Hardwood is the foundational material for woodworking as it is durable, aesthetic, and abundant. However, it is also comparatively harder to cut, which is why you must buy your initial tools after doing your homework.
A power saw is the best tool to cut hardwood because its motorized motion and durable blade generate enough force to cut hardwood easily. You can get blades of different sizes to match the specific project you’re working on. Other tools to cut hardwood include the chainsaw, router, and handsaw.
In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about the properties of hardwood and what you need to consider when selecting a woodcutting tool like a:
- Hand saw
- Router Table
- Handheld router
- Chain saw
- Circular power saw
Things to Consider When Cutting Hardwood
Before you opt for a blade or power tool to cut hardwood, you must consider two ways in which hardwood differs from other materials used in woodworking. In this section, we go over these aspects and what they mean for your tool selection.
Hardwood Is Denser
Compared to softwood, hardwood is denser because it is derived from trees that grow slowly. Softwood is obtained from evergreen trees that bear fruit throughout the year. Hardwood comes from trees that are season-specific and grow more slowly.
This means that the blade you use for cutting hardwood must be more durable and should have higher teeth per inch. This is covered in the section that follows.
Hardwood Dust Isn’t Toxic
Hardwood dust isn’t toxic the way MDF dust or fibreboard dust is. This means higher-speed blades are not as big of a concern when cutting hardwood. You can also take longer to saw hardwood sheets because you’re not inhaling adhesive or epoxy dust. In contrast, when cutting MDFs, you need to use a blade that will get the job done fast and a respirator to protect you while you’re cutting the board.
Tool Shopping: What to Look For When Buying a Hardwood Cutter
With the two main differentiators of hardwood cutting established, let’s look at the desirable properties of a wood cutting blade or tool. Towards the end, there is a table that rates how well each tool fits each of the descriptors.
More Teeth per Inch
Since hardwood is denser than other types of wood, it makes sense to use blades that are denser as well. However, there are two ways to measure blade density, one of which is actually counterproductive to smooth sawing.
The first way is to measure the density of the blade material. This is good up to a point. Once the blade’s density reaches optimum sawing capacity, any further increase results in diminishing returns.
The thicker a blade gets beyond this point, the more blunt it becomes. The second way to measure a blade’s density is to count teeth-per-inch. The teeth density is a much better metric compared to the material density. Generally speaking, the higher a blade’s teeth count, the better capable it is at cutting hardwood.
The speed at which a blade comes in contact with a piece of wood dictates whether it will penetrate the sheet/log or not. Even among blades that go into the wood, the speed dictates how far the blade goes into the wood.
Setting the boring physics aside for a moment, let’s look at the practical outcome of this: the speediest blade cuts the hardwood the deepest. In other words, the tool that enables the blade to travel at the highest speed is the best at cutting hardwood. For those interested in the specifics, here’s how that happens.
Force equals mass multiplied by acceleration. Earlier, in the density portion, we covered mass as a contributing factor in how well a blade cuts wood. Since speed is an element of acceleration, a higher speed can increase the blade’s acceleration from zero and consequently its overall force.
Material durability is also relevant to the blade force. While material density can impact the mass of the blade, the sawing tool must be tougher than the material it is cutting, or the blade will be broken. Carbide-tipped blades are often used to saw materials that cannot be sawed by ordinary rotary blades.
Durability allows the mass of the blade to translate into the force equation without breaking. If the material isn’t durable yet is dense, it might have enough force to penetrate a block of wood but would soon give in and break. When cutting hardwood, you need to look beyond cutting into the top layer.
Aside from considering whether a blade can saw through the entire sheet or block, you need to look at how steadily the tool can manage to saw for an extended period. The average hardwood cutting session lasts between 2 and 6 hours. While the entire time isn’t spent sawing through a single block non-stop, woodworkers spend hours cutting hardwood.
Axes are great at chopping wood, but they’re rarely steady enough to be used for standard woodcutting, let alone detailing. Depending on the type of cut you want, the degree of steadiness required from your tool will vary. Generally, you want a tool that can reliably cut 6 feet in a straight line.
Finally, you need to have a tool (or at least a platform) that provides enough support for the hardwood sheet, block, or log you want to cut. Without stable support, the blade’s steadiness doesn’t ensure a smooth cut.
The best cut isn’t always the deepest or even the smoothest, but it follows its intended trajectory. With that said, we can conclude our deep dive into what makes a tool suitable for cutting hardwood. The table below covers how well each tool does on the aspects covered above.
|Tool||More Teeth-per-inch||Durable Material||High Average Speed||Steadiness||Decent Support||Total Rating|
|Hand saw||4 / 5||3 / 5||2 / 5||4 / 5||4 / 5||17|
|Power saw||5 / 5||4 / 5||4 / 5||3 / 5||4 / 5||20|
|Router||3 / 5||4 / 5||4 / 5||4 / 5||4 / 5||19|
|Chainsaw||4 / 5||3 / 5||4 / 5||2 / 5||2 / 5||15|
|Axe||1 / 5||5 / 5||2 / 5||1 / 5||2 / 5||11|
|Chisel||1 / 5||3 / 5||1 / 5||4 / 5||4 / 5||13|
|Coping saw||1 / 5||4 / 5||2 / 5||4 / 5||3 / 5||14|
|Plane||1 / 5||3 / 5||1 / 5||3 / 5||3 / 5||11|
The best tool for cutting hardwood is the one you can control the best while it cuts hardwood without breaking. In most cases, this will be a handheld power saw, or a table saw. That doesn’t mean other woodworking tools are useless. Hardwood can be cut by a variety of tools, including:
- Handheld tools: like a handsaw or an axe
- Power tools with rotating blades: like a circular saw or even a chainsaw
- Detailing tools: like a router, coping saw, or chisel