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Any tricks to fitting up (cutting metal) projects more efficiently and consistently?

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  • Any tricks to fitting up (cutting metal) projects more efficiently and consistently?

    I debated about what forum to post in. If I chose incorrectly I apologize.

    I have not been welding long, and I am a hobbyist, but still want to be efficient and effective in my work. I don't want to waste material unnecessarily either. The biggest thing I have found in my young fabrication hobby is care in set up, and so I think/thought that set up is where a lot of thought should go in, but where a lot of time could be saved, so I am here asking people with more experience to share their tricks.

    My current project has been a nightmare in the time it has taken me thus far to cut all of the metal to the sizes I need it, and do it consistently. The project is a steel rack that holds decorative rock in a landscape fountain that has 5 heads. I broke the 106" rack into 3 pieces. I wanted the tubing ends to be sealed by weld to prevent water from getting into the tubing. So that required several pairs of 45 degree cuts to be consistent among legs to get them as square as possible. I measured and cut each miter individually on a 14" abrasive cut off saw. I then used an angle grinder with flap disc to deburr the cuts, clean the mill scale/surface rust/dirt, and chamfered the outside in prep for welding.

    So, is making each individual cut the only way to go? Is it possible to stack two pieces roughly cut to size in the chop saw and get identical lengths for two pieces (assuming small square tubing)? The way I have been marking my cuts is with a sharpie and a speed square. I use the crisp edge of the line as the place where I align the appropriate side of the saw (assume the crisp edge ends up at the exact measurement). Is this a good technique or should I leave a little room for metal loss during deburring and chamferring?

    This is where I am at right now, but I have to make the 5 smaller frames to work as hatches for the fountain heads. There is at least the same number of cuts, actually more, for these than on the bigger frames. I'd like to save some time, if at all possible, now.
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    Thanks for anything you can suggest!

  • #2
    Do way more projects and read a lot.
    Or if you are really serious......quit your job and go full time....then you will be the one doing the tricking!!

    All joking aside, you look like you have a real handle on this. Nice work.

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    • #3
      Sounds like your doing pretty good actually. Metal fab is very time consuming and metal is expensive. There is really no way around that. If you are using poor quality abrasives in your saw it could be an area to save money and increase cut speed .

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      • #4
        planning work, cutting using a positive stop

        Originally posted by shadowden View Post
        I debated about what forum to post in. If I chose incorrectly I apologize.

        So, is making each individual cut the only way to go? Is it possible to stack two pieces roughly cut to size in the chop saw and get identical lengths for two pieces (assuming small square tubing)? The way I have been marking my cuts is with a sharpie and a speed square. I use the crisp edge of the line as the place where I align the appropriate side of the saw (assume the crisp edge ends up at the exact measurement). Is this a good technique or should I leave a little room for metal loss during deburring and chamferring?


        Thanks for anything you can suggest!
        Make a positive stop to set the cut length, period. This ensures identical length cuts. Stack cutting is iffy on a flexing chop saw and ideally, stack cutting would have one end of the stack welded, plus one still cuts against a stop.

        Before starting any project, sketch out and dimension parts and assemblies. Study and think about how/what's going to occur. Work to the work drawings. For 46 years, I've preferred to make most of my mistakes on paper, rather than in metal. On a shop design/work drawings/sketches and fab.....it's not unusual that 50% of my time will be on the paper. Some of my projects see an upwards of 80% in the planning.
        Make a cut list before cutting. Cut the longest pieces first, shorter ones from the rems, etc.
        This planning of the work--even small jobs--forces one to think it thru, in advance--avoiding many of the problems that those who don't do this, encounter on a constant basis--and it's evident in the final product, the real cost, the real-lack of efficiency. This time, thought, care and effort in the planning separates the fabricators from the wannabees.

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        • #5
          welcome to the forum.
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          • #6
            If you want to make multiple cuts at the same time on the same size of material then welding up the ends works well. One of the issues with cutting pickets with the abrasive saws is the inside pieces have a tendency to creep and you end up with different lengths.

            I do almost nothing on paper, different strokes kind of thing. I also don't worry too much about exact, that's for the machinists, I'm not a machinists. I also go in knowing that chances are most likely I'm going to discover modifications to the project and way of doing it. So I go in eyes wide open kind of thing.

            I have I believe three chop saws. I use to have one that was welded at a 45 degree stop. I have only one now in a rack set up for casual cuts. I use a worm drive framer's saw and metal cutting blades. If you can't cut wood straight then this method won't work on steel either. But if you can then splitting the sharpie line is nothing but a thing when whacking steel. I also have two oxy/gas rigs and a plasma. They get about much use as the chop saws. I also use the heck out of small angle grinders and air cutters for small stuff.

