How to Use a Metal Cutting Saw | Step by Step Guide
Are you tackling a home improvement or construction job that requires you to cut lengths of pipe, rebar, or sheet metal? There are a number of tools that can tackle this job, but our pick for the best is a chop saw. A cold saw is another option, but its price makes it out of reach for most do-it-yourselfers.
Chop saws come in two varieties: handheld saws and those affixed to a table. The primary use of a chop saw it to cut pieces of metal to length; they aren’t designed to cut angles. Keep reading for our guide on how to use a metal cutting saw.
Decide Which Type of Saw is Right for You
As mentioned earlier, there are two types of chop saws: handheld and those affixed to a table. Each offers obvious advantages and disadvantages, but it’s important to consider them before picking out the saw that is right for you.
The advantage of a chop saw table can be summed up in one word: stability. Tables offer a stable working surface and, with table extenders and clamps, can be used with a great deal of precision. The disadvantage of the chop saw table is that it isn’t portable and inefficient for cutting large, cumbersome pieces.
The handheld saw’s greatest advantage is its mobility. You can use it to cut pieces on saw horses, on the ground, or even, say, existing fitted metal pipe. The disadvantage is that the saws are heavy and lose a degree of precision.
Learn How a Chop Saw Works
Unlike a miter box or table saw, which use a toothed metal blade, chop saws cut with an abrasive wheel, or disk. The wheel is made up of aluminum oxide and fiber glass, and is typically 16-inches in diameter. Twelve and 14-inch blades are also fairly common.
Abrasive wheels also come in various thicknesses, usually an 1/8th of an inch or slightly less. On a chop saw table, the abrasive wheel moves up and down on an arm; with a handheld chop saw, the user carefully lowers the saw to make a cut.
Wear the Proper Safety Equipment
While we always emphasize safety when using power tools, we think this is especially important when cutting metal. When the spinning abrasive wheel hits metal, expect sparks and heat. As a result, you should always wear safety goggles and protective gloves.
Even an abrasive wheel at rest is a danger to unprotected skin. Fire is another concern. Chop saws should be in well-ventilated areas and far away from anything that is flammable. Keep an extinguisher on hand, just in case. With safety in mind, now you’re ready to cut metal.
Using a Chop Saw (Table)
When using a chop saw affixed to a table, the process is fairly straight forward. Check that the table is free of obstruction and in good working order. Mark the piece of metal to be cut at the desired length. You can etch a mark into the metal, or use a permanent marker. Lay the piece of metal across the table, securing it with clamps if at all possible.
Use table extenders or saw horses for added stability for long pieces. Lower the blade, powered off, to be certain it aligns with your mark. Always cut conservatively; it better to have to make an additional cut than cut a piece too short. Press the safety button, depress the trigger and slowly lower the saw. Use steady pressure until the cut is complete.
Using a Handheld Saw
The process for using a handheld chop saw is very similar. Be sure to secure the piece to be cut with clamps, saw horses, or the help of another set of hands. Mark the piece to be cut, always being conservative with the first cut. Hold the saw in front of you, feet spread apart, so that if you drop the saw it lands on the ground, not your foor.
Power the saw on by pressing the safety button and depressing the trigger. Slowly lower the saw to the metal and use steady pressure until the cut is complete.
Maintain Your Saw
Be sure to regularly check for debris that can accumulate on the chop saw table. Blowing the table surface clear with compressed air at the end of each day is good practice. Regularly check the blade guard and monitor how well the abrasive wheel is making cuts as they do dull over time. Dull blades greatly increase strain on a motor.
Also, make it routine to check the tool arm moves freely up and down and that there’s no play or warping in the blade. Check your owner’s manual for any other suggested maintenance.
Now you know the process for using a chop saw to cut metal. Pretty simple isn’t it? But, keep in mind, despite its simplicity a chop saw is a tool rife with hazards. Treat it with respect, maintain it regularly, and you can enjoy its use for years to come. Did you find this tutorial helpful? Is there anything you would add or change? If so, please let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!