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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The workshop » » Cutting sheet metal (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

leapinglizards
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Has anyone had experience cutting sheet metal, simple straight lines, with a circular saw/chop saw/radial arm saw? What kind of blade?

Looking for any advice.

Need to be able to make straight cuts in 18 gauge (or so) stainless steel.

Also, best drill bits to use on same.

Many thanks in advance to any help you can offer!
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BSutter
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It would be much safer to use a reciprocating saw, like a jig saw with a metal cutting blade in it. The preferred method is to contact local metal fabrication shops and have them shear it for you.

Bill
Joe Mansfield
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I agree with Bill. If you buy your sheet at a metal shop as opposed to Lowe's or Home Depot, they can precisely shear it for you.
leapinglizards
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I agree.... and, still would like to know if anyone can suggest what type/ brand of blade and/ or drill bits would be the proper type to use on same.
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ClintonMagus
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As for drill bits, use good-quality, high-speed steel bits, but make sure you use lubricating oil to keep from dulling the bits prematurely. As for the saws and blades, a circular saw can be used on ferrous metal, but that's not what it's designed for. It can be very dangerous! Please don't try it! Use a reciprocating saw as Bill suggested.

Amos McCormick
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kaytracy
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And do not forget to center punch the spots to drill! I agree find a machine or metal shop (You can even try the local High school or vocational school, for the metal shears and brakes.) The same shop will also be able to make bends or rolls for you if needed as well.
Stainless will eat blades up kind of fast, so if you go bandsaw route, or sawzall style, be ready for that. You can keep the saw blades lubed too , parafin wax, like the stuff in a candle, or found in canning section of the market will work nicely.
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RiserMagic
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I just finished up a big metal project using 1/16" thick steel sheet and lots of angle iron. I cut everything with my plasma cutter except for several critical miter cuts. If you clamp a guide to the sheet metal, the plasma will give a very smooth - straight or curved cut.

Shears are rated as to the maximum thickness they can cut in steels. You did not mention the metal being cut nor its thickness nor the quality of edge required. These are critical to the method.

If you have a slow sfm metal cutting bandsaw, the cuts might be made on that saw. I would not suggest using a saber saw type of arrangement. The quickest, safest, and most cost effective method to cut rectangles is by shearing. A metal supply place will shear to size (rectangles) for you. They will most likely charge per cut and you will need to buy the whole sheet. If you need complex shapes cut, locate a plasma cutting service in your area.

Other less costly options are power shears and nibblers. I own a profile cutter designed to produce patterns in sheet metals - but these are far from affordable.

Jim
kregg
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If it has to be smooth and near perfect, I'd go with Jim's idea and have a fabricator do it for you- if you don't want to invest in a plasma cutter. Check around, most shops have a reasonable minimum charge.
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Michael Baker
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If you want any kind of reasonably decent edge after the cut, you'll want it sheared. Fortunately, I have a small shear that will cut up to 12" wide.

I have, in the past, used a saber saw with an appropriate blade (they are fine=toothed like a hack saw). The cut edges were very rough. A LOT of edge filing is then needed to finish the edge.

I have also used a circular saw to cut apart heavy sheet metal fence panels, so I could fit them into my van to take to the scrap yard. I reversed the blade, so that the teeth do not directly dig into the metal. This technique will prevent the blade from grabbing and kicking back (which can be lethal). The cut edge was not anywhere close to what I'd call a finished edge. Earplugs are also recommended.

Regarding drill bits... Clamp the metal very good, and back it with a solid block of wood. A twist bit can grab a piece of metal in a split second and turn it into a spinning nightmare, especially on a drill press.

leapinglizards... It would help if you could be very specific about what you intend to cut, how you wish the cut to be, and possibly, what the function of the product will be.

I see some names posting here that can be very helpful, if you could open up a bit more. You won't get any better help than these guys.

~michael
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leapinglizards
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Thank you all... I appreciate the info thus far and it has been very helpful.

