As you start in woodworking, you quickly discover that you need to allocate resources to power tool accessories. Drills and routers need bits, while your saws need saw blades. Circular saw blades can be expensive, so many woodworkers want to learn how to sharpen table saw blades.
Is it worth it? How do you extend a saw blade’s lifespan? How do you sharpen a table saw blade?
I have asked these questions, and what I discovered should help you determine if, when, and how to sharpen your table saw blades.
Does the blade just need a good cleaning?
Resins from the lumber, as well as burnt wood dust, will build-up on the saw blade. You should see if it needs cleaning before you think about sharpening (or replacing) it.
How do you know when a table saw blade needs sharpening?
Knowing when it is time to consider sharpening a circular saw blade can save you time and money. Sharpen too soon, and you are damaging a functioning saw blade. Wait too long, and the saw blade could be past the resharpening stage.
Some things you might want to look for:
- Increased strain on the motor
- More chipping or tear out
- Burn marks
- Cuts move off the line
- It takes longer to cut
A dull blade strains the electric motor as well as the blade. You will learn to hear a saw blade or motor work harder by changes in the sounds that they make.
Dull blades also increase the risk of accidents. Having burn marks on your wood isn’t the only thing you should be concerned about when working with a dull blade. A poorly maintained blade can start to bend and twist, increasing the risk of potentially deadly kickback. Therefore, blade maintenance should be a part of your table saw safety routine.
The first indication for most woodworkers will be rougher cuts. If you find that a saw blade is producing more chips or tear out along the cutline, it usually indicates that it is dull.
Another indicator is burn marks on the edges of boards that you cut. It may be time to sharpen the saw blade if it leaves burn marks on the correct cut, feed rate, and material.
You might be surprised to see your table saw blade moving off the cutline. If the fence or miter gauge properly works and this happens, a dull saw blade could be the issue.
I recall once when my table saw appeared to struggle with the wood I was cutting. The feed rate was correct, but it took longer for the saw blade to cut. If you do not hear the strain from a dull saw blade, you might notice the increase in time.
Is it worth sharpening table saw blades?
Honestly, that depends on the interest, money, and time you have. If you are a casual hobbyist or DIYer that buys inexpensive blades, you are better off replacing a dull saw blade.
Busy woodworkers that use their table saws a lot might want to consider sharpening dull blades. With some of the cheaper types of table saw blades, it would be easier to simply buy a new blade. With high-quality blades, though, it could be better to resharpen than replace them.
The price will vary, but things that affect the overall cost include:
- Blade size – Larger blades cost more
- Number of teeth – More teeth equates to more money
- Type of grind – Tooth configuration and gullet design can increase the price
- Alignment – Bent teeth or blades cost more to adjust
- Shoulder or tip damage – Repairs or replacements cost more
Things can add up quickly, so you need to consider the money spent on a new table saw blade compared to the return. The service can vary as well. An experienced professional will return a blade that functions like a new one, while inexperienced workers often return sub-par results.
Is it worth sharpening table saw blades yourself?
Again, it depends. If you lack patience, time, and dedication, I would say that it is not worth it. Sharpening blades is almost a hobby unto itself.
First off, you will have to spend money on the equipment used for blade sharpening. Some of these will not be in a beginner’s woodshed.
You must have the time required to learn how to sharpen saw blades correctly. Watching a video or reading an article will not suffice; learning from someone with experience helps. Even then, it takes practice.
You are going to damage blades while you learn. You can have the right tools and best instruction, but you will mess up blade teeth while learning the craft.
Finally, there is a reason most people do not sharpen saw blades. It is difficult for professionals as well as amateurs alike. Today’s table saw blades use precisely cut hard materials that are difficult to duplicate by hand.
How To Sharpen Table Saw Blades
If you are still determined to learn how to sharpen your table saw blades, there are two methods highlighted below that are worth your time. I feel that both options offer you the ability to achieve good results with a bit of practice.
Table saw jig for blade sharpening
The nice thing about this method is it uses the table saw to drive the grinding wheel. You don’t need a grinder and can avoid having to buy hand tools or expensive blade sharpening tools.
Instructions are available for the jig. It uses runners that sit in the miter gauge grooves to stay aligned. Interchangeable center strips allow you to work on various blade sizes, and an adjustable block lets you line up the teeth for grinding.
The jig allows you to slide the blade back and forth while touching the tooth edge on the grinding wheel for sharpening.
More from John Heisz:
Sharpening saw blades by hand
I find this method to be beginner-friendly. You only need a minimal amount of tools and no experience to sharpen the saw blades by hand. The best part is, you do not have to remove the table saw blade to do it!
Start by cutting a 12-inch piece of scrap wood into a 20-degree wedge. Add double-sided tape to hold a cheap diamond sharpening stick to the wood.
You insert the stick into each gullet on the saw blade, allowing the diamond stick to touch the tooth. Slide the diamond surface back and forth while keeping it perpendicular to the tooth to resharpen the saw blade.
Explained below by John Heisz:
Table saw blade maintenance tips
I believe that cleaning your saw blade regularly extends its service life overall and reduces the sharpening you have to do.
Follow these steps for a quick clean:
- Prepare your cleaning solution – Find a container that can hold the saw blade and is deep enough to submerge it. Mix cleaner as directed (25 – 50-percent cleaner to water is typical).
- Soak blade – Carefully place the blade in solution and let it soak. I let mine soak for up to 10-minutes.
- Scrub with a brush – Break away debris and residue with a soft wire or plastic brush. Concentrate on tooth edges and gullets, but scrub the entire saw blade.
- Rinse with water – You want to remove the cleaning agent completely. Use clean water to do this.
- Dry the saw blade – Water can damage the blade’s materials if left standing on the surface. Use a cloth or paper towel to pat the blade dry.
Everyone Likes A Sharp-Dressed Blade
Resharpening a table saw blade is not a simple task. You need to determine if it is worth the money and time to have someone do it. If you decide to do it yourself, try one or both of the methods above and see which one you like.
Remember to keep things fun, even if that means buying a new table saw blade now and then