“That’s not a knife . . .this is a knife,” states Paul Hogan (starring as Crocodile Dundee) as he presents his 10-inch Bowie survival knife to a group of street hoodlums, and “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” as stated by Roy Scheider (starring as Chief Brody) to boat Captain Quint, as Brody backs into the cabin area in a somewhat bewildered manner, are a couple of memorable movie lines that exemplify persons showing up for a job with slightly less than adequate tools for the task.
One situation has a New York gangbanger looking to challenge a seasoned Australian outbacker with a simple six-inch switchblade, with the other having a mish mash crew looking to catch a 25 foot Great White shark while aboard the Orca, a 30 ft. aged wooden trawler.
So, with today’s theme relating to cutting and munching, we’re going to be looking at what type of blades are best suited to cut the various building products we do-it-yourselfers will be encountering over our amateur careers.
First rule of thumb to make note of? If there exists a building product or piece of material that needs cutting, then there also exists a specific cutting blade or wheel for that task. That being said, can some saw blades or knives serve in a multi-purpose role, having the capacity to cut or sever a number of building products other than then the one they’ve been specifically designed for? Absolutely.
A circular saw blade, or hacksaw blade formulated to cut steel, will eventually make its way through a piece of wood, eventually, just like Frank Morris eventually carved his way out of the Alcatraz prison in 1962 using a cafeteria spoon. Had inmate Morris had the luxury of procuring himself a cordless drill, with the appropriate concrete bit, I’m sure he would have jumped on the opportunity to save himself the six months of work. And, this is an important point for do-it-yourselfers to understand — don’t go for the spoon, or otherwise semi-adaptable saw blade or drill bit in the toolbox simply because it could perform the task at hand, although poorly, but save you the 10 minute drive to the local building supply center.
Using an 80 tooth finishing blade to rip lumber (cutting lengthwise), when a 24 tooth blade is the better choice, will actually cost you time. Furthermore, a finishing blade designed for cross cutting, but instead used in a ripping manner, will overheat, most likely warp, and certainly dullen the teeth beyond any further productive use. Then there’s the risk factor of forcing lumber into a finishing blade that was not meant to chew through wood at a rip pace. You know you’re tempting fate when pushing a piece of lumber through your table saw requires the same amount of force used to push an automobile out of the snow. In this scenario, the blade is heating up, and is moments away from swelling or warping slightly. When this happens, the blade jams itself into the plank, either shorting out the table saw, or as in most cases, causes a ‘kick back’, appropriately referred to as such due to the lumber jolting backwards, usually hitting the operator in the groin with a force equal to that of an annoyed Appaloosa.
Essentially, every circular or table saw blade will list the items it’s designed to cut on the blade itself. So, if you’re cutting melamine, or plywood, or ripping lumber, look for a blade that lists exactly the type of cutting you’ll be performing. Looking to cut re-bar, steel bolts, angle iron, or steel lath, then choose the appropriate metal blade. Avoid the grinder type of composite discs to cut steel or concrete. They’re certainly less expensive, but wear down quickly. A proper steel blade, designed for the cutting of steel, concrete, or non-ferrous metals (metals that don’t contain iron, such as copper or aluminum) is your best bet.
As always, wear tight fitting work gloves and eyewear when cutting anything.