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Thread: What makes a "good" saw blade good?

  1. #1
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    What makes a "good" saw blade good?

    As a novice woodworker, I have never used a table or miter saw blade that costs more than 10-15 dollars. I have a stack of HS steel and carbide tipped blades I picked up at a flea market that are reasonably sharp. If I spend 40-50 bucks for a good blade, like a Freud, what should I expect from it? And what makes a WW-II worth over twice that?

    Thanks,
    John

  2. #2
    I forked out $100 to find out what a WWII would do on my delta contractor saw. I was impressed, it could do glue-line rips and crosscuts in oak. The surface felt like glass. I also used it to resaw quite a bit of oak. I was still sharp when I sold it with my tablesaw.

    I bought a Freud think kerf blade from Lowes before the WWII but I took it back after using it once. It just didn't seem to work well but perhaps I just got a bad blade.

    Brian

  3. #3
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    I picked up a WWII and had the opposite experience from Brian. The WWII has never cut as good as my Freud blades, my Lietz blades either for that matter. So many people have Brian's good experience I have to believe I just got a lemon. I take the blame for not handling it under warranty. My fault, not the maker's.

    Brand names aside, as there are many good ones out there, Your higher dollars should be buying a true(er) more precision blank, higher grade and larger amounts of carbide per tooth, better sharpening/honing, better warranty, high-tech stuff like anti-vibration slots, slick coatings and stuff like that there. Good cutters will also improve your work, heighten safety and generally make your shop time more pleasant.

    What makes one blade better than another can depend on what you do and how you do it as well. Some folks find a 40 or 50 tooth general purpose blade to be satisfactory for everything. Some of us have task specific blades and perhaps even a few more than we need.

    I have two each of my "go-to" crosscut and rip blades so I am never down while one is out for sharpening. Other less specific purpose blades I have one or two of depending if there was a sale or a specific need. I always keep a thrasher blade around for aluminum or questionable reclaimed wood as well.
    Take me to the hotel - Baggage gone, oh well . . .

  4. #4
    A carbide-tipped blade will stay sharp 5-10 times longer than an HSS blade. A good carbide blade will also have thicker tips that can be resharpened more times.

    A general purpose or combo blade will make multiple kinds of cuts, but a specialty blade will perform the cut it's designed for better. A dedicated rip blade will feed faster, and can make smoother cuts. A plywood or laminate cutting blade will produce splinter-free cuts in sheet materials. A RAS or chop saw should have different blade tooth geometry than a table saw. And a good cutoff blade in a chop saw will leave a glass-smooth surface on the cuts of trim materials.

    Anyone can have a good - or bad - experience with any particular brand. The good manufacturers will stand by their products, and refund your money or replace a blade that doesn't meet your expectations.

  5. #5
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    John - Your saw will only perform as well as your blade. There are many factors that effect a blade's performance...the body's flatness, balance, and stiffness, the tooth geometry and configuration, the quality of the carbide, the sharpening of the carbide, and the overall precision of the manufacturing process. You don't need to spend $100 to get a good blade, but it increases the odds of getting a great blade. If the goal is precision cuts, I do suggest avoiding the really cheap blades ...if you're a careful shopper, you can get what you pay for. Sale and clearance prices can drop formerly high dollar blades by a huge percentage.

    We all seem to have subjective opinions about our favorites for a variety of reasons. There's often a number of factors that influence that opinion good and bad, including the sound, feel of the resistance, price, color, look, some operator induced variability, the saw's variability, variability of the material, variability from the blade manufacturer, and especially the suitability of the blade's characteristics for the task at hand. Sometimes the advantages of a high precision blade can be masked by a saw that's not performing up to snuff or by other factors, which can lead to the false assumption that an expensive blade performs no better than a middle of the road blade. Other times a blade that's a poor choice for a given application is used and gets poor results even with a high quality blade. Sometimes cheaper blades can perform well at first, but may dull faster. I try to be logical about how a blade performs, and don't get too hung up on the brand name if I know it's from a quality manufacturer. A good quality blade that's appropriate for the task and compatible with your saw can make a huge difference in the overall performance of the system. Choosing the correct blade for the task and saw is more important than the brand name stamped on the side. Most manufacturers have many different models for different applications, and many even have multiple lines with different price points and quality objectives. Be sure to compare apples to apples, or at least be aware of what the differences are when comparing blades. Top names like Forrest, Infinity, and Ridge Carbide tend to dominate the premium names, and each manufactures only one line of premium blades with several different models intended for fine woodworking and other critical applications. Other's like Freud, DeWalt, Tenryu, Amana, CMT also offer a premium line, but also offer other lines intended for other applications and market niches like construction, DIY, and value...some of those blades are acceptable for fine woodworking, some not, but that's often a matter of opinion.

