ToolsToday Learning Desk

Ripping, Crosscut, or Combination: What's the Difference?

Ripping, Crosscut, or Combination: What's the Difference?

8 minute read

In the world of woodworking and carpentry, which saw blade you choose is critical in determining the quality, efficiency, and precision of your cuts. 

Understanding the key differences between riping saw blades, crosscut blades, and combination blades is essential for any craftsperson or DIY enthusiast. 

  • Ripping saw blades, with their chisel-like teeth, are specifically designed for cutting along the wood grain, offering fast and aggressive cuts. 
  • Crosscut saw blades feature uniquely angled teeth that provide smooth and clean cuts across the grain. 
  • Combination blades merge these functionalities, offering a versatile solution for both rip and cross-cutting needs. 
  • General purpose saw blades are similar to combination blades, but all of the above (ripping, crosscut, and combination) are designed to cut solid wood.
    A general purpose blade can also handle other tasks like cutting plywood or laminated wood.

This article delves into the distinctive characteristics, applications, and advantages of each blade type, providing insight into how selecting the right blade can significantly impact the outcome of your woodworking projects.

ripping saw blades

Ripping Saw Blades

A ripping saw is specially designed for making cuts parallel to the wood grain, commonly known as rip cuts. Unlike crosscut saws, which have teeth angled to cut across the grain, the teeth of a rip saw blade are shaped and angled to act like chisels, efficiently removing material along the grain. This design allows for faster and more aggressive cutting when ripping lumber, but it is not suitable for making clean crosscuts. Rip saws are essential tools in carpentry and woodworking for tasks where quick, longitudinal cuts are required.

  • Tooth Design: Rip saws have fewer teeth per inch (TPI) and the teeth are shaped like chisels. This design allows the teeth to act like tiny chisels, scooping out wood as they cut.
  • Cutting Direction: Rip saws are designed to cut along the grain of the wood. The teeth are set straight so they can cut directly into the wood fibers.
  • Cut Quality: Since rip saws remove more material with each stroke and are designed for cutting along the grain, the cut is generally faster but rougher compared to a cross-cut saw.

Rip saws have larger spaces between the teeth for a few key reasons related to their primary function, which is cutting along the grain of wood:

  • Efficient Wood Removal: When cutting along the grain, the saw needs to remove larger chunks of wood with each stroke. The larger spaces between the teeth (known as gullets) allow for more efficient removal of these larger wood chips. If the gullets were smaller, they would fill up quickly and hinder the saw's ability to cut effectively.
  • Reduced Friction and Heat: Larger gullets help in reducing friction and the buildup of heat. A saw that gets too hot or experiences too much friction can bind in the cut, making it difficult to use and potentially damaging the wood or the saw.
  • Cutting Along the Grain: The nature of cutting along the wood grain means dealing with long, continuous wood fibers. Larger teeth can get a better grip on these fibers, making the cutting process smoother and more efficient.
  • Speed Over Finish: Rip saws are designed for speed and efficiency when making cuts parallel to the wood grain. The larger teeth and gullets contribute to a faster cutting action, although this often results in a rougher finish compared to a cross-cut saw.

cross-cut saw blades

Crosscut Saw Blades

A crosscut (cross-cut, same thing) saw is designed for cutting wood perpendicular to the grain. Unlike rip saws, which have teeth shaped to cut along the grain, the teeth of a cross-cut saw are shaped and angled to slice through the wood fibers, making clean, efficient cuts across the grain. This saw features teeth that alternate between being bent left and right, which helps in creating a smoother and finer cut compared to rip saws. Cross-cut saws are essential in carpentry and woodworking for precise cutting of boards and panels, ensuring a cleaner and more accurate finish than rip cuts.

