1. Welcome Hearth.com Guests and Visitors - Please enjoy our forums!
    Hearth.com GOLD Sponsors who help bring the site content to you:
    Hearthstone Soapstone and Cast-Iron stoves( Wood, Gas or Pellet Stoves and Inserts)

Cutting heavy steel without plasma/oxy-acetylene?

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by Badfish740, Apr 12, 2013.

  1. Badfish740

    Badfish740 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2007
    Messages:
    1,439
    I need a rear bumper for my woodhauler-the old one literally rusted in half. State law says I need some kind of rear bumper and the truck is due for inspection by the end of May. I have a lot of steel that I've gathered over the years as well as a stick welder which I'm reasonably proficient with. What I don't have is any type of heavy duty cutting tools such as those mentioned above. I'm looking to build something very basic like this:

    [​IMG]

    I have two 8' lengths of 2" x 5" x 1/4" rectangular channel, one of which I'd like to cut down and use as the rear piece. I'll have to sort through the pile and see if I have anything smaller for the corner and side pieces, but the big question is how to cut this stuff? I considered purchasing this angle grinder:

    http://www.harborfreight.com/4-1-2-...zIjoiMTIuNDkiLCJwcm9kdWN0X2lk IjoiMzIzMyJ9

    from HF (on sale for $12.49!) along with a lot of discs. Grinding through 1/4" steel won't be much fun though. Anyone have a better suggestion?

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2006
    Messages:
    15,283
    Loc:
    Northern IL
    A metal blade in a sawsall will actually go through 1/4" like butter. I have even used it for small cuts in 1/2" stock.
    ScotO likes this.
  3. Jack Straw

    Jack Straw Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2008
    Messages:
    2,161
    Loc:
    Schoharie County, N Y
    I have cut a lot of steel with a jigsaw, good blades and plenty of oil.
  4. Badfish740

    Badfish740 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2007
    Messages:
    1,439
    I always thought that the Sawzall wouldn't cut straight enough, but I suppose I could still get the grinder and just use it to even things out afterwards.
    ScotO and fossil like this.
  5. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2006
    Messages:
    15,283
    Loc:
    Northern IL
    Draw your line and go slow. It won't be perfect, but you can get it pretty straight. You can also clamp some type of straight edge (like angle iron) to the work piece and use that as a guide.
    fishingpol and ScotO like this.
  6. bmblank

    bmblank Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2013
    Messages:
    698
    Loc:
    Michigan
    A skil saw (handheld circular saw) with a cutoff wheel may do alright. Where i work they cut a fair amount of aluminum like that, mostly with a fine toothed carbide blade, bit some times with a cutoff wheel.
  7. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2006
    Messages:
    15,283
    Loc:
    Northern IL
    Aluminum - this works fine. If done on steel, the sparks are hot enough to mess up the saw platform. Just be aware of this. (ask me how I know.;sick)
  8. Badfish740

    Badfish740 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2007
    Messages:
    1,439
    Hmmm...I have a yard sale ($5) circular saw that needs a cord sitting in my garage. Might be worth investigating.
  9. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2006
    Messages:
    15,283
    Loc:
    Northern IL
    A sawsall will be faster if you have that option. Also - you won't be using a toothed blade. You will be using an abrasive "cut off" wheel. These can sometimes be hard to find in the proper size for a circular saw.

    (and wear your hearing protection. Good gawd is it loud.)
  10. gzecc

    gzecc Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2008
    Messages:
    3,963
    Loc:
    NNJ
    Corded sawsall with a couple of new metal heavy duty blades. Blades come in different sized and strengths.
  11. Ehouse

    Ehouse Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2011
    Messages:
    936
    Loc:
    Upstate NY
    Any machine shop will have a stationary hack saw or abrasive cut off saw and will probably cut it for you for next to nothing if not free. Same with an automotive shop that works on mufflers. An angle grinder is a great tool to invest in but get a decent one. When I was looking, Craftsman had a highly rated 4 1/2" job. Around $50.
  12. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2006
    Messages:
    9,300
    Loc:
    base of Mt. Rainier on the wet side, WA
    I've cut plenty of steel like this with a jigsaw. Pretty easy to control, not loud, fast, or hot.
  13. blades

    blades Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2008
    Messages:
    1,623
    Loc:
    WI, Milw
    The harbor freight ones do not last to long in that price catagory. Tend to burn up the armature under heavy use
    Units in the $60 range due ok for the casual user. These are what I use around my shop, they last 2-3 years by that time they are pretty well beat internally as well as externaly. For what it costs in parts shiping and time , it is cheaper for me to replace them than to repair. Cost is worse if taken to a repair shop. You can go on line and get some higher end ones that have been factory refurbished as well .
  14. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    Right angle grinder with cut off discs or a regular chop saw. 1/4" isn't exactly heavy steel, I thought you were talking about something that's a few inches thick till I read the post.

