Carbide Sawblade Investigation

(Updated 21Aug09: see bottom of article.)

I had a matched set of 10″ circular ATB+R Amana blades which seemed to wear out on me very rapidly compared to the Freud blades which preceeded them. Then, a few weeks later, I had an Amana ripping blade pick up six chipped teeth while passing through (what seemed to be just) a knot in 1″ thick oak.

This made me wonder if the Amana blades had a cheaper carbide in the teeth, so I called up one of the technical guys who will be doing my next set of sharpening after the local guys (A1 Sharpening in Dalton, Ga) TOTALLY botched the last job I sent them.

So here's what I learned:

  • Sharp carbide teeth cutting through appropriately sized/oriented material should not chip when they hit a knot, but you never know what was really in the knot.
  • If the blade was ever impacted, that could set things up for future chipping.
  • All these blade companies get their carbide from Israel and it all seems to perform about the same, except…
  • Freud, which creates their own carbide. Hmmmm.

21Aug09 update:

Spoke with my new buddy Spike who now handles my carbide sharpening. I just received a batch of sharpened blades back that were scary sharp. Ironically, I also ordered a brand new Amana blade through him which was not hardly sharp.

I conduct a five-part test on new and sharpened blades. The new blade barely beat a blade that I was about to put in the “have sharpened” stack, and it was nowhere close to the old blades which Spike had just sharpened for me.

So, I asked Spike if I could have future new blades sharpened before shipping. He said I could get a 50% discount on such sharpening. He also said that blades made by Forrest and Tenyru should not need the additional sharpening. So essentially those blades have a discount built in to their price since they actually come sharp.

Also, for what it's worth, Spike and I talked about the affordability of custom blades. For about $100, I can get exactly what I want in an ATBR blade, even widths to 3/16″ (and beyond?). This represents significant savings to me over the life of the blade. Remember: sharpening costs are based on the number of teeth, not the kerf.