What is with all the Tile Blades?
If you would have asked me 15 years ago, I would have told you a good $30.00 tile blade from your local hardware store is all you need to handle most of your tile cutting needs. Oh my how the tile game is changing. It’s hard to believe that we now recommend, and stock, a huge variety of different blades, with each having their own use. Every day I speak with a different tile contractor, recommending a certain blade based on his or her particular project, tool and/or objective. Cleanly and accurately cutting through the material is always the goal. Almost weekly, it seems, our blade manufacturers are filling in a gap in our selection for a product that works perfectly for a particular situation. Que my own “Add to Cart”. So what’s the best tile blade? What tile blade do I use?
This blog is an attempt to break down tile blade options to you who might not live your life researching and distributing tile tools all day. I will be the first to admit that there are many experts in our industry that know way more about diamond tile blades than myself. When I get a chance to speak with tool experts, whether they are field contractors or manufacturers, I try to soak up the knowledge they have accumulated on this topic. I will be referencing some of what I have personally experienced with blades along with feedback from contractors. For the most practical approach, let’s look at diamond tile blades from the standpoint of design, cut quality and size.
Continuous Rim Blades
Continuous rim blades have a solid, continuous rim or edge. In general, continuous rim blades are going to give you the cleanest, most chip free cuts. With continuous rim blades, chippage is reduced because the blade can be manufactured to extremely thin tolerances. One example we recommend is the Montolit CSS100 Slim Cut Diamond Blades for Slim Panels. Montolit designed this blade specifically for the cleanest possible cuts on glossy, thin gauged porcelain. On many gauged porcelain tile panel projects, the installation may not allow you to hide, or disguise, your cut edges. When you see a blade this thin, some may think it is cheaply manufactured. However, countless hours of research and testing has gone into this blade to give a tile contractor exactly what they need. Trusting your projects to specialty manufacturers and TileProSource.com... we will save for another blog.
Another example of a continuous rim blade I want to highlight is the Montolit CPV Continuous Rim glass blade. Debatably, the best glass blade on the market, the Montolit CPV Continuous Rim glass blade was designed for chip free cutting of delicate glass tile and tile mosaics. This blade is unique in that the particle size of the diamond attached to the blade is considerably smaller than the diamond on non-specialty diamond tile blades. In addition to this feature, the Montolit CPV Continuous Rim glass blade has a beveled edge, which eases into delicate tiles, rather than hitting them with the widest part of the blade.
Continuous rims, struggle to expel slurries (fine powder) which build up as they grind through materials. It is vital to dress a continuous rim blade with a dressing stone more often than a segmented rim, or turbo blade, to re-expose the diamonds. This is critical to keep it cutting at the highest possible performance and extend the life of the blade. Because of the reduced ability to expel slurry, continuous rim blades will not want to move through tile materials as quickly as their segmented or turbo counterparts. Blade users need to make cuts with more patience in order to achieve that factory edge or chip free cut he or she desires.
I do want to draw your attention to the storage and handling of these thinner blades. I often hear how the thinner continuous rim blades are easily bent, causing the user to question their quality and durability. Simply put, be careful with your blades. When they are not in use, store them in a safe place. Leaving them on your saw or grinder might prove to be a bad decision if you hit the wrong bump in the road. Last year Montolit came out with their Safe Box for Diamond Tools to help tile contractors protect their diamond tool investments. There are diamond tool storage and protection options on the market for any budget, over letting them rattle around in the bottom of a tool box. You don’t purchase golf clubs without a bag...
Segmented Rim Blades
Segmented rim blades are our most popular blades and are the most versatile of tile blades. These blades are designed to give you clean cuts, and faster cutting speeds, than you can achieve with a continuous rim blade. Segmented rim diamond blades traverse several industries including granite fabricators, concrete contractors, brick and block masons and tile professionals just to name a few. They are available in many different diameters, and with varying arbor sizes, to fit tools from small angle grinders to beastly concrete saws. Diamonds on segmented diamond blades are bonded in segments around the blade with spaces in between called gullets. These gullets exist to aid in slurry removal and heat dissipation, allowing you to grind through material faster than with a continuous rim blade.
