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How to Change a Saw Blade

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Changing a Miter Saw Blade

Changing a Miter Saw Blade

(c) 2013 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.
A saw with a rotary cutting blade (whether it is a table saw, compound miter saw, radial arm saw or circular saw) will only cut well when the saw blade is sharp, free of pitch and is in good working order (for instance, no carbides are missing). If your saw blade is in need of sharpening or replacement, you'll need to know the procedures necessary for swapping out your saw blade to keep the saw running smoothly, safely and cutting cleanly.

The following sections cover the basic guidelines for changing the rotary saw blades for each of these woodworking tools.

Safety Precautions:

Before attempting to change the blade in any saw, no matter the type, always disconnect the saw's motor from the electrical outlet or power source. If the saw is hard-wired into the woodshop's electrical circuit directly, then you will want to turn off the circuit breaker. Many a woodworker has suffered a catastrophic injury by not following this most basic rule.

Table Saw:

After disconnecting the table saw from the electrical outlet for safety, begin by raising the blade to the highest position by turning the rotary knob on the saw that adjusts the blade height. Once the blade is locked into the highest position, lift out the zero clearance insert or protective shield and remove the safety shield, anti-kickback pawls and riving knife, exposing the saw blade and the arbor of the saw.

Inspect the motor and arbor of the saw as well as the dust guard for any excessive pitch build-up or collecting sawdust. If necessary, clean out these areas with a shop vacuum to ensure proper air flow through the dust collection port.

If your motor is equipped with a push-button locking mechanism for holding the blade in place during a blade change, rotate the blade by hand while gently pressing the push button until the blade locks into a solid position. If your motor is not equipped with a blade lock, your saw will likely be equipped with two blade change wrenches. Slide the end of one of the wrenches over the arbor nut to hold the motor shaft in place.

Position the remaining wrench over the arbor nut and twist the arbor nut to loosen the nut. Rotate the nut until it slides off of the arbor, followed by the arbor washer. Then slide the saw blade off of the arbor, taking care to notice the direction in which the carbide teeth are pointed. Install the replacement saw blade (of the same diameter) onto the arbor shaft, orienting the carbides in the same direction as the blade you removed, followed by the washer and the nut. After hand-tightening the nut, tighten the nut using the arbor wrenches. Then replace the insert and safety equipment before testing your blade.

Compound Miter Saw:

Unplug the miter saw for safety. Then unlock the rocker arm and raise the saw motor so that it is in the neutral, resting position. Loosen the screws holding the blade guard and push the guard upwards, out of the way.

As with the table saw, your miter saw may have a locking button to secure the motor, or it may require a pair of arbor wrenches, depending on the design. Lock the motor in place with one hand and loosen the nut or bolt holding the washer and blade onto the arbor with the other hand. Set the bolt (or nut) and spindle washer aside.

Notice which direction the saw blade is oriented, then remove the blade from the arbor and slip the new blade into position, orienting the blade's teeth in the same direction as the blade you removed. Replace the washer and thread the bolt (or nut) onto the arbor and tighten to secure the blade. Then slide the blade guard back into place and tighten the screws to secure the blade guard.

Radial Arm Saw:

Removing the blade guard on a radial-arm saw (after first ensuring that the power supply to the motor is disconnected) can be the most difficult part of safely changing the blade on a radial arm saw. In most cases, the blade guard has a couple of locking bolts, then must be rotated and lifted completely off of the motor before you can access the arbor. Once the saw guard is safely removed, changing a radial arm saw blade is a simple two-wrench change, much like a table saw. The key is to be absolutely sure that the blade guard mechanism is properly installed and locked into place after changing the blade. A properly installed guard will lock tightly in to position and will function easily without touching the blade.

Circular Saw:

Changing a saw blade on a circular saw is probably the most common blade change, but it can be the most frustrating. First of all, as with the other saws, be certain that the saw is unplugged for safety. Most circular saws have a wrench on-board for loosening the nut as well as a locking push-button to secure the arbor. If your saw does not have the locking button, you will need to secure the blade to keep the motor from spinning when loosening the arbor bolt. One simple way to do this is to clamp a pair of locking pliers onto the blade then rotating the blade against the blade guard to stop the blade from rotating.

Once the blade is secure, loosen the nut with the supplied wrench. In my experience, using a circular saw's blade wrench can be a knuckle-busting experience. I prefer to keep a ratchet and socket set on hand to loosen the arbor nut, as you'll be able to apply a bit more torque and save your knuckles.

After loosening the arbor nut, remove the nut and arbor washer, then slide the blade off of the arbor (once again, noticing the orientation of the blade). Install the replacement blade with the teeth oriented in the same manner (cutting against the spin of the motor), followed by the arbor washer and arbor bolt.

TIP: In order to tighten the blade securely, you may need to place your locking pliers onto the new blade to hold it in place while tightening the arbor bolt.
With any circular saw blade, if you do not remember the orientation of the blade, always remember that the flat faces (cutting edges) of the carbide teeth should be pointed in the direction that the motor spins. Another way of thinking about it is that in most cases, the teeth should be pointed toward the wood as it cuts through the material.
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