tool blade maintenanceCutting tool and blade maintenance is an important aspect of woodworking. Your carbide tipped cutting blades such as router bits, saw blades, and planer knives sharp require constant inspection and cleaning in order for them to last as long as possible. Keeping them clean may be more important than checking to see if they are sharp. Regular cleaning of your blades is the best way to maximize the life of your tools.

What most woodworkers don't realize is that the main reason behind the premature dulling of a blade's cutting edge is not the mechanical wear of the actual cutting action, it is the slow buildup of wood resin deposits on the back of those carbide bits and blades.

Why Your Saw Blade Is Not Cutting

Carbide cutters are usually made from alloys of various hard metals such as tungsten, titanium, vanadium. Most commonly found are carbide materials comprised of titanium carbide and a cobalt binder which range from between 2 to 20 percent composition.

Chelation of the cobalt caused from chemical compounds found in the heartwood of many wood species such as thujaplicins, tropolene sand polyphenolic ligands.  By not removing these resin deposits, the chelation process is free to degrade the metal of your blades. This will dull and round the cutting edges. Left for long periods and chipping of the cutting edge may occur.

The quantity of cobalt or other alloy binder present in finer grained versus coarser grained carbides is also related to the dulling action made by the chemical degradation on the cutter. On smaller finer grained blades, less metal needs to be chelated to produce a dulling effect. Coarser grained carbide cutters actually have a longer use life than the more expensive fine grained blades that are prized for their superior smooth cutting finish.

The problem is made worse when cutting slightly damp wood as this accelerates the chelation process. The extra heat and creation of a tiny electro-chemical reactions while cutting wood with a higher moisture content will add to the chelation. Blades in frequent use, even on wood with low moisture, are subject to greatly advanced deterioration. To maximize carbide-tipped tool life, sharpening is important.

Cleaning Saw Blades

Cleaning of the blade cutting surfaces to remove all wood resin deposits when you are done using the tool is the imperative thing to remember. There are tons of inexpensive and environmentally safe cleaners to choose from for this task. Cleaning the blade also gives you the opportunity to inspect the cutter for any damage or wear and will help you to maintain your tools in best condition.

After you are done working with a tool or bit, put it aside in a designated area. Then at the end of the day take a few extra minutes to clean all the bits that were used.

Yan G.
Author: Yan G.
Professionally trained/educated cabinet and furniture maker, with over 20 years of woodworking business experience.