Blade Maintenance

Keep them clean and sharp

Saw blades are like automobiles. If you neglect their maintenance, they'll disappoint you. A blade with a lot of pitch, gum, and resin buildup will run hot, cut poorly, and get dull quickly. A dull blade cuts rough and burns wood. Here's how to keep blades performing like new:

Clean often. Remove any brown, gunky buildup on the carbide teeth with a commercial blade cleaner or pitch remover, available from most woodworking supply catalogs and stores. There are many effective cleaners on the market. For a light buildup, simply spray on the cleaner and scrub with a nylon brush. For heavier buildup, soak the blade in the liquid for several minutes, then scrub with a strong nylon or brass brush. After rinsing, dry the blade with a paper towel or hair dryer -a damp blade will rust.

Sharpen promptly. To determine if a blade needs sharpening, look at the cutting edges of the teeth with a 5x magnifying glass or loupe (available for under SIO from Edmund Scientific Co., 609-573-6250). If you see the edges starting to round over (reflected light makes the round-over shine), they need sharpening. Other signs that a blade is dull include poorer performance and higher noise levels. Most blades can l>e resharpened at least several times, depending on the amount of carbide in the tooth. A quality blade can perform well for decades in a small shop.

All the blades we tested can be sharpened by a reputable local sharpening service—there's no need to send a blade back to the manufacturer for sharpening, even though some recommend that you do. (For more on sharpening services, see AW #45.)

Give it a bath. To clean a blade, spray it with (or soak it in) commercial cleaner and scrub with a stiff nylon or brass brush. Then rinse and dry thoroughly. Blade cleaners arc available in a wide variety of formulas.

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