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Old 08-01-2012, 09:30 AM
Shadowfixer Shadowfixer is offline
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Default Metal cutting- most bang for the bucks.

I am looking for opinions As of right now I have no real good way of cutting metal. I have a 4" grinder and can put a cut off wheel on it so thats pretty much what I use for pieces I don't have pre cut. I ideally I want the ability to make straight cuts, so I have been toying with getting either-:

A Dewalt cut off saw so I can do miters.

A Plasma Cutter of some sort (Harbor Freights has good reviews on site- & yes its chinese).

Or a Torch - I am not sure I like the hazard factor of aceteylene- in my house or around it, so I am curious if an acetelyene torch can be used with propane- for cutting. Propane is kind of where I would go because I can use it to fuel a forge for black smithing.

Prime consideration is dollars available for now.
Thanks!
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Old 08-01-2012, 10:06 AM
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Depends a lot on what you're doing but if you can manage only one option right now I'd go with an oxy-propane setup--oxy-acetylene would be my choice but propane will work too. Pretty basic equipment for a metal shop because you can do heating, bending, welding and cutting with the same tool. Second choice would be an abrasive chop saw. Generally cheaper than the smaller HF style bandsaws but reasonably versatile, too. Plasma is neat but a bit more specialized. Might be an OK choice if all you're cutting is lighter material...
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Old 08-01-2012, 10:07 AM
garageguy1975 garageguy1975 is offline
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Neither of those choices are a cure-all for your cutting needs.

A cut-off saw is great for cutting piece of angle and such, but useless for sheet metal.

A plasma will cut any shape and size of sheet metal, but is useless for mitering a piece of tube.

A torch pretty much falls into the same category as plasma as far as cutting is concerned.

So you'll need at least two methods of cutting. I use a band saw and a plasma cutter.
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Old 08-01-2012, 10:42 AM
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You will eventually need just about every form of cutting at one time or another. I have on the truck: torch, 4.5" and 7" grinder, 8" Milwaukee metal saw and chop saw if needed. In the shop I have all of the above and a 7x12 band saw and 14" carbide blade saw. Haven't gotten a plasma yet. Could have used one a few times, but I've always made do with what I have. I've gone nearly 30 years like this, so it does work for me at least. YMMV
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Old 08-01-2012, 11:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DDA52 View Post
You will eventually need just about every form of cutting at one time or another. I have on the truck: torch, 4.5" and 7" grinder, 8" Milwaukee metal saw and chop saw if needed. In the shop I have all of the above and a 7x12 band saw and 14" carbide blade saw. Haven't gotten a plasma yet. Could have used one a few times, but I've always made do with what I have. I've gone nearly 30 years like this, so it does work for me at least. YMMV
What Don said.. if you get into any kind of fabricating, you will find the short falls, and missing ability of each method, even though it does not work within $ budget, eventually, you will end up with all the above. Each tool will do something the others wont. Either that, the quality of your work will suffer, or you spend allot time screwing around trying to make something work that wont.

If I had to pick one, Id pick the torch. On the flip side, I almost never use my plasma cutter. I bought my first one probably as early as 1990 or even the late 80s ? First was a Hyertherm. I seem to remember they where relatively new back then (at least to the point I could afford one and they where readily available).

Ive never used propane for cutting, I know the junk guys do, for high volume cutting. I also know there is a temp difference, but don't remember what it is, I just know it does not pertain to me.

I probably use my torch for disassembling stuff more than anything else. Chop saw is very nice to own, but it wont do cuts a torch will.

I think the plasma cutter for me, is more of a toy than anything else. Or might even be better to call it a convenience. I cant think of anything the plasma will do that the torch wont.

Also not sure that acetylene is really that much more dangerous than propane, as far as accidents/risks/exposure. It may have a lower oxidation point, but propane that is loose, well that's a big problem too..

Im not a fabricator, Im a mechanic, that is well tooled, so maybe one of the other guys can better break down the abilities (that is to say, someone that works with metal all day instead of an hour or two a month).
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Old 08-01-2012, 11:43 AM
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Porta-Band.

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Old 08-01-2012, 02:28 PM
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SHOP:
Torch (flat and shapes) $350
Band saw (< 6" flat and shapes) $175
Chop saw (<6" flat and shapes) $150

MOBILE: (with power available)
Torch (flat and shapes)
Chop saw (<6" flat and shapes)
Portaband (<4" flat and shapes) $125

The above are what I use and are approximate based on equipment choices. They do most everything, just some a little slower. Plasma would be nice if I used it every week, but I don't. Prices are for used based on my area.
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Old 08-01-2012, 02:45 PM
FabberMcGee FabberMcGee is offline
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Here's my 2 cents. The plasma cutter I bought in 1980 still works fine, but probably doesn't have 100 hours of use. The consumables are very expensive and I don't like the smell of the smoke it makes. It is useful for thin material, non-ferrous metals and multiple layers, other than that it is never my first choice.

If you can only buy 1 tool now and you're working mostly with steel, my recommendation would be a torch. It will cost about the same as a new portaband (which I use more often) and be much more versatile. Use the manufacturers guide to tip selectiion and keep your tip clean.... I mean CLEAN. A clean tip will stretch the flame out to a foot or more when you push the trigger by blowing a straight column of oxygen though the center of the fire. You will also hear a sort of crackling sound with a clean tip when you push the trigger. If you can't see and hear that the tip is clean, turn off the torch and clean it or you'll be disappointed with the cut.

The next most important thing for making a clean cut is steadiness. Practice bracing or resting your hand/arm on the bench or something solid and swing the torch sideways if you can. I try to put the hand holding the torch on my other hand and resting that one on something. Swinging sideways is steadier for me than pushing the torch and try to never pull it towards you. The sparks fly in the direction of travel and if you pull the torch, you'll be on fire all the time. I've found that a 3 dollar shirt from the second hand store burns at approximately the same rate as a 30 dollar shirt from the new shirt store, so I'm generally wearing the 3 dollar model.

If you have to pierce a plate, drilling a hole first will save you some gas. If you pierce with the torch and are making a small hole cutout.... less than a couple inches, let the plate cool off after you pierce and before you cut. Too much preheat will make a melted mess rather than a clean cut.

Practice a lot and you'll soon learn what works best for you.
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Old 08-01-2012, 03:05 PM
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Shade Tree Welder Shade Tree Welder is offline
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All good points above.

What metals are you cutting?

Oxy-fuel works on carbon steel only. Makes a mess of cast or stainless and
will only melt non-ferrous metals into puddles.

Plasma cuts anything that is electrically conductive.

Band saw and chop saws are versatile saws cutting a wide variety of materials.

I use my bandsaw the most and my chop saw second for making quality cuts,
plasma is my third choice and oxy-acetylene last for as I said quality cutting.

O/A is my first choice when I am wrecking something are for those stubborn jobs.

If you work on old equipment a torch will become need and not a want. Sometimes
heat and beat is the only viable alternative. Also straightening and reforming
damaged parts are best with a rosebud and hammer. But you just asked about cutting
metal not forming metal.
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Last edited by Shade Tree Welder; 08-01-2012 at 03:12 PM.
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  #10  
Old 08-01-2012, 03:35 PM
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Quote:
A plasma will cut any shape and size of sheet metal, but is useless for mitering a piece of tube.

A torch pretty much falls into the same category as plasma as far as cutting is concerned.
Could you explain in a tad more detail about your thoughts on what is highlighted in bold? I'm just curious.

jef
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