Review By Dean Bielanowski  Pacific Saw Blades  - http://www.pacificsawblades.com


Pacific Saw Blades

Review
By Dean Bielanowski

 

Pacific Saw Blades is an emerging entity in the woodworking arena, producing a range of sawing blade products, as well as planer knives for the growing woodworking market. The company is not new to manufacture of such products however. They have been producing steel products for over 40 years!

We decided to take a look at several of Pacific's new blade products to see how they rate with other well established brand names currently dominating the market.

The Blades...
For this review, we chose three different types of blades, and those which you might find in use in woodworker's shops for specialized cuts. The three blades we have been using, and featured in this review are as follows:

  • 10" 24 tooth flat top grind ripping blade
  • 10" 50 tooth combination blade
  • 10" 80 tooth (crosscut) miter blade

Each saw blade features common components. To begin with, all blades are marked as "Made in Thailand", however, we are told that the steel used in the blade bodies comes direct from Germany and is of high quality - hardened to 42-HRC. The tungsten carbide used on the blade teeth originates in Luxembourg and is HC-10 graded.

The manufacturer's goal (in their own words) is to "bring the highest quality tools to the woodworking industry at a very reasonable cost." Additionally, they note that they do not produce a "budget" line of saw blades as other manufacturers do, because they wish to produce only top quality blades, so let's find out if they do indeed reach their goal.

10" 24 Tooth Ripping Blade
The first blade we tested is the 24 tooth rip blade. Designed, obviously, to make rip cutting more efficient and use to make rip cuts where the teeth cut parallel with the lumber's grain direction, as opposed to across it, which is a crosscut. Rip cutting is generally easier on the saw and blade as the wood fibers tend to peel away. The blade can afford less teeth as these longer cut fibers often need extra space between the teeth (wider gullets) to clear the larger debris that results in such a cut, and rip cuts are usually further machined for smoothness (often on a jointer) for follow-up joinery, so a perfect cut is not often essential straight off the saw. Gullet depth is also important in rip cuts when moving the material fast through the blade. Deeper gullets provide more space for debris removal.

More teeth on the blade generally means a smoother cut, less teeth a faster cut. Using a dedicated ripping blade for rip cutting makes the cut process faster. The Pacific Saw Blade's 10" rip blade features 24 Tungsten Carbide Teeth (C-3 grade) set at +22 degrees hook. What does this hook angle mean? It means the teeth on the blade are angled forward in the same direction as blade rotation. A high positive hook angle like +22 degrees (as manufactured on this blade) means the blade will cut very aggressively, and allow a fast feed rate; two properties generally desirable when rip cutting. You will find most rip blades will have a high positive tooth hook angle. In our testing, we did indeed find this to be true. The blade cuts very aggressively and the user can feed lumber through the blade quite quickly. But of course, always take precautions and allow the blade to do the work. Don't force a board through excessively fast!

The teeth themselves feature a flat top grind, i.e. the top of the teeth and ground flat. Again, this is a feature of most ripping blades. Because rip cuts generally produce little or no chipping or splintering of the wood as it is cut, rip blades can afford a flat top grind on the teeth. The flat grind rakes cut debris away from the blade teeth more efficiently than beveled teeth can. This is important as rip cuts produce larger debris elements than crosscuts. There is also plenty of carbide material on each tooth, which means the blade should be able to be sharpened many times before it is no longer useable, adding to the value for money factor. Brazing of each tooth seemed to be quite consistent as far as I could tell, another sign of a quality manufactured blade.

The rip blade features a 5/8" arbor, which must match the arbor on your table saw, and a .145" kerf, which is slightly wider than standard. Larger kerfs means more material is wasted during a cut, but wider kerf generally means a wide blade body, which can be essential to a good performing blade. Thin kerf blades with thin bodies can be prone to flex during heavy cutting which can affect cut accuracy. A good test of a blades balance (Pacific Saw Blades are all hand-balanced) is to measure the actual cut kerf against the listed kerf size. If they match, then the blade can be said to run "true" with no wobble that out-of-balance blades can exhibit. Blade wobble during a cut will naturally produce a wider kerf in the cut. On testing a kerf cut with my digital calipers, I found the kerf to be .147" (as close as I could measure with my tools). This is a very minor variation to the listed specs, and it could be said that the blade runs very true indeed. Our cut results showed no noticeable cut defects to the eye, or evidence of any blade wobble (i.e. burning) in both hardwood and softwoods. In fact, in general, performance with many types of woods was great. Four expansion slots milled into the blade body also help keep the blade running true as the blade heats up and wants to expand during repetitive cutting tasks. At the bottom end of these expansion slots, a round copper insert is fitted, supposedly to reduce blade noise. This seems to work well as their is no extra noticeable noise that comes from the spinning blade over and above most other blades I have used on my table saw.

