Power Tool Options for Metal Cutting?

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  • Power Tool Options for Metal Cutting?

    I need some advice from those who do metalworking, specifically involving lightgauge steel. I've done a lot of work with aluminum but my non-ferrous experience is mostly limited to stuff like black iron pipe and electrical conduit.

    I have an on-going need to cut some small steel channels (1", 22 ga) to length. I've been using a hacksaw, which works okay, but it's a little slow and requires some care to get a straight cut since the thin material has a tendency to flex and chatter. It also takes a fair amount of filing to clean up the ragged edges of the cut. So, I'm looking for a better way.

    Metal-cutting blade in a jig saw? I have an older jig saw that I could dedicate to this job. Will a 24t blade give me a smooth cut that won't need a lot of cleanup afterwards? Will it be hard to hold the cut straight?

    Ferrous-metal blade in a miter saw? I'd be willing to buy an inexpensive MS ($80-100) for this job; I cut these channels one at a time, so even a 7-1/4" model is plenty big. An MS should give the straightest cut most easily, but how smooth would it be?

    Abrasive cutoff saw? I know nothing about these. Overkill for this application?

    Last edited by LarryG; 03-07-2008, 10:25 AM. Reason: oh, you know, the usual ... typos

  • #2
    I like to use a thin cutoff wheel in my 4" grinder for this type of task. If you have a Sawzall, that works great too. I finally broke down and bought a chop saw for cutting steel, but I really don't use it often. It makes a real mess and the particles will burn anything they land on. It is the best option for making a true square cut.


    • #3
      For those occasions when I have to do more than a couple pieces (for which I usually use a hacksaw) I got the HF handheld bandsaw and a couple of quality blades. Goes through channels like a hot knife through buttah. If I did a lot of this, I'd have probably spent 3X for the Milwaukee version, but this cheapie (about $60 with coupons when I got it) works fine for what I need it for.

      Here is the link. It's on sale now online for $70, and you can print the ad and take it to the store for a price match (plus, if you got any of the coupons...).


      • #4
        I was surprised how well one of these cut through steel.
        Requires air, though. You could probably use the same cutoff wheels in an electric tool with a mandrel...or maybe an angle grinder type device.


        • #5
          The air-powered cutoff tool works great and is cheap. I'd stay away from the powered chopsaw, its noisy, dirty and doesn't leave a clean edge. (Mine's been under the bench for about 3 years). If your doing a lot of these (or just want another tool) I highly recommend the HF horizontal bandsaw.


          • #6
            I just got a HF 4 1/2" angle grinder that I mounted a cutoff disc to that I used to slice and dice through some wire mesh for these pet cages I've got going. Waaaaay better and faster than snips and WAY less harsh on the hands (I'm only 33 and after snipping 4 large doors worth of mesh with snips, I think I knew what it felt like to have 65 year old hands). I'll be using the same setup to today to power through some thin stainless. I also used it to mow through some 5/16" threaded rod yesterday for a stop block I'm building.

            There's something satisfyingly primal about sending sparks flying everywhere and ripping through metal

            BTW, the 4 1/2" angle grinder is onsale @ HF right now for 18.99.


            • #7
              I second (...or third... lost count...) on the angle grinder with the cut off wheel...I use these for everything from heavy gauge ductwork down to threaded rod... I even just used it to cut into cast iron 4" drain line... way faster and cheaper...


              • #8
                With some patience, do you think the angle grinder could be used to cut up an old water heater? The air cutter looks appealing, but my compressor can't deliver that kind of volume.


                • #9
                  a 24t bimetal blade in your jig saw will work fine. I've done it many times. a cheap sawzall will also do what you need and more.
                  If you had a bigger compressor I'd recommend one of these http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/cta...Itemnumber=113 HD sells these saws also along with spare blades. It works much better then any grinders.

                  An angle grinder would cut up an old water heater no problem. the only issue with angle grinders with cutoff wheels is that the wheels shatter and become projectiles if you get them in any kind of a bind.
                  Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. - Thomas Edison


                  • #10
                    You could pick up the evolution fury CS from sears for 80 and it will cut metal and wood or get the rage for 150 if you're going to do a lot of it.
                    daiku woodworking


                    • #11
                      Some good ideas here. I hadn't even thought about my recip saw. Seems like it'd be hard to hold it straight, though. I don't own an angle grinder but have been looking for an excuse to buy one. I could borrow one, however, and experiment with that for the price of a cutoff disc.

                      In the meantime I've ordered some metal-cutting blades for my jig saw (an old Rockwell, uses the hook-style P-C blades, impossible to find locally) and will see how that works. For now I'm not really doing enough of this work to warrant spending much money but if the quantity escalates, I will too ...

                      Thanks very much, everyone. Helpful as always!


                      • #12
                        power tool options for metal cutting

                        You might want to try this idea. I have been doing for years and it works great for me, I bought a metal cutting(abrasive type) blade 7" size, and put it in one of my old circular saws ( old Porter-Cable brand) that I've had for years. I cut all types of metal with it, ex: angle iron, channel iron, bolts,
                        flat sheet steel, pipe, or what ever I need cut at the time. If you do this,
                        remember, it won't be cutting as fast as wood cutting would be, but it is easier, faster than a jigsaw or hacksaw. It does produce a shower of sparks
                        so watch your work area for flammables and be sure to wear approiate eye protection. When thru cutting, take a file and lightly clean up the cut area
                        and you should be good to go from there.

                        If you decide to do this, you may want to buy several blades(wheels)
                        they will get used up pretty fast on thicker heavier metals, never hurts to have a spare one on hand when cutting metal.Just let the saw do the cutting, and don't force it to cut faster than it can. eezlock


                        • #13
                          We used to have a field installer that used a 7 1/4 cir. saw with the blade on backwards to cut light weight steel. It worked for him, but I never got around to trying it.


                          "It's not the things you don't know that will hurt you, it's the things you think you know that ain't so." - Mark Twain


                          • #14
                            My favorite is the abrassive blade in the angle grinder - a cheapie from Northern Hydraulic. It is fast and requires very little effort. It is a little hard to keep real square, however, and it's noisy. I do not break blades but I do in my Dremel when I use it (on something small).

                            I have a Bosch jigsaw with the scroll-saw attachment. It cuts metal pretty well but not nearly as fast as the abrassive wheel. It is more precise but slower.

                            Both require filing. Maybe slightly less with the jigsaw but the difference is not huge.



                            • #15
                              I also use the angle grinder. I don't use one a lot so I buy the HF 4 1/2" and throw them out when they go bad. I have found that the Norton wheels, sold at HD, last a little longer that most.
                              Don, aka Pappy,

                              Wise men talk because they have something to say,
                              Fools because they have to say something.