Installing a low-grade blade or cutter in a top-end machine is a bit like putting diesel in your gas tank. It might get you through the day, but it sure won’t last long or run smoothly.
High-quality cutters are more accurate, accumulate less heat, hold an edge longer, don’t burn or damage wooden parts, cut faster, curb tear-out and reduce downtime. They also deliver more completed parts before losing their edges, so the initially higher cost is almost always absorbed by increased production. The cost-per-part ends up being lower, especially when you factor in lower rejects. The big challenge here is that this industry is constantly updating, and it’s hard to keep up with all the changes. Sometimes, it’s not just about getting the latest news. A woodworker might be looking to improve cut quality, trying to find exactly the right profile, searching for a sharpening service, chasing the best price on carbide inserts, or even looking at new machines or processes that require new tooling.
The following is a round-up of some of the latest innovations, and also a comprehensive recap of resources that may help a shop make the most informed choices.
The next generation Premier Fusion circular sawblade from Freud (freudtools.com) is available in both standard and thin kerf options, and it appeals to woodworkers who are looking for an exceptionally clean cut. Its Fusion tooth design combines a double side grind with a 30-degree Hi-ATB (alternating top bevel). The blade has TiCo carbide teeth and laser-cut anti-vibration slots that dramatically reduce vibration and sideways movement in the cut, and its Perma-Shield non-stick coating reduces blade drag and pitch build-up. There are 8”-34 tooth, 10”-40, 12”-48 and 14”-54 versions in the standard, and 10”-40-tooth in thin-kerf.
Speaking of thin kerfs, Total Saw Solutions (totalsawsolutions.com) in Phillips, Wisc. makes carbide-tipped saw blades with a kerf that’s only 0.01” wide. Originally developed for a NASA program, the blades have stabilizers built in and come in 10” and 12” sizes. Total Saw is a small, family-owned factory that also builds custom blades.
CMT Orange Tools (cmtorangetools.com) has added a 6” diameter dado set to its existing 8” one. The new set is perfect for a typical 10” contractor saw. Both sets offer an anti-kickback design to reduce the possibility of overfeeding that can occur when cutting mass material. There’s a 3/32” chipper that is made especially for undersized plywood, and shim sets included for cuts between 1/4” and 29/32”.
The Qsaw Multi Cut family of blades from Sawblade.com is ideal for casework installers on older jobsites who aren’t quite sure what’s in the studs they’re cutting. The Qsaw is a wood and metal sawblade that works in both cordless and corded saws and handles wood with nails or even channel iron, flat bar, steel studs and threaded rod. It fits all standard 7-1/4″ saws and has a non-stick Dura-Shield coating that protects the blade against heat, gumming and corrosion.
The newest additions to the World’s Best brand from Carbide Processors (carbideprocessors.com) are a 10” 60-tooth crosscut blade and a 15” diameter thin kerf 100-tooth blade. CP carries a vast selection of woodworking tools including saw blades by Popular Tools and router bits from Vortex.
Among the latest additions from Everlast Saw (everlastsaw.com) is a family of industrial grade track saw blades that feature Micro-5 carbide tips. The new blades are compatible with Festool and other track saws, and are ideal for cutting wood, melamine, aluminum, laminates, plastics and solid surface materials.
Leitz Tooling Systems (leitz.org/en-us) is headquartered in Grand Rapids, Mich. and its catalog includes circular saw blades and profiling tools. They include the WhisperCut circular sawblade and Katana blade for CNCs and aggregates, which can also be used in conventional machines.
In addition to a vast offering of corded and cordless tools, Makita USA (makitatools.com) also manufactures the bits and blades they require. One of its more recent additions is a 6-1/2” 60-tooth carbide‑tipped Max Efficiency miter saw blade (B-69842) designed for framing, remodeling, siding, and decking projects.
Among the newer offerings from Oshlun (oshlun.com) is a finishing and framing, super thin kerf ATB blade with C-3 micro-grain tungsten tips. It’s available in 5-1/2” 36-tooth plus 6-1/2”, 7-1/4” and 8-1/4” 40-tooth versions.
