I have on old garden tractor that I took appart a couple months ago. I
wonder if there is a way to cut up the deck/frame etc in to 4" strips
for metal fabrication projects. I think it's 12 gauge steel. I have a
jig saw, air body saw, air cut-off saw, HF sawzall / portable bandsaw/ 4x6 bandsaw / carbon arc torch / a few metal grinders from 4" to 9"
and a 7 1/4" circular saw with abrasive discs. I've used grinders
before and I think they are awkward, slow and would take forever,
I tried using carbon rod in a welder to melt steel and I though it was
too slow - I have a 140Amp AC/DC welder from Harbor Freight
Would I be ok with a bandsaw or is it too slow for cutting up thin
steel? I haven't used band saw before.
Would circular saw with abrasive disc work ok?
Basically I'm wonder how fast12 gauge metal can be cut (like feet per
minuter or hour) and if it's worthwhile given the cost of consumables.
Any info much appreciated
I do not think that you would get a good bang for the buck. The
equation might be a little different if you had a plasma cutter.
Take these garden tractor remnants and entrails, put in a open box,
and hope that scrap hunters pick them up. (usually works at my
That will save you a great deal of money that you would spend on worn
out cutting blades, etc.
Use the savings to buy new 12 gauge steel.
I have an old 7 1/2 inch ? ... standard size inch circular saw.
The metal cutting blades are more 'spensive than the cheap concrete cutting
blades, so I generally use the concrete cutting blades. Haven't seen much
difference on wear time.
I use hearing protection, eye protection and beware - lotsa hot sparkie
Relatively wide kerf, and it works pretty fast.
Disc life is related to the amount of oomph you put into the cut.
Mark (Crude, but effective) Dunning
I left my old Sears riding mower's sheetmetal frame in a pile back in
the woods and only cut a piece off as necessary. Sometimes the whole
part is about right for some project as-is. It's been out there almost
20 years and most of the paint is still intact.
Thanks for reply. As a brief background, I've used to make stuff out
of scrap lumber, like shelving, boat cradle/ boat lift / trailer bed /
carts / work tables etc. I want to build some more implements for
boat, trailering, welding etc, but I've run out of lumber and also for
some stuff metal would work a bit better. I've looked at local home
builder box stores/ hardware stores and the cost of metal stock is
insane. I can by readily made tools for less cost per pound. I go to
Homier/Harbor freight and get stuff like parts washers/ hand tracks /
trailers etc for under a dollar a pound and that's with the cost of
design and fabrication, I don't know where to get new metal stock
locally cheap. At Home depot I think they wanted like 5 bucks a foot
for angle iron, I might be off, but I think it's close to that. But
where is a lot of scrap that people don't want, so I though if there
is a quick/efficient way to dismantle stuff - that's a win-win - I get
free metal and people dispose of their junk. Hm, plasma cutter is $400
bucks from Homier, is it worth it? How quick can it cut compared to
abrasive? I can get port-a-torch for $260 from Harbor freight, but I'm
afraid cost of oxygen is gonna kill me, if not acetylene exploding.
Any thoughts? Thanks. Cheers. Ross
Both the plasma cutter and an oxy-acetylene rig will cut 12 awg just
as fact as you can move the torch. The oxy-acetylene rig takes a
little more operator skill than the plasma cutter. The consumables
are easier to calculate for the oxy-acetylene just look at you gas
card for the tip size and pressure and it will give you the flow
rate. The plasma cutter costs will vary depending on how good you are
at babying the tip and whether you have a dryer on the air line.
You really NEED a plasma torch. (left eye winking)
I debated for several years, then finally got one, then kicked myself for
waiting so long. Speed? Depends on the thickness of the metal, of course. On
12 ga. steel, somewhere around 4" a second; 1/2" maybe 1" a second. It's
just about the fastest way to cut steel, short of shaped charges.
If you live in or near a town large enough to have a Home Depot, it
probably has a scrap metal dealer or 2 or 3. Check them out. Most will allow
a fellow to browse their yard to find that perfect piece of scrap and the
price will be way below paying retail. The steel that one finds at Home
Depot or the local hardware store is really pretty crummy steel, (recycled
nails and soup cans, I think) and way over priced.
