In our recent article on trouble shooting wood burn on a table saw, reader and tech/power tool/DIY blogger Jude asked: “So where can you get a blade sharpened? I’m forever burning lumber and think my setup is pretty squeare.”
My first thought was Scott Whiting, who’s an active and respected member of Woodnet. (Here’s Scott Whiting’s blade sharpening rates over at WoodworkersZone) As a Woodnet regular I see him posting a lot and offering great feedback and advice.
My second thought was… well, can you do it yourself?
In this short post I share what I learned on sharpening carbide tipped saw blades yourself and then provide a list of potential saw blade sharpening operations for you to try out.
DIY Carbide Tipped Table Saw Blade Sharpening
My first recommendation on DIY blade sharpening is that you don’t fool with it. For one thing I read that blade sharpening is a trade skill. In addition, carbide tipped blades have complicated and exacting angles that must be perfect for safe operation.
Time and again I read warnings that people NOT try to sharpen their table saw blades on their own. And lots of reminders that you try cleaning your table saw blade first… From what I picked up sharpening yourself is kind of like doing home dentistry. Possible, but not recommended.
For those of you who haven’t already skipped this section to move along to the list of blade sharpeners, here are a few of the tips and pointers I found out there.
1) You’re probably going to be better off “touching up” your blade rather than giving it a full on sharpening. If you’re touching up your blades you should still count on sending them off to the sharpeners periodically. And at the expense of dignity I have to admit that I’m ignorant of whether or not “touching up” and “sharpening” are actually the same thing… My impression is that they are different.
2) You will need a diamond sharpener, because carbide is as hard or harder than any non-diamond sharpeners. My limited understanding is that 320g diamond wheel is a good place to start.
3) Mr Scott Whiting in the Woodnet forum doesn’t recommend against doing it yourself, though in a thread on a $75 sharpening machine he says: “Based on what my learning curve was 19 years ago plan on using up about 10 blades before you get acceptable and maybe 100 before you get good. Having somebody teach you would cut that way down.”
4) So from Whiting you can see that getting a teacher would be a really good idea if you’re serious about sharpening your blades yourself. So would having a good supply of dull, inexpensive carbide tipped blades and lots of spare time.
5) This Harbor Freight 120 Volt Circular Saw Blade Sharpener is what started off that discussion I keep referencing here. This is the tool that Whiting cautions you will need 100 blades to get good at using.
6) A Mr. John Paquay offers this advice in his short article Dealing With ‘Dull Carbide’: “Hone the flat, leading faces of the tips, taking care to keep the hone flat against the face of the carbide. Unlike HSS blades, carbide blades cut along the sides the teeth as well as along the tips, so be careful not to round these edges over as you work. Do not attempt to hone the side faces of the carbide tips — those edges will naturally sharpen as the face of the tooth is dressed. When you’ve finished honing the tooth faces with the fine or ultra-fine paddles, you may find it necessary to just touch the top of the tooth with the extra-fine hone. If you choose to do this, again be very careful to just barely polish the carbide. Any more than that and you risk irreparably changing the shape of the tooth. At all times, take care to keep the hone flat against the surface you’re dressing.” His is the only full on “how to” I could find out there. I recommend it for those of you who are going to give sharpening a go.
Also read through Looking for a blade sharpening wheel for little tidbits and pointers.
Again, I don’t recommend that you sharpen blades yourself. If you do, let me know how it goes :) Good luck and be safe!
Carbide Blade Sharpening Services
I’d like to hear from you if there are any sharpening services you’ve used that you liked that aren’t on this list. Also, what have your experiences been with the companies and individuals mentioned below?
1) Find the Locals
Check your yellow pages, check your hardware stores, ask the local cabinet shops. Go local because you will save time and money on shipping. Some hardware stores outsource though, which will add that shipping cost back on. Try to find the guys who actually do the sharpening.
2) Scott Whiting
A regular contributor at WoodNet, Scott Whiting has made a solid name for himself there and looks like the go-to sharpening guy for many of the regulars. He answers sharpening and blade-related questions with accuracy and promptness. Just the thing you want in a sharpener ;) I don’t have direct contact info for him. You may have to actually join the forum and send him a PM (private message, it’s how you send email to forum members).