Tenryu (tenryu.com) makes over 3,000 types of carbide blades for woodworking, metalworking, plastic cutting and machining other composite materials. The company has recently expanded its Silencer circular saw blade line, which has a new vibration dampening system.
York Saw & Knife (yorksaw.com) is one of the oldest active industrial blade manufacturers in the United States. Founded in 1906, its products today include carbide-tipped saws, wide band saw blades, and numerous other special purpose blades. Probably best known are its Luxite brand circular saw blades that feature an exclusive variable-pitch, variable depth tooth design.
Milwaukee Tool (milwaukeetool.com) has recently upgraded its selection of carbide Sawzall blades and has also expanded its offering of oscillating multi-tool blades. The latter now have carbide teeth and a universal fit Open-Lok Connection for quick blade changes. One of the company’s other innovations that might be of interest to woodworkers is new a folding utility knife (48-22-1505) that has a wire stripper, folding screwdriver, a fold-out 1/4” bit holder with a reversible Phillips No. 2 and slotted 1/4” bit, and tool-free blade changes.
DeWalt (dewalt.com) has introduced several new reciprocating blades over the last year, including the Breakaway version that is essentially two blades in one. Knowing that most of us only use about 1” of the teeth on a standard blade, the company has come up with a blade that can be snapped in two after use to reveal fresh teeth. Think about being on a jobsite where the blade breaks or bends or the teeth are worn, and the replacement is back at the shop. Now, all you need is a pair of pliers to snap off the bad part and re-insert the rest. There’s a 10-piece set (DWABK410SETCS) that has 6” blades that beak down to 4” ones, allowing for about an inch of new teeth. DeWALT has also introduced a new demolition reciprocating blade (DWAR966).
Vortex Tool (vortextool.com) in Schofield, Wisc. offers up-cut, down-cut, compression and profile router bits. The family-owned company manufactures a full range of custom cutting tools and also distributes major cutting tool brands including Bosch, Bimex, Everlast, DML, Forest City Tool, Leuco, Onsrud, Terminus, W.L. Fuller and Wisconsin Knife.
In 2011, Eagle America (eagleamerica.com) was purchased by MLCS Woodworking. The company has introduced a five-piece picture frame and mirror set in either 1/4″ or 1/2″ shanks that are all two flute and carbide tipped, with 3/4″ bearing guides. Also new is a rabbeting collection that comes with 10 bearings that can be changed to create rabbets on the backs of the picture frame moldings (which is usually done before the profile is cut). The rabbet bit has extra thick carbide and can be used to flush trim, too. An Allen key for bearing changes and a bearing depth conversion chart are both included.
Family-owned Whiteside Machine Co. (whitesiderouterbits.com) has been around for half a century and is based near Hickory, N.C. In keeping with the times, Whiteside offers a library of graphic files for its most popular CNC bits, and these can be used with Vectric software (version 8.5 and later) including Aspire and VCarve. The company has a full catalog of both traditional and CNC router bits, including a family of spirals that have both up cut and down cut flutes to provide a smooth cut to both the top and bottom of a cut. The catalog also lists panel and scoring blades, plus specialty blades for laminates and plastics.
In October, Leuco (leuco.com) added new DP (diamond tipped) roughing/finishing end mills to its catalog. These are intended for use on nesting tables in thick panels. They combine the advantages of the high removal rate of a roughing tool with the high cutting quality of a finishing cutter. This saves time and costs compared to the two-step approach.
Wirutex Hi-Tech Tools (wirutex.com) makes a wide range of router bits for CNC machining centers with cutting edges of polycrystalline diamond (DP), tungsten carbide (HW) and solid tungsten carbide (HWM).
ComSurge Tooling (comsurge.com) has a huge range of router bits and also makes industrial quality carbide tipped circular saw blades. The catalog also covers molder/planer knives, insert knives, metric boring bits, drills, carving bits and collets for CNC toolholders.
For woodshops that do lettering, engraving, sign-making, fluting or decorative trimming, Amana Tool has added another ball nose insert to its Tru Point collection. The new RC-1096, intended for CNC use, has a 1/4” radius and a 1/2” diameter cut, and it sits on a 1/4” shank. It’s rated for hardwood, softwood, MDF, plastic and plywood. (Due to its very fine plunge point, the bit is not guaranteed against breakage.) Amana’s ball nose insert family now includes a wide range of sizes including 1/8”, 3/16” and 5/16” radii, all of which can be ordered in either 1/4” or 1/2” shanks.
