Handyman: Choosing right saw blade makes project easier

Glenn Haege
Special to The Detroit News

For most of us, it wouldn’t be a weekend without a trip to the hardware store. For the sake of discussion, let’s say you’re heading out to buy a new blade for a saw. The first thing to consider is the type of material you plan to cut.

Just like you wouldn’t use a rubber mallet to pound nails into wood, you shouldn’t use the wrong blade when cutting something. The results will be best using the proper tool, and in the case of a saw, it’s all about the blade.

While there are many different types of saws to cut wood, metal, tile or concrete, having the right saw for the job is just the starting point. While hand saws are fairly common in most garages and workshops, the blades and types of saws can vary based on the type of job you need to accomplish.

A neighbor told me that he has two hand saws in his garage he uses for cutting wood, and one has very tiny teeth while the other has larger teeth. The larger teeth are called rip teeth, which are designed to cut with the grain of the wood, while the crosscut blade is for use cutting against the grain and has smaller teeth. Ripsaw blades generally have five or six teeth per inch while a crosscut saw typically has up to 12 teeth per inch.

With wood saw blades, in general the more teeth on the blade, the finer the cut. While both saws may look similar, the type of blade is the determining factor when choosing which one to use.

The same is true for other types of hand saws, like a hacksaw, which is used to cut several types of metal. The standard blade that comes with most typical hacksaws is built for cutting low-strength metals such as aluminum or tin. But for cutting iron pipe it may require a raker blade, which has teeth in groups of three. If you use a regular blade on iron pipe, it will damage the blade and not give you the performance you need to make a clean cut.

While hand saws are fine in some cases, a power saw like a reciprocating saw or a circular saw gets the job done faster and easier. The number of teeth per inch is also important for the blade used on a reciprocating saw, but the number of teeth on the blades can range from as low 6 to as high as 24 depending on the material you are cutting.

Because of the speed the blades spin on a circular saw, the saw teeth differ from those on a handsaw. While it is still true that circular saws with more teeth provide a finer cut, circular saws are available in a variety of diameters so the teeth-per-inch comparison to a hand saw is not applicable. Instead, you need to compare the number of teeth on one blade versus another of the same diameter.

As with any saw, the type of material you are cutting will also dictate the type of blade you need, such as a fine-toothed crosscut blade for cutting plywood. You can also buy a more expensive carbide or tungsten-carbide blades for your circular saw that outlast traditional steel blades.

Both steel and carbide blades have the extra benefit of being brought back to life with a skilled and professional sharpening. Paul Elliott, owner of Elliott Saw Works, 248-398-0440, in Ferndale, Michigan, says most circular saw blades from 3-inches to 54-inches in diameter can be successfully sharpened.

“It really depends on the run-out, or warping of the blade. It needs to be flat and we can hammer most of them if they need it,” said Elliott.

For more on choosing the type of blade that is best for the job, I recommend that you read my article, “More ‘Tales Behind the Tools’: Home saws” from Jan. 11, 2013, on the website to get a good understanding of all the various saws that are common around the home and which one makes sense for the job.

For more home improvement advice, call “The Handyman Show With Glenn Haege" on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536 between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. “The Handyman Show” can also be heard on more than 135 radio stations nationwide.