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Thread: Cutting Metal- Power Tool Usage How-To and Tips

  
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    Bigblue12v started this thread.
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    Cutting Metal- Power Tool Usage How-To and Tips

    I posted part of this in reply to another thread, and Mick suggested I post it here so I have modified it a little and added some more reading material to it.

    For those of us who don't have a plasma cutter or oxy-acetylene or propane torch set, we resort to power tools to help with demolition and destruction projects. Here's some pointers to make your work safer, easier and more economical:

    Here's a tip to save blades when cutting thick metal with the Sawzall-- Don't use full speed, it will overheat the blade and burn it, basically softens the teeth until the melt down into a smooth blade which is useless, needs to have sharp teeth. Go slower on the tool speed. Also what i find to help is to cut with one portion of the blade, then pull the tool back and let a different part of the blade do the cutting for a moment, then switch back, this keeps the heat spread out a little to cut back on the first problem I mentioned.
    I've been using Sawzall's for years to cut all kinds of metal for fabrication, couple years ago I added a Chop-Saw to my fleet, that was a great addition but nearly useless for scrapping.

    A grinder with a cut off wheel is a great tool to have, but the cut off wheels don't last long on thicker/heavier metal, but they definitely earn their place in my toolbox. I use 4.5", I find to be a good all around size, and they are offered in 4" and the larger 6 or 7" sizes which I often find too large, however they are sometimes nice to have. You might pickup a cheapie grinder for $20 somewhere (often less at Harbor Freight), name brand ones run $50+ (I have two DeWalt $50 ones that have lasted me for many years now), but the cheap ones are well worth the money and generally are not too disappointing given the cost. Given the rotary action, they are handy for cutting things the sawzall just wants to push and pull if it grabs too hard.

    Also, we have successfully cut sheet metal siding with a blade for the circular saw (AKA SKIL SAW) that is a metal blade with slots cut from the outside of the circle toward the center, odd looking blade but works great for metal siding, if you needed to cut through the thin sheets of siding or thin sheet metal, that works great, blade seems to last a long time.

    A jigsaw equipped with a metal blade will work in a pinch but very slow going and the blades are too weak for anything very much. If you already own one of these and do not own any of the above listed tools, it might get you by in a pinch but I recommend to find a grinder or sawzall ASAP. Jigsaws were made for woodworking and the metal blade should never have been invented for them. If you're fabricating with thin sheet metal and need to cut pieces with curves and such, you might find a metal blade useful but buy a full pack of them, they break easily. Not at all useful for demolition of any sort.

    For Sawzall blades- stay away from DeWalt blades they are somewhat disappointing. I find Lenox brand to be my absolute favorite, and Milwaulkee blades work real well too. Lenox blades aren't cheap but they will last a little longer. In general, you get what you pay for with Sawzall blades. Cheaper blades are fine for wood but the metal takes a toll on them. There are two kinds of blades available in many lengths- low and high profile. The low profile ones are great in tight places and the high profile ones will hold up a lot better if you have room to work with the larger size. They last longer for a couple reasons- one, the higher blade gives the heat more room to spread out and lets the blade run cooler (makes teeth last longer) and two- the larger blade is stronger and doesn't bend NEAR as easy when it gets pinched. However, all of these blades are reduced to the same size where they connect into the blade holder on the saw, so this will always be a weak point under extreme conditions.

    If you're cutting wood, use a razor sharp large tooth blade, these will cut through anything wooden. If you're cutting metal there are a few different "tooth count" blades, this is measured in "TPI" - Teeth Per Inch. For all around use, I find 14 TPI to be great. I rarely use anything else and I use the Sawzall to cut anything from 3/8" to sheet metal. There is a third kind of blade, called a Demolition blade. These are meant to quickly cut through general construction material, wood, pipes, nails, etc. They are normally more expensive than metal blades but they are meant to take a lot of abuse. They are offered with carbide tipped blades and such. I rarely use these.

    Sawzall blades are not real cheap but can be a valuable asset, follow the first paragraph and you'll find they last a lot longer than just ripping wide open full blast at something, especially in anything thicker than 1/8" or so. Same thing goes for cut off wheels on grinders- slow down and take your time not forcing it and the disc will last longer. If you force it these things have a tendecy to grab and can take you for a ride. Use the safety guard and T-handle on the grinder when possible and always wear safety glasses please, especially with the grinder. They fling stuff everywhere and everytime I try to save a few moments finding the glasses I regret it and get a smoldering hot chunk of metal in my eye!!!

    Safety first!
    Good luck and happy scrapping!




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    Never occurred to me to use a slower speed, though I do change positions on the blade.

    Was cutting apart some stainless counters that had been tack welded together. I got the blade to glow bright red in no time.

    Have you tried Harbor Freights blades? I envision them being junk, but I have had surprising results with some of their products.

