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

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

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

Purchase this back issue.