See Where Saw Blades Come From

| 7/19/2012 2:40:00 PM

Tags: blade, sawblade, carbide, Irwin, Steve Maxwell,

 bladecutcloseThe ability to cut wood quickly and accurately is a fundamental homestead skill. And while it’s obvious that your choice of circular saw blades is important for your success putting up new buildings, renovating old ones, and creating your own furniture, what you might not realize is just how much saw blades have improved over the years. The best are better than ever, and cheaper than ever, too.  This blog is an insider’s look at my tour of what may be the world’s most advanced saw blade manufacturing facility.  It’s one specific place where some pretty impressive saw blade quality comes from. 

When I began homesteading my Manitoulin Island property in 1985, the circular saw blades available for my tablesaw and hand-held circular saws were coarse, primitive and expensive compared to the best of what’s available now. Performance improvements have come mostly from refinements in carbide technology, and while today’s best blades deliver an amazing combination of smooth results and rapid cuts, visually similar carbide blades can deliver very different levels of performance. That’s why it pays to know what you’re looking for. 


Carbide is the name for a hard, long-wearing alloy that forms the cutting teeth of today’s best circular saw blades. Carbide cutters are brazed around the perimeter of a steel blade body before being ground and polished to a keen edge.  While this design approach is universal these days,  the way results happen varies quite a bit from plant to plant. 


 bladegondolasThis past May I traveled to Italy to get a sense of the craftsmanship there. I visited small woodshops, a family-owned workshop where they’ve been building wooden boats by hand since the mid-1850s, as well as cottage industries making glass and lace items. I was surprised to see how so much of what would be considered quaint but impractical here in North America, is a vibrant, thriving industry in Italy.  As a guy who’s always been drawn to beauty and craftsmanship – however impractical it might be to achieve – it’s empowering to see that there are other people in this world who hold the same values.  

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