  • Tooth Design: Cross-cut saws have more teeth per inch, and the teeth are shaped with a beveled edge, resembling knives. This design allows them to shear wood fibers as they cut, rather than scooping out material.
  • Cutting Direction: Cross-cut saws are made to cut across the grain of the wood. The teeth are angled and alternate in direction (known as 'set'), which helps in slicing through the wood fibers.
  • Cut Quality: The cutting action of a cross-cut saw is slower compared to a rip saw, but it provides a cleaner, smoother cut, especially when cutting across the grain.

In summary, the main differences are in the shape and arrangement of the teeth, which dictate whether the saw is more efficient at cutting along the grain (rip saw) or across the grain (cross-cut saw), and the resulting quality of the cut.

Combination Saw Blades

A combination saw blade is designed to perform both ripping (cutting along the grain) and cross-cutting (cutting across the grain) tasks reasonably well, though it may not excel in either task as well as a dedicated ripping or crosscut blade would.

Here's how it differs from either a rip saw or a cross-cut saw blade:

  • Tooth Design: Combination blades typically have a unique tooth design that incorporates features of both rip and cross-cut blades. They often use an alternating tooth bevel (ATB) design, where the teeth alternate between a right and left bevel, combined with a raker tooth to assist in clearing out wood chips. This design strikes a balance between the clean cutting of cross-cut blades and the efficient wood removal of rip blades.
  • Tooth Count: The number of teeth on a combination blade is usually in between that of a dedicated rip blade and a dedicated cross-cut blade. More teeth than a rip blade give it a cleaner cut, but fewer teeth than a cross-cut blade make it faster and less prone to burning when ripping.
  • Gullet Size: The gullets (spaces between the teeth) of a combination blade are designed to be a compromise as well. They are typically larger than those on a cross-cut blade but smaller than those on a rip blade. This allows for effective chip removal while maintaining a relatively smooth cut.
  • Versatility: The primary advantage of a combination blade is its versatility. It can perform a variety of cuts without needing to change blades, making it a convenient choice for general woodworking tasks.
  • Performance: While combination blades are versatile, they generally do not perform as efficiently as a dedicated rip blade in ripping tasks or as cleanly as a dedicated cross-cut blade in cross-cutting tasks. They are best suited for woodworkers who need to perform both types of cuts but do not require the utmost efficiency or the cleanest possible cut in either.

In summary, a combination saw blade is a compromise between a rip saw blade and a cross-cut saw blade, designed to perform both types of cuts with a single blade. It features a tooth design, tooth count, and gullet size that strike a balance between the characteristics of rip and cross-cut blades, offering versatility at the expense of some specialized performance.

general purpose saw blades

General Purpose Saw Blades

There is a difference between a combination saw blade and a general purpose saw blade, although they are often used interchangeably due to their similar versatility. Here's how they differ:

  • Combination Saw Blade: A combination saw blade is specifically designed to perform both ripping and cross-cutting tasks reasonably well. It typically features a configuration of teeth that includes groups of five teeth—four ATB (Alternate Top Bevel) teeth and one FTG (Flat Top Grind) raker tooth. The ATB teeth are effective for cross-cutting, slicing through the wood fibers cleanly, while the FTG teeth are more efficient for ripping, chiseling out the wood along the grain. Combination blades are a compromise, meaning they don't excel at either task as much as a dedicated rip or cross-cut blade would, but they offer the convenience of not having to change blades between tasks.
  • General Purpose Saw Blade: A general purpose saw blade, sometimes called an all-purpose blade, is designed to perform a wide range of cutting tasks adequately, including both rip and cross-cutting, but it can also handle other tasks like cutting plywood or laminated wood. The tooth design of general purpose blades may vary, but they often feature a TCG (Triple Chip Grind) or a modified ATB design. These blades aim to provide a good balance between cut quality and cut speed for a variety of materials and cutting tasks.

While both types of blades are designed for versatility, the specific tooth design and geometry can vary, impacting their performance in different tasks.

General purpose blades might be more suited for a broader range of materials, while combination blades are specifically optimized for switching between rip and cross cuts in solid wood.

« Back to Articles