Selecting the Best Saw Blade for any Woodworking Application

Written by
Chuck Hancock
Published on
September 18, 2023

Woodworking is a skilled craft that requires precision, expertise, and knowledge in order to create functional, beautiful, and seamless works of art. If you want your next woodworking project to be picture-perfect, you need to ensure that you select the appropriate blade. Distinct tasks and materials require different types of saw blades, and using the wrong blade can have drastic effects on your cuts.

Understanding Saw Blade Anatomy

Understanding the components of a saw blade will help you select the right blade for your specific woodworking task. A typical saw blade consists of three main parts:

  • Teeth: The teeth are the sharp edges on the outer perimeter of the blade that are responsible for cutting the wood. The number, shape, and configuration of the teeth determine the material they can effectively cut. High-quality saw blades often have carbide tips on the teeth, which significantly improve the cutting performance and longevity of the blade. Lower-quality blades, on the other hand, do not have as much (or any) carbide on the teeth. These blades tend to wear out more quickly and do not offer the same level of cutting performance as carbide-tipped blades.
  • Gullet: The gullet is the space between each tooth. During cutting, the gullet allows for chip removal, which keeps the blade cool and ensures that it does not get clogged with debris. There is an inverse relation between the number of teeth on the saw blade and the size of the gullets: blades with a higher tooth count don't have very large gullets, and blades with fewer teeth have larger gullets.
  • Body: The blade body, also referred to as the plate, is the metal disc that forms the main structure of the blade. It provides stability and strength to withstand the forces of cutting without bending or breaking

Common Types of Saw Blades

Blades vary in size and shape, and specific cutting tasks and materials require different saw blades.

Rip-Cut Saw Blades

Rip-cut blades are common for woodworking projects. They cut parallel to the wood grain, called a “rip cut,” which is optimal for cutting smoothly and efficiently along the length of the wood. This type of blade includes fewer teeth (24 to 30) with large gullets, allowing it to remove more material with each tooth.

Crosscut Saw Blades

Unlike rip-cut blades, crosscut saw blades cut perpendicularly to the natural grain of the wood. Because they cut across the wood grain, these blades provide smooth and clean edges. They have a higher tooth count of 60 to 80 teeth with smaller gullets.

Combination Saw Blades

Combination blades are a versatile option suitable for both rip cuts and crosscuts. They are an "in-between" blade with a tooth count of 40 to 80 and moderately-sized gullets. They are best for general woodworking tasks in which you need to switch between cutting along and across the grain.

Dado Saw Blades

Dado blades consist of two or more circular saw blades that you can stack together to cut wide grooves, or dadoes, in the wood. You can adjust dado blades, allowing you to set the width of the cut to match the thickness of the material you are using. Because of this, they vary in tooth count anywhere from 18 to 40 teeth with gullets that vary in size. These blades are highly versatile, so you can use them for joinery tasks in which you need strong, precise connections between pieces of wood.

Plywood Saw Blades

As suggested by the name, plywood blades cut through plywood and other laminated materials that require smooth finishes. They have a high tooth count and fine edges to prevent splintering and tear-out.

Miter Saw Blades

Miter saw blades are for miter saws and chop saws. They are ideal for making precise, angled crosscuts and miter cuts. They can vary in tooth count to accommodate different materials and cutting angles. However, the average miter saw blade has around 30 teeth and higher quality miter saw blades have about 40 to 60 teeth. People primarily use these blades for cutting trim and molding, but you can use them for other materials and projects that require specific angle cuts.

Scroll Saw Blades

Scroll saw blades are not circular. They are narrow, comb-shaped blades for creating intricate curved cuts and designs in wood. These blades are perfect for crafting small, detailed works and artistic designs. The best scroll saw blades are thin with a high tooth count.

Choosing the Right Tooth Configuration

Choosing the right tooth configuration for a saw blade is essential to ensure optimal cutting and provide the desired results for your woodworking project. Consider the type of cutting task you will be performing because specific cutting jobs require different tooth configurations. For example, if you're seeking a clean cut and smooth finish, you will want a blade with a high tooth count. However, if you are performing a fast ripping task and cutting with the grain, a blade with fewer teeth may be more desirable.

Blade Material Matters

The quality of the blade is also essential in achieving optimal performance. High-quality saw blades can be made with a variety of materials, including high-speed steel (HSS), carbide tips, and solid carbide. As noted earlier, carbide-tipped blades are more durable and ideal for cutting hardwoods and other abrasive materials. HSS blades are great for softer woods, but they generally do not last as long as carbide-tipped blades. You can also sharpen the tips of carbide teeth to make the blade last longer. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and service your blade often. Feel free to contact us at Hancock Tool Co. if you need your saw blade sharpened.

Cutting to the Chase

Selecting the right saw blade is a crucial step in achieving precise and clean cuts for your woodworking projects. Understanding the difference between the different types of blades, as well as their applications, will help you optimize your woodworking performance. Remember, match the saw blade to the type of cut you'll be making as well as to the material you'll be working with. With the right saw blade in hand, you'll be well-equipped to broaden your woodworking skills to new horizons and create incredible pieces. Be sure to explore the different woodworking tools you may need for your projects here at Hancock Tool Co. Happy woodworking!

The image used in this blog post depicts a saw blade by Amana Tool.

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