Table saws provide consistent precision cuts, making them a valuable asset in the woodshop. But if you’re new to this power-tool, they are intimidating. One common concern among new woodworkers is how the blades are threaded.
Table saw blades are reversed threaded if they tilt right. Blades that tilt left are not reversely threaded. There are many types of blades, providing different qualities depending on the job requirements. No matter what blade you use, you must know how to change them safely.
Read on to learn about reverse threading, choosing the right saw blade, and how to change out your blades.
What Does ‘Reverse Threaded’ Mean?
When a tool or part is reversely threaded, the tool’s threads run in the reverse direction of their more common counterpart. For example, since most bolts thread with a right-handed person in mind, they run clockwise.
The term “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” refers to typically threaded bolts. However, a reverse threaded bolt would tighten when turned counter-clockwise.
Circular saws work similarly. Right-handed circular saws are not reverse threaded. However, left-handed circular saws are. Conversely, the blade secures with a bolt of the opposite threading. So a left-handed saw would require a regular threaded bolt. A right-handed circular saw, on the other hand, would require a reverse threaded bolt.
The same is true for table saw blades. When a table saw blade tilts to the left, it will not be reversely threaded. However, when the blade tilts to the right, it will be reversely threaded. You may be wondering why the reverse-threaded blade tilts right rather than left. A right tilted blade sits on the left side of the table, whereas a left tilted blade sits on the right.
Choosing the Right Blade
As you pursue different projects, you will need to learn the appropriate saws for each job. There are four blades you need to know:
- Flat Top Grind (FTG): FTG blades rip through wood quickly by sawing through the grain. FTG blades can chisel through wood due to their rakers. Rakers are blade teeth with square-shaped edges. While they leave behind an unfinished surface, FTG blades are great for cutting out big wood pieces.
- Alternate Top Bevel (ATB): ATB blades are commonly called ‘all-purpose’ blades because of their malleability. They can work at multiple angles since the teeth do not point uniformly in one direction. On the contrary, the blade’s teeth alternate. However, there is a catch: the blade cuts smoothly at steep angles but also dulls quickly.
- Combination (ATBR): This blade combines the features of FTG and ATB blades. ATBR blades bare 50 teeth, with 4 ATB teeth followed by one raker for every five teeth. The rakers rip the wood while the ATB teeth make clean crosscuts. Their multi-feature teeth make for great “all-purpose” blades.
- Triple Chip Grind (TCG): TCG blades handle materials that are too heavy and dense for ATB, ATBR, and even FTG blades. These materials include plastic laminate, brass, and aluminum, to name a few. TCG teeth alternate between rakers and chamfered teeth. The chamfered teeth rough out the cut so the raker can clean it up.
If you haven’t noticed, the teeth of the blade make a huge difference. It is the hook, or rake, of the teeth that define the quality of the blade. A ‘hook’ is the angle of the teeth concerning the center of the blade.
Higher angles require less pressure to feed the wood piece. Usually, all-purpose blades, like ATB and ATBR, sport a hook between 15° or 20°. Some blades feature a zero or negative degree rake for preventing self-feeding.
As you decide which blade is best to use, consider the requirements of the task. Are you planning to make a rough cut to be detailed later? Or do you need to make a subtle, precision-cut? The materials you use will also determine the blade you choose.
FTG blades are best for ripping since they can quickly cut through hardwoods but do not leave a polished finish. ATB blades are suited for crosscutting since they prevent exit tear-out when cutting against the grain.
Thin materials, like plywood, are best-taken care of by ATB blades. Like particleboard, denser materials can also be cut with ATB blades but are hard on the teeth. High-density materials, like plastic-laminate, should be handled by TCG blades.
How to Change Your Table Saw Blade
You cannot reap the benefits of your table saw without understanding how to change the blades correctly. Always become familiar with your tool and refer to the manual before use.
To prepare, follow these steps:
- Like any power tool, first, make sure that the table saw is unplugged.
- To get access to the blade, you need to remove the throat plate and blade guard. However, these parts vary from saw to saw, so always refer to the instruction manual.
- Raise the blade for optimal access.
- Locate the arbor, which is the shaft of the saw. You will be loosening the arbor nut and washer. Each part should be visible.
- Grab a wrench. Your saw should come with a wrench suited to the arbor nut. If you no longer have that wrench, you can use an adjustable or open-ended one.
Nut Removing Methods
Unlike your preparation, how you remove the arbor nut will depend on your available tools and the make of your saw.
- Two wrench method: The two wrench method is self-explanatory. Use one wrench to secure the arbor and the other to loosen the nut.
- Arbor lock method: This method is more common for smaller, portable table saws, which often come with an arbor lock. The arbor lock is a lever that you can use to secure the arbor, so you are free to loosen the nut with a wrench.
- Blade-lock method: You can buy accessories to secure the blade in place and protect your hand. These blade locks go on the top of your blade before lowering it just above the table. With the blade secure, you can use a wrench to loosen the arbor nut.
- Wrench and woodblock method: If you only have one wrench, you are still in luck. You can keep the blade in place by pressing a block of wood against it. After that, you can loosen the arbor nut with your wrench.
- Wrench and woodblock variation: First, lower the blade and barely expose the teeth above the table-top. Then, place the wrench on the backside of the opening. After that, nudge the block of wood against the blade to free the nut. From there, loosen the nut with your fingers. If you place your index finger at the end of the arbor, it will free your hand to catch the nut.
Change the Blade
After the nut is free, here is what you do to change the blade:
- Remove the washer.
- Take off the old blade.
- Position the new blade, ensuring the teeth are facing you.
- Replace the washer and nut.
- Secure the nut the same way you loosened it, only in reverse.
In short, table saw blades can be reversely threaded. The tilt of the blade determines the threading. Additionally, you should be familiar with specific blades. FTG blades are great for ripping materials.
On the other hand, ATB and ATBR blades are ‘all-purpose’ and make strong crosscuts. Refer to TCG blades for high-density materials. Lastly, once you choose your blade, safely install it using the guidelines above.