Michael, may I ask where you got the 12 inch wide shear? I have looked at shears and the prices were OK, but all were much wider than what I typically would want/need to trim... a 12 inch shear would be perfect but had yet to find one.

As I said in my first post, I would be doing cuts in 18 or 16 gauge stainless steel. All straight though not all square.

Thank you to everyone, your suggestions have been the bit of nudge I think I needed to investigate some other options.

I mainly want to know for prototyping purposes... It is easier to do this in house, even if it is not perfect so I cam take a fabricator a reasonably finished product and say "Make more of these nicer."

Dean
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ClintonMagus
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Here is the first thing I found via a Google search:

http://www.able-engravers.com/shear_hole.htm

Amos McCormick
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Michael Baker
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Dean,

I used to work for a magic shop that was owned by a man who also owned a trophy and plaque shop. They used metal shears to cut the brass and aluminum for the engraved plates. They had one that had a broken piece and it was given to me. I was able to repair it and have had it ever since.

I think this is the same model (# 9385). It lists for $285.00 plus shipping. (It's the same one that Amos found.)

Harbor Freight Tools has this small 8" shear/brake, but I doubt it could easily handle 16 guage stainless steel.

You might also want to keep you eye on Ebay.

~michael
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RiserMagic
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Dean;
Stainless steel is hard! A 12" shear as used in a trophy shop (made for brass and aluminum) might not hold up to the abuse. I have 3 forms of 12" shears in my shop and I would not want to cut much stainless steel with them. They would be fine for a few cuts now and then; but not for making hundreds of cuts. The metal castings of the shears could break from the stress. Plus the hardened steel cutters might not be up to the task.

The biggest problem with 12" shears is getting the metal in a size that fits the shear. You will require a method to get the stainless rough cut to size. If you use something like a nibbler or power hand shear, you will produce waste. Price a sheet of stainless steel and do the math. I believe that you will find that waste in metal is expensive. A bigger size of shear will produce no waste on getting the metal to size except along the two edges of the sheet - there will be a couple narrow strips. You will do better to have the metal professionally cut. BTW - a full sheet of metal is large, floppy, and difficult to handle.
Jim
leapinglizards
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Hi everyone,

Thanks again for all the pointers. Yeah As I researched the smaller shears I saw they would probably last about 3 cuts if I was lucky. I haven't done any welding/ torch cutting since about oh, let's say a million years ago- So I have been out of that loop for a LONG time, and never did MUCH of it... Just shop stuff.

So, this has all been very educational. I must say that for some other new projects I want to work on, I HAVE been thinking of a plasma cutter for a while, and this started me researching. But I would be inclined to go take a refreshing welder class at votech or something first. So as to avoid burning off a leg or foot.
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Michael Baker
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Listen to Jim. He knows more about this stuff than the rest of us combined! Smile

~michael
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RiserMagic
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Dean;
The welding suppliers in my town will have free classes and try out days for testing and basic learning of the equipment use. Call the local guys and see what they offer. Try out days are great for determining exactly which units you want/need. Trial and error buying to test things would be very expensive. Your local guys may give a discount for "club members" too. Ask.

Remember that except for the very small self contained units, plasma cutters require an air compressor and a very good filter/dryer. Clean dry air is critical. I run 50 psi on my plasma cutter. Plasma will be a much smoother cut than with a torch. The downside of plasma is the initial cost of the unit.

Unless you can justify the cost, it is cheaper to have the work done by a pro.
Jim
Davro
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Sorry if I am chipping in a bit late here but before I became a full time magish I owned a sheet metal shop. If you could give me the approximate sizes you want to cut and the quantity, I could offer some ideas.

Best Wishes,
David
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bcookmagic
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HI there, don't forget waterjet cutting. Try looking to see if any local places have them. They charge by the hour and part of that time is for setting up the computer to cut....just another idea if there is some complicated cuts. brian
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leapinglizards
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Many thanks, all- I ended up finding a really nice 12 inch shear that does 18 guage stainless very nicely!

I really appreciate the help!
Leaping Lizards!!! Who knew it was possible.
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