What is the best type of table saw blade I should own? This is a common question I am asked fairly often. However, I can’t really answer that. It’s not because I don’t have knowledge on the topic, but rather because that is not an easy answer.
Before the answer to that question can be given, a few other questions have to be asked first. Those questions are;
- What kind of material are you cutting primarily?
- Are you doing cross cutting, ripping, or both?
- What horsepower does your table saw have?
To try to simplify this complicated question, I have gathered the following information from various sites on the internet.
To begin with, table saw blades have four basic blade types of teeth that are categorized by the shape, or grind, of their teeth. They are flat top grind (FTG), alternate top bevel (ATB), combination with raker (ATBR), and triple-chip grind (TCG)
FTG blades have teeth whose top edges are square to the saw plate. Also called rakers, these teeth attack the wood much like a chisel chopping out the ends of a mortise. They’re fast cutting and durable, but don’t produce a clean surface. They’re designed to rip, sawing with the grain.
ATB blades are angled across the top edge, with every other tooth “leaning” in the opposite direction. The shape of the tooth causes it to shear the wood fibers cleanly using a slicing motion. The steeper the bevel angle, the cleaner the teeth cut, but it can also result in dulling quicker.
Combination blades consist of 50 teeth arranged in sets of five, with four ATB teeth followed by a raker tooth (thus the ATBR designation.) The ATB teeth are designed to crosscut cleanly while the raker teeth aid in ripping. Combination blades are also considered “all-purpose” blades.
Don’t let the terms “combination blade” and “all-purpose blade” confuse you. Combination blades (the original multi-purpose blades) were so named because their 50-tooth ATBR tooth configuration was designed for both ripping and crosscutting. These blades are still widely available, although many woodworkers prefer the newer 40-tooth ATB “all-purpose” blades instead. No matter. Both types perform well at ripping and crosscutting lumber as well as sawing sheet goods.
The teeth on a TCG blade alternate between a raker tooth and a chamfered tooth. The chamfered tooth roughs out the cut, while the following FTG tooth cleans it up. This tooth configuration is meant for sawing dense materials: MDF, plastic laminate, solid surface materials like Corian, and non-ferrous metals like brass and aluminum. Pointy ATB teeth would dull quickly from this stuff.
Another thing to consider besides the angle of the teeth is also the rake or hook of a saw blade. Hook, or rake, refers to the angle of the tooth face in relation to the center of the blade. Teeth with a positive hook cut more aggressively. The hook on a typical all-purpose blade is 15° to 20°, while blades designed specifically for ripping are usually 20°. The smaller the hook angle, the more pressure is required to feed the workpiece. Some blades have zero rake, or even negative rake. These are particularly good for use on radial-arm saws and miter saws because they prevent self-feeding, or “climb cutting.” They’re fine to use on the table saw, too.
Teeth Count– The number of teeth is important on the blade. More is not always better.
For ripping, a blade with 24 FTG teeth is good. It will cut fast and without burning the wood. However, it will require some planning afterward because the edge will be rough. But for me, this is a normal procedure anyway.
For doing cross-cutting an 80 ATB tooth blade is best. It will give good clean cuts with little to no splintering. Note the more teeth on a blade the slower feed rate it will require for good results.
But unless I am doing a lot of ripping or cross-cutting, I generally keep a 40 tooth combination blade on my saw. This is good for both cross-cutting and ripping.
Thin- Kerf Blades– If a table saw has low horsepower a thin kerf blade is best. The teeth on thin-kerf blades measure about 3/32″ thick. Because they cut 25% less wood than a standard blade with 1/8″-thick teeth, your saw motor doesn’t have to work as hard. Thin-kerf blades are a good choice when sawing thick, hard stock with an underpowered saw. The downside is that the thinner plate can flutter a bit, causing a slightly rougher cut.
Table saw safety
Always before using any saw blade make sure your table saw is turned up and safe to use. Make sure the fence is aligned properly and when possible use a splitter to prevent pinching, burning, or even kickback of the material.
Use things such as zero clearance plates, feather boards, and push sticks to prevent injury to yourself. Also, make sure to not wear loose clothes that could get caught. Make sure there are no cords at your feet to trip on, and of course, use safety glasses and hearing protection.
The table saw is the most used tool in my shop. So when it comes to buying a blade I don’t go to the cheapest blade. The old saying is true. You get what you pay for. A good blade can make a huge difference in the quality of your work. So choose the best blade for your woodworking project and let the dust fly!
Chad Stanton – Professional Furniture Maker 7-30-21