6 Things to Know Before Cutting Metal (2022)

Cutting metal may seem straightforward to the experienced DIYer, but make sure you keep these six things in mind before beginning your next project.

Photo: depositphotos.com

Around the home, you won’t frequently run into situations that require you to cut metal, but there are a few DIY projects that will have you facing this obstacle, and you need to know what to expect. Metal work can pop up when replacing or repairing HVAC ducts, restoring the metal flashing on a roof, or while preparing for a metal crafting project, such as building an outdoor shower or creating an accent wall.

No matter the project, the tools used for cutting metal and the material itself can cause a significant safety risk. To keep your project safe and successful, remember these six helpful tips, suggestions, and reminders.

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Photo: depositphotos.com

1. Make sure you wear appropriate safety gear.

While this may seem like common sense, it happens all too often that a professional or an experienced DIYer gets comfortable enough working with the materials that they neglect their personal protective equipment (PPE). When cutting metal, you should be wearing gloves to protect your hands from the vibration and excess friction that can occur. You should also wear safety glasses to protect your eyes while providing clear visibility, and a face mask to guard against any stray fibers being blown around. Steel toe shoes are never a bad idea, and a simple set of earplugs will save you from hearing damage that begins to occur at just 85 dB. For reference, a miter saw or chop saw can be as loud as 100 dB. Don’t sacrifice your hearing for comfort, take precautions.

2. Choose the right blade for the right material.

To adequately cut through your desired material—and to avoid exposing yourself to chips, nicks, and other dangerous breaks that can send metal pieces flying across a workstation—it’s important to select the correct blade.

Cutting and grinding wheels are designated either ferrous or non-ferrous. Ferrous blades are ideal for cutting metals that contain iron, such as stainless steel or cast iron. Choose a non-ferrous blade when cutting softer metals, like aluminum or copper.

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For the best results, use a diamond blade that’s rated to cut the type of metal you are working with. Their superior strength and hardness will help you make neater cuts, and your blade will last longer.

Cutting metal can be a tricky process, but it can be made easier by selecting the right tool for the job. While the chop saw doesn’t make the best option for working with large sheets of metal, it is the best overall tool in terms of setup, cutting time, stability, ease of use, portability, and the finish of the cut. Designed to cut carefully measured angles, you can easily adjust the blade to come down in a straight line, or on an angle of 45 degrees or less.

The base allows you to concentrate on the placement of the material for the perfect cut, instead of trying to position your hand correctly with a circular saw or grinder which can easily lead to mistakes. Its versatility allows the chop saw to sit on a workbench, or even the floor, to provide a fixed cutting area for your project.

Chop saws can be used with an abrasive blade, though these tend to wear down quickly and do not provide as good a finish as carbide-tipped blades. Carbide metal cutting blades come in a variety of sizes and types, including both ferrous and non-ferrous ratings. They cut down on sparks and debris, and generally last longer, though they do come with a higher price tag.

Photo: depositphotos.com

4. Choose the technique for quality results.

Each type of metal requires a slightly different technique to ensure that the material is held in place and is adequately supported, however, there is a basic formula that you must follow to get desired results.

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  • Before beginning, decide on the type of blade and type of tool you will be using. Choose a ferrous or non-ferrous blade depending on your metal, and a tool appropriate for the type and size of metal you are working with.
  • Remember to wear your PPE during set up and while cleaning up to avoid accidents that can occur outside of the actual cut. Once you have chosen the correct tool for the job, measure your material and mark the area you want to cut with a shop pencil, or erasable marker.
  • Lay your material down on a flat surface and fasten it with one or more clamps to ensure that it will not move. If using a chop saw, or any other stationary power tool, the metal should be lined up with the blade, prepared for you to begin cutting. If using a handheld tool, then you will need to find the best place to begin your cut. Carefully, check where the blade of your tool will cut on your material, and if you are confident that it lines up with the mark that you made previously, you can begin to cut the metal.
  • Take your time and pay attention to the accuracy of the saw.Thicker materials will require a slower cut, so be careful about trying to push your blade through the metal too quickly. If you are free handing the cut with an angle grinder, jigsaw, or circular saw, accuracy will likely be your biggest problem. Provided you are using the correct blade, tool, and work area for your material, you can also better control the outcome of your project by remembering to cut slowly while ensuring the material does not move.

Photo: depositphotos.com

5. Know when portability is preferred.

While the chop saw comes out on top in almost every category, there are a few limits to its use. The first is the price and the second is the portability. Cutting metal pipe, or other long, narrow pieces of metal is simple with a chop saw, but if you are working with sheet metal, you will have a difficult time trying to run the entire width of the metal through a stationary chop saw. This is when the angle grinder comes into play.