High quality segmented rim blades move through porcelain tile and natural stone with ease, giving you a nice clean cut that might only require a swipe or two with your favorite diamond sponge. As with any diamond blade, dressing your segmented rim blades will extend the life and increase cut quality. Remember, you are re-exposing the diamonds by removing buildup. Dressing is a simple process of making several passes through a dressing stone, using water.
As with any of the other blade categories, segmented rim blades are available in different variations to cut through some of the most difficult materials, but also to achieve certain price points. Our current best-selling segmented rim diamond blades include the highly effective, and affordable, Pearl P4 Porcelain Diamond Blade, The Helix Copperhead and the Montolit DNA. The Helix Copperhead has the copper coating designed to dissipate heat, and a reinforced core to reduce wobble and warpage. The Montolit DNA Series diamond blades are thicker, and more robust, designed to glide through the thickest and hardest porcelain tile and porcelain pavers with ease.
Something I have noticed with some of the higher quality diamond blades is that they can be almost too aggressive right out of the box. On a fairly regular basis, I will get the call that our client just opened their blade, put it on their saw and they feel like it is not cutting as smooth as they expected. I always recommend they make about 10 cuts through some scrap tile with their new blade to wear away some
of the sharper diamonds. Breaking it in right and continuing to maintain it with a dressing stone will keep your segmented rim blade performing at the optimal level.
Turbo Rimmed Blades
Turbo rimmed blades are immensely popular because of the speed at which they are able to cut, and their ability to cut through the hardest and most difficult tile and stone materials. Turbo blades generally have a continuous rim, with a patterned or serrated edge. These patterns and serrations are designed to aggressively grind away material, remove slurry and dissipate heat. Turbo rimmed blades are often used to dry cut tile mounted on your high speed angle grinders. Some of our best selling sizes of turbo rimmed blades include 3-3/8”, 4” and 4.5”. These sizes of blades shine best when used to make cuts around electrical outlets, floor registers, toilet flanges and mixing valves.
While some of the newer turbo mesh blades have surprised me, turbo style blades are not typically famous for making the cleanest of cuts. They are designed to grind through and remove hard material very quickly. Exposed cuts with turbo rimmed blades usually require a significant amount of touch up with a diamond hand sponge, diamond grinding wheel or diamond polishing pad to be a presentable installation in an exposed area. This style of blade, the turbo rim, is best utilized when you are laying a lot of floor tile where the cut edges are hidden under baseboards, covered by outlet covers, or behind beauty rings.
Due to their tendency to flex while making free hand cuts on angle grinders, I recommend looking for turbo blades with a reinforced core. The thicker core reduces bounce and increases accuracy when entering the cut. If your grinder blade of choice is not available with a reinforced core, it might be a good idea to go with the smaller 3-3/8” or 4” version rather than the 4-1/2” or 5” model, to reduce blade flex and bounce. It’s not always the case, but I see a cut veering hard when the blade is too large for the task.
I hope this summary of tile blade types is helpful in shining some light on the tile blades available in the market today. Manufacturers of blades design their blades with different thickness, diamond sizes, diamond arrangements and bond strengths. This is why I find tile forums such Tile Geeks, Global Tile Posse, and Tile Money to be so useful. You can usually reach out on these pages and get a consensus on which particular blades are cutting the best for the specific material you are going to be working with on your project. At TileProSource.com I have the advantage of seeing many tools in action from the best brands available, but we still learn new information and tackle new problems every day. Just remember that we no longer work in a world where a single blade is going to be sufficient for all the materials you are likely to be working with in the near future and maybe not even a single project. Our industry is ever changing and specialty tiles will continue to trend up.
If you have any questions on which blade might be the most suitable for you, don’t hesitate to give tileprosource.com a call.