Which carbide circular saw blade to use?

What's the right carbide circular saw to cut each material, and what's the difference? These descriptions and pictures of common saw blades will help you learn which styles are the best kinds for different uses. These round serrated blades may be mounted on portable circular saws or on a range of equipment of varying capabilities. Slang: Circle saw.

Aluminum

To cut soft Non-Ferrous metals such as brass or copper, choose a specialized NF blade with tough carbide. Pick a triple chip style tilted back -6° to resist digging in. It works faster, cooler and far neater than an abrasive cut off wheel. For cutting extruded aluminum frames and tubes, select a fine 10 in. 80T. You can prevent smearing by using a wax stick lubricant, flood coolant or mist. Clamp the work. For bar stock, use a coarser one with raised shoulders.

Combination blade

A general purpose combo is divided into sections separated by spaces. Each group combines 4 crosscut and 1 raker. A 10 inch diameter commonly has 50T, making it a multi-purpose compromise. The combo crosscuts quickly and loudly, but not necessarily neatly. It is also intended to be adequate for ripping, slowly, but it is not the best kind for that purpose, either. If you do mostly one or the other sort of cutting, you are better off choosing a specialized type.

Corian

Solid surface countertop is cast from plastics. Compare to Fountainhead, Gibraltar and Avonite. See: Plastic.

Crosscut

crosscut saw bladeFor slicing across wood grain, alternate bevel is the correct selection. This is a very common favorite for crosscutting grainy or stringy natural wood. It is also used for manmade materials with delicate surfaces that could pose a frustrating challenge with a more aggressive or coarse blade. Crosscutting generally tends to go slowly. This is not recommended for ripping lengthwise. Although crosscut is sometimes used on abrasive, dense composites, don't expect it to endure longterm use in those conditions.

Dado

For crosscutting a broad groove in one pass, set up a dado. The two outer circular saw blades have their points all facing outward. In the middle, chippers and shims may be stacked, but the threaded end of the shaft is left exposed. Even if the table saw throat lets you use a full dia., the machine must have adequate horsepower and stability. If these factors are limited, a smaller set is chosen. A wobble dado is an adjustable gadget for jobs where the grooving doesn't need to be precise. In choosing a dado set, adjustability is a minor factor. A dado is not used on hand-held circular saws, nor on miter or radial arm saws.

Demolition

Remodeling, nail-cutting and emergency fireman rescue are practical uses for a coarse, efficient demolition blade. It's tough enough to chop through plexiglass, but it would be wrong to try to cut masonry or glass with it. The periphery is almost continuous all around to limit overfeeding.

Fine tooth

How many teeth a blade has will affect both how neat a finishing cut it can make, and its slowness. A 10 in. 60T cuts relatively neatly. It does not rip efficiently. Slower and smoother cuts are made with 80 to 100T, but the tendency of those tiny spaces to trap dust and heat may be a disadvantage.

Groover

For ripping a groove or slot, a groover may have 1/8 to 3/4 in. breadth. A typical 6 in. dia. has 8T to do rapid grooving.

Hardwood

Typically, hardwood lumber is slower going than softwood. Maple is heavy and abrasive. Teak contains silica. Oak is hard, stringy and used for flooring or stairs. Unlike manmade composites, all these natural woods have directional fibers to consider as you decide whether coarse or fine blades are chosen. Rip is the correct choice of circular saw blade to cut with the grain. Crosscut is the right selection to go across the grain.

If you use rare exotic hardwood species, rosewood or mahogany, conservation of stock is a concern. To waste less, the kerf of thin rim blades only uses about .090 inch. They are rigid and their cutting depth is shallow due to a raised center.

Laminate

Formica, Arborite, Wilsonart and High Pressure Laminates are composites of layered kraft paper and Melamine, forming a hard plastic surface for particleboard countertops. Laminated materials are known for abrasiveness. HPL is more substantial and absorbs shock more than Low Pressure Laminate, known as Melamine. Double Face Laminate has Melamine on the back as well. Sometimes a panel saw uses a second scoring blade on the other face. If you use just a single one, choose a special DFL design. A 10 in. 80T HATB, laid back -5° with low side clearance, cuts laminated stock smoothly. Lower it and cut slowly.

MDF

Medium Density Fiberboard is engineered from compressed granular softwood scraps. It's heavy and porous. The non-directional fibers of this composite are denser and more random than OSB or Oriented Strand Board. It won't hold screws well, and may contain formaldehyde. Tools cutting MDF are subjected to much abrasion, so choose a durable TCG 10 in. 60T.

