Saw Blades: Beyond the Cut
August 14, 2011 | 6:08 pm CDT

Saw blade manufacturers weigh in on the importance of selecting the right blade and ensuring it performs as it should.

The panel saw is often referred to as the workhorse of the woodworking shop, but without the proper, well maintained saw blade, it would not be nearly as effective.

What could be more essential to a woodworking shop than its saw? And what is more essential to the saw than its blade? Because of the saw blade’s importance, it is imperative that woodworkers not only select the right blade, but keep it well maintained.

To make sure its readers are informed of this important tool, Wood & Wood Products contacted several saw blade manufacturers to discuss some of the need-to-know matters when it comes to saw blades.

In today’s manufacturing environment, getting the best value out of the equipment and tools employed in the shop is first and foremost in the minds of production managers and company presidents everywhere. To make sure woodworkers have the proper tools at their disposal, saw blade manufacturers offer a range of blades to meet the diverse needs of woodworking shops everywhere.

There are a number of factors to consider when picking and purchasing saw blades.

“The short answer is longevity and price,” says Gene Veening, president of Royce//Ayr Cutting Tools Inc. “Most customers understand that quality may cost a little more and are willing to pay for it, but the life of the saw blade before it needs to be re-sharpened is the most important factor.”

“Our customers want the best value for their dollar, whether it is increased runtimes, better cut quality or overall improvement in blade quality and performance,” says Steve England sales/trade show coordinator at Super Thin Saws. “Most customers realize that lower price does not mean the best value.”

“We find that most woodworkers are looking for ways to extend the cutting life of each saw blade per sharpening,” explains Frank Horvath, marketing manager at FS Tool Corp.

While most agree that the longevity of the blade between sharpenings is a high priority when choosing a saw blade, there are other factors to consider in the decision-making process.

“Secondary is the need to provide consistent cut quality throughout the duration of a saw blade’s life,” Horvath says.

“Customers look for clean cuts, long cutting life in between sharpenings, and then price and delivery,” says Joe DeCotiis, operations manager for Charles G.G. Schmidt & Co. Inc.

Other factors that play a part in the decision-making process include finish quality, consistency and waste reduction.

“The most common request customers have is improved finishing and extended tool life. Choosing the proper blade is critical to obtaining the best results,” says Karen Deutschler, president of GUHDO USA Inc.

Greg Neer, director of technical industrial sales at Freud America Inc. adds, “Customers are looking for extended blade cutting life, high cut quality and consistency in blade quality.”

“Most recently, the largest interest has been in looking into using thinner kerfs for many applications,” says Mark Leavens, sawblade products specialist at Leitz Tooling Systems Inc. “Much of this is yield driven to reduce waste.”

Keeping That Quality Cut

Once the right saw blade is selected, it is important to properly maintain the blade, not only to prolong its use, but to get the best cut from it. Blades that are taken care of will last longer and will keep shops more productive. Dull blades cut less effectively and can damage workpieces, costing companies money in increased production time and rework.
As with most things, knowledge is the best tool to use to keep saw blades cutting the most effectively.

“Education is the best way for users to prolong the life of their saw blades,” says Horvath. “Regardless of the saw blade, proper handling, storage, maintenance, and the identification and correction of poor cut quality will significantly increase the life of a saw blade. This is where an experienced tooling manager or salesperson will provide exceptional value and cost savings, not only to the tooling budget but also through reduced defects and scrap product.”

Use of the proper blade type for the application is also paramount to the longevity of the blade.

“To use the proper blade for the material being cut and the machine being used is number one (in terms of blade maintenance),” says DeCotiis. “Always keep your blades clean in between uses. Also, you can use lubricant to prevent pitch build up during operation.”

“Selecting the proper saw blade to do the job is essential in the life of the blade,” agrees Frank Misiti, Amana Tool Corp.’s technical director.

