How to Choose the Right Saw Blade
Not sure which saw blade to buy? Get expert advice on choosing the right blades for your next carpentry or woodworking project.
Choosing the right saw for a carpentry or woodworking job is important, but so is choosing the right blade. This section will introduce you to some of the most common saw blades, their uses, and tips for proper performance.
No matter the saw blade you end up buying, it's crucial that you keep it sharp. Trying to coax additional cuts out of a dull blade is false economy. It wastes your time, wears out your arms, stresses your saw's motor bearings, and overheats your patience. In addition, a burned surface is nearly worthless from a gluing standpoint. Switch to a new blade as soon as you sense that a cut requires additional effort.
Circular Saw Blades
Equipped with the right blade, a portable circular saw can cut tough jobs down to size in a hurry. The following recommendations are for a 7-1/4-inch saw—the most popular size. For rough cutting and framing jobs, choose a carbide-tipped blade with 18 to 24 teeth. For demolition jobs in which you may encounter embedded fasteners, select a blade that is rated for nail cutting. For finish cuts in both solid wood and plywood, reach for a 36-tooth blade. Inexpensive steel blades are useful for rough carpentry work.
For your table saw, the 10-inch blade is the most common. Today you can find nearly a dozen different categories of blades to cut everything from ferrous and nonferrous metals to wood and plastics.
Reciprocating Saw Blades
This tough saw can be a remodeler's best friend, rapidly chewing through demanding demolition tasks. A 6-inch blade with six teeth per inch (TPI) is a good choice for most jobs because it combines ample capacity with fast cutting and ample rigidity. For demolition jobs, it pays to buy good-quality blades that will slice through nails without complaint. For jobs where you're attacking thicker material, move to a longer blade such as a 9-incher. Like the shorter version, this blade also has six teeth per inch.
A blade with 10 TPI will yield a smoother surface, but you'll rarely use a reciprocating saw for finished cuts. For metal cutting, select a blade that's engineered to handle the job. Choose a blade with 18 to 24 TPI, depending on the thickness of the metal—the thinner the stock, the more teeth.
Recommendations for jigsaw blades closely follow the advice for the reciprocating saw: 6 TPI for rough cuts and 10 TPI for smoother cuts. For cutting a tight radius, choose a blade that has a narrower body. Typically this is called a scrolling blade.
If your jigsaw has a provision for switching from reciprocating to orbital action, you'll gain greater control over your cut. A reciprocating (straight up and down) motion yields a smoother surface but requires more time. Orbital action gives a faster but rougher cut.
Coping Saw Blades
The most-used coping saw blade has 15 TPI and gives a fast cut. Because the cut surface is usually not seen, its smoothness is not a concern in blade selection.
But if you need to cope intricate small moldings, choose a finer blade (18 to 20 TPI), not for the smoothness but because its narrower body will turn a tighter corner.
Table Saw Blades
It's challenging to recommend ideal blades for every shop, but many woodworkers would list these as their favorite 10-inch carbide-tipped table saw blades:
- General Purpose—crosscuts and rips lumber and sheet materials. 40T ATB (alternate top bevel)
- Rip—ideal for ripping hardwoods and thick softwood stock. 24T FT (flat top)
- Finish—A blade for finish cuts through your best hardwoods. 80T ATB