It’s a pretty basic thing, but getting the right saw blade for the job is an important part of getting the job done right. The wrong blade can tear up your material or make the job so much harder. Choosing the right saw blade really is pivotal to doing quality work, and that’s what the saw blade guide is all about.
There are so many blades today and so many options like tooth count, diamond tipped, carbide or steel, tooth design, etc. It can be daunting! Most folks don’t need all these variety of blades, and this guide will help you find the right mix of saw blades you’ll need for your project. In the end, I’ll help you find the best all around arsenal of saw blades that have great versatility for multiple projects so you aren’t changing blades every 15 minutes.
While there are specialized tools for cutting nearly every material, you can usually simply switch the blade on your saw to cut wood, masonry, or metal without any modifications to the saw. We’ll talk about each material and the saw blades required, and then I’ll give you some suggestions for a good all around arsenal of saw blades that will allow you to do most jobs without another trip to the hardware store.
Wood Saw Blades
Most of us are cutting wood, and because of that, there are a ton of options for wood blades. These can work on mitre saws, circular saws, table saws, and others. There are three general setups for wood cutting blades; cross cut, ripping, and combination. The category they fall into is all about the tooth design.
- Cross-cut – Designed for cutting lumber across the grain
- Rip-cut – Designed for ripping along the grain of the wood
- Combination – A mixture of cross cut design and ripping design creates a blade that can do both operations.
Unless you are doing a lot of very specific work, I find that choosing a combination blade is almost always the best choice. Most of us do a combination of tasks with our saws and unless you can dedicate a particular tool to only one operation, stay with the combination blades.
The more teeth your blade has, the finer the finish you will have. Blades with fewer teeth create more tear out and splinters. So, why would you want to use a blade with fewer teeth? Because the more teeth your blade has, the slower your cut rate is and the more friction and heat you generate.
If you are cutting 2×4’s for framing, speed is more important and you don’t care about a fine finish, but trimming high-end veneer is almost impossible to do without a fine-finish blade. Here’s a quick and dirty list of different tooth counts and their typical use:
- 16-24 Teeth: Demo/Framing
- 32-50 Teeth: All-Purpose Cutting
- 60-80 Teeth: Finish Grade
- 100-140 Teeth: Fine-Finish & Cabinetry
Masonry & Tile Saw Blades
Masonry and tile saw blades are not at all like wood. Most have completely smooth edges with no teeth and the options are far fewer in design. They vary from short-lived and inexpensive blades (called cutoff or abrasive wheels) to long life diamond tipped blades. Here are the three main types of masonry and tile saw blades:
- Cutoff Wheel – Inexpensive abrasive wheels for grinding and minor cutting
- Segmented Blade – Long life blade for rough cutting where finish not a concern
- Continuous Rim – Long life blade for fine-finish cutting like tile and granite
Cutoff wheels are made of an abrasive composite that eats itself as you cut, so they are inexpensive and run out very quickly. Segmented and continuous rim blades are typically diamond tipped and can be used to cut wet or dry. Cutting wet extends their life greatly because it keeps the blade cooler.
Segmented blades have small cuts (gullets) in the edge, allowing faster cutting of material but this results in a final product that is not as smooth as the slower cutting continuous rim blades, which are typically used for fine tile work or stone countertop fabrication.
Depending on the type of metal you are cutting, these saw blades are a combination of the wood saw blades with teeth and the cutoff wheels used on masonry. Though they may look the same, metal blades are much more expensive than their wood cutting cousins. There are two main types metal blades:
- Cutoff Wheel – Inexpensive and short lived abrasive disc for basic cutting of thick metals
- Carbide Blade – Long-lived with a variety of designs for use cutting thick or thin metals of any type
Just like masonry cutoff wheels, for cutting thick metals there is nothing cheaper than a cutoff wheel designed for metal. For serious metal cutting the carbide tooth steel blades can last a long time and cut just about any type of metal.
The tooth count on metal blades starts higher than it does for wood, with the fastest cutting blades being closer to 38-teeth, and the finer blades being only in the 60 to 80-teeth range. For metal blades, you want a lower tooth count, for thicker materials and a higher tooth count for thin metal sheets or fine work to avoid tear out and denting of the material. Your feed rate will also be significantly slower with metal than with wood.
What Blades Should I Get?
So, you’ve read my saw blade guide and you’re looking for the best mix of blades for your work. That depends on what kind of work you’re doing, largely. I’ll give you what I have on my tools, which works pretty well for the general renovations and old house restoration that I do every day.
You will notice my preference for Diablo blades below and that is mainly because in my experience, they have a longer life, and are readily available and create less kick-back due to their friction reducing coating. Everybody’s got their favorite, and these just happen to be mine.
I keep a 7 1/4″ 24-tooth Diablo Blade on my circular saw all day long most every day. It is long lasting and since my circ saw is used for rough cuts like for sheathing, framing, and basic repairs, the rough cut doesn’t bother me and helps me get through the work quickly.
I also keep a couple 7″ Dewalt metal cutoff wheels handy in case I should need to cut through some metal, which comes up occasionally. Since cutoff wheels are brittle, I keep them safely in a case so they don’t end up crumbled at the bottom of the tool box.
I keep my mitre saw ready to go with a 12″ 60-tooth Diablo Combination Blade since I use this mostly for trim and finish work. I could upgrade to a 80-tooth without much change and it might be a consideration, but I still do a decent amount of cutting of siding and occasional framing lumber, so 60-tooth has been the sweet spot for me.
Like most people, I have a 10 blade on my table saw, and it is used almost exclusively for ripping lumber or sheet goods. I have found that a 10″ 50-tooth Diablo Combination Blade works well to get through the material quickly and still keep my finish sanding to a minimum. There should always be some sanding after milling, so why spend the extra money and time for a super high tooth count blade to get an immaculate finish when you are going to sand it away anyway?
That’s it. I don’t keep any crazy unique saw blades- just these basic few cover most of my needs with an occasional specialty blade to supplement my work. I hope this has helped you find the right stuff to get the job done! Bookmark this page and feel free to come back to it as a new project comes up so you can find the right blade for the job. Good luck and happy cutting!
Founder & Editor-in-Chief
I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.
7 thoughts on “The Everyman’s Saw Blade Guide”
That’s really informative post. I appreciate your skills. Thanks for sharing.
Your column is awesome. I’m looking for a single saw (not a sawblade) that I can use for mainly wood work but I’m also building a cinderblock barbecue island and would prefer not to buy a saw specifically for the masonry work. I know I will need to buy specialized blades for the different materials. Any recommendations?
I own an old miter saw that uses 8 1/4″ blades. I cannot find any. I need a metal cutting blade at the moment.
Anyone know where to buy 8 1/4″ blades?
I would think a 8″ blade is really what you should be looking for. You would only be losing 1/8″ on your maximum depth of cut which shouldn’t matter 99% of the time.
When I worked for Skil back in the 70s we sold a saw blade with no teeth and a 1/2′” rim of embedded pieces of carbide. Do you know if anyone is still making a blade like that. It was an excellent blade for plywood not as expensive as a high tooth count blade.
I have a blade that has a little surface rust. What can I do to remove it safely without damaging the blade?
Thank you guys so much for keeping me out of the D house. I know all about most blades but not 1 thing about skill- circular saw blades again thank you guys!!! This site has been amazing on every question I have had.