I think the best economy could be gotten by phoning a couple of local
junkyard and telling them you need some flame table or cnc plasma drops
to practice your welding on. When you find a yard that's liable to have
what you want then take a nice load of whatever you've got on hand to
sell to them. They'll typically sell stuff for anywhere from 4x to 10x
the price they pay for it, and don't feel bad if it's closer to the 10x
figure- they gotta make a buck too, and with the investment it takes to
run a junkyard.. well, a guy buying 50 or 100 lbs. of drops isn't really
a big customer, if they'll deal with you at all then you're ahead of the
As far as the suggestion that you buy a plasma cutter.. if you can
afford it, buy a plasma cutter. If you can't afford it don't get all
discouraged- just do what you can imagine with the tools you have and
put a little money back for the plasma cutter, no big deal. As I always
suggest, quality used tools are generally better than new cheap tools.
You've also got to have an adequate air compressor with a plasma cutter,
don't forget that.. and good tools to go with the compressor (name
brand, no Taiwan stuff), etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
gas card for the tip size and pressure and it will give you the flow rate.
starbolin, that was a good idea. I just looked at port-a-torch manual
online, that 20cf oxygen cylinder it comes with will only last me half-
hour cutting 1/8".
John, 42etus, thanks for heads up on Plasma. I debated with plasma
before and did some more research today. It looks like a good way to
quickly cut 1/4 and under metal plates with good precision, good
finish, low head distortion and low consumables cost. For the amount
of cutting and fabrication I do, to justify the cost of $400 Homier
Speedway 30Amp plasma cutter I'd have to spread it over 10-15 years
time frame, but inverters based welders/cutters are evolving so
rapidly - I think they are following consumer electronics/PC pricing
- performance doubles every few years while unit prices drops
(correct me if I'm wrong). So now I'm thinking, may be I should wait
till HF starts running $99 plasma specials, wishful thinking? :)
Another downside to plasma - poor portability due to 220V / air. And
the air compress that I got is NOISY. By the way, I found following
specs for plasma cutting speeds: 40 Amp - 17" Per minute @ 3/8" Thick
Steel. 12 Amps - 18ga./60 inch PM 10ga./12 inch PM 1/8 inch/9 inch PM
Mark - what you report on the circular saw is encouraging. So abrasive
disk with circular saw is the way to do it on the cheap. Is it better
then recip saw/sawzall? Do you have an idea how fast it will cut 1/16
metal or 12 gauge metal as far as feet /inches per minute go? I can't
find this information anywhere!
PS. Looks like I'll be returning 4*6 bandsaw to harbor freight for
refund, I haven't unpacked it yet. Just got it last week. Do I get it
right, that it's mainly for production work cutting tubbing/ angle
iron to length and it's slow and will not cut sheet metal due to 3
teeth on the work requirement - at 22TPI that makes 3/16" minimal
thickness. Thanks. Ross
It's an investment; they don't lose value as badly as most adult male
They all slow down as the teeth dull or strip out or the disk wears
smaller. Don't worry about it unless you're in production. Abrasive
grit wears the saw, which isn't important if you get them at yard
sales. Recip saws make poorly-clamped sheet metal vibrate horribly,
enough to lose control and snap the blade.
If you want to cut 12Ga steel quickly, buy a bench shear.
You WHAT?! Those are about the best cutting tool ever invented for
hobby-scale metalworking, and I write that despite owning a plasma
cutter (which hardens the cut edge, even on hot-rolled steel)
An 18TPI blade cuts 1/8" steel just fine as long as you don't force
It's slower than an abrasive saw but its slow on ITS time, not yours.
You can be marking out the next cut. I've used the same 18TPI blade
for 1/8" tubing and 4" wide bar stock as an experiment. It certainly
isn't the best blade for wide steel but it does keep chugging along
and gets through eventually.
I could manage with a drill press, a 4X6 bandsaw, a saber saw and an
AC stick welder.
What scares me is this inverter technology being electronics based
will probably follow electronics depreciation curve.... and the next
big thing is always around the corner.
Jim, thanks for the info, I'm still on the fence with 4*6 band saw. I
researched it a bit before I got and I saw a lot of good reviewes, but
now I think I've discover some of it's limitations. At this point my
reasoning for returning it is:
* It looks like it will not work very well in vertical mode - i.e.
slitting, cutting thin plates /sheet metal in to long strips - stock
needs to be fed manually, slower then other methods, limited by throat
depth, small vertical table, risk of striping teeth with thin stock
* I bough a portable band saw that has 4" throat from Harbor Freight -
I found a message board where some guys were making horizontal/
vertical fixtures for it. May be I should just make that fixture for
it - I can return portable band saw, but it 69.99 vs 159.99 and it
seems like it's more flexible. I would like precision of band saw for
some situations, so I don't want to give up on them all together.
