DIY Metal Cutting: 3 Things You Need to Know
Metalworking is one of the most important processes today, with millions of skilled professionals working in practically every industry, from construction, shipbuilding, vehicle manufacturing, jewelry making, and computer production. It also includes auxiliary processes such as grinding, cutting, welding, soldering, among others.
To work with metal, you need to cut it. And since metal comes in many shapes and forms, there are many ways to cut metal into smaller parts, some more difficult and intricate than others. Cutting sheet metal is not the same as using a laser cutter engraver to form delicate pieces of art, but the fundamentals are the same.
Advancements in technology have led to the creation of cutting methods that require less effort and energy. In the olden days, most methods for cutting metal were unsafe, crude, and unwieldy, not to mention expensive.
Today, however, one person can make precision cuts for specialized applications with minimal effort. Whether you’re a skilled tradesman or a DIYer, it pays to know the basics of metal cutting.
Metal is an essential component of many objects and structures, and if you learn how to cut metal, you can have more control over your projects. Here are a few pointers to get you started.
Just like any job, metal workers can explore different avenues to get the job done. The methods of cutting you’re going to use usually depends on the project, the strength and thickness of the material, and the tools and machinery available.
For instance, the straight cutter in your toolbox might not be the right tool for the type of cuts you want to achieve. When choosing a cutting method for a project, there are a few considerations you have to make. Start by determining whether you need to create corners. You might want to use a special cutting tool designed to create tight corners for versatility.
You should also consider the amount of noise the tool is going to create. Some tools and machines create so much noise that they cannot be used in residential areas. These tools usually also consume a lot of energy. Check with local laws before using power tools for a home project.
Unless you have the financial means or can gain easy access to complex machinery, you’re probably going to work with basic tools and machines. Your basic toolkit should include a selection of metal cutters, including a plasma cutter. Plasma cutters are powered by an industrial-grade air compressor and a dedicated power supply. You can use this tool for making clean and precise cuts in most metals.
Another effective process you want to consider is the acetylene torch. Acetylene torches are reasonably priced and can perform a variety of cutting tasks. However, you might need some professional training and practice before you can start cutting with ease and accuracy.
One of the most popular cutting processes is the water cutter. They’re powerful, fast, and relatively accurate. However, water cutters are only found in factories, workshops, and schools. You can always rent one or have a shop cut your metal for a nominal fee.
One of the most versatile power tools for metal cutting is the electric nibbler. The metal nibbler works just like a miniature scissor snip. The tool creates a series of small cuts in quick succession to create a line through the metal sheet. Best of all, they’re reasonably priced and are relatively easy to use.
Another good power tool to have is the angle grinder. Angle grinders are used for making short, straight cuts. However, they are less efficient than metal nibblers. They can be found at any home improvement store and the replacement wheels are relatively inexpensive.
If you need to make a lot of cuts in light to medium sheets, then you might want to consider a metal cutting band or a jigsaw. A handheld tool with a cut-off wheel can cut through metal sheets with ease, while you can use a rotary tool with multipurpose bits for more complex cuts.
A final word
Even if you can’t afford some of the more complex power tools, there might be a manual alternative that can do the job. For instance, if you can’t afford an electric nibbler, then a hand-powered nibbler might be a good substitute.