In use, we found the blade to be a snug fit on the table saw arbor (which is a good thing) and cut performance to be up there with some of the better brands on the market like CMT and Freud. After a fair bit of use, there wasn't much noticeable evidence of pitch or debris buildup around the teeth either. I wouldn't rate this particular blade in the same bracket as some of the finer "glue line" rip blades on the market, but it also doesn't cost as much as those either. For US$40, this blade, in my opinion, offers excellent performance for general rip cutting tasks. It slices through most types of woods like a hot knife through butter and would make a great blade for all your general ripping tasks. I feel it offers great value for money. It is much better to use a dedicated ripping blade when you have a lot of lumber to slice up, and well worth the time to swap out your regular combination blade you might have installed in your saw. A nice product offering.

10" 50 Tooth Combination Blade
The combination blade is the blade type I use mostly on my saw, and so do many other woodworkers and hobbyists. Essentially, the combo blade can handle pretty much all sawing tasks relatively well, from ripping to crosscutting and mitering, the combo blade can do it all. However, while it can perform each of these tasks well, it doesn't excel completely in any of them. I.e. the combo blade is always a compromise. I guess it depends on how well-finished you require each cut to be. For general projects not requiring ultra accuracy (say for outdoor or rough lumber projects), the combo blade will be more than adequate. It is a suitable blade for the hobbyist woodworker. Production woodworkers will perhaps use dedicated blades for dedicated jobs for higher cut quality and faster machining. Saying this, I have made many smaller cabinetry projects using a combo blade on the saw only and these have worked out just fine. You just need to ensure the blade teeth are sharp at all times!

The Pacific Saw Blade's 10" combo blades offers 50 TCT teeth arranged in 10 groups of 5 teeth per group. If you look at the pictures of this blade to the right, you will notice the tooth groups, with a wider gullet in the blade between each group. Why? Basically, adding that wider gullet between each group allows the blade to rip cut a little better, and because it is a combo blade, it needs to be manufactured to handle all types of cuts. The higher tooth count of 50 allows it to produce a smooth finish on crosscut and miter cuts too. It's like blending all the features of a 24 tooth rip cut blade and a 60 or 80 tooth crosscut blade into one.

Again, there is plenty of carbide on each tooth to allow for multiple sharpenings, and tooth brazing is consistent. The combo blade features an interest tooth grind sequence. In each 5 tooth group, the first tooth immediately behind the larger gullet features a flat top grind (as seen on the rip blade's teeth). This is to help rake out debris from the larger gullet more efficiently. The next four teeth in the group feature a 15 degree alternative top bevel (ATB) grind. These angled teeth help to slice through lumber rather than punch through it, and help produce a finer finish with less chipout or splintering during crosscuts, particularly with some types of hardwoods.

The blade features a tooth hook angle of +15 degrees. Again, the positive angle allows more aggressive and faster cutting with the combo blade. Blade kerf is a standard 0.131" on this particular blade, making it slightly "thinner" than the rip blade. Noticeably absent on this blade are expansion slots milled in the blade body. While not every combo blade on the market features them, many of the higher end blades do. Now, saying this, during use I didn't really notice much difference in cut quality, even after performing multiple hardwood, deep cuts where the blade body should have warmed up quite a bit. On measuring a kerf cut, I didn't find any noticeable difference between kerf width when blade was warm vs cool. So I'm not sure how useful or necessary the expansion slots are on this particular blade? Perhaps your cutting conditions may vary however. But on the whole, there was a similar difference in kerf width between stated width and measured width in my shop than with the ripping blade above - about 0.003" difference.

In testing we found the quality of cut with the combo blade to be excellent. In most cases, the finished cut required little or no sanding or jointing prior to assembly. Only on some cranky-grained timber did we require a small amount of post-saw cut cleanup. For these types of wood, I would normally switch to a dedicated cross-cut blade however. We also tested the blade on melamine and plywood to see how well it handled the cross-grained plywood pattern and chip-out issue with melamine. The plywood cut fine with clean edges and the melamine edges were mostly clean and smooth with no little or no chipout. Using a zero-clearance insert in the table saw makes a good difference to the issue of chipout with any type of blade. Hardwoods and softwoods were all cut as well as could be expected with a combination blade.

We again had no real issue with "excessive" buildup of resin or debris on or around the saw teeth. Buildup could be considered normal after the large amount of cutting we did testing this blade.

