How to choose the right saw blade

Making clean, even cuts with a table saw, radial arm saw, cutting saw, or rolling stock miter saw depends on the availability of the correct 12″ table saw blade for the tool. Even our saw blade catalog isn’t short on quality options and the sheer volume of saw blades available can confuse even an experienced carpenter.

That is why we have put together this article. This is a glossary and parts guide with important background information to help you make the right choice.

How to choose the right saw blade?

A good way to narrow down your choices and focus on your search is to answer a few key questions:

  • What type of saw will the blade be used in? Some saw blades are designed for use with certain saw blades, so you need to be sure to select the correct blade for your tool. Using the wrong type of saw blade can lead to poor results and in some cases can be dangerous.
  • What materials will you cut? If you need to cut a wide variety of materials, this will affect your choice. If you cut a lot of the same type of material (like melamine), that specialization may also influence your choice.
  • Will it be used exclusively for cross-cutting or only for tearing, is it necessary to get good results with all types of cuts?
  • Do you want to assemble a selection of specialized saws or one saw blade that can do all types of cuts? Are you ready to change the blade every time you switch from one cut to another?

Answering these questions will go a long way in figuring out your best options. Understanding the anatomy of a saw blade can help narrow your search even further.

Many saw blades are designed to provide the best results for a particular cutting operation. You can choose specialized blades for sawing lumber, sawing lumber, cutting plywood and panels, cutting laminate and plastic, cutting melamine, and cutting non-ferrous metals.

Number of teeth

In general, saw blades with more teeth produce a smoother cut, while blades with fewer teeth remove material faster. For example, a 10-inch knife designed for sawing lumber typically has only 24 teeth and is designed to quickly remove material along the entire length of the grain. The saw blade is not designed to produce mirror-smooth cuts, but a good blade will move easily through hard wood and leave a clean cut with minimal gain.

A cross blade, on the other hand, is designed to produce a smooth cut along the entire length of wood without splitting or tearing. This type of blade usually has 60 to 80 teeth, and the more teeth there are, the less tooth needs to be removed. A cross-cut blade makes many more individual cuts as it travels through the workpiece than a break blade and, as a result, requires a slower feed rate. The result is a cleaner cut around the edges and a smoother cut surface. When using a high quality cross blade, the cut surface will appear polished.

The pharynx is the space in front of each tooth for chip removal. In a ripping operation, the feed rate is higher and the chip size is larger, so the esophagus must be deep enough to handle a large amount of material.

Tooth configuration

The tooth the shape of the saw blade and the way the teeth are grouped also affect how the blade cuts. The configuration of the teeth on a saw blade depends a lot on whether the blade will perform best when tearing, cross-cutting, or laminating.

Flat-Top (FT)

Flat-top teeth are used on blades for cutting hard and softwood. Because wood is more likely to chip and splinter when cutting wood, the tear-off knife is designed to remove material quickly and efficiently. The flat-top tooth is the most efficient construction for cutting and punching material from the cut.

Alternate Top Bevel (ATB)

This means that the blade teeth alternate between the right and left bevel. This configuration provides a smoother cut when cutting real wood and plywood. Alternating beveled teeth form a knife-like edge on either side of the blade and provide a cleaner cut than flat-top teeth.

Combination Tooth (Comb)

Combination blades are designed for both cross-cutting and tearing. The teeth are arranged in groups of five – four ATB and one FT – with a large esophagus between the groups.

Triple Chip
The TCG configuration is excellent for cutting hard materials such as laminates, MDF and plastics. The teeth alternate between a flat “raking” tooth and a taller “trapezoid” tooth. The TCG configuration is also used for non-ferrous cutting blades.

Top Sloped Top (Hi-ATB)

The Hi-ATB configuration is used for ultra-thin cross-cutting and for cutting materials coated with melamine which is prone to chipping. A large bevel angle increases the knife-like action at the edge of the blade.


Angle The angle of the hook has an important influence on the performance of the blade. A blade with a large positive angle (say 20 °) will give a very aggressive cut and a high feed rate. A low or negative engagement angle will slow down the feed rate and also inhibit the blade’s tendency to “climb” onto the cutting material. A saw blade on a table saw typically has a large tilt angle where aggressive, fast cuts are usually required. On the other hand, radial handle saws and sliding compound cutting edges require a blade with a very low or negative engagement angle to prevent excessive feed rates, clamping, and the tendency of the blade to “climb” into the material.


Width The width of the “cut” —the cut that the blade cuts through the material — is another important consideration. Many types of blades are available in both full and fine cut. Full kerf blades typically cut a 1/8 “slot and are designed for use on saws with 3 hp (or more) motors.

The potential tradeoff for a thinner slot is the fact that the blade plate is thinner and therefore can be expected to vibrate more than a thicker, stiffer plate. However, advances in blade technology have resulted in thin kerf blades that rival the best commercial grade full kerf saws. Vibration damping systems, such as those used with thin kerf blades, compensate for the slight loss of stability and make thin kerf blades the best choice for saws with less power.

The teeth on most high quality saw blades are thick carbide tips that have been fused (or brazed) to the steel blade of the blade. How long the blade stays sharp, how clean it will cut, and how much re-sharpening it will take depends on the quality of the cutting tips. On some of the best blades, carbide is designed specifically to apply the blade, and a three-metal brazing process is used to attach the carbide knives to the blade plate. This process, in which a layer of copper alloy is sandwiched between layers of a silver alloy, provides additional flexibility and impact resistance. At a minimum, look for a C3 grade carbide-tipped blade that is thick enough to allow re-sharpening.

Putting It All Together

So which blade is right for you? Collect the answers to the questions at the beginning of this article and go to, where you can make your choice of a saw blade by brand, blade type, blade diameter, cutting material and price. If you plan on cutting a variety of materials and would rather not waste time switching from one special blade to another frequently, then the universal saw blade is a good choice.