clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Tool Lab | Miter Saw Blades

Ask This Old House carpenter Nathan Gilbert discuses the main features of miter saw blades.

Carpenter Nathan Gilbert takes us through the ins and outs of miter saw blades. Nathan tells us all about the different sizes of miter saw blades, explaining the most common (and most accurate) ones. He also explains the other parts that make a miter saw blade, the teeth styles, and which are the best for specific projects.

Miter Saw Blades: An Overview

Most stock blades with new miter saws in the box are general-purpose blades. These blades are fine for cutting a wide variety of materials, but they might not be as accurate or easy to use as a material- or project-specific blade. Having the right blade for a particular saw can significantly impact the quality of the cuts you make and your safety while performing those cuts.

These blades come in different sizes

Miter saws and their blades come in a variety of sizes. On the smaller end of the spectrum, there are 7 ¼-inch blades, and they’re typically used by DIYers who don’t need a large saw or pros for cutting moldings or flooring. On the other end, there are 12-inch blades used for heavy-duty construction or finish work, but these blades will often deflect a bit while cutting denser materials. When it comes to ability and variety of selection, 10-inch blades are usually best.

Parts of a miter saw blade

A miter saw blade might look like one solid piece, but it’s actually made up of several parts:

  • The steel plate: The main body of the saw
  • Laser etches: Small designs cut to reduce noise and vibration
  • Carbide teeth: The sharp teeth that actually contact and cut the wood
  • Gullets: The spaces between the teeth
  • Arbor: The hole in the middle of the blade used to attach the blade to the saw

Types of blade widths

The term “kerf” refers to the width of the cut left behind by the saw, and there are two main sizes. Full kerf saws have carbide teeth that are about ⅛-inch wide, resulting in a ⅛-inch kerf. Due to their wider width, these blades are generally more stable and smooth and defect less during a cut.

For a thinner kerf, some saws have 3/32-inch wide teeth, reducing the amount of wood removed with each cut and creating less resistance while cutting (a benefit for cordless saws), but they can deflect more.

How to Increase the Life of a Blade

Many manufacturers apply a protective coating to the body of the blade. This coating is designed to minimize friction, reducing the amount of heat and wear the blade sees. Also, blades with protective coatings are less likely to develop a buildup of pitch or sap, further reducing the amount of friction.

Uses of Different Types of Blade Teeth

The carbide teeth on miter saw blades are designed and cut in very specific ways. For instance, alternate top bevel (ATB) blades have teeth beveled in opposite directions to one another, resulting in a smooth cut with less deflection across the grain.

High-angle ATB blades have teeth with very steep angles, creating a very fine point that’s ideal for MDF or plywood. Triple chip grind (TCG) blades have three small bevels on each blade, and they’re good for non-ferrous metals and plastic.

The hook or rake angle refers to the pitch of the carbide teeth in relation to the center of the blade. High angles are very aggressive and cut quickly but can result in rougher cuts. Lower and negative angles are less aggressive, and they’re best for slide-style saws.

Investing in Quality Miter Saw Blades

Many manufacturers offer a variety of blades meant for different uses. While it’s more affordable to purchase one blade that can handle all of those tasks, they’re typically not high quality. A quality blade will cost more, but it’s money well spent.

But, as an expensive item, it’s best to take care of those blades. Be sure to clean off any pitch buildup and sharpen the blade when it feels dull or cuts with more resistance than it used to. After all, a clean, sharp blade is a safe and accurate blade.