Update: you can check out Scott Whiting’s blade sharpening rates at WoodworkersZone
3) Forrest Saw Blade Sharpening
Forrest is the preferred sharpener for most woodworkers. Marc the WoodWhisperer uses them, so they have celebrity endorsement too ;) They sharpen non-forrest blades of all shapes and sizes, not just table saw blades. See also Forrest Sharpening – Very Satisfied Customer it’s not all roses though… check out the thread.
4) Ridge Carbide Sharpening Services
According to a post in LumberJocks, the owner of Ridge Carbide recently contributed to an article on blade sharpening in Woodworkers Journal (WJ got 9th in our recent woodworking mag review) I think that’s a good sign! I saw a number of positive remarks about Ridge Carbide.
5) Dynamic Saw Blade Sharpening Services
A lesser-mentioned but still prevalent sharpener, you should consider Dynamic Saw when you’re considering your sharpening options.
More Sharpening Resources:
Blade and Bit Resharpening
Saw Blade Sharpening
Mr. John Paquay’s Dealing With ‘Dull Carbide’
Tools, Sharpening and Power Machinery
Sharpening Table Saw blades
Sharpening Saw Blades
sharpening carbide blades
Forrest Sharpening – Very Satisfied Customer
http://www.burnstools.com and http://www.saw-sharpening.com are one-in-the-same and offer high end sharpening.
Some more really good info about blades and sharpening service here:
Thanks for your comment Jack! Are you affiliated with this company? If so, would you be willing to comment on the DIY sharpening info I provided?
I use a guy in Grapeland, Texas by the name of Mike Barnfield from JMB Saw.They are extremely good. I’m a professional woodworker so I have shopped around alot and have found that he is by far the best I’ve ever seen. A typical table saw blade sharpening will last about a month with me using it everyday. I cut alot of bd. ft. of lumber being a cabinet builder. We also use a Hitachi 10″ SCMiter daily and the blades usually last about 24 working days or so before they start to fuzz a board. I’m not saying that all blades will be this way. It depends on the quality of your blade or blank. He also custom builds blades and repairs carbide teeth by replacing them. He has built me a custom blade for my Hitachi SC Miter and I love it.
I donate my used blades to my local Habitat ReStore, where I volunteer weekly. The old blades still have a useful life in cutting “questionable” wood that might contain nails, and tradesmen snap them up for use on the job site and storing in their pick-ups. Plus Habitat gets a little more money to support home-building in my city.
Wow, thanks for the very thorough explanation!
This web thing is pretty cool, it might just catch on…
Geeze I wish I would have found this info before I went and bought the sharpening tool shown at the Harbor Fright site. I couldn’t resist the $60 price tag. Like most everything you buy at Harbor, the instructions leave a lot to be desired. Especially if it’s been translated from Chinese to English and back again. There are no pictures to show an actual set-up, just verbal instructions. Which are lousy to say the least. Construction is fairly good though. There is no paperwork included to give you any idea of the angles needed to resharpen typical table saw or circular saw blades so you wind up like me Googling search strings to find typical numbers. Unless you’ve kept the original papaerwork that came with your blades or know where to find the manufactrers info you’re stuck. I haven’t tried anything with it yet so once I get brave and try a blade or two, I’ll come back and do a better review.
I to could not resist the desire to give this harbor freight tool a try. In doing framing work, I go through many blades in the old circ.
After reading a variety of posts on how to sharpen carbide, it does not seem that hard if you take your time and keep things straight.
I have a big collection of old blades to practice on and will post a reply after trying to prefect my sharpening skills.
Wish me luck.
I use Rich’s Sharpening Service in Snohomish, WA. Just north of Seattle. He has been sharpening my blades since 1995 and I have never had a problem. He also does my router bits and planer knives. His web site is http://mysite.verizon.net/res0ayxf/richs/
As for the Harbour freight tool, good luck getting it back to factory. They just are not accurate enough and without a dial indicator and the blade properly fixed you will never be able to get the tooth height back within tolerance +/- .002″. You can’t just sharpen the face and quality diamond wheels run well over $100 ea.
That is quite a wealth of information on blade sharpening. I have actually always just replaced my circular saw (and other) blades when they got dull, but plan to try sharpening them in the future. Thanks!