* I agree that in horizontal mode it's nice to let band saw it's job,
but if it's small stock, wouldn't it get cut quick enough that you'll
be hanging around waiting for it to finish anyway?
Any comments are welcome. Thanks. Ross
I use my old Lincoln to BURN off stuff all the time. No wasted time
dragging a torch out, save the gas for where it matters. I crank it up
to the highest setting and use up old damp rods. I find it to be
pretty fast, 12G should be a breeze. Stand the stuff up on edge and
work your way down on a long slant. If you do it right, you dont even
get much slag on the edge, and what you do get you can breeze by with
the rod to knock it off.
The little HF 4x6 is an extremely useful machine. I've had mine for
years and use the heck out of it. I run 16tpi Sterrett blades in it and
I made a welded base for it to replace the rather flimsy sheet metal
stand that comes with it.
I use it mainly for cutting steel tubing, some of which has walls as
thin as 1/16" and I've had no trouble with it stripping off teeth.
Admittedly, I rarely use it in the vertical mode, but it does do the
job, within its limitations. I recently cut some 1/8 stock into 1" wide
strips. I was surprised by how fast it went. I have used the Sawzall
on similar stuff, but the blade life is extremely short. The 4x6 will
do the job a lot cheaper (if it will fit...).
Just remember that, for 150 bucks, it's a great little machine. Just
don't compare it to a good vertical costing ten times as much (or
maybe a lot more...).
In vertical mode, the small throat is definitely limiting. Also, having
to attach the separate table limits its usefulness. I got around that
by making a very small (2" x 2") table that is always in place. It
works because all you really need is something to push back on the stock
as the blade is pulling through it. A big table is good for balancing
big pieces, but the small throat limits that use anyhow.
With the small "table" always in place, I use it all the time. For
sheet metal mostly, but also for special cuts in heavier stock, like
is older and a little different. Unlike any reasonable home
bandsaw it will cut a 4' x 8' sheet in half, neatly and quietly.
Your observations on vertical mode are true but irrelevant. I use it
to notch tubing and angle for welded joints and to cut freehand
curves. First I make relief cuts almost to the line on the waste side,
then I cut straight between them about 2-3 blade thicknesses outside
the line, finally I cut right along the line. If the last cut is
continuous little filing is needed.
Another good use for vertical mode is sawing lengthwise into long
narrow stock, for example when making a lathe boring bar or a custom
you gas card for the tip size and pressure and it will give you the flow rate.
I wouldn't consider the $400 Homier device. I always advocate used
quality machines instead of new cheap junk.
As far as the little Chinese bandsaw, that's one of the few tools that I
exclude from my rule of not buying new and cheap. They fill a spot
that no used machines really fills, there's not enough little power
hacksaws and bandsaws to go around so new is in order.
Mighty useful little tool too, not at all just for production. If you
need to return it, no big deal- you can get another for the same money
tomorrow or next year.
I live 20 miles from a gas dealer's store, so I went with a Oxy/Propane rig.
I also have lotsa propane untis here( BBQ, turkey cooker, space heater, etc)
so that helped steer the fuel choice.
Not enough heat for good welding on thick material, but I can do sheet metal
welding and brazing OK with it.
I had to listen to a lot of " you can't weld with propane" talk before I
found a set of torch tips that work.
Grummy, what kind of welder do you have? I was using Chicago Electric
140AC/110DC welder at ~100Amp - didn't go higher because circuit was
tripping - wired between 2 opposite leg 120V/15A outlets. I can see
how with something like Lincoln 225AC it can go much quicker :)
you gas card for the tip size and pressure and it will give you the flow rate.
I tried cutting some steel this weekend with jig saw, recip saw and
circular saw with abrasive disc. My experience so far:
Circ saw - medium to poor precision, way too noisy and set grass on
fire, don't think I'll be using it again
Recip saw - only good for demolition on structural components,
vibrates sheet metal too much, poor precision
Jig saw - worked ok for thin metal but it needed to be clamped well.
Sometimes blade got stuck.
I think I'll keep the 4x6 band saw and try it in a week or 2