Cutting shaping steel, the hard way without, cutting torches. Any advice.

I would like to make some nice faux old style hinges. I have a little wire feed welder and no real experience with metals you can't cut with a good set of snips. But I would like to work in say 1/8" plate. I won't make the hinge itself figuring to tack my nice big scrolly hinge face to a ready made square hinge.

I need tools to cut and shape this. I've got a bench grinder and a couple angle grinders but no large compressor so air tools are out.

Any cool gadgets that would make my life easier without breaking the bank?

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Andrew wrote in news:

Got a good vise?

If so, pick up a cutting wheel for one of your angle grinders and a Sharpie pen.

Use the pen to lay out the design you want on the metal then grind to the line.

The next more expensive way would be to get yourself a good hacksaw and ...

Have you ever considered taking up Blacksmithing?

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Andrew wrote

You could get a stick welder (damn near free if you check around the right places and wait long enough) and use the 6010 cutting trick (see the archives if you want details, reports were that it worked OK with

6011 on AC, too - basically run it at 200 amps (DCEN) or so, and dipping the rod in water first helps - not a great cut, but surprisingly good, considering). Then again, you could do a good proper old-fashioned job on your old fashioned hinges and hack them out with a cold chisel. Don't forget your safety glasses.
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With a normal hand jigsaw and a metal cutting blade 1/8" plate is no problem so long as you can support the work to stop it vibrating too much. I use a Bosch one that I bought at a boot sale for £5 and have cut literally yards of 1/8" plate with it.


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Andrew Mawson

I think so.. I picked up a Record 6" Quick-Release Mechanic's from Lee Valley tools last year. It seems pretty sturdy but I haven't done any 'heavy lifting' with it yet.

I see they use small thin wheels on their angle grinders on those Motorcycle building shows. Are those the type? They would get into smaller spaces. I use the 1" fiber cutting disks in my Dremel and 2 or 3 inch versions of those in a bigger tool would be cool, but probably costly.

A HANDSAW...yikes...I try to avoid those.

It sounds like fun but I don't really have the space and I doubt my neighbors would appreciate it if I tried it outside. We are packed pretty tight here.

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Sounds like one tough mucking set of hinges! Hanging a barn door? :)

Seriously, I'd rethink that 1/8-inch material unless you really are planning to hang something really heavy with them. Half that will handle quite a load, depending on how long the load (door or whatever) extends from the hinge pivot. You might be getting yourself into one heck of a lot of unnecessary extra work.

Making the hinge pivot itself isn't that difficult, just a bit time-consuming.

Divide the width of the material in thirds (or fifths) and cut one third out of the center of one faceplate, leaving enough on the sides to easily wrap around the pivot pin with a bit of space to allow your faceplates to turn round each other. Leave enough sticking out to make the wrap and flatten the excess for welding or, if arc welding them let the wraps just land squarely on the hinge face and fillet weld there. Cut out the two end thirds of the other faceplates leaving the same amount of material in the center to wrap as before.

Wrap them around a mandrel the diameter of your pivot pin or just slightly larger and weld as needed.

You can arc weld the wrapped tabs or forge weld them. Either one should work OK if you're using simple steel.

It sounds complicated, but looking at a commercial hinge will give you a pretty decent idea of the pattern -- which apparently you've already done.

If you use fifths then use three and two tabs to wrap as above.

1/8-inch material is gonna make one heck of a hinge!

Really! It's much easier and less time-consuming to cut to a chiseled line on hot metal than most of the other methods. Plasma Arc and correctly done Oxy-Acetylene excepted.

How large overall do you intend to make the hinges -- or the decorative faces anyway?

Chisel it out close to finish and then file or grind to suit. You can also do it cold, but thinking about doing much of that on 1/8-inch stock gives me sore elbows and wrists just thinking about it. :)

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Ah, so! Gotcha. That does present another problem entirely. There are propane-fired forges, but now you're talking about getting into a lot of expense for only one pair of hinges. Of course, if the Blacksmithing Bug bites, that won't matter much afterward.

How to make a small fortune: Take up blacksmithing starting with a large fortune.

A) Procure a forge and anvil and a few basic tools

B) Start out working in your garage and driveway)

C) Hear the neighbors ask many questions, thinly veiled threats to turn you in to the Fire Marshall, Noise Control Dept. etc, etc.

