Cutting steel - An idea for a Metalsmith article

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Martin Pansch
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Location: Young America, MN

Cutting steel - An idea for a Metalsmith article

Unread post by Martin Pansch » Thu Apr 09, 2015 12:47 pm

I have been kicking around an idea for a Metalsmith article for a while. I think it might be neat to compare a number of different ways of cutting steel. I guess my facination for being able to actually cut steel goes back to my childhood. My dad used to buy cheep hacksaw blades and keep them on way too long. The effort it took me to even cut the head off a 16d nail made me think cutting steel was a very difficult thing. But I digress...

Anyway, I was thinking having a couple different types of "standardized" tests to show the pros and cons of different cutting tools in different applications. I am thinking maybe 1/2" x 2" bar, 1/4" plate, and maybe 16 gauge sheet. I figure most of us will encounter stock of these dimensions.

For the bar I was going to go with just perpedicular cut off. For the plate and the sheet I'll do both straight line and curved cuts, maybe an "S." In the write up I'd compare the different tools by speed, neatness of cut, material collateral damage, and maybe cost of the tool. I would include other notes as well as considered pertient. I am not really looking to make it overly scientific or come to a rock solid verdict of "This is the best way to do this" as much as showing the different options for getting it done for those that might not have tried all these different methods.

I mostly want to deal with the tools one might reasonably be expected to find in one of our member's shops so CNC driven water jet, lasers and plasma rigs are out. Methods of cutting I was thinking of including:

Horizontal band saw
Portable band saw (I don't have one)
Circular saw
Abrasive chop saw
4 1/2" cut off disk
Cold cut chop saw (I don't have one)
Hack saw
Jeweler saw
Hot set/cut
Hardie
Cold chisel
Oxy acetylene torch
Tin snips
hand shear
Beverly shear
Plasma cutter (I don't have one)

My question to you folks is, what do you think? Am I missing a criteria I should be measuring? Is there another stock size I should include in addition or instead? Another type of cut? Any other type of cutting technique I should include? Should I bother doing this at all or do most folks have this stuff figured out.

Jim Ericksen
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Re: Cutting steel - An idea for a Metalsmith article

Unread post by Jim Ericksen » Thu Apr 09, 2015 9:30 pm

I have access to plasma and a portaband if needed

Maybe add a sawzall to the list , there's a carbide blade that slices through steel ( even welded stainless ) like butter ... Think it's called diablo , I'll check at work tomorrow

Jim

Martin Pansch
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Location: Young America, MN

Re: Cutting steel - An idea for a Metalsmith article

Unread post by Martin Pansch » Fri Apr 10, 2015 8:23 am

Ah, the sawzall! How could I forget? For a long time it was all I had for powered cut off options. I actually made an 11' cut in 1/4 plate with it once...

Diablo is a brand I think. I have a Diablo tablesaw blade and some Diablo flap wheels. I can look for the carbide tipped blades for the test. I have some cheap Menard's brand ones at the moment. They do okay since I mostly us the sawzall for demolition and other activities that tend to destroy blades quickly.

I might take you up on the plasma and portaband access for the test.

Jim Ericksen
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Re: Cutting steel - An idea for a Metalsmith article

Unread post by Jim Ericksen » Fri Apr 10, 2015 10:56 am

Yup , Diablo
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gmonzo
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Re: Cutting steel - An idea for a Metalsmith article

Unread post by gmonzo » Fri Apr 10, 2015 2:59 pm

Several months ago we had our roof re-shingled.
One of the guys on the crew noticed a chunk of railroad rail I had in the garage.
I explained that I planned to fashion it into a simple beginners anvil.
He said he'd bring something the following day...
The next day he demonstrated his gas-powered cutoff saw. I'm guessing it had a 14" blade.
I think it took him less than 3 minutes to complete a single cross-cut of the rail.
If you've tried to cut a railroad rail, you'll know that 3 minutes is quick...very quick.

It was quite a sight; a stream of sparks probably 20' long.
(All the while he's smoking a cigarette, with no eye or hearing protection.)

Ever since I've been going to rent a similar saw and complete the project, but with plenty of protection.

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Darryl Ponder
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Location: Minnetonka, MN

Re: Cutting steel - An idea for a Metalsmith article

Unread post by Darryl Ponder » Sun Apr 19, 2015 7:00 am

This almost begs a follow up article on cutting holes in steel.

I often have the need to cut a hole in some plate or sheet larger than a drill or hole saw size, say something in excess of three inches in diameter. The tools on hand in my shop include a jigsaw, sawzall, old plasma cutter, an oxyacetylene torch and some electric sheet metal sheers. Invariably I end up making a cut that is rough on the edges and then finish it smooth by filing or sanding with a flap disk or by hand. Most of my problem is probably skill level as I'm sure BTW (one of our Guild members) could make a perfectly round cut with the torch that had a mirror finish on the edge. Me, not so much.... Anyway, I have yet to come of with a good method of making a nice round cut in plate or sheet that is very smooth and requires little to no finish work. All of my cutting methods either tend to wander and drift off the cut line more than I would like or leave a rough edge to finish or both.

truckwiz
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Re: Cutting steel - An idea for a Metalsmith article

Unread post by truckwiz » Sun Apr 19, 2015 4:02 pm

If I had to choose to only have 1 cutting tool it would be the plasma cutter . I save every round piece of metal scrap I get my hands on ,including bearing races, washers ,rotors and brake drums . You can cut a perfect circle or partial arc by dragging the torch along the item.


Brian

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