Review By Dean Bielanowski  Infinity Website - http://www.infinitytools.com


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nfinity "Nickel Armor" Combo Max
Circular Saw Blade & Stabilizers

Review

By Dean Bielanowski

A table saw will only cut as well as the blade that is mounted on it. You can have the best table saw in the world, but if you have a blunt or poor quality blade on it, your results are going to be less than satisfactory. It is the blade that is doing most of the work when you make a cut, backed up by the motor that spins it.

There are many types of circular saw blades made for table saws, and each type is usually built for a specific purpose, i.e. rip cutting, cross cutting, cutting metal or composite materials etc. Then you also have the combo blades that are designed to work for both rip and crosscutting task.

While using a blade specific to the cutting task will most often give you the best result, changing blades for every other cut is time consuming and not overly practical for most. Hence, the "combination blades" come into play. Combo blade design has improved greatly in recent years and you can now get very clean rip and crosscuts in many types of material with the single combination blade, saving you having the hassles and wasted time of switching blades on a regular basis.

Today we are taking a look at Infinity Tool's 10" Combo Max circular saw blade.

Combo Max blade
Infinity Tools are a blade manufacturer in the USA who also produce and retail other types of cutting tools which are made in other parts of the world, specifically router bits, but more recently they have moved into the saw blade, dado set, and shaper cutter market. Their Combo Max blade is made in the same Italian factory as the company's "Dadonator" stacked dado set which received accolades on this site previously. We have also reviewed some of Infinity's router bits on this site previously (check the Tool Reviews section) and they have come up trumps in virtually all areas and performed very well, so we have somewhat high expectations for the Combo Max.

We are looking at the Combo Max 10" circular saw blade (model #010-050) and the Infinity 5" saw blade stabilizers (model #SBS-005). Both items come with a 5/8" arbor, so your saw will have to have the same diameter arbor shaft to use these items. A standard kerf (.125") and narrow kerf (.097") blade are available. We are reviewing the standard kerf version.

The Combo Max blades feature 50 tungsten carbide teeth set in 12 groups (5 teeth per group). The carbide is C4 micro-grain, the same they use in their router cutters. I was curious as to how the 50 tooth configuration would perform, particularly with rip cuts, as many rip cutting specialty blades only have about 24 teeth (on average). I currently use a 40 tooth CMT combo blade and that works pretty well for both rip and crosscutting, so on first thought, you might think the extra 10 teeth would not be beneficial for rip cutting. Conversely, fine cross-cutting blades usually have 60 or more teeth and give a better finish and less tearout when crosscutting wood (against the grain). So I am expecting the extra 10 teeth on the Combo Max to give me a better finish for crosscuts compared to my 40 tooth CMT blade... I will reveal the results later.

The saw blade features Infinity's exclusive Nickel coating, termed by Infinity as "Nickel Armor" coating, and is designed to prevent rust formation and eliminate pitch and resin buildup, hence reducing blade friction (heat) and extending the life of the blade, as well as ensuring a sharper cutting edge each time you run up the saw. The company claims it has all the benefits of Teflon and there is every indication to believe so. This is a welcome addition to a saw blade as my CMT has a growing surface rust problem, caused somewhat by the humid environment I live in, so anything that will help reduce the problem is going to be a plus.

Blade expansion slots can be seen milled around the outside area of the blade. When the blade heats up, the metal has a tendency to expand. Without expansion slots, the movement of the blade under heat can warp and damage it. You will find that most circular saw blades available now feature heat expansion slots.

The Combo Max features a 15-degree Alternate Top Bevel (ATB) grind set with a chamfered raker tooth thrown into the mix. The ATB design allows the blade to slice through material, rather than "punch" its way through. This ultimately results in cleaner cuts with less edge chipout or damage. The raker teeth come into play when cutting melamine, veneers or veneered sheets by helping reduce chipping and tearing of veneered layers.

The Combo Max features a 12 degree positive hook tooth angle. A positive hook angle is common on general saw blades. The hook angle will help move the material through the blade and has the slight effect of drawing the material into it. The effect is not really noticeable unless you immediately make a cut with a dado blade with a negative hook angle seconds after. Regardless, the degree of this drawing effect is extremely minimal and not overly noticeable during normal operation. You will still have full control over the material being cut, assuming you have proper technique and work safely of course.

The Combo Max actually has a thicker blade 'body' than my CMT blade, and hence is a little heavier and more resistant to deflection during a cut. I like the solid feel of this blade. The blade's body visually looks like it supports the teeth much better than the CMT whose teeth extend further laterally from its thinner blade body. In all likelihood, you will probably not even need a blade stabilizer with the Combo Max to prevent blade deflection during the cut. I had no visible evidence of deflection during any of the cuts during my test period of the Combo Max, and there was virtually no sign of blade vibration, even when cutting at full depth.