Overall, the blade does the job, and does it well. Combo blades are best suited to those who either do not wish to change blades out of their saw for each different type of cut, or for those who do not wish to purchase 3 or 4 different blades for each specific cutting task. The 50 tooth combo blade retails for US$46.80. A pretty reasonable price for a good quality blade. I'll continue to use it alongside my CMT combination blade when the CMT is out for sharpening. Available with 5/8" arbor.

10" 80 Tooth Miter Blade
The last (but not least) of the three blades we tested is the 80 tooth miter blade. This is a true cross-cutting/miter angle cutting blade. It features 80 TCT teeth for fine and finished results that will require virtually no post-cut finish work before assembly or glue-up. There is again, plenty of carbide on the teeth for re-sharpening. Sharpening cost on this blade will usually be higher than the other two blades featured here as cost is usually assessed on a per-tooth schedule, i.e. each tooth sharpening costs X amount of money. The more teeth, the more expense to have the blade sharpened. But considering that the quality of cross/miter cut you get from an 80 tooth blade over a 40 or 50 tooth combo blade is far superior, you are saving time on post-cut finishing that is likely not necessary when using this blade.

The crosscut blade also features a different tooth hook profile. At -2 degrees hook, the teeth are actually angled back (so to speak) in regard to the cutting rotation of the blade. This means a less aggressive blade that affords more control, and a slower cut/feed speed. This slower feed speed is a good thing with miter or crosscuts however, as the slower rate of cut actually helps to reduce chipout and splintering as the blade slices through the back side of the cut. This hook angle combined with the 80 teeth on the blade will generally provide very clean cuts in your lumber, making it well worthwhile to install this blade on your saw when a quality-critical crosscut or miter cut is required.

The teeth are cut with an alternate to bevel profile at 25 degrees. The sharp angle allows the teeth to slice through hardwoods and softwoods while providing a nice smooth cut edge, even on laminates. Four expansion slots are featured on this blade, and it is hand-balanced for cutting accuracy. The same copper inserts are found at the end of the expansion slots, and noise level of the blade remained low, both under load, and in no-load situations. The standard .131" kerf minimizes material waste while inhibiting blade flex under load.

In use, crosscut and miter cuts in oak, merbau, pine, and exotic woods all worked a treat, with smooth edges and virtually chip and splinter-free edges on all sides. I even tried making a few rip cuts with this blade installed, just to see how those came out, and even though the finish was excellent, it was appreciably slower than using the ripping blade, which is to be expected. But, it did work. When used in conjunction with a good quality miter sled, or miter gauge where wood movement on the gauge/sled is eliminated, the results in miter cuts were as accurate as they could be measured with any of my gear.

This is definitely the blade to have on your saw when a fine cut is required. It is a great blade for thin stock or veneer/laminate trimming too when used in conjunction with a good zero clearance insert and proper hold-downs etc. In heavier woods the results are equally impressive. For the retail price of US$59.60, the blade offers trim workers and fine cabinet makers a value for money alternative that produces results comparable to the top miter/cross-cut blades on the market.

Overall Impressions
You can certainly tell a cheap blade as soon as you take it out of the box and examine it closely. It has inconsistent brazing, poorly machined bodies, very little carbide material on each tool and generally makes too much noise in use. Thankfully, none of the Pacific Saw Blades we tested exhibit any of these properties. On a whole, the blades are of high quality and reasonably priced. I have a blade or two in my shop that i think rates a little higher than these saw blades in terms of cutting power and quality, but their price tags were almost double the comparable Pacific Saw Blade's offerings, so you would expect them to be that little better. But certainly grab a blade from the Pacific range to try yourself if you are interested. And if you experience the same positive results as I did, go grab some more!

As a side note, the company also offers 5% of all profits to the American Red Cross and Disabled Veterans associations, so you not only get great blades for the price, but you are helping support worthy charities and causes too!

Pacific Saw Blades' official website can be found at www.pacificsawblades.com
 

Pacific Blade Photos
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Use without prior written permission prohibited!


The Pacific 24 tooth ripping blade


The 50 tooth combination blade


The 80 tooth miter blade!


Bodies made from Quality German Steel, as the label suggests


The copper insert at the end of an expansion slot


The flat grind on the teeth of the ripping blade


Note the large gullets on preceding each 5-tooth set on the combo blade.


The high angle alternate bevel grind on the miter blade


The ripping blade set up in the saw ready to cut!


Ripping some thin strips of
hardwood - Jarrah


The kerf measured following a rip cut. It is only marginally wider than stated blade specs, meaning the blade is well balanced.


Testing the combination blade in rip cutting operation on softwood.


Not quite glue line quality, but pretty close. No burning either.


The 80 tooth miter blade put to work "crosscutting" some veneered particle board.


Veneer edges are sharp and little evidence of excessive splintering or chipout.


Mitering a trim piece using the 80 tooth blade.

 

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