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Author Topic: Whats best for cutting steel for fabrication  (Read 4254 times)

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Offline chainsaw_louie

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Whats best for cutting steel for fabrication
« on: February 05, 2006, 10:13:23 PM »
Hi,

I am gathering what I need to build a sawmill.  I got an AC welder hooked up and working. Now for cutting steel, whats going to serve me best, I have a cutting torch and a 4" grinder w/ wafer disk, but dont I need a chop saw or a bandsaw with a metal cutting blade.

 I got a wood cutting bandsaw, if I change the pully on that to reduce the fpm of the band,  will that work or is it slow or hard to control etc.   Do I even need to reduct the speed?

Thanks.

Tim

Offline getoverit

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Re: Whats best for cutting steel for fabrication
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2006, 10:19:27 PM »
I bought a metal cutting "portaband" off of e-bay the other day for  arouns $200, works great, and I can easily cut 3" square tubing with it. I've cut some 1/2" plate as well with no problems. If you don't have one and you plan on doing metal work, I'd suggest one.
I'm a lumberjack and I'm ok, I work all night and sleep all day

Offline UNCLEBUCK

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Re: Whats best for cutting steel for fabrication
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2006, 10:36:48 PM »
 When my pops and I rebuilt the old mill we used a torch and power hacksaw . A commercial quality power hacksaw that has its own vice and shuts off when its done, blades were about 16 inches long and 1-1/4 high but that machine was 100% accurate as there was no way to move heavy steel around and that was a lifesaver , and a small stick welder . Good luck
UNCLEBUCK    bridge burner/bridge mender

Offline scsmith42

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Re: Whats best for cutting steel for fabrication
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2006, 10:50:25 PM »
Louie, you have a lot of different options.  In my farm shop, in addition to a cutting torch I have a Miller Plasma cutter, a Milwaukee porta-band, two Milwaukee sawzall's, a Ellis 1800 series mitre bandsaw, die grinder cut off wheels, a 14" Ryobi chop saw, a carbon-arc torch, as well as the old standby... a hacksaw.

It's hard to pick just one, as they all have their purpose.  For layout and fabrication I personally prefer the bandsaw over the chop saw (much cleaner cut and less noise / debris in the air).  For precise layout, the bandsaw is tough to beat, but an entry-level good one will cost you upwards of a grand (Jet makes a good one for the money - you can get one from J&L industrial supply four around $1,100.00).  A high-end band saw like the Ellis is about two and half times the Jet.  Stay away from the $200.00 cheapies - they don't cut straight and you'll be frustrated.

The porta-bands are also great; mine is a Milwaukee "deep throat" model.  You can pick them up for around $300 to 400 dollars.

Plasma cutters are great for anything that you'd do with a cutting torch. Their advantage is speed, less heat into the metal (less distortion), safety (acytelene is explosive) and you don't have to worry about running out of gas.

The sawzall is a last resort; it's hard to get a really nice straight cut on things like 2" tubing, etc.

If you're on a tight budget, look into either the chop saw or the portaband.  Determine what sizes of metal that you'll need to cut, and make sure that whatever you purchase will meet your needs.  I seem to recall that the limit of the porta-band is 4" or so.

There is also a handheld circular saw that is designed for cutting steel.  I've heard good things about them, and I think that they cost around $700.00.  

You also might consider one of the older power hacksaws.  They were real popular in the first half of the last century, and you might be able to find a used one on a deal.  They weren't real fast, but they were typically very accurate and heavy duty.  Starret makes good cutting blades for them.

Wood bandsaws usually are not built heavily enough for metalwork (as well as have too high of a blade speed).  Also, most metal bandsaws are horizontal models, verus wood bandwaws which are typically vertical.

Use bi-metal blades for the bandsaws.

Good luck.

Scott
Peterson 10" WPF with 65' of track
Smith - Gallagher dedicated slabber
Tom's 3638D Baker band mill
and a mix of log handling heavy equipment.

Offline etat

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Re: Whats best for cutting steel for fabrication
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2006, 12:50:00 AM »
I once bought a whole passel of blades that would go in a regular skill saw and cut up to 1/4 inch steel.  Safety glasses and a face shield and gloves were a must.  Seems like they were a Irwin metal star blade or something like that.  Pretty sure they're expensive but i bought a bunch of em at a close out and got them cheap and cut the steel for my shop.  Some of it was 6 by 6 square tubing. 