“First and foremost, use the right blade for the task,” adds Cliff Paddock, director of product development for cutting tools at Freud America Inc. “Second, keep blades clean and sharp. Using blades with excessive pitch and gum build up creates excess heat, which may burn the workpiece and cause carbide tips to lose their edge quicker.
“Finally, inspect the workpiece for defects, like nails, staples and loose knots, which can damage the blade and put the operator’s safety at risk,” he adds.

“Select the correct saw blade for the application and operate it within the manufacturer’s suggested parameters. Remove the saw blade prior to excessive dullness and send it to a competent and quality-conscious sharpener,” remarks Ken DeMarce, OEM product manger at Leuco Tool Çorp.

There are other factors to be mindful of as well.

“As for the necessities to maintain or prolong blade life, there are so many things that influence blade life,” says Deutschler, “some of which are directly related to the blade, others not, such as:

-Quality of board being cut;
-Stability/rigidity of the saw machine;
-Axial alignment;
-Ideal rim speed;
-Correct tooth count and tooth grind for application;
-Quality and tensioning of the saw plate; and
-The carbide used for the tips.”

England says it is important to keep the blades clean and sharp, as well as keep the machines in top condition.

“Check the blades for buildup after each shift, or more often if they are cutting very pitchy wood or material that leaves residue. Regularly scheduled blade maintenance is critical and should be done by a service that offers complete blade inspection and has the latest in blade sharpening equipment,” he adds.

“Accurate grinding of the teeth is critical to saw blade performance as any errors will result in reduced cut quality and edge life,” DeMarce adds.

Savvy woodworking shops know to watch out for the latest innovations in their machinery. It is no different with saw blades, as the manufacturers are constantly upgrading and making improvements to their offerings.

Cutting Edge Developments

Saw blade manufacturers report that composition and coatings are on the forefront of the tool’s new developments. Improvements in anti-vibration technology, noise reduction and tooth design are also common among saw blade manufacturers.

“New carbide grades with finer grain structures and special chemistry to improve corrosion resistance are delivering longer edge life,” DeMarce says. “Noise dampening features are now standard on high-end panel saws. Anti-friction plate coatings and lubricity coatings on the teeth are now being introduced.”

“A few high-performance panel processors have demanded an exceptionally hard, long-lasting grade to be specifically developed for them. This proprietary grade of Tungsten-carbide is not for everyone as it requires attention during handling, storage and maintenance, but it provides high-volume manufacturers with a significant increase of cutting life per sharpening, as well as number of sharpenings,” Horvath says.

“The latest advances in saw blade technology now is in the manufacturing of the different grades of plate, carbide grades and geometry in the grind of the teeth,” Misiti explains.
Specialized coatings on blades can have a dramatic effect on improving blade life by reducing friction, which in turn reduces heat.

“Coatings are hot,” England says. Super Thin Saws won a 2008 Challengers’ Award for its UltraCem coating. “Our coatings are designed to reduce friction and decrease pitch buildup, which in turn reduces heat generated while the blades are in use.”

New developments in noise reduction is another area saw blade manufacturers are making improvements.

“For noise dampening we use thin, laser-cut lines into the plate of the saw blades. To reduce friction, there are a number of coatings applied directly to the saw blade. This also helps prevent pitch build up,” DeCotiis says.

“We have fine tuned the laser technology to further enhance precision,” Deutschler says. “The blades are tipped with a high-quality micro grain tungsten carbide, suited to their respective applications.” The company’s saw blades also “include very quiet running design due to numerous anti-vibration elements incorporated into the saw plate. This also ensures improvement in the quality of cut, as well as extended tool life,” she adds.

Whatever changes may come to saw blade technology, it is important to choose the right one and properly maintain it so that it will not cause any issues and cut into production time.

“Technology is often touted as the savior of your business, but it is a quality, long lasting and high-performing tool that will reflect your craftsmanship and allow you to focus on what you do best,” Horvath says.

“The new business environment requires every step in manufacturing to show its value,” Leavens says. “Since circular saw blades help to determine how much raw material is used, the tools can save or waste many dollars. By selecting the most dependable performing tools, the best utilization of raw materials can be achieved.”

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