GDP Industrial Tooling (gdptooling.com) offers tooling for planers, molders, panel saws, tenoners, boring machines, routers, CNC machining centers, edge banders and more/
LMT Onsrud (onsrud.com) in Waukegan, Ill. is a division of LMT Tools in Germany and France. The CNC router bit catalog includes straight flutes, up-cuts, down-cuts, solid carbide and diamond compression, roughing bits, chipbreakers, tapered ball nose, boring, HSS straight and spiral, profile, T-slot, trim and engraving tools.
PrecisionBits.com is a division of Woodshop Supplies that both manufactures and imports router bits. Among several interesting bits is item 33202, a top and bottom bearing compression flush trim bit with a 1/2” shank.
U.S. Router Tools (usroutertools.com) is a broad spectrum reseller that carries a hefty inventory and caters to small and medium sized woodshops.
Have you ever tried to thread wood with a metal tap and die? It’s not pretty, but there is hope. A new family of taps from Infinity Tools in Oldsmar, Fla. (infinitytools.com) are made of high-speed steel and are then chrome plated for durability, lubricity, and corrosion resistance. Unlike metalworking taps that tend to crush a thread into the wood, these new taps cut cleanly and have ideal flute geometry and chip clearance for making defined threads. The taps feed into drilled holes without burning or binding. A woodworker can drill up to 3-1/4” deep while cutting threads almost to the very bottom of a blind hole. And unlike metalworking taps that have a square drive, these have a machined hex shank that won’t slip in the drill chuck. Each tap is laser marked with its thread size and the suggested pilot hole diameter for softwood and plywood. For hardwoods, just drill a pilot hole that is 1/32” larger than that. The taps are available in six Imperial sizes from 1/4”-20 to 9/16”-12, and also in three metric sizes: M6, M8, and M10.
Montana Brand Tools (montanabrandtools.com) is offering a new 25-piece drill and driver set (MB 63127). Called the SXT Deluxe Woodworker’s Set, it includes a couple of self-centering plug cutters (5/16” and 3/8”) that were designed specifically for portable drills, so they don’t wander around. They can also be used in a drill press.
Another question: have you ever spent more time looking for a drill bit than using it? The new KISS drill bit organizer from FastCap (fastcap.com) is a simple plastic bin that can be ordered with or without 82 high-speed steel, split point jobber bits that are color-coded. They run from 1/16″ to 1/2”, in 1/64″ increments.
Also new from Amana Tool (amanatool.com) is an adjustable counterbore (55243) that won’t mar the surface of a cabinet and will drill a pilot hole and tapered counter-bore in one step. This is a carbide-tipped, 82-degree, flush-mount, counter-bore bit that has an adjustable depth stop and a no-thrust ball bearing. The diameter is 9/16″, and it has a 3/8″ diameter shank. The slow spiral, HSS M2 pilot bit is 1/8″, and both the pilot and countersink are replaceable. The tool can be used with Amana’s 55220 plug cutter.
Carter Products Co. (carterproducts.com) offes Accuright brand bandsaw blades, plus turning tools and accessories.
Wisconsin Knife Works (wkwinc.com) was founded in Clinton, Wisc. in 1926 to provide tooling for wood products used in the automotive industry, including woodcutting knives and cutterheads. Today, the company offers finger-joint cutters, planer and jointer knives, and hundreds of router bit styles and sizes in both standard and custom profiles.
Woodworkers who are concerned about environmental issues might enjoy visiting the website of the Italian toolmaker F S Cruing (cruing.com). Since 2011, all of Cruing’s production plants have been powered by solar energy.
W. Moore Profiles (wmooreprofiles.com) offers a large selection of molding, millwork and cabinetry products from knives to router bits, saw blades, rosette cutters and more.
Moldingknives.com is a small family-owned business in Nova Scotia that ships worldwide. The company manufactures planning, shaper and molder knives.
