There are basic qualities of slicer blades most bakers should know: pitch, edge and tension. Allen Wright, vice-president of sales, Hansaloy, said each aspect must be matched to the specific product being cut.
Pitch is the distance between the points of teeth in a blade. The smaller that distance is, the more aggressive the blade becomes. Mr. Wright said traditional white bread will slice well with a ½-inch pitch blade, while hearty, dense crusty breads do better with a ⅜- or ¼-inch pitch. The most versatile choice for cutting a variety of products is the ⅜-inch pitch blade.
Edge is the grind put on the blade. Hansaloy offers a basic cross-ground blade and a premium parallel-ground blade. Cross-ground means the direction of the grind marks are perpendicular to the direction of the bread as it travels through the slicer. Parallel-ground means the grind marks follow the same direction of the travel of the bread and, as a result, typically create less crumb.
“If you were sanding a piece of wood across the grain versus with the grain, you’d notice a difference,” Mr. Wright said. “It’s a little easier to sand with the grain.”
Tension involves the tautness of the blade as it slices the product. Too much tension can snap the blade, creating increased downtime to replace blades. Too little and the blade wobbles, producing inconsistent slices. This vibration can also heighten the temperature of the blades and develop risk of breakage. Mr. Wright said 65 to 75 lbs of tension is ideal for most blades. As long as all the blades in a lattice are within 10 lbs of one another, he said, there should be few issues with blade breaks or inaccurate slicing.
Hansaloy offers a digital gauge that measures exact tension on individual blades and shows if tension is uneven across a slicing matrix.
“What we have found is that there’s a number of places where blades aren’t parallel to each other, which is hard on the blades,” Mr. Wright said. “It’s like a car out of alignment. You can’t just buy new tires to fix that. You’re going to wear out the tires.”
The dimension of the blades also is important to consider. While the thickness doesn’t vary much, the width of the wall beyond the blade’s teeth can help or hurt crumb creation. Crumbs can build up on that wall like a fine film and ultimately get deposited in the blade guides or lattice, which can cause misalignment or dull the blades.
“The unground sidewall of the blade doesn’t do much for the slice,” Mr. Wright said. “It’s there for strength, so if it’s rougher, or if it has buildup stuck to it, it adversely impacts the quality of the slice.”
This article is an excerpt from the August 2019 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on slicing, click here.