Masonite

High Density Fiberboard or HDF, Masonite, Hardboard and cardboard are panels of densely compressed fibers. Compare to: MDF.

Melamine

Low Pressure Laminate or LPL is referred to as Melamine. It's often applied as a skin to interior surfaces such as cabinet shelves that get light use. See: Laminates.

Miter

An overhead saw is suitable for making miters such as for a picture frame. Do not use it to rip. A chop saw may come with a coarse blade which is wrong for picture framing. A specialized miter design is the best choice for molding. It is similar to a general purpose combination, but it is finer (10 in. 80T). An important difference is that a miter saw has neutral rake, which is correct because you don't want it to pull too much. When using a sliding compound mitre saw that can tilt, stay away from blades that flex.

Panels

A vertical panel saw stands the sheet in a tall rack, and its saw carriage travels on ways. It's useful for sizing rectangular panels, but it can't tilt, miter or dado. A horizontal slider can do it all, but you need a lot of room for the slider platform. Panel saw blades may come in pairs. The second one is for scoring, and may be only 100mm or under 4 in. A few kinds have pinholes, and each make's configuration is unique. The differences are crucial in picking a proper match.

Particleboard

Random softwood fiber chunks are compressed together in particle board. It is made similar to MDF, but particleboard has chunkier flakes and more voids. The fiber strands in OSB or Oriented Strand Board are aligned. Compare to MDF.

Pergo

This is not like hardwood flooring; it has no grain. Pergo has images of various woods in plastic laminate adhered to a particleboard plank. Its hardness and abrasiveness are remarkable, so use a durable carbide TCG. Choose a fine blade and let the tips enter on the hard surface that is going to show.

Plastic

Use TCG for plastic. (A special no-melt one has chamfers on all its tips.) For Plexiglas acrylic, Lucite, or Lexan polycarbonate, select a 10 in. 80T -2°. A sheet can be scribed by a knife. For long cuts, distribute clamps evenly on a board.

For a heavier cast solid surface like Corian, a slightly more coarse 60T without forward lean is the best choice. If you choose a finer blade and go too slow, it gets plugged and the countertop melts, leaving it crumbly. Friction abrades tools quickly in solid surface. You can stop vibration and wandering by adding stiffeners and staying below 12 in. dia.

Plywood

Every cut is a crosscut in a plywood panel. It's an engineered wood with several plies or layers stacked going different ways. Plywood holds fasteners well. Select a fine blade. Don't let the sheet vibrate or droop as you cut it. Lightweight plywood panels are made of layers of soft, moisture absorbent luan. A very fine crosscut can manage its stringy, porous texture. Luan may be scored by a knife or die cut.

Radial arm

This overhead machine is generally for crosscutting. Stock is positioned on a stationary table and a carriage slides along the arm. A radial arm saw is often used at 90° but can swing to any position. Since it climbs, choose blades with a retro -2° hook angle that won't grab.

Rip

ripsaw bladeTo cut lengthwise along the grain, ripping is done on a table saw. A ripsaw is very coarse because it is designed for cutting rapidly. A 10 in. dia. has only 18 to 30T, with generous open spaces between that let out dust efficiently. This kind has a flat top and an eager +20° hook. A chamfered glue line rip is similar, and recommended if neatness matters. A ripsaw is too coarse for crosscutting plywood, and the result would be messy. Slang: In common use, ripping also refers to swiftly roughing out in any direction, which could be done with any coarse style.

Softwood

Pine and spruce are not as dense as hardwood lumber. To go across the grain of softwood, see Crosscut. The right choice to go with the grain of pine is Rip.

Table saw

Wood is pushed across a slick waxed table saw past a slot where a circular sawblade emerges at an adjusted height; typically vertical but it can tilt. This popular kind of woodworking equipment accepts most blade styles and angles. It is one of the best choices for ripping and can also crosscut. Portable ones are not as stable as cabinet saws.

Veneer

A surface layer of wood veneer is applied to a composite substrate panel. The variety of veneered woods is quite broad. If the core is lightweight, or for cabinet making, a fine Hi-ATB is appropriate. For laying a floor, one with a lower slant is adequate to the purpose and can last longer. Engineered wood flooring has oak or maple veneered over plywood or HDF. Laminated Veneer Lumber or LVL may have a core of many dense layers. To decide how to cut Laminated Veneer Lumber, consider the density of the LVL substrate.