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Thread: I can only get one..

  1. #1
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    I can only get one..

    Funny how wanting to heat and beat metal with a hammer suddenly turns into a burning desire to have all sorts of "other" tools and machines for cutting and shaping metal...

    Truth is, I really want a mill and a lathe, but those are far outside my budget for the foreseeable future...

    Anyway, so making knives, I need a better grinder, and to build the grinder I want something for cutting all the pieces to size and shape (we're talking all 3/8" material here). I DON'T have a burning desire to be hacksawing all that by hand, or even blazing through a bunch of cutting wheels on one of my angle grinders. So, that leaves me a few choices...

    1. A bandsaw, and I'm talking a cheapy here, like the HF 4x6.

    2. A cold saw, not quite as cheap as the band, but definitely faster.

    3. A cheap Chinesium plasma cutter (the one I'm considering is 55amps and users are showing it cutting 1/2" pretty decently...not that I have a need for that much capacity).

    I'm leaning toward the plasma cutter for a couple reasons: speed and ability to do more than just straight cuts. I would have use for it on occasion for other projects (my son has a 1980 Mercury Capri we are building, for example).

    I typically work with thinner material than 3/8 for most things I make. Just trying to find a happy medium between versatility, consumable costs, speed, and ease of use...and of course, purchase price.

    Do you think a plasma cutter is the way to go?

  2. #2
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    Re: I can only get one..

    Me personally would go for the plasma, I have 4 of them and probably the most versatile piece of equipment you can get for doing things fast. Everything has its place, I do have a bandsaw, cold saws, chop saws, ironworkers, lathes mills, etc but would never give up my plasmas.

    I was at a job site not long ago and another crew had a cutting torch for some demo, I showed up late pulled out the plasma and had done more in 15 minutes then they had in 2 hours. Granted it takes a big generator and air compressor to go along with that, so in all fairness they were working with what they had.
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    Re: I can only get one..

    If your budget is only up for China made I’d look for a 14” Fein Slugger metal cutting saw or clone, I think the same saw is available under MK or similar name. Cuts beautiful right out of the box, vs cheap bandsaw that you always have to f with. Cheap plasma I wouldn’t get my hopes up either. Do you already have an OA rig for plate etc?

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    Re: I can only get one..

    Plasma's are great!!! when they work but like any hitech tool they might decide to let the magic smoke out the next time you use it and then you're left sitting there with an expensive dust collector! so unless you get a heck of a warranty with it... and even then you will have a bunch of downtime when it breaks I would stick with something more conventional like the bandsaw..especially as a primary cutting tool. I had one of the first HF 4x6's when they first came out, yeah they weren't great but it cut metal... lots of metal I finally burned up the stock motor cutting 2 inch round bar... left it unattended and it jammed... sure let lots of magic smoke out!!! so, threw a generic motor on it and went back to cutting.

  5. #5
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    Re: I can only get one..

    Yeah, everything is a trade off.

    Will have to ponder on this one. No hurry, won't need it until after winter anyway. Right now, my welding area is my garage, and there are no doors to close, so winter time activities there are rather limited! Have a room in my barn which is designated to become the "metal room", but it needs some wiring, lighting, receptacles, etc first. I already have a woodworking room, but hot molten metal and sawdust aren't good company and I don't want grinding dust and spatter all over my woodworking machines anyway. My forging/knife making area is in yet another room, but it is too small to add a bunch of metal working machines, a welding table, and all that.

    I thought about getting a metal cutting blade for one of my small wood bandsaws, but the blade speed is too fast. I could build a pulley reduction and all that, or slap a 3-phase motor on it and VFD, but for what it'd cost to mod it, I'd rather put the money toward a dedicated metal cutting machine, even if it is only a cheapy. I'm not against a better quality and higher priced machine down the road (depending on my needs), but I need something that's in my budget next spring because the belt grinder build is going to be about $1,000 in material and parts, and I am considering a hydraulic forging press and/or power hammer sometime in the summer. Knife making and forging are the priority, metal working tools like saws or a plasma cutter, etc are sort of ancillary or supporting tools.

