Every professional tile contractor has found himself in the situation of having to cut an array of ceramic materials — from tile to stone to hard porcelain tile. These materials have a variety of differences one needs to consider when purchasing the correct diamond blade. Some materials are thick and hard or others, like glass mosaic, are a mixture of materials, such as glass and aluminum. The right blade for a particular job, in most cases, isn’t the blade mounted on your saw. Understanding what the right blade for each specific material comes from knowledge of material types. Each diamond blade is designed for use on a specific range of materials. Diamond blades are made from synthetic diamonds embedded in a matrix that is bonded to the blade core. The size of the diamond and the chemical mixture of the matrix determine the type of material it will cut best.
There are four aspects to take into consideration when buying a tile blade: knowing the properties of the material to be cut (composition, hardness, thickness of material, etc.), the level of finishing required (smooth cut, less chipping), the desired cutting speed and the required blade life.
Typically, there is a trade-off when deciding between the level of finish and cutting speed. With larger tiles and wider grout lines, the level of finish (or degree of chipping) may not be as important as speed of cut. On smaller tiles, jobs with tighter grout lines and especially harder materials, such as porcelain tile, a higher level of finish is desirable, which may require a slower cutting speed (in feet per minute).
Wet cutting and continuous rim blades will typically provide the highest level of finish for most applications. A general purpose blade will provide smooth cuts in many tile and stone materials. However, if the material is harder like vitreous tile, there are blades that are designed for cutting thick, hard tiles and porcelain. These particular types of blades are engineered for high durability with a thicker core, which is excellent for high-production jobs — providing fast cuts with a good finish.
With hard materials, a thinner kerf blade creates less heat and drag when cutting. Thin kerf blades also provide less chipping, but are more flexible when cutting. In situations that require dry cutting, a turbo rim blade is often the best choice in terms of blade life and speed of cut.
Most suppliers offer a wide variety of tile blades to match the various types of materials. However, it is one’s own experience that generally drives their purchasing decision when deciding what the best blade for the job will be.