Table saws are the beating heart of many woodshops. But if you’re not using the right blade, you’re not going to get the best results.
Have you been dealing with lots of burnt wood and tearout? Your blade choice might be the culprit.
Some of it’s pretty self explanatory.
A ripping blade is meant for ripping (cutting a board lengthwise with the grain). A crosscut blade is for crosscuts (cutting a board across its width across the grain).
But newer woodworkers might wonder, what blades do you actually need? And more importantly, which ones should you get first?
Today, I’m telling you the first 3 (or 4) table saw blades you should buy — in order — and why you need them.
Whether you’re building fine hardwood furniture or banging together plywood cabinets, you’ll find the best blades for the job below.
A NOTE ON QUALITY TABLE SAW BLADES
Before we talk about the types of blades to buy, we need to talk about quality.
It’s worth your time and money to invest in high quality table saw blades.
Like many consumables, cheap blades are only cheap up front. In the long run, they end up costing you more (here’s why).
Good blades resist heat better, stay sharp longer, and can be resharpened multiple times.
Plus, they just work better. Which means you’ll have a better time in the shop.
We carry a collection of high quality table saw blades from CMT Orange Tools. They’re the blades I use, and what I recommend for new and experienced woodworkers.
FULL KERF VS THIN KERF TABLE SAW BLADES
Should you buy full or thin kerf blades? For the most part, it depends on your saw.
Full kerf blades are usually around ⅛” thick, while thin kerf blades are around 3/32”.
On lower power table saws (1.5 hp and below), you should stick to thin kerf blades.
They’ll allow you to get through cuts more easily. With less power, full kerf blades can start to bog down.
On higher power table saws, you can get away with using both — though it’s best to mostly use full kerf blades.
But if you’re working with exotic woods, removing a box lid, or working on a grain wrap, thin kerf blades are great for removing as little material as possible.
YOUR FIRST THREE TABLE SAW BLADES
#1: GENERAL PURPOSE AND COMBINATION BLADES
If you can only get one blade, choose a general purpose or combination blade.
These are the switch hitters of table saw blades — and can be used for both ripping and crosscuts. I think of them as my "all around blades" for projects that don’t need to be absolutely perfect.
They won’t cut as clean as a dedicated rip or crosscut blade, but are perfect for breaking bigger boards into smaller pieces and anytime you’re doing non-repetitive cuts.
General purpose blades hover around 40 teeth, typically have ATB (alternate tooth bevel) teeth, and smaller gullets.
Combination blades hover around 50 teeth, have alternating ATB and FTG (flat tooth grind) or TCG (triple chip grind) teeth, with medium sized gullets.
So how do you choose between one or the other? It depends on the type of woodworking you do.
General purpose blades are best for plywood and boards under 1 ¼” thick.
They’re my go-to blade for making jigs, sleds, and shop furniture.
And if you’re hammering out a project and switching between rips and crosscuts, a general purpose blade is perfect for thinner hard and softwoods.
Combo blades shine when you’re working with thicker lumber — anything over 1 ¼”.
If you’re breaking a thick hardwood board into components for a project, a combination blade lets you bounce between rips and crosscuts with pretty good results.
However, I generally don’t like to use my combo blades on plywood as it can cause more tearout.
Bottom line: If you work with plywood or lumber under 1 ¼” thick, get a general purpose blade. If you work with thicker lumber, get a combo blade.
You can of course get both. But if you have to choose one, just consider the type of woodworking that interests you.
If you need some blades, here's a few we carry:
#2: RIPPING BLADES
I’ll just go out and say it: You need a ripping blade.
Even though I’d get a general purpose or combo blade first, a dedicated ripping blade is just hardly a runner up.
Ripping involves cutting through the length of a board with the long grain — and that means really long cuts.
There’s a lot of potential for heat build up. And if the cut gets too hot, you end up with some serious burning on your workpiece (as in charred black maple that smells like smores).
Also, that heat dulls the teeth of the saw blade. Which leads to more difficult cuts, which leads to more heat… it’s a downward spiral.
Ripping blades hover around 24 teeth, often have ATB and FTG teeth, and have massive gullets.
Fewer teeth lets a ripping blade cut faster. The more quickly you can move through a cut, the less heat can build up.
Plus, the big gullets carry air into the cut and sawdust out, helping cool it down.
In terms of linear feet, ripping is likely most of what you do at the table saw. I cannot emphasize the importance of a good ripping blade.
The first time you use one, you’ll be baffled at how much easier your rip cuts are.
You have a better chance of getting a glue ready finish right off the saw. And it helps increase the lifespan of your other blades by saving them from these long cuts.
Here's a couple options we carry:
But ripping blades are only good for rip cuts. Try to use one to cut a board across the grain and you’ll get aggressive tearout.
That’s where crosscut blades come in.
#3: CROSSCUT BLADES
When you want a super clean cut on end grain edges, a crosscut blade is the way to go.
Crosscut blades often have anywhere from 60-80 teeth, a Hi-ATB grind, and very small gullets.
Tearout is the scourge of crosscuts, making it hard to get ultra crisp end grain edges.
But the high number of teeth on crosscut blades severs wood fibers cleanly — and potentially with no tearout at all.
When I’m cutting exposed joinery or need absolute perfection, I use my crosscut blade.
They’re also great for clean cuts in tearout prone materials like plywood.
You can certainly get by without one. But a good crosscut blade makes it a lot easier to get top notch results.
Check out our collection of crosscut blades below:
3 BLADES TO GET YOU STARTED
With the table saw blades listed above, you’ll be well equipped to get excellent cuts in any material.
From there, you can add specialty blades as you develop your skills. A good dado stack is a great addition to your blade arsenal as well.
Want to learn more? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Table Saw Blades for a better understanding of saw blade intricacies and recommendations.