    Have to play the budget game, I just put my son through trade school, my youngest daughter is in college, and wife has had a couple of significant surgeries in the last few years (hip replacement..twice because it didn't heal right the first time...and just had her back fused this past December. Her other hip needs replaced probably this coming year). Oh, and I also race c-class hydroplanes in APBA sanctioned racing (that's our summer "activity"), so have travel, hotels, race entry fees, etc for race weekends. I'm retired Air Force, but the check ain't that big (wife and I both still work). Unfortunately, I've been on the Powerball Retirement plan for years, but it doesn't seem to be paying off.

  6. #6
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    Re: I can only get one..

    Quote Originally Posted by Johnmm View Post
    If your budget is only up for China made I’d look for a 14” Fein Slugger metal cutting saw or clone, I think the same saw is available under MK or similar name. Cuts beautiful right out of the box, vs cheap bandsaw that you always have to f with. Cheap plasma I wouldn’t get my hopes up either. Do you already have an OA rig for plate etc?
    Sorry, not sure what an "OA rig" is?

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    Re: I can only get one..

    O/A = abriviation for Oxygen Acetylene cutting heating rig / set up. Also called an Oxy Ax. Acetylene is the more expensive gas when compared to propane fuel. Oxygen propane is used more for heating purposes with rosebuds when bending, shaping or annealing is desired as the rosebud uses a lot of fuel and you can only use so much percentage of the acetylene tanks volume in a 24 hour period. So many use propane. With Propane you can use the tank until it is empty with out fear of the dangers from using up the acetone in the Acetylene tanks. Acetylene can burn hotter so is the go to gas for cutting really thick materials.
    Last edited by N2 Welding; 11-09-2019 at 02:24 AM.
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  8. #8
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    Re: I can only get one..

    Unfortunately there isn't a "do all" metal processing/cutting tool. Ideally you'd want one of each as each has its place. Since you are budget conscious, dry cutting saw isn't going to be a good option because the running cost is high, cheapest blade is $50, you can ruin the blade very fast and it really doesn't like thick metal. I think your best option is a HF bandsaw, you may need to fiddle with it a bit to get straight cuts, but the initial price is cheap, and it's cheaper to maintain.

    Plasma is also a good option. There is a lot of people with Chinese plasma cutters. Look around on YouTube. By the time you ready to pull the trigger, you might be lucky and find a cheap Thermal Dynamics Cutmaster on the used market around you.
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    Re: I can only get one..

    If you want to do knives, you will need a bandsaw to profile.

    Bandsaws do a nice clean cut.

    The HF 4x6 has a horrrible reputation for not keeping a blade on.

    The portable bandsaws, Portabands are great.

    You can go HF and hold it in a vise, or you can go brand name with the SWAG Offroad kits.

  10. #10
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    Re: I can only get one..

    Quote Originally Posted by Jawslandshark View Post
    I was at a job site not long ago and another crew had a cutting torch for some demo, I showed up late pulled out the plasma and had done more in 15 minutes then they had in 2 hours. Granted it takes a big generator and air compressor to go along with that, so in all fairness they were working with what they had.
    What made you so much faster? What did they have...a welding tip and a mc tank?

    To the op.

    I would go band saw and angle grinder if budget is an issue. If you don't keep plasma or o/f at the ready, then some of that speed will be lost in setup. A grinder is typically in my hand and a band saw doesn't take much tending too.

    O/f is extremely versitile. As stated. Propane works well for me.

    Plasma is nice, though I would not be limited with out mine. It is faster and easier to use on thin metal.

  11. #11
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    Re: I can only get one..

    Portaband with stand will do what ever you need
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  12. #12
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    Re: I can only get one..

    I agree with a portaband. The Harbor Freight portaband has great reviews. I have their 4x6 one and recently replaced the motor after 12 years. It cuts slow but is still going.
    The portaband on a stand is great for small pieces. I've had one on a stand for 15 years.
    I bought it cheap $20 becasuse of a broken off casting. I used sheetmetal to cover the blade and it's great. Mine is permanently mounted. Removed guide , added plate , and secure using screw holes. Originally I used in a vise. After a few used I adapted it to a base. It's been like that forever.
    Check Craigslist and facebook marketplace too. I always see Milwaukee ones for sale.
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  13. #13
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    Re: I can only get one..

