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Unread 09-28-2015, 09:28 AM   #1
swatman55
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What tools should I invest in for cutting metal?

Hey guys, sorry for the noob question. I just bought myself a small 120v welder and I have been practicing a lot and my welds are starting to look decent and be strong. I'm at the point where I want to start building myself things, such as bumpers and roof racks, however I have all woodworking tools and knowledge and I'm not sure what type of tools to invest in for metal work. I would more than likely not be cutting anything thicker than 3/16 square tubing. I have a very limited poor college student budget, no access to a 20A outlet, lots of wood working tools (table saw, miter saw, circular saw, sawzall, and a jigsaw for power tools), and an angle grinder lol. What do I need so that I can make clean cuts in my metal for making angles, cuts offs and such?

Thanks guys!

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Unread 09-28-2015, 10:50 AM   #2
dirtdudeaz
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I think the bare minimum would be your angle grinder and a cut-off saw (chopsaw). I am partial to Makita brand myself, but get whatever you can afford. Check on craigslist to find one locally. With your angle grinder you can cut or grind anything pretty much; the chop saw will handle your larger cuts and angled cuts for tubing, angle, channel, etc...

Your jigsaw with a metal blade will do intricate cuts in sheet metal where your angle grinder can't get to.

In the future depending on how far you want to go with your fabrication, you may invest in a drill press or mini mill, vertical band saw, plasma cutter. Drill press is good for obvious reasons but you can also use them with a hole saw and vice to cope tubing (you can also use a chop saw and angle grinder). Vertical bandsaw is a heavy duty version of your jig saw to handle thicker materials.
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Unread 09-28-2015, 03:43 PM   #3
sherlocktk
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The order I obtained

Bench Grinder
Sawzall
Angle Grinder
Chop Saw
Plasma Cutter
Portaband (Milwaukee)

The ones I use the most
Portaband (with DIY stand similar to Swag off road) I am still suprised by the versatility of this tool, Its quiet, super easy to control and do angles with. Behind an angle grinder this would be my #1 recomendation.
Angle grinder
Bench Grinder
Plasma cutter
Chop Saw
Sawzall (mostly for "removal" type activites)

Get a used portabnd off of craigslist and make a stand. Yep they are expensive but blades last a long time. It makes fabrication much more "fun" for me.
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Unread 09-28-2015, 04:36 PM   #4
StanF
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A 4" or 4.5" angle grinder will do 99% of what you want to do. It'll cost $20 or so at Harbor Freight, for the college student budget. But a nicer one will be better, if you can afford it, and would be more powerful, and last longer. I have a Milwaukee. You'll also spend some money on grinding and cutoff wheels. It's really the only cutting tool that I have, and I've done a ton of fab work on my Jeep.

A chop saw is nice for square cuts. But if you practice with the angle grinder, you can get square cuts. Another hint - buy a good square, and take good care of it.
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Unread 09-28-2015, 07:37 PM   #5
JeeperDon
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I bought two angle grinders (they are pretty cheep), one always has a flap wheel, the other a cutoff disk.
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Unread 09-28-2015, 10:44 PM   #6
cojab
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I use my cut off saw probably the most. Right behind that is a Harbor Freight 4x6 band saw which is surprisingly pretty good. Lots of Google i formation out there about how to make those things work well.
I think my cut off saw was $199 and the band saw was $100 or 150
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Unread 09-29-2015, 10:41 AM   #7
bobracing
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I'm going to agree with angle grinder, actually multiple grinders. I do about 90% of cutting work with a cut off wheel.
Multiple grinders make life "more pleasant". Cutoff, grinder, flapper, and wire wheel is what I have and not having to change the wheel every time is very nice.
HF has a $10 grinder sale about 2-3 a year, they now have a new style I haven't used much. The old ones work OK but only last about 6 months with a cutoff wheel.
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Unread 09-29-2015, 08:10 PM   #8
levergun
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I know it's been said but It cant be reiterated enough. Angle grinder. I have a porta band, cut-off saw etc. And 90% of the time I'm using a grinder. I'd rather have 3 grinders than the rest of the above. One for flap disk, one for grinding disc, one for cutting. It gets old quick switching between the 3.

