Reviews of saws and router bits often supply a guide on how to buy cutting tools, but sorting out the opinions can be a bit overwhelming. To keep it simple, the most basic difference you can identify is what metal a saw is made of. There is a fundamental distinction between woodworking tools made of softer steel and those with tips made of harder carbide. Carbide tipped tools are usually rated preferable to regular steel and high speed steel because they have the advantage of being far more durable. You can quickly identify carbide tipped tools by their most obvious attributes: They are made with a block or chunk of hard metal on each tip, and feel heavy.
Recognizing the difference between carbide and steel helps to filter the comparison, but as you focus in to compare carbide you'll see significant variance in value. You might wish that reviews would give a specific recommendation of what the saw or bit is intended for. Does it rate best for a hobby, or is it good enough to survive the test of repetitive industrial production? For short jobs, a discount tool could be a sensible value, but a durable one costing a bit extra initially may outperform and outlast it by years. Manufacturers supply different product lines to consumers and industries. How do you compare the differences in durability? Some differences in quality are a lot more subtle to recognize than the brand or logo.
Why are industrial carbide tools better? The reason is partly science and partly common sense. The best quality industrial quality saws or cutters are designed to endure extended runtime and overall life. Industrial carbide saws are precision ground on automatic machinery with diamond abrasives. By looking closely, you might notice a reflection on a fine grit finish. However, you can't visually evaluate precision, which is more relevant. If there were a secret, it would be this. When comparing ordinary bits or saws to industrial woodworking tools, one quality that stands out decisively is tolerance, or precision.
What is tolerance? It is the allowed deviation from a specified dimension. Wide tolerance causes noisy vibrating. Listen for it. Vibration is not a good sign. A good circular saw blade fits snugly. It is precisely concentric, balanced and aligned. To run quiet and true, close tolerance is within a couple thousandths of an inch.
What is tungsten carbide? Tungsten is a metal that is heavy, withstands heat and resists corrosion. It is extremely hard, but in pure form tungsten is brittle. To better absorb shock, tiny grains of tungsten are bound together to make a cemented carbide. The binder of the matrix is often cobalt. Mystery and confusion cloud the subject of tungsten carbide grades. Carbide grade isn't rated to evaluate quality; the rating is meant for a specific purpose.
C2 is a regular carbide grade often seen in TCT tools. Binder and grain sizes can be adjusted to promote different properties. C1 grade is tough to resist shock and impact in masonry. For toughness, its coarse granular particles are mixed with a lot of binder.
Fine micro grain is packed close together with a low percentage of binder. C3 and C4 grades are abrasion-resistant but brittle. Such a hard grade enhances endurance for standing up to the abrasiveness of a dense substance like solid surface. Harder metal has extended life working medium density fiberboard, but won't tolerate the shock of intermittent pounding.
Thin kerf saw blades or wide?
The kerf is the tip width, and it can make a big difference. The minimal drag and light weight of thin kerf conserves energy. For portable units, reduced thickness is a necessity. Much of today's available equipment is underpowered in comparison to the old school. The width of standard kerf seems to be trending down around .110 in. thin or less. Thinner sizes are commonly seen, but not always labeled thin kerf. Since the width of a plate must be narrower than the tip size, it may be flexible thin gauge steel. If the motor is powerful enough to overcome drag, then thin kerf doesn't offer much benefit, and could be a disadvantage.
For industrial circular saws, you may be better off getting relatively weighty, stiff, wide kerf ones. A good 10 inch saw blade typically has a .085 in. thick, tensioned plate. The advantage of thicker width makes it stiff enough to minimize vibration, deflection and warping. Heavy duty, wide kerf tip size is usually at least .125 or 1/8 in. and up. Full size tips are strong, stable, and can be reground many times. The disadvantage of thick kerf is that it may waste some wood.
The principle has exceptions. Small, thin saws can perform best in certain critical specialty applications only if their deflection won't matter. In general, stability and plate thickness are key advantages.
Luckily, the packaging is apt to indicate the type of job intended. Labeling won't reveal the formula, but suggests its preferred application. Skip the technical hype if you prefer, but pay attention to the manufacturer's recommendation.
Industrial router bits
Industrial bits have a hefty, half inch shank in adequate proportion to the head. A 1/2 in. shank is better to grip and less flexible than 1/4 in. The solid steel portion of the tool body is smoothly turned and milled, not roughly cast. Look just behind the carbide tips. There should be no obvious gaps or blobs. A big bit that is well made in close tolerance will run smooth. Consequently, it will also have a better chance of staying sharp.
DeKalb Saw and Tool supplies industrial brands such as RKO Saw, FS Tool, Everlast, MK Morse and others. We recommend professional products that get a good rating from our industrial clients. We supply heavy duty bits and circular saw blades at competitive prices. We can help you find the best quality specialized tools to streamline production, save hours of labor and reduce waste.