Expert Answers: Can one table saw blade do it all?

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This article is from Issue 86 of Woodcraft Magazine.

I have been relying on a combination blade to handle all the cutting I do on my table saw—crosscuts and rips in solid wood, plus sawing plywood. Is this a smart strategy, or will I get better results by investing in specialized blades for ripping and cutting plywood and other panel materials?

—Art Baumback, via email

A   Paul Anthony, author of Taunton’s Complete Illustrated Guide to Tablesaws replies:

Yes, a good “combination” or “all-purpose” blade should serve most of your typical table saw chores. However, such blades are inherently designed for compromise. For example, while a top-shelf 40- or 50-tooth combo blade will do a very nice job at crosscutting, it may not cut as cleanly as a 80- or 100-tooth blade specifically designed for the purpose. Likewise, it’ll rip fairly cleanly, but may struggle through thick hardwood, often scorching it in the process. A “ripping” blade with fewer teeth won’t. As for plywood and composition sheet goods, you can expect a bit of tear-out and chipping from a combo blade, whereas a high-ATB blade with steeper cutting angles and perhaps more teeth will cause you less clean-up work.

I’m not implying that a combo blade falls short at fine woodworking, because it doesn’t, but “good quality” is the key here. Expect to pay $70 to $110 for a blade that deserves to be the main resident on your table saw. As for supplementing your collection with other appropriate blades, see the onlineEXTRA Choosing the Right Table Saw Blades at woodcraftmagazine.com.

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