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How Do Diamond Blades Work?

from Graves Tech Notes (Author unknown); via Low Country Diggings, Sept. 2009

Diamond blades don't really cut like a knife, they grind. During the process, individual diamond crystals are exposed on the outside edge and side of the rim. These exposed surface diamonds do the grinding work. The metal matrix locks each diamond in place. Trailing behind each exposed diamond is a "bond tail" (also called a comet tail), which helps support the diamond.

While the blade rotates on the arbor shaft of the saw, the stone is pushed into the blade. The blade begins to grind (cut) through the stone, while the stone begins wearing away the blade.

Exposed surface diamonds score the stone grinding it into a fine powder. Embedded diamonds remain beneath the surface. Exposed diamonds crack or fracture as they cut, breaking down into even smaller pieces. Hard dense rocks cause the diamonds to fracture even faster. The stone also begins wearing away the metal matrix through abrasion.

Highly abrasive rocks will cause the matrix to wear fast allowing new layers of diamond to continue cutting. This is the purpose of periodically "dressing" the blade with an abrasive block.