How to Choose The Best Circular Saw Blade
During the industrial revolution, water-and-steam driven circular saws became the heart of the construction industry with all lumber mills installing and using them to cut materials like wet lumber and extremely dense hardwood. Nowadays, circular saws are electric, come in a wide variety of types, and have numerous circular saw blade options. Although circular saw blades are simple looking tools, they have advanced features like curved teeth, bevel angles, expansion slots, anti-vibration designs, and friction-reducing coatings.
With this said, due to the number of circular saw blade options on the market, it is very easy to get overwhelmed in knowing what type of blade to choose. From cutting acrylic to working with teak, the proper blades will have a significant impact on the desired results. The following guideline looks at common blade options and the characteristics that determine their function so that you can pick the best circular saw blade for your project.
Understanding Different Circular Saw Blade Options
The number one thing to understand is that each blade has a purpose, to cut a specific type of material. The best circular saw blade for your project will be one with the advanced features you need to get through the material of your choice, whether that be hardwood, softwood, light-gauge steel, vinyl, ceramics, or natural stone. Let’s begin with a list of the different types of saw blade categories, types of blades within each group, and their material uses.
Standard Circular Saw Blades: often known as wood cutting blades are the most common type of blade that you will find. Their primary uses are for cutting through softwood, hardwood, and wood composites. When looking at a wood cutting blade, you will want to look out for the number of teeth as this determines the speed, type, and finish of the cut you will get. Common blades in this category include rip-cut blades which cut with the wood grain, crosscut blades which cut across the wood grain, and combination blades which can make both crosscut and rip-cuts.
Rip-cuts have an aggressive cut and deep gullets, whereas, a crosscut blade will have forty to eighty teeth and smaller gullets between each tooth. Other blades in this category include framing blades, or carpentry blades, which will have twenty-four teeth, plywood blades which have 100+ fine teeth, thin-kerf blades which provide minimal waste and an easy and fast cut, and hollow-ground blades which have a very thin body with larger teeth.
When it comes to choosing the best circular saw blade for wood cutting, you will want one that has an anti-kickback design, several expansion slots, and a friction-reducing coating, to ensure that your cuts are clean, and non-splintered. Keep in mind that blades which have fewer teeth will always cut faster but will lack a fine finish
Masonry Cutting Blades: often known as diamond blades, these are excellent for cutting extremely tough materials like natural stone, concrete blocks, and even glazed ceramics. Masonry blades are very easy to spot as they do not have any teeth, are made out of a fiberglass-reinforced silicone, and are extremely abrasive, similar to sandpaper.
Common blades in this category include continuous-rim blades which are designed for cutting through slate and tile, turbo-rim blades which cut through brick and concrete, and segmented blades which also cut through brick and concrete but with a more aggressive cut.
If you want to cut an abrasive material, the best circular saw blade is an abrasive blade specifically designed for materials like aluminum oxide, silicon carbide, and some metals. Continuous-rim blades have an extremely clean finish, whereas, turbo-rim blades do not.
Segmented blades have an aggressive cut, whereas abrasive blades are suitable for general purpose cutting. The coarseness of the blade determines how well you can cut through the intended material; the more coarse the blade is, the easier it will be to cut through soft materials like brick and limestone.
Metal Cutting Blades: these types of blades are also toothless, but have heat expansion slots cut deep into the blade to help dissipate the heat that gets generated by cutting metal. If you are looking for the best circular saw blade to cut through metals like bronze, brass, light-gauge steel, aluminum siding, and copper tubing, these are your best bet. They should not be confused with abrasive blades, as metal cutting blades are designed with specific anti-shattering material to reduce the risk of shattering during use.
Plastic Pipe Cutting Blades: generally, a wood cutting blade that has a higher number of teeth, anywhere from forty to eighty, will be able to cut through most plastics. The key with these types of blades is to go slow during the cut so that the blade doesn’t get stuck within the pipe or doesn’t kick back towards you.
Acrylic Sheet Blades: if your project includes cutting acrylic, the best circular saw blade would be one with a high-tooth count, similar to a plywood cutting blade. The finer the blade, the smoother the cut will be, however, it needs to be cut quickly to provide a satisfactory cut. Generally, using a table saw or a jig with a fine blade is a better option than a circular saw blade.
The Characteristics That Make Up Circular Saw Blades
When it comes to choosing the best circular saw blade for your project or your setup, you are going to want to look at the characteristics that make up the different types of blades. Not only will this give you a greater understanding of the design of each blade, but it can truly determine whether you get the cut you want or not.
The general rule of thumb is that the more teeth you have on a blade, the smoother and finer the cut at a higher expense. Other features to be on the lookout for include the following.
- The Position of the Teeth: this is called the “hook” or the “rake” and indicates where the tooth makes contact with the surface of the material. If you have a tooth that points down towards the surface of the material, this is called a positive angle point and will give you a fast, rough cut that removes quite a bit of waste material. If you have a negative angle point, this will create a smooth finish but it will not cut aggressively or quickly, and it does not remove much waste.
- The Gullet Size: this is the space that appears between the teeth. Looking at this will help you determine how much waste material gets cleared out during the cutting process.
- The Bevel Angle: this is the angle of the tooth which can be seen when the blade spins. This angle can be non-existent (flat), be alternating, or be a “high alternating” among other configurations. The best circular saw blade that has no bevel angle would be well-suited for rough cuts when you want to clear out a lot of material. An alternative top bevel will face the opposite direction of the angle preceding it, what this means is that you get a very clean cut. A high alternating top bevel will have low-tear cuts that are clean.
- The Kerf: this is the width of the cut or the width of the tooth at its widest point. The best circular saw blade for finer woodworking cuts is one with a thin kerf.
Although the above information is just a guideline for those who are looking for a reference point when choosing the best circular saw blade for their project, it is important to note that you should take your time when deciding and always consult a professional when you are unsure. Having the right circular saw blade is critical, not only for safety reasons but a satisfactory result.