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Q & A: Do blade stiffeners and stabilizers really help?


Do Blade Stiffeners and Stabilizers Really Help?



I’m trying to get a super-smooth cut on my contractor’s saw. I’ve seen blade “stabilizers” for sale. Do they work?


Two devices can help both standard and thin-kerf blades make smoother cuts: a blade stiffener or a pair of blade stabilizers. Their names are often interchanged but they’re actually very different accessories.

Stiffeners cost about $15, while stabilizers cost about $20 per pair.

Before you buy either one, make sure your saw is properly set up. The blade and fence must be parallel to the miter slot. Upgrade your pulleys and belt.Use a high-quality blade and make sure it’s clean and sharp. (Stiffeners and stabilizers improve average-quality blades more than high-quality ones.)

If your cut still isn’t smooth enough, buy a stiffener or stabilizer. By virtue of their larger diameters and added mass,both reduce the amount of vibration the motor, pulleys and arbor pass on to the blade.

A stiffener is a precision-ground, flat disc. It’s far easier to add than stabilizers. It goes right on top of the blade, behind the arbor washer. You may lose 1/4-in. depth of cut.

Stabilizers replace or supplement the arbor washers on either side of the blade. Most outer arbor washers are simply stamped steel,and may not run true,but stabilizers are machined flat. If your inner arbor washer is also stamped steel, slide it off and replace it with one of the stabilizers. If you can’t remove it, place one stabilizer on top of it.

The big downside to thick stabilizers is that the inner piece pushes the blade farther out on the arbor. You must adapt your saw to fit the new position of the blade. The spot in your saw’s throat plate may not line up with the blade. If it doesn’t, substitute a zeroclearance insert. Shift the splitter on your blade guard so it lines up with the blade. In addition, realign the cursor and scale on your fence.

Click any image to view a larger version.

Blade stabilizers are used in pairs, one on either side of the blade. In effect, they’re oversized, precision arbor washers.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker September 2002, issue #95.

September 2002, issue #95

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