    I'll have to look into Lenox blades.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigblue12v View Post
    Use the safety guard and T-handle on the grinder when possible and always wear safety glasses please, especially with the grinder. They fling stuff everywhere and everytime I try to save a few moments finding the glasses I regret it and get a smoldering hot chunk of metal in my eye!!!

    Safety first!
    Good luck and happy scrapping!

    I agree. I didn't have safety glasses on when a cutoff tool exploded, (pos plastic? composite Campbell Hausfeld) taking the guard with it. Luckily it didn't get my eyes or face. Hurt my hand a bit though.

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    Bigblue12v started this thread.
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    Quote Originally Posted by IdahoScrapper View Post
    Never occurred to me to use a slower speed, though I do change positions on the blade.

    Was cutting apart some stainless counters that had been tack welded together. I got the blade to glow bright red in no time.

    Have you tried Harbor Freights blades? I envision them being junk, but I have had surprising results with some of their products.

    I'll have to look into Lenox blades.
    No Haven't tried their blades, I'm with you I don't see them being any good but if you try them report back how they are. Stainless will kill any blade fast! LOL

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    Bigblue12v started this thread.
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    Quote Originally Posted by IdahoScrapper View Post
    I agree. I didn't have safety glasses on when a cutoff tool exploded, (pos plastic? composite Campbell Hausfeld) taking the guard with it. Luckily it didn't get my eyes or face. Hurt my hand a bit though.
    Oh yes thank you for reminding me- I recently had a cutting disc explode on me (wasn't the right one for the grinder but used it anyway, bad idea) fortunately it didn't come at my face. It did take a good size chunk out of my thumb knuckle though! Holy mother of god it felt like a rock hit my hand at 100 mph! Wowwweeee........ yea be very careful with cut off wheels, make sure they are the correct one for the grinder and are fastened PROPERLY!!!! Double check that!!! If the arbor or disc isn't correct for each other and the nut is tightened too much for that style of disc and it stresses the disc wrong it WILL fly apart.

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    Scrap man's Avatar
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    I'm not sure if this would work or screw up your sawzall, but has anyone ever tried pouring water on their blade when using it for a long period of time to reduce wear on it? Some industrial saws are water cooled and I thought it might work on smaller saws.
    There's nothing more fun and more effective than hitting something repeatedly with a sledgehammer

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrap man View Post
    I'm not sure if this would work or screw up your sawzall, but has anyone ever tried pouring water on their blade when using it for a long period of time to reduce wear on it? Some industrial saws are water cooled and I thought it might work on smaller saws.
    I haven't. Seems cutting oil would be more effective.

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    Scrap man's Avatar
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    Cutting oil or water would probably both work, but water is cheaper

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    Rusty Nuts's Avatar
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    Just curious- are you guys running battery powered Sawzalls? or 110/AC versions?

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    Bigblue12v started this thread.
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    110 AC here...... would love to have a cordless but I bring almost all my projects to the garage/driveway area anyway..... I think a generator would suit me better than cordless stuff.... I'm a big power hog and cordless stuff is great and handy (couldn't live without cordless drill as it gets used so much as a bit driver) but need nonstop power and lots of it for cutting and what-not.... of all the cordless high power draw tools I've used, they have to be big name brand to really do the job and make me impressed and thats a lot of money to invest in tools, plus the cost of the batteries when they need replaced is sky high. I think a generator would be more affordable than buying all the tools i'd need in a GOOD cordless version, that I already own those tools that simply need a power source....

    But again, all my projects come within range of an extension cord so I keep it simple for now. I always use some used motor oil as cutting oil when I'm drilling holes in steel, never really done that with sawzall but should work fine...... Normally the cut isn't big enough to worry about it, and I have a harder time not bending the blade than keeping teeth on it....

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    I was reading through some threads today and thought many noobs would benefit from this.....I did, as I read it for the 2nd or 3rd time !!! I now use Lenox blades and love them....esp the first few cuts...like a knife through butter !! But, I've been using full speed, so this was a great reminder for me. Thanks again, BigBlue !

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    I use the good blades,long ones at that.When the mounting end breaks I will reshape it on the bench grinder.Then I drill a small hole in it for the mounting screw.I use them until there is nothing left of them.

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    I tried a pack of the harbor freight blades and cut off wheels... Both were not work the money I paid for them...

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    My Milwaukee Sawzall and my inverter and extension cord and I can go anywhere.

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    HF 4 1/2 cutoff is all I use. I am satisfied with them, but then again it's all I know. Did yours not last long or what? I've heard of them exploding, but in the 40+ discs I've gone through, I haven't had one blow up yet.

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    Metal Recycling Entrepreneur
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    One trick I've used is to put oil or use the wax sticks for bandsaws on the blade. This helps keep the blade sharp when cutting thick stuff. Also, I only cut as much as I need to get to where I can bend something back and forth to break it. Saves time in the long run.

    You are right about the slower speed and moving around though, that's a must.


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