Now a days I've got a metal cutting bandsaw and either use it or a sawszall but as said, you can't get as straight a cut with it.  I also use a cuttin torch a lot. I've still got a couple of them Irwin blades  but don't use em much now a days except for cutting metal for metal roofs because of all of the metal shavings they throw out.  If you'd take your time with them though you can  get a nice clean straight cut. 

I've got a Ryobe  metal chop saws too but hardly ever use it.  Too slow and makes too much racket.
Old Age and Treachery will outperform Youth and Inexperence. The thing is, getting older is starting to be painful.

Offline wiam

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Re: Whats best for cutting steel for fabrication
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2006, 08:54:13 PM »
When I started building my mill I bought a Harbor freight cheapy bandsaw.  It is the one they sell for $200 now.The fence does have to be adjusted occasionaly but the price was right.  The second blade on it was a Lennox that I found at woodworkers warehouse(now western tool).  Cuts very well now.

Will

Offline slowzuki

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Re: Whats best for cutting steel for fabrication
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2006, 10:05:11 PM »
Grinder with cutting blade
Torches
Plasma
Chop saw
Hacksaw
Sawzall
Jig saw
Cutoff wheel
Power hacksaw
Metal Cutting bandsaw


Have tried all these and own most of them too.  The most versitile tool day in day out for me is the 4" grinder with a cutting disk, the super thin ones and a variety of others.  It can cut some amazingly accuarate stuff if you take your time.

If you have some $ to spend, I find a large stationary disc sander a good mate to the others for quickly cleaning up cuts, fixing angles, smoothing etc.  I got a big cast iron one for 100$ or so a few years ago and it has been great.

I wouldn't buy a plasma for building a sawmill if you have torches.  It is nice but won't do as much as a torch and it is costly if you have more time than money.

If you can find a power hacksaw I would snap it up, the blades are cheap and the things are dead simple.  The two I have used were very accurate too.  Just don't saw 1/4 strapping on edge, put it in the chopsaw.  Really, any thin wall stuff is faster to cut on a chop saw.  Power hacksaws don't like thin unsupported edges, they can flex and grab the blade.  A horizontal bandsaw handles that stuff fine too as long as the tooth pitch is tight enough.

Rule of thumb, 3 teeth in contact with surface at all times gives fastest cut.  Less will break teeth, more just goes slower :)

Offline Coon

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Re: Whats best for cutting steel for fabrication
« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2006, 10:22:43 PM »
I have built many things in my workshop by using the simplist tools.  As you probably don't want to spend too much $$ on tools and would rather spend on part for your project (if I assume correct) you could simply buy cut off discs that fit a conventional 4 1/2" side grinder.  That's what I do because I can't afford the tools I really want.  I use ZIP CUT discs in my grinder as they have a thin kerf of only 1/16" and will outlast any other disc to about 4:1.  The ZIP CUT discs are about $6.50 CDN verus about $3.00 for a cheaper one w/ thicker kerf.

Brad.
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Offline low_48

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Re: Whats best for cutting steel for fabrication
« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2006, 10:55:44 PM »
I couldn't be happier with  my 14" metal cutting abrasive cutoff saw. Every cut is dead 90 degrees and makes weldments very easy to make.  Cutting is really quick as well. Wear hearing protection!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I bought the Rigid at the big orange store. I even cut some high speed steel shaper cutter blade stock that was 3/8" thick. Kept a water drip on that and was really happy. I haven't used it alot, but I'm still on the first wheel. I use a bandsaw at work, and much prefer the abrasive cutoff. I think I spent less than $150 for the saw, but could be wrong.

Offline slowzuki

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Re: Whats best for cutting steel for fabrication
« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2006, 11:26:01 PM »
I've got a decent Milwakie chop saw thats only a couple of years old but has worn out 3 or 4 wheels so far.  I find it tough to get 90's as the blade likes to drift on most structural steel shapes.

I'll try the water drip on the thick stuff, I assumed it had to get hot and throw sparks to cut.

I couldn't be happier with  my 14" metal cutting abrasive cutoff saw. Every cut is dead 90 degrees and makes weldments very easy to make.  Cutting is really quick as well. Wear hearing protection!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I bought the Rigid at the big orange store. I even cut some high speed steel shaper cutter blade stock that was 3/8" thick. Kept a water drip on that and was really happy. I haven't used it alot, but I'm still on the first wheel. I use a bandsaw at work, and much prefer the abrasive cutoff. I think I spent less than $150 for the saw, but could be wrong.

