Blades For Trades

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Updated: November 5, 2019

Saws are a cut above any other tool when it comes to ripping through almost any material. Of course the type of cutting blade you use depends on what you’re packing, the material you’re wanting to attack and what type of cut you need.

You wanna cut timber, ply, plasterboard, bricks, concrete, plastics, synthetics, nails, aluminium, corrugated iron, steel or even a tree? The humble saw – in its many modern forms – is the key. Of course, just as there are a variety of saw devices and blades out there, there are a diverse range of different cuts you can make with them. You might want a fine, smooth slice, or a quicker, ripping chop. You might want to cut a corner, a groove, a perfectly straight line, or an odd shape. You may need a deep cut, or you might need to get into a hard-to-reach, tight space. Over the years the simple saw has developed into a hybrid of different models each with their own skill set to accommodate any situation.

The More Saws The Merrier

Variety is the slice of life when it comes to saws. Not wanting to bore you with a history lesson but us homo sapiens have been using the ol’ friction cutting technique for many, many centuries. From prehistoric Neanderthals over half a million years ago to ancient Indigenous peoples, the Egyptians and medieval times, the saw has been used and progressed along with mankind.

We now have a myriad of manual, handheld, electric and battery powered versions of this fundamental tool.

  • Basic Handsaw – the most iconic and reliable of all wood saws. Although it requires some manual labour, it’s still and old favourite.
  • Hack Saw – this type of handsaw features a fine-toothed blade tensioned in a C-frame and is commonly used for cutting metals an plastics.
  • Jigsaw – you can get jiggy with this little powered gun. Point it down and custom carve any shape out of timber slats and sheets of plywood. She can be pretty temperamental though and requires a sharp eye and steady hand.
  • Reciprocating Saw – commonly used for demolition, you can bully your way into all sorts of spaces with this electric or cordless battle sword.
  • Circular Saw – this is the most popular weapon of choice among tradies. Their spinning blade can chew through almost anything. Despite their weight and extreme power, they are very versatile and come in many different varieties.
  • Table Saw – basically an upside-down circular saw set in a set bench frame. Table saws are great for carpenters making exact cuts, but they ain’t so easy to carry around.
  • Band Saw – a jigsaw and table saw hybrid machine, this beast is even more powerful and able to cut more than just wood, they are also ideal for cutting thick, medium and thin-gauge metal.

These are just some of the basics, not to mention rip saws, bow saws, back saws, swing saws and everyone’s favourite, chainsaws. And of course each breed of saw has hundreds of different types within its own strain. But among this sea of saws, the most important factors of any and all of them is its key component – the blade.

Blades Of Glory

Different shaped blades made from different materials with different densities can do all sorts of different things.

The bite of the blade comes down to the teeth. From the fleam and rake angles to the arrangement and frequency, it’s the fangs that create the chomp.

High-speed steel (HSS) is the common-denominator and is the usual base material of most blades. Brass, iron, zinc and copper elements are sometimes incorporated for different needs. There are acrylic blades and some models have special coatings overlaid, but one of the biggest innovations was the introduction of Tungsten carbide. This revolutionary material is stronger, longer lasting and more durable than HSS. Arguably, the only thing to top it is the diamond blade.

Diamond In The Rough

Firstly, there’s no point in trying to shave the diamonds off your saw blades and sell the segments to your local jeweller. The diamonds used on saw blades are synthetically manufactured. Besides costs and availability, manmade diamonds are preferred over natural diamonds because key characteristics like crystal shape, size, and strength can be closely controlled through the manufacturing process, which is essential in allowing for accurate prediction of cutting speed, consistency and blade life.

Diamond blades don’t actually cut, instead they grind material through friction. Ingeniously the diamond fragments wear away what they’re rubbing against until they themselves break down – and this is where the clever part comes in – thus revealing a new layer of diamond crystals ready to continue tearing through whatever stands in the way. It’s a bit like a shark constantly losing its teeth to reveal sharp, new ones.

There’s a treasure trove of diamond blades out there designed for specific uses including cutting marble, granite, concrete, asphalt, masonry, steel, PVC, wood, aluminium… hell, you can even cut real diamonds with them!

As with all tools, it’s about selecting the right one for the job at hand.

But just remember saw blades can cut through anything, including your hand, so stay safe while using them.