    A bandsaw whether horizontal or port a band is your best bet. Personally I use a 6" metabo with cutting discs more than anything. Plasma or oxy fuel is good for cutting shapes in plate, not so much for cutting tube, angle and other shapes. Horizontal bandsaw is ideal for cutting tube , angle and shapes. The dry cut saw really does nothing the other tools can't do. Best bang for the buck is the cutoff wheels on a grinder.
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  14. #14
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    Re: I can only get one..

    Thanks for all the input. I think the little vertical portaband makes the most sense, at least I can cut curves if needed. I'm aware of them, but wasn't thinking of them initially.

    I'm not too concerned with a cheap bandsaw not tracking right and all that, I have a few woodworking ones. One is over 20 years old, one I built from scratch, and the other is a small 10" for small work. I'm pretty familiar with fiddling with them to get blades to track (and stay on). I can't imagine a metal cutting one works significantly different.

    As for an oxy torch, no, I don't have one anymore. I had one years ago, but haven't touched one since. With the price of acetylene these days, not sure I want to go there anyway. If I need to heat something for bending, I can use the forge, or in a pinch, my propane weed burner has pulled duty as a heating tool. I don't foresee a frequent need for heating a piece to bend it. If that changes, then I'll consider a torch.

    Cutting disks I think are fine for quick work on thinner material, and typically when I'm making something from 1/8", the disks just zip through it and all I ever used. Even curves weren't bad, just make several straight cuts near the line and finish with a grinding wheel, but all that goes out the window with 3/8 material. Nothing quick about that with any sort of abrasive grinding or cutting wheel.

    I liked the idea of the horizontal metal band because it cuts unattended, if slowly. I can do other things while waiting on the cut. I really liked the idea of plasma because cutting is so much faster and it's much more versatile, and I sort of have this idea of my version of a "poor man's" manual CNC table. Instead of a computer and stepper motors, think pantograph (which is a popular thing for routers in woodworking), kinda like this, but with a plasma cutter mounted for metal cutting, just trace the shape with the "pen" end of it, and it cuts it out. You can also scale the piece just by changing the hinge points. Actually, it's not really a unique idea, here's a guy that built one. I could whip that out pretty cheap in a day:

    Last edited by MetalMasher; 11-09-2019 at 01:13 PM.

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    Re: I can only get one..

    From another recent thread.

    https://go.harborfreight.com/cpi/dig...-carousel-4981


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    Re: I can only get one..

    Quote Originally Posted by M J D View Post
    Personally I use a 6" metabo with cutting discs more than anything
    I am thinking of getting one. Do you have the rat tail, pedal or the regular one?


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    Re: I can only get one..

    Quote Originally Posted by 12345678910 View Post
    If you want to do knives, you will need a bandsaw to profile.

    Bandsaws do a nice clean cut.

    The HF 4x6 has a horrrible reputation for not keeping a blade on.

    The portable bandsaws, Portabands are great.

    You can go HF and hold it in a vise, or you can go brand name with the SWAG Offroad kits.
    really? I've got 2 hf 4x6s one is 1987 the other is 1996 and I can't remember last time either threw a blade.. have had the 87 since new got the 96 used for $30 off craigslist... I run OLSEN blades exclusivly on both and they are in constant use, when put a new blade on take the 10 minutes to get everything straight and square and its good to go...

  18. #18
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    Re: I can only get one..

    Quote Originally Posted by monsoon-mech View Post
    really? I've got 2 hf 4x6s one is 1987 the other is 1996 and I can't remember last time either threw a blade.. have had the 87 since new got the 96 used for $30 off craigslist... I run OLSEN blades exclusivly on both and they are in constant use, when put a new blade on take the 10 minutes to get everything straight and square and its good to go...
    Mine is over 12 years old and bought new for $115.00. Back then they had a 30% off coupon. I buy my blades from Farm and Fleet, $10.00. Made in USA and no problems at all.
    They only issue I had is, the stand is too low. I knew this before buying and just built my own after purchasing.


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    Re: I can only get one..

    Quote Originally Posted by precivilization View Post
    I am thinking of getting one. Do you have the rat tail, pedal or the regular one?


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    The we15-150 which is the 13.5 amp, 6" slide switch. I find the paddle or rattail version awkward at best for cutting. The difference with the metabo with good discs and a 4.5" with cheap discs is night and day.
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    I can only get one..