Offline fstedy

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Re: Whats best for cutting steel for fabrication
« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2006, 12:22:03 AM »
 8) 8) 8) NOT YOUR CHAINSAW LOUIE  8) 8) 8)
                                                        smiley_biggrin01
Timberking B-20   Retired and enjoying every minute of it.
Former occupations Electrical Lineman, Airline Pilot, Owner operator of Machine Shop, Slot Machine Technician and Sawmill Operator.
I know its a long story!!!

Offline highpockets

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Re: Whats best for cutting steel for fabrication
« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2006, 07:48:53 AM »
Chainsaw as you see you will get a many opinions on cutting steel.  I think different folks like different things. Me, I am a bandsaw man.  I have 2 ea. 1/2" , 1 ea. 3/4" and one homemade 1" bandsaw.  One of the little 1/2 x 64 1/2" saws is an imported thing I picked up some twenty years ago for some
$125.00.   Yes, they are not that accurate at times, but they do me. I just happened to saw a piece of 3/8 plate yesterday and put a mic on it to check it.  On a 3" cut it was off 0.050" but I haven't touched the saw guides in a year.  One thing I did do is put a crankwheel on the tension spring so I can adjust the weight of the saw on the metal.  This makes a lot of difference as to accuracy. 
Louisiana Country boy
homemade mill, 20 h.p. Honda & 4 h.p. for hydraulics.  8 hydraulic circuits, loads, clamps, rotates, etc.

Offline Trent

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Re: Whats best for cutting steel for fabrication
« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2006, 01:34:36 PM »
I have a Porter Cable 14" dry carbide tipped saw. Looks and works like a chop saw, but turns only 1300 RPM. The blade has 70 teeth and can be resharpened. It makes slick, smooth cuts and the metal does not get hot. The blade can be unforgiving, if a tooth hangs into something.      Trent
Can't fish, can't hunt, don't care about sports. Love to build, machine, fabricate.      Trent Williams

Offline Modat22

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Re: Whats best for cutting steel for fabrication
« Reply #13 on: February 07, 2006, 04:38:14 PM »
Metal cutting chop saw with a carbide blade does a fantastic job and doesn't throw sparks.
remember man that thy are dust.

Offline jph

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Re: Whats best for cutting steel for fabrication
« Reply #14 on: February 07, 2006, 05:30:23 PM »

This  is the saw I found on Ebay  a month ago. Brilliant for cutting box and angle especially on mitres.
It has a fine toothed  HSS steel cutting blade with coolant.

Offline rebocardo

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Re: Whats best for cutting steel for fabrication
« Reply #15 on: February 07, 2006, 06:03:20 PM »
You can get a Jet band saw at northerntools.com for about $600. Water cooled etc. It is nice, I have seen it in action.

Myself, I use a sawzall and metal blades along with my Dewalt grinder and 4.5" metal cutting wheels. If you are doing a lot of 90 degree cuts that need to be accurate 100% , at least get a $120 cut off saw with a 14" wheel. Northern sells a circular saw for cutting metal for under $200.00.

Offline isawlogs

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Re: Whats best for cutting steel for fabrication
« Reply #16 on: February 07, 2006, 09:31:12 PM »
 I use a 14" chop saw , grinder with zip wheels ( fine cutting wheel ) Then use a 7 " grinder to staraighten out and prepare for a weld .. I dont straighten much out  ;D  I also have a gas powered chop saw , and when all else fails .. I use my cutting torche .  ;D ;) I have a saws all but dont use it much I find that the blades for it are too expensive for the time they last .
A man does not always grow wise as he grows old , but he always grows old as he grows wise .

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Offline barbender

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Re: Whats best for cutting steel for fabrication
« Reply #17 on: February 08, 2006, 06:28:45 PM »
I bought the smallest Jet metal cutting bandsaw for about $300.  I use it all the time and have been real happy with it. Before this I was cutting everything with a torch, sawzall, or cutting discs in the sidegrinder.  At work we have the makita chop saw with the carbide blade, I really don't care for it for most stuff.  I might be wrong, but I think the chop saws are made more for rebar, conduit, and stuff like that.  Anyways- if it fits in the bandsaw, thats the first thing I use to cut stuff with.  No sparks, it's quiet and i've found with mine if you set it up real careful, mainly watch the blade guides and feed tension, that it cuts real accurate.  northern tool Note:Please read the Forestry Forum's postion on this company sells a real similar saw for around $200 ( probably built in the same taiwanese factory :)) that's what I'd go for if I were you.
Too many irons in the fire


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