    It’s important to note that every design parameter has pros and cons. The manufacturers are usually willing to emphasis the advantages of a given design, but are usually more tight lipped about the downsides of any given design. There's almost never a free lunch though. If a blade excels in one area, it'll almost always have a weakness in another. If a blade is “good” in several areas, it won’t be exceptional in any one region. Thus, you're faced with a decision about whether to buy a blade that's versatile, and does a decent job of several tasks, or buy multiple blades that excel in a given area, but perform poorly outside of their intended scope (ie: bulk ripping blade, dedicated plywood blade). There are valid arguments for both philosophies...pick the one the best suits you. There will also be a decision about thin kerf vs full kerf, and again both have merit for different circumstances.

    This article from Rockler is a good read
    Last edited by scott spencer; 08-30-2009 at 12:30 PM. Reason: clarification
    Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

  6. #6
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    My 2 most used blades are a Freud 50 tooth combo thin kerf, and a Freud glue line rip. I use a Freud cabinetmakers crosscut if I want absolute precision.
    I have found they cut better after a sharpening.
    Never, under any circumstances, consume a laxative and sleeping pill, on the same night

  7. #7
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    Freud full kerf combo on the TS most of the time. Lotsa rippin? I put on the Infinity TK glue line. Miter saws and RAS keep Freud TK80 th.
    What makes 'em good? Start out with a well designed blade from a blade manufacturer that puts their brand on the blade. Keep 'em clean and sharp, but ya can't put a great blade on a crappy saw and expect miracles. That's kinda like puttin' an English saddle on a jackass.
    On the other hand, I still have five fingers.

  8. #8
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    I must be lucky. At work we had 2 or 3 WWII blades. One threw a tooth when nearly new. I didn't bother showing proof of purchase,and sent it back for repair.They fixed it for free,resharpened it,and sent it back. I did enclose a note saying it was nearly new,and I suppose they could see it was hardly used.

    At home,I have another WWII,never a problem with it.

    I've read other posts here where some don't like them. I like the degree of highly polished edge they put on them,making them very sharp.

  9. #9
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    ???

    What is a WWII??? A World War II blade??

  10. #10
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    WWII is the Forrest Woodworker II

    http://www.amazon.com/Forrest-WW1040...tag=dogpile-20

    Heather
    Any thing with sharp teeth eats meat.
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  11. #11
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    I'd second the view that good blades make all the difference.

    That said a significant complicating factor for the less experienced like myself seems to be blade type - it's very easy to end up thinking a blade is bad when the problem is really that the spec is wrong at the level of grind, tooth numbers and so on....

  12. #12
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    Thanks for all the replies. I did some looking at Home Depot. It looks like a lot of different blades come off the same assembly line. Only the color changes.

    I will start looking for Freud blades on sale. My skill level doesn't justify $100+ blades yet!

    John

  13. #13
    Owning 30+ quality blades, and about the same in second tier blades, I find that generally the price is an indication of the quality, but not always. I have two WWII's, one of which has never seen apiece of wood (and probably won't.) I find the WWII to be over - over rated, and over priced. For everyday use (I earn most of my living in the shop) I use a DeWalt / Delta 7567. I picked them up when Lowes was sending them out the door for $19.99. For veneer plywood, I use a blade from H O Shumacher and Son (Leitz) that I picked up from Mike Jackson for about $25. It cuts as good as my $100 Amana. It's hard to go wrong with anything from Freud's upper line. But their $29.99, Diablo 40 tooth, from HD is a heck of a bargin. Most of the second tier blades I have work a heck of a lot better after a good sharpening. I use Dynamic Saw in Buffalo NY for my sharpening needs. Being 62 years old, I will probably never buy another blade in my life. Use up what I have, and then have them sharpened.

  14. #14
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    Forrest Woodworker blades can give very clean cuts because they have a very narrow side clearance. The downside to this is that they heat up if you do much extended cutting.

    We build and sell saw blades to professional users and have a lot of the information you requested on our web site at:
    http://www.carbideprocessors.com/tech_saw_blade_index.htm

    tom
    I'm a Creeker, yes I m.
    I fries my bacon in a wooden pan.

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