Professionals and Amateurs Together

Combination Tablesaw Blade


Can a combination blade on your tablesaw really do it all or is it worth having rip and crosscut blades? What about for composites and laminated panels? — Greg Benulis


Chris Kovacs replies: A combination blade is certainly acceptable for nearly all tablesaw applications. It is however, worth buying a quality rip saw blade if you will occasionally be doing a lot of ripping and any cross-cutting can be done on a separate chop saw. It takes much less effort to rip stock through a saw that has a rip blade than one with a combination blade. The large gullets of a rip blade provide plenty of clearance for the large shavings made during a ripping cut.

When cross-cutting, the shavings are mostly dust and more teeth with smaller gullets yield a smoother surface. Also, a dedicated rip blade has teeth that are ground for ripping operations as opposed to cross-cutting where the teeth need to be ground to slice the wood fibers. A combination blade makes compromises but is well worth having as opposed to constantly swapping blades.

I would also invest in a blade dedicated to cutting plywoods and melamine. These blades typically have teeth ground with alternating bevels and are designed to slice through veneers without tearing the thin outer layer and also do a good job on laminates and melamine coated particle board.

The ideal assortment of saw blades would consist of two high quality combination blades, two laminate/plywood blades and one dedicated ripping blade. Expect to pay between $100 and $150 for each blade. This set of blades will last for many years. Mine are nearly ten years old and get sharpened at least twice each year. The reason for having two blades is so that you can still work when one blade is being sharpened or if a blade is damaged by a hidden piece of metal (my saw found a bullet in a board one day that resulted in several teeth being replaced). A high quality set of saw blade will give you the best result and is well worth the investment by making cleaner, chip free cuts every time.

Marty Milkovits replies: A combination blade is the blade to have if you only have one blade. It will do all of the above reasonably well. If you going to be doing a lot of ripping, put a rip blade in. I use Freud’s Glue Line Rip Blade. I use the Forrest Woodworker I & II for cross cutting. You can’t beat the Forrest HI-A/T for composites.

Bob Oswald replies: Being a bit lazy on blade changing, I tend to use a 60 tooth Woodworker II combination for most everything. It does a very nice job on both rip and crosscut in hardwoods producing a polished edge nearly ready to finish. That said however, a 24 tooth rip blade is definitely the right blade, and in my shop is a must, when ripping anything over 3/4˝. A good rip blade will virtually eliminate burning and bogging down the saw. The rip shavings are long and build up in the gullets causing burning, so you need more space between teeth to clear the chips. For plywood, select an 80 tooth plywood blade. I can’t comment on laminates but Freud makes one for that purpose that I’ve heard good reports about.

A word about tightening tablesaw blades. Most people over tighten tablesaw blades. The method used by the masters of this region is to snug the nut down by hand, put the wrench on the nut and let it rest against the table throat. Grasp the blade and pull it firmly tight with one hand. That’s all you need and you’ll also find it a lot easier to get the nut off next time. It is not a two-wrench operation.

Jon Siegel replies: No blade can do it all, and don’t believe such advertising claims. No one likes to change blades, so manufactures make these combination blades which combine the best of both worlds with the worst of both worlds. For the optimum results, use a rip blade for ripping, and a crosscut blade for crosscutting. It’s that simple.

Laminates and composites have their own requirements, and there are many variations in blades for these applications. Fine Woodworking has an excellent article on this subject in the current issue (December 2009, #208).

Tags: Tablesaw, Tools