The new Endurance diamond finger-joint cutter from Peak Toolworks (peaktoolworks.com, formerly Nap Gladu) is designed to increase productivity with less maintenance. Its PCD diamond insert knives are designed with adjustable radial, lateral and angular run-out. They can be produced up to 19” in diameter with 16 wings.
Rhode Island-based W.L. Fuller Inc. (wlfuller.com) is a family-owned manufacturer of countersinks, counterbores, plug cutters, taper point drills, brad point drills and step drills.
The Multi-Pro family of tools from Colorado-based Vexor Custom Woodworking Tools offers a woodshop the capability to add additional profiles at a fraction of the cost of dedicated insert tooling. Vexor can custom build any Multi-Pro tool to accommodate any machine. The company also offers custom router bits, shaper cutters, standard tools, and a sharpening service for saw blades and other types of tools.
Weinig USA/Holz-Her has an online store at tooling.weinigusa.com that carries everything from the sawblades to cutterheads, dowel drills and carbide inserts.
Custom tools and sharpening
Connecticut Saw & Tool (ctsaw.com) recently acquired Quality Saw & Knife in West Babylon, N.Y., which has been providing industrial sharpening services and tooling to customers throughout Long Island since 1984. The acquisition complements Connecticut’s expertise in sharpening and tool manufacture for woodshops nationwide that are engaged in architectural millwork, commercial cabinetry, and display and store fixture manufacturing.
Active Tooling (activetooling.com) is based in a suburb of Grand Rapids, Mich. and provides both sharpening and custom tool manufacturing.
Byrd Tool (byrdtool.com) manufactures custom tooling for woodshops, and also offers some proprietary products including the Shelix planer head with a stagger tooth design, so the inserts are set on a shear. Byrd makes insert tooling, corrugated back heads, groover bodies and self-centering sleeves.
Charles G.G. Schmidt & Co. (cggschmidt.net) manufactures wing cutters, shaper knives and corrugated back knives. In addition to profile knife grinding, the company can manufacture tools for most woodworking machines.
Williams & Hussey Machine Co. (williamsnhussey.com) is one of the grand old names in the industry. In addition to its molders, the company also supplies both stock and custom knives. To give some idea of the scope of its offerings, there were more than a hundred new knife profiles in the 2020 catalog.
Western Cutterheads (westerncutterheadsllc.com) in Barlow, Ky. specializes in lathe tooling and tool sharpening.
Woodshops that own a shaper but don’t own a lot of profile knives might be interested in the Cuttershare program (cuttershare.com) from Rangate Inc. in Blaine, Wash. This is a membership organization where annual dues of $35 opens up a wealth of shared tools that can be kept in-house for up to three months. The program also offers the option to purchase shared tools when they become available for sale.
Another innovative program is offered by Dispozablade (dispozablade.com), which provides both industrial and hobby woodworkers with a planer blade and jointer knife system that anyone can change instantly, accurately and economically. The double-edged, disposable blades and jointer knives are designed to work in the original factory-installed cutterhead of almost all planers, jointers and molders found in today’s woodworking shops. There’s an initial investment in the kit, but after that changing knives accurately is a breeze.
Pro-Cut Saw & Tool (procutsaw.com) in Spokane, Wash. specializes in sharpening carbide saw blades, band saws, end mills, CNC tooling and cutting tools of all types.
Freeborn Tool Co. in Spokane, Wash. (freeborntool.com) offers brazed shaper cutters, insert cutters, spiral surfacing cutters, router bits, custom tooling and options for CNC tooling, all proudly made in the USA. The full catalog is downloadable, even to a phone.
Hickory Saw and Tool is currently redoing its website (hickorysawandtool.com). The North Carolina company offers stock and custom tooling, saws and gears.
Lewiston, N.Y. is the U.S. home of FS Tool Corp. (fstoolcorp.com), which offers an enormous product line for solid wood and composite wood. The catalog includes saw blades, CNC tooling, insert tools, router bits, cutters and drill bits.
Fullerton Tool (fullertontool.com) is a third-generation, family-owned business that specializes in the design and production of solid carbide cutting tools for a wide variety of industries.
And finally, for large-scale users, Tigra (tigra.com) is a multi-national supplier of carbide inserts with a sales office in Hickory, N.C.
This article was originally published in the December 2020 issue.