D) Move to a larger out-of-town plot of land and start building a proper shop (You're properly addicted to hot iron by now)

D) Hear from County Building Dept, Fire Chief, Electrical Inspector, etc, etc.

E) Watch large fortune dwindle.

Really it can be inexpensive to get a small portable forge and anvil set up. but neighbors are definitely touchy things. I usually bribe mine with gifts of forged goods and small repairs. :)

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Pretty heavy, it's a gate 46"w 6'6'h 3.5" thick. But I want the heavy look as a finishing touch.

I've been ogling some stuff in the Lee Valley Hardware catalog, yes.

I hope big and fancy.:) Maybe 5" by about 20" or even long. I'll have to fire up Corel draw and see what looks good. I only plan to make one set in this lifetime.:) Just something that complements my gate.

Me too. I might go back to plan A and no exposed hinges at all.

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Hah! I do the same with woodworking goodies so I can run my planer outside and do a bit of chainsaw carving once in a while.:)

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Since the writer said he is not using these as 'real' hinges, but rather as a faceplate that will cover a shop bought hinge, I wonder why he is choosing to use 1/8th plate - seems to me to be taking the hard road for little gain.

Thinner stuff would be much easier to work methinks, and would look just a good.

David - who enjoys doing things, but not hard work when its not needed

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I just had another thought (I dont have much knowledge but like thinking up ideas) - what say you got yourself a router, and made a wood model of what you want - then use that to cast the hinge faceplates? Nice rough casting would look pretty good I reckon

Oh well, just an idea


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Thanks for the suggestions. Both Aluminum or casting might work.

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OK, I see your reasoning. A gate that large and thick would require hinges in proportion if the hinges were to look right.

Nice stuff for sure. A little pricey, but you're not likely to need any replacements for this job. Sort of like why anvils cost what they do new: There's not a lot of repeat business. :)

1/8 would still be a bit thick IMO, but obviously it's up to you. You might get much the same visual impact with thinner metal at the same dimensions, especially if they're mainly decorative facings. Too thin would look fake, too thick would be a lot of work.

I think you've got a really good idea, especially with a gate 3-1/2" thick. Just the size and weight of it makes large hinges appropriate.

Well, Good Luck. Hope you post some pictures somewhere if you do make them. It's always nice to see others' work and stea^H^H^H^H I mean, look for ideas. :)

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Well, especially if you decide to go with a slightly thinner metal, the other old hand trick for chiseling is this: Put the work in the vise with the cut line just below the vise jaws. Set the edge of the chisel in the corner where the jaw meets the work, and have the bevel of the edge flat against the jaw. When you hit it, it moves across the gap, shearing the metal. It works better if you hold the chisel at an angle to the work, maybe 10-20 degrees off perpendicular. Lead with a corner, if you will, so you're not trying to cut with the whole width of the chisel at once. Hammer with authority. Once you get the cut started, you can work along the vise jaw cutting with the middle of the chisel. Reposition often if you're trying to follow a curve. Works suprisingly fast, can get good accuracy. Then touch up with a file. Old dull files give files a bad name, you'll love how a new one cuts.

--Glenn Lyford

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Glenn Lyford

Mmm-Hmm. Yep. It does. But I still get sore wrists and fingers just thinking abut doing a lot of that on 1/8" stock, hot or cold. :)

Maybe it's just my hands and wrists though.

Amen on the files! A new good file is a joy to use.

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Andrew, the cutting wheels that I have been using since I took up this hobby are sold by Harbor Freight for less than $1 per wheel (I buy them in packs of 10 ... don't recall exactly how much a package costs, but less than $10). They are 4-1/2" diameter, around 1/16" thick. I have no idea how they compare to the name brand cutting wheels, but these have certainly seemed adequate to me. I've cut a lot of steel with these on my 4-1/2" angle grinder ... even since I bought a H/V bandsaw, and even when I had a borrowed plasma cutter available, I still found myself using these wheels for many cutting tasks.

Compare using these to using a circular saw -- it is not as easy to get a precise cut as it would be with a table saw, but with practice, you can get very good results!



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Andrew H. Wakefield

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