As far as brand, I have some metabo's and they are the best. you'll pay for them though. Dewalt is good, and I have a ridged I've had for the last 7 years and It's still working great. I personally wouldn't buy a HF. But if that's all you can afford go for it.
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Unread 09-29-2015, 09:59 PM   #9
dwilliams35
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Angle grinder's a must, but my chop saw has been gathering dust for the most part since I got a horizontal bandsaw: about the same money as a decent chop saw, and you can sit back and drink a beer while it's in a cut..
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Unread 09-29-2015, 10:20 PM   #10
cojab
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I must be missing out on something here. I can see if I had a cut or two that an angle grinder would be fine for that. I cant see that if I had repeated cuts to make, where an angle grinder would be better than either a cut off saw or a band saw. However I've only made a couple of cuts with an angle grinder and it was thin, small diameter material.
I can see a speed benefit if making a quick cut but if making more than a couple of cuts, it seems to me it would be like air tools, you will save the time you used in set up pretty quickly.
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Unread 09-29-2015, 10:35 PM   #11
levergun
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not really. look at it this way- I can bring the tool to the work vs the work to the tool. large labor and time saver. Chop saws can only cut 4-6 inches. and only stuff not on the vehicle. the majority of the time what I'm using doesn't meet the criteria. Can't cut plate with it.

Also a huge increase in the price of consumables.
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Unread 09-30-2015, 08:31 AM   #12
cojab
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Like I said,,,missing something. Most of the stuff I cut is either 2" square or DOM tubing. My shop is half of a 30'x30' building so i'm not running all over the place.
I see where it can work for certain things and I do like the idea of not being limited by size of the cut off saw or being able to cut plate.
The long and the short of it is, I might have to get a cut off blade for one of my angle grinders and give it a better test.
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Unread 09-30-2015, 10:05 AM   #13
dirtdudeaz
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cojab View Post
Like I said,,,missing something. Most of the stuff I cut is either 2" square or DOM tubing. My shop is half of a 30'x30' building so i'm not running all over the place.
I see where it can work for certain things and I do like the idea of not being limited by size of the cut off saw or being able to cut plate.
The long and the short of it is, I might have to get a cut off blade for one of my angle grinders and give it a better test.
Quote:
Originally Posted by levergun View Post
not really. look at it this way- I can bring the tool to the work vs the work to the tool. large labor and time saver. Chop saws can only cut 4-6 inches. and only stuff not on the vehicle. the majority of the time what I'm using doesn't meet the criteria. Can't cut plate with it.

Also a huge increase in the price of consumables.

Look at what the OP said he was using the tools for.... tubing for bumpers and racks and needs to be able to cut angles. He didn't give any restrictions to portability or cutting huge thick materials.

I imagine the angle grinder with cutting and grinding disc will get him there 90% of the way to get it all done. A cut-off saw will make that extra 10% in there because he won't be changing cutting disc as often and cutting angles will be a lot easier. I agree air tools could be helpful such as a straight/angled die grinder, but then you have to assume he has access to a nice air source.
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Unread 09-30-2015, 10:06 AM   #14
AtTheHelm
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My portable bandsaw mounted to the bench with a foot pedal is probably my most used cutting tool. I made my own vise mount, but Swag offroad has a few options as well.

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Unread 10-06-2015, 02:18 PM   #15
swatman55
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Thanks for all of the replies! I have myself a nice heavy duty DeWalt angle grinder, so it sounds like that will be primary tool when working. After reading all of the replies it seems like many people utilize their chop saws but more so their portabands. I feel like it would be a lot easier to cut perfect 45 degree angles with a chop saw rather than using the portaband, however I have no idea. Is it practical to achieve cut clean and accurate angles with the portaband?
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