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Angle grinders are both cheaper and more portable than a chop saw. They can easily be held in your hand and are especially effective when they are used for cutting small, precise pieces out of larger material. Angle grinders can be fitted with either a grinding disc for thicker metal or a cutting disc. Just be sure that you have matched your ferrous disc to a ferrous material and non-ferrous disc to a non-ferrous material.

Photo: depositphotos.com

For the DIYer that may be looking for a one-time alternative that won’t empty your wallet, a manual approach to cutting metal may be better. The best manual metal cutting tools you are going to find are the tin snips (for sheet metal) and the hacksaw (for cut-off duties on pipe, tube, angle, etc.).

Tin snips resemble scissors and work in much the same way. They are durable, inexpensive, and easy to use, making them the perfect choice for any DIYer working with sheet metal. However, these handy tools are not great at cutting metals thicker than 18-gauge. This is where the hacksaw comes in.

Hacksaws are amazing for getting into tight spaces, cutting metal on weird angles, and working on pre-existing materials that can’t be laid on a workbench. When they are fitted with a metal cutting blade, they can be used on steel, aluminum, copper, and almost any other metal. They are inexpensive and simple to use, but the main tradeoff that comes with almost any manual tool is the amount of effort you will need to put into using them. Expect to put in a workout if you are using a hacksaw for an extended period of time.

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FAQs

What is the process of cutting metal? ›

Common cutting processes include sawing, shaping (or planing), broaching, drilling, grinding, turning and milling.

What is the most accurate way to cut metal? ›

An angle grinder fitted with an abrasive metal-cutting disc works well to cut all kinds of metal, including bolts, angle iron, rebar and even sheet metal. But the discs wear down quickly, cut slowly and shrink in diameter as you use them. Instead, we recommend using a diamond blade that's rated to cut ferrous metal.

What should you consider Think before cutting metal pipe? ›

There are a few elements you should think about first:
  1. The Project- Instead of diving in, think about your project first. ...
  2. Tools- Make sure you have the tools you need before cutting your pipe. ...
  3. Safety- Safety is key. ...
  4. Budget- What is your budget for this project?

What PPE should be worn when cutting metal? ›

Eye, face, hand/arm, head and body protection (leather gloves, leather apron, gauntlets, safety glasses with side shields, welders helmet or welders goggles) are required that are appropriate to the potential hazards encountered during welding, cutting, brazing, soldering, grinding or other spark producing operations.

What is method of cutting? ›

Cutting method is a technique of vegetative reproduction in plants. In this method, a branch of the stem is cut out from the plant and buried in the soil. New leaves arise from the nodes in the stem and the new roots also develop giving rise to a whole new plant. Example- rose, sugarcane.

What are the two methods of metal cutting? ›

Different Types of Metal Cutting
  • Grinding. Grinding is a metal cutting process used in fabrication. ...
  • Drilling. Drilling is another important action for metal fabrication. ...
  • Turning. ...
  • Burning. ...
  • Water Jet. ...
  • Plasma. ...
  • Laser. ...
  • Contact APX York Sheet Metal to Learn More.
17 Dec 2019

What tool do you use to cut metal? ›

Tin Snips. Like a pair of scissors, tin snips are an inexpensive handheld tool that cuts straight, or if the blade is curved, can cut curves and circles. Tin snips are ideal for cutting soft metals like aluminum and copper, and are especially useful for cutting sheet metal, gutters, metal roofing, and studs.

What is the best blade for cutting metal? ›

Ferrous blades are ideal for cutting metals that contain iron, such as stainless steel or cast iron. Choose a non-ferrous blade when cutting softer metals, like aluminum or copper. For the best results, use a diamond blade that's rated to cut the type of metal you are working with.

How do you prevent sparks from cutting metal? ›

The best way to cut iron or steel without sparks is to use a hacksaw rather than an angle grinder. Attaching a carbide grinding bit to a rotary tool such as a Dremel, for example, limits the amount of sparking and helps remove any small pieces of metal your grinder may miss or cannot reach.

What are the safety precautions during cutting operation? ›

Wear safety glasses or goggles, or a face shield (with safety glasses or goggles) and protective gloves when using cutters. Choose the proper cutter for the job. Cutters are designed for a specific type, hardness, and size of material.

How do you cut metal pipe? ›

Heavy-duty steel pipe and tube cutters are usually the easiest to use, but for tight spaces, an angle grinder or reciprocating saw may be needed. When using a metal pipe cutter, align the tool around the marked place on the galvanized pipe and rotate so that the wheel cuts deeper into the pipe until severed.

How do you cut metal without noise? ›

4 Best Ways to Cut Metal Without Power Tools
  1. Using a Hacksaw. ...
  2. Using a Utility Knife. ...
  3. Using a Bench Shear. ...
  4. Using an Angle Grinder. ...
  5. Using a Circular Saw. ...
  6. Using a Miter Saw. ...
  7. Using an Oscillating Saw. ...
  8. Using a Reciprocating Saw.
17 Jul 2020

What are some general safe work practices to know as a welder? ›

What are some general safe work practices to know?
  • General information/tips about welding.
  • Proper selection, use, maintenance and storage of PPE.
  • Confined space entry procedures.
  • Fall protection procedures.
  • Lock-out / tag-out procedures.
  • How to work safely with flammable hazardous products.

