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Most manufacturers clearly mark their thin-kerf blades to distinguish them from their regular line. On these examples from Freud, the difference is spelled out in exact measurements in a small box showing the details.

Benchtop saws, for instance, usually have only a small, direct-drive motor. If you've ever tried to slice through 8/4 oak on one of these saws, you understand why any decrease in resistance would be helpful.

Another advantage of the narrower kerf is less waste. It might not sound like much, but if you're cutting a lot of thin pieces, %"-thick hardwood edging for a plywood cabinet, for example, the savings can really add up.

THE TRADEOFFS. This doesn't mean thin-kerf blades are perfect. There's one main disadvantage — the thin plate (the actual metal disc to which the carbide teeth are attached), A thinner plate is more prone to deflection, the slight bending away from the cut line, than a thicker plate. That's why some woodworkers choose to add a stabilizer, a steel plate that fits on the arbor of the saw, on the outer face of the blade.

Another potential problem with the thin plate is overheating. Obviously, plowing through wood at 3,5005,000 RPM generates a great deal of heat from friction. That's why thin-kerf blades have more expansion slots (those little laser cutouts in the plate). That's also why manufacturers have developed a variety of friction-reducing coatings for their blades.

THE BOTTOM LINE. So, what's the right answer for you? You don't need to rush out and replace all your regular blades. But if your saw is bogging down frequently, a thin-kerf blade may solve the problem. Bi

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Just write down your question and mail it to us: Woodsmith, Q&A, 2200 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa 50312. Or you can email us the question at: [email protected].

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Thin-kerf Blades for the Tfeble Saw

QA friend told me I should be using thin-kerf blades on my table saw. They don't look much different to me. Is there any significant advantage?

John Beckord Janesville, Wisconsin

Alt's true that the difference in the thickness of the teeth between a "normal" table saw blade (V) and a thin-kerf blade (%2*) is only V32". But if you think of it in terms of actual cutting surface, that translates to a 25% reduction. That difference can mean quite a bit in terms of performance on your saw.

POWER UPGRADE. Taking a 25% smaller "bite" out of the wood reduces the strain on your saw's motor. That can be especially helpful on saws that are underpowered.

A thin-kerf blade (left), and a full-kerf blade.

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