The merits or otherwise of bandsaw blades doesn’t make for a particularly enthralling Blog entry. I can’t anticipate anyone hanging desperately onto the edge of their seat, gripped with nail numbing, teeth grinding, buttock clenching suspense as if it were the climax to ‘Jaws’, but nonetheless, as woodworkers, these humble things are of interest.
For a couple of years I’ve been using M42 blades (from another source) on my Startrite 352E bandsaw with reasonable results. These blades have the merit of being able to tackle the odd embedded nail or to handle larger quantities of materials like ply, without losing their edge, but the ones I had been using were made from cobalt high-speed steel which were so thick that a half-respectable Challenger tank could be made from them.
In itself, this isn’t a problem if the bandsaw is able to tension one. My Startrite, fully cranked up to ‘pinging point’ was just about able to cope with a 19mm blade which after some use, was becoming a little tired, leaving me with the dreaded ‘washboard’ marks on sawn surfaces.
I use my big Startrite for deep sawing, mainly for producing 2 or 3mm thick veneers where the finish straight from the saw blade should be so good that they can be glued to the substrate without further work. In an ideal world, passing the veneers through a drum sander would ensure that they’re of constant, even thickness with a smooth surface each side, but a really good sawn finish is the next best thing. Provided you’re not too parsimonious with the glue, the veneers will go down without too much of a problem.
I decided to replace the ageing M42 with a 4tpi, 19mm Axminster Ground Tooth blade having heard great things about them. Rather than being punched and milled, the teeth on these blades are ground with a diamond wheel, meaning that the tooth profile is far more accurate. They’re then induction hardened and will stay sharp for at least 30% longer than a standard milled tooth blade.
Whereas the Startrite could just about manage the M42, the new 19mm GT blade could be tensioned ‘squeaky tight’ as it’s made from thinner stock material.
Ever the sceptic, I was just the teensiest bit suspicious of the performance claims attributed to these blades but I was more than pleasantly surprised as after around 30 minutes of sawing up some American cherry, the finish still looked like this which is, not to put too fine a point on it, quite good!
Even after another hour or two of concentrated work, the finish from the GT blade had only deteriorated slightly and although there are some more obvious saw marks, it’s still good enough to glue straight onto the substrate.
Are they worth it? The short answer is unquestionably yes! These are seriously good and thoroughly recommended if you’re looking for some new blades for the bandsaw.