What is feet and legs protection? ›

Foot and leg protection choices include the following: Leggings protect the lower legs and feet from heat hazards such as molten metal or welding sparks. Safety snaps allow leggings to be removed quickly. Metatarsal guards protect the instep area from impact and compression.

Is a face shield required when grinding? ›

OSHA Notice Safety Sign: Safety Glasses And Face Shield Must Be Worn When Grinding. This material is protected by: Prevent eye and face injuries by requiring PPE be worn while using grinding equipment.

How do you properly cut? ›

Helpful tips for a cutting diet
  1. Choose more fiber-rich foods. Fiber-rich carb sources like non-starchy vegetables tend to contain more nutrients and can help you stay fuller for longer while on a calorie deficit ( 30 ).
  2. Drink plenty of water. ...
  3. Try meal prepping. ...
  4. Avoid liquid carbs. ...
  5. Consider cardio.
12 Sept 2019

What are the 4 main types of cuttings? ›

The four main types of stem cuttings are herbaceous, softwood, semi-hardwood, and hardwood.

What are the 10 basic knife cuts? ›

Kitchen Language: What Are The Basic Knife Cuts?
  • Baton. Thick cut chips or steak fries are cut in chunky batons about 8mm in thickness. ...
  • Batonnet. Some common foods cut in this style are French fries and crudites or vegetable sticks for dipping. ...
  • Julienne. ...
  • Brunoise. ...
  • Paysanne. ...
  • Chiffonade.
14 Jan 2019

Why is metal cutting important? ›

Metal cutting is an essential process throughout engineering design and manufacturing industries. To increase efficiency and reduce costs, it is necessary to improve understanding of the metal cutting process.

What is the basic principle of metal cutting in milling? ›

1. Chapter 1 Principles of Metal Cutting 1.1 Introduction Metal Cutting or Machining is the process of producing a workpiece by removing unwanted material from block of metal, in the form of chips.

How do you cut thin metal? ›

For thin sheets of metal, you can use tin snips to cut through it. To make detailed cuts in sheet metal, use a Dremel blade. Clamp the sheet metal to a work table and press the Dremel blade against it. Move the blade along the intended line until you reach the end of your cut.

How do you cut metal trim? ›

Clean cut metal shower niche trim, here is how - YouTube

How do you cut hardened steel? ›

How to cut hardened steel - YouTube

What is 18 TPI for cutting? ›

Blades 12-18 TPI are typically used for metal and denser materials as well as finish cuts in wood. The 18-24 TPI range is almost always used for metal cutting.

How do you cut sheet metal straight? ›

how to cut straight lines on sheet metal - YouTube

Can a hand saw cut metal? ›

There are hand saws for cutting wood, drywall, metal and plastic. Even though hand saw uses vary and choosing the right saw for the job is important, the basic technique for using a hand saw is the same.

Does all metal spark? ›

Items that are made from carbon steel, stainless steel, cast iron or wrought iron all have the possibility of producing a spark. Non-ferrous metals include aluminum, copper, brass, silver, and lead. They're not the only materials that non-sparking tools are made out of, though.

What causes metal sparks? ›

While grinding metal, sparks are produced because of Friction. The rotating grinder cuts through the metal molecules, rubbing against them and producing heat. Some particles get loose in this process and burn because of this heat.

Why does metal grind spark? ›

When an angle grinder is applied to metal, small metal particles are ejected. These particles can oxidize, from the heat generated by oxidation, become hot enough to glow; we then call them sparks. The hot sparks then cool down due to convective and radiative cooling.

What should be done before you do the actual cutting? ›

The answer is very simple. All you need to do is wash your fabric before you cut. This way, you make sure that any possible shrinkage will happen before you get to cut your garment. This saves you from getting a garment that is too tight and that you can't wear for the second time.

What are the safety precautions you must consider while using knife? ›

Safety Guidelines
  • Keep knives sharp. ...
  • Wear a cutting glove. ...
  • Always cut away from yourself. ...
  • Use the right knife for the job. ...
  • Cut on a stable cutting board. ...
  • Never grab a falling knife. ...
  • Keep your eyes on the blade. ...
  • Carry the knife pointed down, or in a scabbard.
29 Sept 2014

What is the safety tips of wire cutter? ›

Wear safety glasses or goggles, or a face shield (with safety glasses or goggles) whenever there is a potential hazard from flying particles, pieces of wire, etc. Cut at right angles. Never rock the cutting tool from side to side or bend wire back and forth against the cutting edges.

