Have you always used the same type of table saw blade for everything you cut? You might be surprised to know there are several different types of blades and each serves a specific purpose. Have you ever wondered why every time you cross cut a board it looks splintered around the edges? Sure, some of this could be due to a dull blade but cutting like this with the wrong table saw blade type could be dulling it out.
In today’s day in age there are more materials available for production. Because of this table saw blades have evolved to be able to handle the composite materials that are relatively new. Cutting composite deck planks is different than it used to be with traditional wood. I am going to briefly explain what the table saw blade components are and they will be highlighted in sections to easily refer back to as you decide which blade is best for you. I hope this information will help you choose the best saw blade for your needs.
Towards the bottom you will see a comparison chart to help you.
The saw blade tooth number is one of the first things to consider and one of the easiest to identify. The tooth number is a quick visual for the intended purpose of the blade. A blade with more teeth is used for crosscutting (across the grain). The more teeth the cleaner and less splintered the cut will be.
Saw blades with fewer teeth are meant for cutting with the grain (rip-cut). There are saw blades with any number of configuration of teeth count. So, for fine finish woodworking you will want a blade with the most teeth. Sometimes it is a pain and time consuming to keep switching a blade for every cut. The tooth number is just one factor in choosing a blade.
There are saw blades that are good for both crosscut and rip-cut, these are called combination saw blades with a range of 40 to 80 teeth.
The kerf of a saw blade describes the widest point of the blade, usually referring to the thickness of the cut. Table saws with less than 2 hp are not recommended for thicker kerf saw blades as they are heavier and take more power to cut through materials. If the saw blade cannot rotate at it’s optimal RPM then it will start tearing at the wood leaving a rough cut.
In my experience a thin kerf saw blade is more prone to vibration and warping. I’m sure you’ve seen times when you have cut wood and the blade burnt it? Well, this heat is in the blade and plays a part on the lifespan of a saw blade. Thin kerf blades cut really quickly as they take a smaller bite out of the wood.
The biggest reason to have a thin kerf blade would be to save on materials. If you need to cut a single piece of wood ten times and your saw blade measures approximately 1/8″ thick then over ten cuts you will loose approximately 5/8″ of wood compared to a blade that is thinner. That may not seem like a big deal but when you a making a project and you want the same piece of wood for grain alignment and color, it might just be something to consider.
If you think it’s time to upgrade your table saw, take a look at my post on the Best Tools for Woodworking – 2018. In the photo to the right you can see how the tooth is wider than the body of the blade under it. You can also see the tooth design. I will talk about that next. Sorry for the dirty saw blade picture. It has cut a lot of pine so the sap starts to add up.
There are several shapes for the teeth. FTG or Flat Top Grind blades cut a square groove. Looking across the blade you can see the tip of the blade is square to the side. ATB or Alternate Top Bevel blades have an elevated outer edge so the cut is more V shaped.
A combination blade is a mixture of FTG and ATB. It has alternating flat teeth and beveled teeth. FTB blades are great if you need the cut surface to be exactly flat. ATB blades tend to cut easier and cleaner because the tooth bevel acts like a knife and slices through the wood. A combination blade in kind of the best of both worlds.
In the photo to the right and the one above you can see how the tooth on one blade is flat and the other picture it’s angled. This will leave your cut looking like the blade design.
The shoulder of a blade is the material behind the blade tooth. This is important because it supports the tooth and gives it the strength to cut through knots and any unknown objects that might be in the wood such as nails. The tooth on a smaller shoulder blade could be ripped off or bend hitting something hard. In the photo above you can see the shoulder distance from the tooth moving back to where it goes down into the gullet.
The gullet is the area cut into the saw blade between the teeth. It is typical round in shape and allows for sawdust to be ejected so it does not clog up the blade as it is cutting. Crosscut saw blades have more teeth and smaller gullets. Rip-cut blades have less teeth and bigger gullets.
Pick Your Blade!
There are a number of other factors that go into choosing a saw blade. I have found these to be the most important. I have used thin kerf and thick kerf blades and really enjoy the thick kerf. Thicker kerf blades are more expensive but you get a better finished cut.
Look at the saw blades below to quickly see the differences is each.
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