Saw blades come in many different variations. How does the actual makeup of the blade play into things? Let’s demystify this tool by breaking it into its four essential qualities: number of teeth, gullet size, tooth configuration and hook angle.
- Number of teeth: Saw blades will have different numbers of teeth depending on whether they are meant to remove material smoothly or quickly. A high tooth count on a saw blade means the finished cut will look smooth and polished, though it takes longer to get through a piece of wood. Since each tooth has to do less work, less splintering and splitting occurs. A blade with a low number of teeth, on the other hand, will move quickly through a piece of wood but won’t leave as smooth a surface.
- Gullet size: The gullet is the space in front of each tooth, and its size and depth determine how much wood can be removed during cutting. In general, the fewer teeth a saw blade has, the faster its feed rate and the larger its gullet size. More teeth means smaller gullets, which help to keep the blade from feeding too quickly.
- Tooth configuration: A number of different tooth configurations exist, and we’ll cover four of them here:
- Flat-top: A flat-top tooth is perfectly square and used for quick ripping.
- Alternate top bevels: Alternate top bevels are angled to provide a sharper tooth edge for crosscutting, with each subsequent tooth beveled in the opposite direction.
- Combination teeth: Combination teeth combine flat-tops and alternate top bevels. They’re great for both ripping and crosscutting.
- Triple-chip grind: Triple-chip grind switches between a chamfered tooth and a raker, which alternately chews up the material, then tidies up the mess. It’s useful for materials like plywood and particle board.
- Hook angle: This is the angle at which the tooth strays from the vertical. A positive hook angle means the tooth is leaning forward into the cut, whereas a negative hook angle means the tooth leans backward, away from the direction of cutting. Positive hook angles are more aggressive and cut more quickly, though they can cause climbing and splintering. Negative hook angles are better for smooth cuts with lower feed rates.