            As has been mentioned, you seem to have a handle on this and keep on learning, it's what we do.
            life is good

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            • #7
              Thank you all for your thoughts. I will just keep on working at it and will likely get faster as I move along and get better with my hands.

              It wasn't mentioned, but I am planning to get a cold cut saw. Found the Rage 2 for 245 today with shipping at 32. Seems like a decent price. I don't like having all the abrasive dust that my current chop saw puts out.

              I'll put the rest of the project together this weekend, and given the predicted temperatures for the weekend, will need to make the cuts tonight since I won't use my current chop saw in the garage.

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              • #8
                Hey, Shadow.

                I am a fellow hobbiest and been trying to learn this for several years. I will say a couple of additional things. I use my abrasive saw for a few things like tool steel and my Evolution Rage saw for most mild steel. But my favorite is my small 4x6 bandsaw. The cheap one from Harbor Freight. If you take a little time to true it up, it is the best for consistent cuts. It is quiet and not dusty. I don't stack on it either, but I can start it and walk away to work on something else. It cuts off by itself when the cut is done. You should be able to find one on CL for $100 +/-.

                Always layout your cuts for all similar pieces before you start. Usually you can maximize your material by how you choose to cut. Then still cut the longest pieces first so you can use it for a shorter piece if there is a problem.

                Good luck, just practice, practice, practice.
                Burt
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                • #9
                  I have a Dewalt abrasive, Evo saw, HF bandsaw and a Port a band.

                  I use the Port a band 99% of the time.

                  As Harv mentioned I aint no machinist.
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                  • #10
                    For starters - ditch the abrasive chop saw. The blades are flimsy and deflect, they're too thick and they waste material, they work-harden your material from the excessive heat, they load up with metal from the last cut and will contaminate your next cut when you change material, there's just nothing good about them from a fabrication standpoint especially for cosmetic stuff.

                    Get a band-saw, preferably a horizontal mitre band saw if it's in the budget. If no band-saw is in the budget, at least get a cold saw blade for the chop saw. (basically a huge circular-saw blade) They're still really thick and wasteful of material and they're pretty expensive, but at least they don't have any of the other drawbacks of abrasive wheels.
                    Last edited by Cavi Mike; 11-21-2014, 05:55 AM.
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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Cavi Mike View Post
                      For starters - ditch the abrasive chop saw. The blades are flimsy and deflect, they're too thick and they waste material, they work-harden your material from the excessive heat, they load up with metal from the last cut and will contaminate your next cut when you change material, there's just nothing good about them from a fabrication standpoint especially for cosmetic stuff.

                      Get a band-saw, preferably a horizontal mitre band saw if it's in the budget. If no band-saw is in the budget, at least get a cold saw blade for the chop saw. (basically a huge circular-saw blade) They're still really thick and wasteful of material and they're pretty expensive, but at least they don't have any of the other drawbacks of abrasive wheels.
                      Yep, +1 on the band-saw. You'll send your chop saw to the bottom of the river after you get a bandsaw.

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                      • #12
                        Any tricks to fitting up (cutting metal) projects more efficiently and consistently?

                        Don't just get a cold cut blade for your abrasive saw unless the motor runs at the blade's recommended rpm(not likely)

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Cavi Mike View Post
                          Get a band-saw, preferably a horizontal mitre band saw if it's in the budget.
                          I have a swivel mast type of horizontal band saw and I use it all the time. It works great on 45 degree cuts. It has variable speed so I can slow it down to cut harder steel, without trashing the blade. It also has cutting fluid / coolant to prolong the life of the blade. I mix the cutting fluid with RV antifreeze, so that it won't freeze when my shop isn't heated. I also use a variable pitch blade so it doesn't chatter. My particular saw has a 1" blade, which lets it cut real square. I have cut thousands of cuts on the first blade and it is still going strong.

                          I use a carbide scriber to mark my cut lines. I have no trouble cutting right up to the line.
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                          • #14
                            I agree on the band saw. The cheap 4'' x 6'' HF one has served me well for 5 years now and cuts slow but square. If you plan on continuing working with metal a swivel head band saw is the way to go. It will pay for itself in clean quiet cuts however not cheap. I'm waiting for my cheap HF one to die so I can buy a swivel head one.
                            The Milwaukee metal cutting circular works well too. Make a jig where the material can be set in or dropped on with a material stop and guide for the saw base to follow. You could even use a swanson speed square as used for cutting wood. I too use a carbide tip scribe , nice fine line to follow.

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