At The Foundery, we commonly have people ask what the best way to cut a piece of piping or tubing. There’s 3 common tool choices for cutting metal tubing: Abrasive chop-saw, Horizontal band-saw, Cold saw. Each method has it’s pros and cons. Jason and I spent a lot of time discussing which of these tools we wanted to procure for The Foundery to provide the best option for members. Below is a short run-down for each method and what we decided to go with for The Foundery at City Garage:
Abrasive Chop saw
An abrasive chop saw is the most cost effective way for cutting metal tubing and Also by far the most obnoxious and inconsiderate to fellow co-workers . These saws are extremely loud and generate a great deal of metal dust. The abrasive blade also leaves a terrible bur on the cut part which requires secondary clean-up on a belt sander.With average blade sizes of 14″, they can cut through 3″ x 3″ square box with wall thickness up to 1/2″ thick if needed. The principle behind the abrasive saw is more of a grinding then a cutting.
Chop saws are very cost effective for a garage hobbyist who needs to cut a few dozen pipes a month.
Horizontal band-saws are part of the work horse team that built America…and I’m completely serious. That may sound like something else “Corey just made up”, but it’s true! The band saw was first patented in 1809 by William Newberry. Fun Fact: Band saws weren’t really practical until Anne Paulin Crepin invented a method for welding flexible blades in 1846. If Anne Paulin Crepin was alive today she’d be considered a “Maker” but since the trendy term hadn’t been invented yet, Anne was simple referred to as a “Badass”.
Horizontal band saws are relatively quiet and can produce a clean cut over large surface area. Industrial horizontal band-saws can cut through a solid 10″ round bar of steel with out any problem. Using the right blade and keeping the blade lubricated is crucial to making blades last.
The downsides to horizontal band-band saws is that the blade can drift over long cuts. High quality saws can drift from their starting position 0.01″ for every vertical 1″ of cutting. Another draw back is that having a mitering band-saw that can cut at various angles will add $2-3k to the cost of the saw. For The Foundery, that’s $2-3k that could be spent on other tools which would provide expanded capabilities.
Cold Saws are amazing machine tools. They utilize a slow spinning course tooth blade which accurately cuts through metal tubing or plate. The cold saw cut is more of a milling process then a typical saw cut, which provides an accuracy over the full cut length of +/- 0.002″. Cold saws have swiveling heads, which can be easily adjusted for mitered cuts +/-45 degrees.
One thing I love about cold saws is that their clamps, grab onto the work piece at both sides of the blade. This ensures that the blade can finish each cut without leaving a burr.
After lots of research into these tools and the types of projects people create in maker-spaces, we feel that cold saws will cover close to 100% of member’s needs. Additionally, cold saws are quite, clean and relatively safe to use. Anyone who works with metal tubing and has never used a cold saw will be really impressed with their performance and cut finish. Once we’re open, if we feel members require larger capabilities we could add a large, non mitering band-saw to our shop floor.