When you're deciding which saw blades to get for your table saw, you have a choice. You can get one "general purpose" blade that will do a good job in a variety of types of cutting, or you can choose from a wide variety blades designed for high performance in a specific purposes and set out to develop a whole set of highly specialized blades. You could, for example, have a blade for ripping wood, a blade for crosscutting wood, a blade specifically designed for cutting plywood and melamine sheet materials, one for solid surface materials, and so on.
There’s nothing wrong with the specialized blade approach – it’s one way to ensure that you are using the best possible blade for every job. The drawback is, depending on the work that comes through your shop, you may spend just about as much time changing blades as you do using them. So, what happens if you’re the type who likes to just flip the switch and start cutting? Or, you may be on a budget, and not feeling cashy enough to run out and buy a saw blade for each and every type of cutting that comes along. In either case, a “general purpose” saw blade is probably your best bet. And if you aim for top quality in the blade you choose, you won’t have to sacrifice much of anything (in terms of cut quality) in the process.
That’s where Freud’s new Premier Fusion General Purpose Blade comes in. Named one of the “best new tools of 2006” by Popular Woodworking Magazine, it’s got a few things going for it that make it one of the very best all-around blades you can put on your saw. Understanding why, though, takes some knowledge of what makes a given saw blade perfect for one purpose but not so great for another. Before we get into detail on the Premier Fusion Blade, read on for a few saw blade basics.
Many factors make up the vast difference in quality and performance of various saw blades on the market: what the teeth are made of, how well the carbide teeth are attached to the steel blade plate, whether there is any provision for limiting vibration, etc. These basic quality issues are more a matter of manufacturing standards. If a manufacturer makes one good blade, the rest of the blades in the line are likely to be of good quality. Freud's Professional line of saw blades, to use an example, are all manufactured with high quality, application-specific carbide, have vibration dampening reeds to keep the blade true under stress, use a special brazing method designed to keep the teeth securely planted on the blade body, and the list goes on.
How well a blade performs at a specific task, on the other hand, depends on other factors. A blade designed to rip wood needs to move the long, plentiful shavings that ripping generates out of the way in a hurry, but doesn't have take chipping on the edge of the cut into account nearly as much. Consequently, ripping blades have fewer teeth with large chip-handling "gullets" in between in accordance with the waste removal focus. A saw blade designed to cut material that chips easily needs more teeth to make more, smaller sized cuts per inch, and its teeth need to be designed to limit chip-out on the edge of the cut. A top-quality plywood and melamine blade will have many more teeth than a ripping blade, and will usually have a special tooth "grind" (shape) that keeps edge chipping to minimum.
What a general purpose blade does is to combine the qualities of specialized blades into one package. And when well executed, the result is a blade that offers exceptional performance in a couple of areas, and does a pretty respectable job in a few others. Here's what puts the Freud Premier Fusion General Purpose Blade at the top of the heap:
Like many general purpose blades, the Freud Premier Fusion Saw Blade has a "middle of the road" number of teeth. At 40 teeth on a 10" blade, it has enough teeth to crosscut without shredding the edge of a board, but still enough space between them to moving along in a rip cut. But what sets the Freud apart from other general purpose blades are the way its teeth are made. Unlike most GP blades, the Premier Fusion Blade's teeth are a 30 degree "Hi-ATB" grind, or "high-angle alternate top bevel", meaning that the teeth come to a sharp point at the tip, alternating every other tooth from one side of the blade to the other. Along with that, each tooth has a second bevel grind on the side - the same as on their top-performing Ultimate Cut-Off Saw Blade.
What's unusual is that this type of tooth grind is usually only found on blades designed for crosscutting where a glass-smooth cut surface and a chip free cut edge is of special importance. The slicing action at the edge of the cut that the sharp top bevel produces makes the Hi-ATB grind the "tooth of choice" for exceptionally clean crosscuts, but generally, there's a price - and hence the reason that you won't find it on many general purpose blades: The Hi-ATB grind tends to wear slightly faster than other less "extreme" grinds, and can need more frequent sharpening. Putting it on a blade designed for daily use on a variety of materials normally just wouldn't make sense.
Why does Freud break the rule? Do they just not care whether your blade gets dull? No. They counter what might otherwise add up to faster wear with better carbide - namely their trademarked TiCo micro-grain carbide in a special formula designed to stand up to the rigors of general purpose cutting. Coupling the super-durable carbide with other features, like precision blade plate tensioning, a superior anti-friction, anti-buildup coating, and improved vibration dampening material produces a table saw blade that will give you the best of both worlds. With the Freud Premier Fusion General Purpose Blade you'll get exceptional cuts in a variety of materials, and an arbor wrench that stays in the drawer for a long, long time.