Saw Blade Stabilizers
The Infinity saw blade stabilizers are essentially two flat, machined metal discs of .125" in thickness with a 5/8" arbor bore. They are available in both 3" and 5" diameters. If you are having problems with your current blade deflecting or vibrating during a cut, and you can tell by the saw blade marks on the edge of your cut - slight ridges at fairly regular intervals - you will find that adding blade stabilizers will greatly improve the quality of cut by helping to remedy the causative factors at play. Note, however, using blade stabilizers will both reduce the maximum depth of cut that can be achieved with your blade and will offset your blade by .125" from it's "0" position, meaning you have to compensate when using your fence measure as a guide, unless of course you had stabilizers on the saw when you first set it and the fence measure tape up. Also note that your saw splitter may also no longer be in line with the blade kerf when using the stabilizers because of the offset effect. We use the Microjig drop-in splitter which is easily adaptable to such circumstances.

I used the stabilizers in conjunction with the Combo Max blade, and to be honest, I couldn't really notice any difference in cut quality and vibration during a cut, a testament to the build strength and rigidity of the Combo Max blade. I then used them in conjunction with my CMT blade, and found a fair improvement in cut quality, particularly when slicing hardwoods at the maximum depth possible with the stabilizers in use. So, I would say that the stabilizers are quite effective if you have a sub-par quality blade to begin with, or you are cutting hardwoods at deeper depths. I'd imagine they would perform even better with thin kerf blades too. For under US$25 they offer good results for your money... plus, they will never wear out or need to be replaced!

Wood Slicing
During our test period of the Combo Max 10" blade, we sliced a lot of different types of wood and composites. We didn't test the blade on plastics or metal however. We cut everything from soft pine to hard oak and jarrah, melamine sheets (chipboard core), plywood and MDF, both ripping and crosscutting.

The Combo Max produced very clean cuts in just about every application. On rip cuts it didn't seem much harder to feed material into the blade than my 40 tooth CMT. On most materials the quality of the rip cut was similar when the material thickness did not exceed 1" thick. On melamine, we noticed a good improvement on edge splintering when using the Combo Max over the CMT, perhaps due to the chamfered raker teeth and solid blade body keeping the teeth cutting perfectly in line. There was also a noticeable difference in vibration and cut quality between the CMT and Combo Max when ripping hardwood more than 2" thick. We had to add the stabilizers to the CMT blade to get it to perform on par with the Combo Max in these instances. For general ripping, I'd still prefer a dedicated ripping blade, mostly for quicker ripping, but surprisingly, the Combo Max produces a cut quality that comes very close to my dedicated ripping blade, and the finish is certainly nothing to frown at, and is glue line quality in most materials.

When it comes to cross-cutting, the Combo Max performs admirably. The teeth on the blade are extremely sharp out of the box and the blade cuts just about everything like a knife through soft butter. Even after our four week testing period, the teeth still have that new, sharp feeling as you rub your finger over the bevel (be careful, and turn the saw off at the power source first if you do this). Pitch and resin buildup was virtually non-existent, which will certainly save time cleaning blades, although slight buildup was evident when we cut a lot of resinous pine, but perhaps only 1/4 of the buildup that I get on my other blades after that much cutting.

The extra 10 teeth on the Combo Max ensured chip and tearout-free crosscutting in virtually all material we cut. You would expect this of a new, sharp quality blade, for the first month or so anyway, so time will tell if this still remains to be true in a couple of months time (I'll have to update this in two months with the outcome). End grain was cut cleanly and without ripping or tearing the fibers. We edge trimmed a lot of panel glue ups with alternating end-grain and results were quite eye opening.

There is certainly no question about the quality, sharpness and rigidity of the Combo Max blade. I have always been a CMT blade fan, and that company do make good quality saw blades, however, the Infinity is a fair margin better in my opinion, at least the standard kerf version. I did notice the saw was perhaps 10% or so noisier with the Combo Max blade on, perhaps because of its extra weight and blade design, but that 10% is worth everything against the other advantages and results this blade delivered.

I can now happily say that the Infinity saw blades are as good as their router bits, if not better. Priced at US$66.90 (June 05), the Combo-Max is not the cheapest blade around, but it's also not the most expensive. I'd be very happy to pay the price for the added benefits and features this blade offers. This is the blade I will be reaching for next time the combo type needs to go on the saw...

Well done Infinity. You have created an excellent combination blade at a reasonable price. The company also manufactures and retails rip and crosscut blades, laminate blades, portable circular saw blades and miter saw blades, and I'll be very keen to try those out also in the near future.

Infinity USA Website - www.infinitytools.com

In Australia:

www.northwoodtools.com.au

 

Infinity Saw Blade Photos
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The Infinity Combo Max blade...


The blade stabilizers ensure the best possible cut result and minimize deflection.


Notice how much extra support the blade has with the stabilizer fitted, over and above what the normal fasteners offer.


Note the ATB tooth configuration... These teeth are ultra sharp out of the box. Also note the lack of resin buildup on this blade after moderate-heavy use thanks to the Nickel Armor coating.


All good blades have expansion slots. The Combo Max features 10 of them.


The chamfered raker tooth goes a long way to improving cut quality on laminated sheets.


Like a hot knife through butter! The Infinity blade definitely cut better than my standard CMT blades.


Crosscuts on pine produced a fine finish... certainly glue-line standard.


Here's a rip cut on softwood and a crosscut trim on some joined hardwood pieces. Both excellent cut finishes.


I've brightened this image slightly to highlight the melamine edge to show virtually no chipping when cut with the Infinity Combo Max blade.

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