sliding miter saws.
These power tools require a less aggressive blade.
The slow feed rate ensures that the blade will not jam, or have a tendency to hook and “climb” into the material.

Understanding Table saw blades _ Always find the perfect one
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How to choose the best saw blade

So, your table saw blade is dull, or damaged, and you want to know which table saw blade is best for you?

Well, answer the questions at the beginning of this article to make an initial elimination.
After that, put all the information about the teeth together, and you will find the perfect saw blade, with the best results for your needs.

Good advice that you can apply with any saw blade you buy, is to buy quality blades.
Don’t be tempted by cheap table saw blades.
In the long run, cheap table saw blades will be much more expensive than buying decent quality table saw blades.
A solid table saw blade will not only last longer, but also give sharper cuts.

What about dado blades?

Dado blades are another type of saw blade. By placing several blades side by side in your table saw, you are able to make wider cuts. Another name for these wider cuts is dados.

However, there is a lot to know about this type of blade. Not every country allows you to use dado blades, and not all table saws will be designed to install dado blades. To know all about what dado blades are and how to use them, I wrote the in-depth article — can I use dado blades on my table saw.
don’t miss that article.

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I hope this information on how to find the best table saw blade was helpful, and that this blog and video inspires you.
Let me know in a comment below.

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Christophe, founder of Christofix.com
Woodworking | DIY | Home decoration

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