    I have a torch and plasma cutter but most of the time I just use a cut off wheel.

    Don't need to drop lots of money on a grinder. I've got an expensive one ($250ish) and it's no better than the Black and Decker $29.99 ones I bought from Wal-Mart.
    6-7 years ago my expensive grinder crapped out one night (wore out the brushes), only place open was Wal-Mart. Figured what the heck, I'm sure it can last for a few hours.
    Still have that one and I bought 2 or 3 more (don't swap the discs out, just grab another grinder)
  15. hemlock

    hemlock Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    May 6, 2009
    Messages:
    455
    Loc:
    east coast canada
    I'd go with the cut-off wheels in the grinder. I think you'd find it easier to make and keep a straight cut. You'll go through a few of them, and it won't be lots of fun, but they'll do a good job. Just be careful, wear gloves and glasses, and watch the sparks.
  16. fossil

    fossil Accidental Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2007
    Messages:
    10,445
    Loc:
    Bend, OR
    The first time you tweak that angle grinder/cutoff wheel rig just a bit off straight in the cut you've made and the thing rips itself right out of your hand and goes flying and the wheel comes apart like a $2 suitcase, you'll wish you had tried a different tool/method.
    Jags, Frozen Canuck and Gary_602z like this.
  17. Gary_602z

    Gary_602z Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2009
    Messages:
    930
    Loc:
    Lake Odessa,MI
    I am with Ehouse just take it to a machine shop and have them do it for a few bucks.

    Gary
  18. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    I've been using grinders to cut steel for over 20 years and I've never had something that like happen. The discs are pretty forgiving, have cut circles with them before just by twisting the grinder in the cut.

    Not saying it can't, but I think you'd have to be really trying or have no idea how to use tools!


  19. fossil

    fossil Accidental Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2007
    Messages:
    10,445
    Loc:
    Bend, OR
    Oh, I'm quite sure that must be the explanation. Don't know why that never occurred to me before. Might have saved me a lot of pain and suffering over the years. Thanks so much, I really appreciate your wise guidance. I'll put all of my tools up on Craigslist first thing in the morning.
  20. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    I didn't say anything about YOU not knowing how to run tools! Your the one that is making it sound like using a grinder will result in missing arms off and kill a bus load of nuns along with some baby seals

    I'd like to think a "super moderator" would be a bit more level headed to others on here! This isn't the first time you have done this, or just removed my posts... for no reason.

    I think some people should just stick to giving advice about burning wood....

  21. fishingpol

    fishingpol Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2010
    Messages:
    2,052
    Loc:
    Merrimack Valley, MA
    I used an angle grinder with abrasive wheel to cut 1/2" steel on a brake drum. A ton of sparks, but doable. Now I have a ton of rust to clean off my patio. I used a cut off wheel on circ saw for other pieces. Wheels are cheap enough.

    Maybe rent a gas cutoff saw to get it done?
  22. ScotO

    ScotO Guest

    I have several 4" grinders and lemme tell ya, I couldn't function without them. I also have oxy-acelelyne torches and my neighbor has a plasma cutter I can use anytime I want, but I still like the versatility and ease of using the cutoff wheels in the grinder.....

    I use that grinder to cut metal, wood, plastic, tile, stone, etc......and like Rick says you do gotta be careful. I was cutting stones for my fireplace project back in December when it grabbed and took the grinder right out of my hand.....but you wear gloves and safetly glasses, you'll be fine......
    Thistle likes this.
  23. ewdudley

    ewdudley Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2009
    Messages:
    1,753
    Loc:
    Cayuga County NY
    Waah.
    nate379 likes this.
  24. Frozen Canuck

    Frozen Canuck Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2009
    Messages:
    865
    Loc:
    North central Alberta, Canada
    + 1 for take it to a shop with a cut list/diagram. For a 1 off you wont recover the cost of tooling up.

    I always find it interesting that those who have survived foolishness to this point (using the wrong tool for the job) always recommend it to others. They always forget to mention all the people in the trades that we collectively refer to as "stumpy".

    Who knows Badfish you may meet someone who will for a 20 take your heavy metal projects off your hands. Not a bad trade, you supply material they do the cutting. Heck I would call that person a friend, Xmas card for sure.
  25. Frozen Canuck

    Frozen Canuck Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2009
    Messages:
    865
    Loc:
    North central Alberta, Canada
    For me a small metal/machining shop in town takes care of all my metal needs whether I supply it from farm scrap or I get it from his stock. It has never been worth it for me to tool up to handle metal safely. Oh & the "stumpy" reference was for the use a grinder group, I have never seen a metal shop do that, they simply get the right tool & do it safely. Stuff like this will simply never be worth the risk.

Share This Page