    Quote Originally Posted by M J D View Post
    The we15-150 which is the 13.5 amp, 6" slide switch. I find the paddle or rattail version awkward at best for cutting. The difference with the metabo with good discs and a 4.5" with cheap discs is night and day.
    What are some good quality discs? I have been using mostly Makita discs, they are OK. I have four grinders (5" and 4 1/2") and they are all slide switch style for the same reason you have mentioned. Thanks M J D.


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    Re: I can only get one..

    Quote Originally Posted by precivilization View Post
    What are some good quality discs? I have been using mostly Makita discs, they are OK. I have four grinders (5" and 4 1/2") and they are all slide switch style for the same reason you have mentioned. Thanks M J D.


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    I use Norton bluefire which have really good life. I tried some sait Z tech and they were probably equally as good. Metabo super slicers are decent and the Walter discs work really well. Discs that are recommend for stainless steel are what I typically use. They seem to have much better cutting life especially on harder materials.
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  22. #22
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    Re: I can only get one..

    I think that for your current particular need.... NONE is the answer.

    I recently received a quote for a bunch of pieces laser cut out of 8mm mild steel and I was totally surprised by how cheap it was (VS me buying the steel and cutting with holesaws, grinder,files, etc). If you have a design in mind, draw it on Autocad or another drawing program and send it to someone with a Laser, waterjet or plasma and see how much it costs you.

    That would be the fastest and cheapest way to build your belt grinder.

    If you want to purchase a plasma, fine, go ahead. But be aware that it requires a learning curve, additional tools (big compersor, filters, air dryer, etc) and that if you want to cut complex shapes, you will need to first cut the appropiate templates (smaller or bigger accounting by the ofset of the electrode VS the side of the noozle). And free hand cutting, even with a template, is not as accurate as CNC no matter what.

    Mikel

  23. #23
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    Re: I can only get one..

    I imagine I could probably get the few shaped pieces done by a shop for a small fee, but then I will be in the same boat for the next project. Part of the process is acquiring a cutting tool I can use again and again. I mean, I thought that's always the modus operandi for all guys with shops...any excuse to get a new tool is a good excuse!

    As for plasma, I already have the other supporting tools (compressor, filters, water separators, dryers) since I paint with it. The overwhelming majority of the pieces for the grinder build are straight cuts, only a few that require round or curved cuts. On those, I could rough cut with the plasma and finish to shape with my little 1x30 belt grinder.

    I'm still not dead set on a cheap plasma cutter, that little portable bandsaw on the vertical mount table is appealing as well, but then I have to stand there and cut each piece start to finish where the HF 4x6 bandsaw will cut unattended, but at the loss of ability to cut the curves (back to the grinder in that case). Each option has advantages and disadvantages, both in accuracy, time, and versatility. I'm just weighing them to decide what is the best option for the grinder build and then afterward for other stuff.

  24. #24
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    Re: I can only get one..

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikel_24 View Post
    I think that for your current particular need.... NONE is the answer.

    I recently received a quote for a bunch of pieces laser cut out of 8mm mild steel and I was totally surprised by how cheap it was (VS me buying the steel and cutting with holesaws, grinder,files, etc). If you have a design in mind, draw it on Autocad or another drawing program and send it to someone with a Laser, waterjet or plasma and see how much it costs you.

    That would be the fastest and cheapest way to build your belt grinder.

    If you want to purchase a plasma, fine, go ahead. But be aware that it requires a learning curve, additional tools (big compersor, filters, air dryer, etc) and that if you want to cut complex shapes, you will need to first cut the appropiate templates (smaller or bigger accounting by the ofset of the electrode VS the side of the noozle). And free hand cutting, even with a template, is not as accurate as CNC no matter what.

    Mikel
    +1

    I too had some parts laser cut. The cost was surprisingly inexpensive and the accuracy was dead on. Seems like the way to go for creating grinder. Personally, I find the assembly process more gratifying than spending the day cutting and shaping raw materials.

  25. #25
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    Re: I can only get one..

    When you say "inexpensive", how inexpensive are we talking? The only part I really dread (other than using a hack saw or cut off wheels to cut everything) is there is a need to create a 90 degree curve for a bolt to ride in for the tilting mechanism. In Jeremy's build video, he drills holes all along the curve then uses a file to file it out. Could I do that? Yeah, and I could cut the entire thing with cut off wheels on an angle grinder...I just don't want to, which is what it all really boils down to.

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