How do you cut a metal rod? ›

How To Cut Metal - Ace Hardware - YouTube

How do you cut metal pipe by hand? ›

How to cut pipe by hand - YouTube

How do you cut stainless steel pipe? ›

How To Cut Stainless Steel Pipe - RIDGID - YouTube

What thickness is 12 gauge steel? ›

15 U.S. Code § 206 - Standard gauge for sheet and plate iron and steel
Number of gaugeApproximate thickness in fractions of an inchWeight per square foot in kilograms
111/82.268
127/641.984
133/321.701
145/641.417
41 more rows

Which hand tool is used solely for cutting metals? ›

Snips or shears

Snips and shears are used for cutting metal.

Can I use a hacksaw to cut metal? ›

A hacksaw is mainly used for cutting thin metal such as aluminum, brass, steel, or copper. Hacksaws are also used for cutting plastics such as PVC, PEX, or ABS on pipes or on sheet goods made of PVC, polystyrene, and more.

What is cutting metal called? ›

Metal cutting is “the process of removing unwanted material in the form of chips, from a block of metal, using cutting tool”. A person who specializes in machining is called a machinist.

What cutting process can cut any type of metals? ›

Waterjet cutting is the perfect method for that. Waterjet cutting mimics nature's effect on metal at a much higher rate. The metal erodes through water jet technology and allows for the metal to be cut easily. Waterjet cutting can be used for both soft materials and hard materials.

What is metal machining? ›

Metal machining is the process of shaping various raw metals into finished products or components by removing material with a machine. Various machines, such as a CNC machine, are used to cut, turn, drill, or mill the metal until the desired shape has been achieved.

What is plasma cutting process? ›

Plasma cutting (plasma arc cutting) is a melting process in which a jet of ionised gas at temperatures above 20,000°C is used to melt and expel material from the cut. During the process, an electric arc is struck between an electrode (cathode) and the workpiece (anode).

Why is metal cutting important? ›

Metal cutting is an essential process throughout engineering design and manufacturing industries. To increase efficiency and reduce costs, it is necessary to improve understanding of the metal cutting process.

What is a metal worker called? ›

A metalsmith is one who works with or has the knowledge and the capacity of working with "all" metals.

What is basic metal work? ›

Basic metalwork involves marking, cutting, drilling, cutting internal and external threads, filing and joining. It's not difficult to work with metal, but, like working with wood, it requires specific skills and specialized tools.

What is the necessary condition for metal cutting? ›

2.1 Essential Conditions for Successful Metal Cutting

(a) Relative motion between work and cutting tool. (b) Tool material must be harder than work material. (c) Work and tool must be rigidly held by jig and fixtures. (d) Sharp Cutting edge of cutting tool. (e) Primary Motion (Cutting Speed).

What three factors would you consider when choosing the right metal for a job? ›

The Material Selection Process
  • Ductility — How pliable is the material? ...
  • Weldability — How easy is it to solder the metal? ...
  • Machinability — Machinability refers to the ability to cut materials with a blade. ...
  • Tensile Strength — How much force is required to snap the metal?
13 Jun 2019

How many types of metal cutting machines are there? ›

The metal cutting machines include - lathe, drilling machine, milling machine, boring machine, grinding machine and machining center, etc. The machine tools are called the "mother machines" as they make other machines possible.

How is metal removed in metal cutting? ›

In metal cutting, a wedge-shaped tool is used to remove material from the workpiece in the form of a 'chip'. Two motions are required: the 'primary motion', e.g. the rotation of the workpiece in a lathe; and the 'secondary motion', e.g. the feed of a lathe tool.

What is CNC EDM? ›

CNC Wire EDM utilizes a fine, electrically charged metal wire usually made of brass, to cut through the work piece while submerged in a tank of deionized water. The moving wire erodes any conductive material that is within . 0005” of its path, while the deionized water cools and flushes away debris from the cut.

What is metal milling? ›

Milling is the process of machining using rotary cutters to remove material by advancing a cutter into a workpiece. This may be done by varying direction on one or several axes, cutter head speed, and pressure.

How hot is plasma? ›

Source The core of plasma ranges in temperature from 11,000° – 14,500° Fahrenheit, thus limiting its applicable uses. As an ionized gas, plasma's electron density is balanced by positive ions and contains a sufficient amount of electrically charged particles to affect its electrical properties and behavior.

What gas do plasma cutters use? ›

Gas is needed for a plasma cutter in order for it to work and create the plasma. As mentioned, the most popular gases to use are oxygen, nitrogen or argon. Some plasma cutter systems include multi-gas features so a variety of gases can be used for different applications.

How thick can plasma cutter cut? ›

Plasma cutters are used to perform cutting and gouging operations, with the average hand-held system capable of cutting a maximum metal thickness of about 1 inch.

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