The right saw blade can make a cheap tool work great; the wrong saw blade can make a great tool run poorly.
This was illustrated to me when I was setting up my new table saw (more about it in next week’s post). I thought, “I’ll use the stock blade that comes with the saw. It’ll be fine for awhile.” Nope. My new saw, that I had done tons of research on, saved up money for, and finally purchased, cut like crap. There was a lot of vibration, chatter, and the cut was very rough. Luckily, I also had a brand new blade of my preferred brand. Once I dropped it in, the saw ran quieter, had less vibration, and my cuts were superior. All from a single high quality saw blade.
Every Woodworker goes through the phase of purchasing tools from Harbor Freight (HF). All of our woodworking magazines come with coupons with prices ridiculously low. So low most of us warrant its worth the shot for that new _____ we’ve been saving up for. Instead of paying $500 we can pay $200 with our handy dandy coupon. We then realize the truth as our $2.00 Clamps break during a crucial glue up, or our $12 electric drill is impossible to control and starts smoking (yeah, true story). Then we get over it and head back to Lowe’s.
Now to be fair, there are a few gems at HB. I did construction work during summers in High School and drove a lot of nails, Estwig hammers are great but my premium hammer was lost over the years. I’ll be honest I love my $5.00 Hammer from HF, it is wonderful. Sure I don’t use it everyday, like before, but I still enjoy using it. Likewise, their tape measures aren’t as good as your metal bodied Stanley but when you can get them for free with a coupon, you can put one everywhere. My church has a little 3 gallon “hotdog” air compressor that we use for lots of things (for $40 I might get one for the house), but we’ve also got a 20 gallon HF aircomp that is ‘piss-poor’ compared to my Craftsman 10 gallon.
This brings me to the main point; the HF blade I’ve been using for the last year in my Craftsman 10″ table saw. I got this saw as the closeout of the display model, so I paid $100 for a $300 saw. It didn’t come with a blade so I bought a general purpose Dewalt blade. After about a year of use (mostly weekends for a few hours) the blade needed replacing. I didn’t have a lot of descretionary income for the woodshop but I had a 20% off coupon the good ol’ Harbor Freight.
I bought a 40 Tooth Combination Blade for $12.99. It has been a good blade and is still going strong. I do a lot of salvaged lumber work, and even cut down some mesquite logs with a jig. For the price I could have bought 3 blades for one Freud Blade. If all I did was construction I’d just have a stack in my truck and put a new one in whenever one got dull.
Will my new saw blade that cost 5 times of the HF blade be 5 times better? I’m not sure about that. The value probably wont be noticeable at first but I imagine better cuts, especially with heavier stock and with crosscuts on veneered plywood. I also hope it lasts much longer.
I plan on soaking the HF blade with a dawn/vinegar solution to clean off all the pitch and resin. Then keep it. It will be an extra for when I send off the new blade to get sharpened, or if I’m doing some pallet project where I’m not sure if a stray nail may be present.
Other than this, I’m over my HF phase, sure I get lucky every once in a while, but I’ve now come to the point in my woodworking where I’d rather buy quality once, then something cheap twice. That’s not always getting the absolute best on the market, I wish I had a shop full of Powermatic, Grizzly, or Festool. Rather it’s doing my research and buying the best quality that I can reasonably afford.