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  • Cutting Large Metal C-channel and I-beams

    Greetings all!

    Ok, so my employer has recently started installing steel-framed decks supporting 2'x2' concrete pavers as the decking material.

    I generally get the interior projects and more carpentry-intensive work, but occasionally I end up between projects and am loaned out to other leads as labor, and I'm concerned about getting stuck on one of these steel deck projects. Specifically, I'm concerned about cutting the larger steel framing members. The last time I cut steel for my employer was at a sports bar remodel, where they were simply putting a steel cutting blade on a Makita 5007 sidewinder. Needless to say, even wearing safety glasses didn't block all of the metal chips that issued from the studs, and I'm concerned that they are using the same technique for cutting these big framing members.

    So, if I get stuck on one of these projects and have to be the one to cut these suckers, what is the ideal way of doing it? I'll lay out some criteria:

    Ideally, I'd like to use a tool I already own. Some ideas I had included:
    --- Using my 12 amp, 6" Makita Angle grinder with abrasive wheels. Yeah, still tons of sparks and lots of wheels, but I feel the sparks are less dangerous than the larger metal chips, and I can more easily direct the sparks.
    --- Use my old Bosch 7.25" worm drive with abrasive wheels. I'm not as fond of this idea as the sparks are going to be shooting up at me.

    I want to avoid a large gas cut-off saw, or any sort of cutting torch, mostly because this is something I will hardly ever do.I suppose I could buy a large cut-off saw, but then I'm moving large beams to a stationary saw station, I'd rather move a relatively small saw to the material.

    I am open to the idea of purchasing a metal cutting saw of some sort, but what would perform well in this situation, but may also be versatile for other applications?

    ---Would a portable band saw work well? I understand that I would have to take at least two passes at the C-channel, and may even have to finish the cut with a grinder. Would a band saw be handy for other applications?

    --- What about the purpose-built metal cutting circular saws? Can they handle cutting these big parts? If I had one of these cutting steel studs would be much nicer too, I imagine

    --- I already own the Makita LXT 18v tool line, what about their little 5 3/8" metal cutting saw?

    --- Makita makes a 14", electric hand held cut-off saw, would that work well?....

    Or, do I just buy a plastic face shield and wear my ear muffs and just endure it till my next project comes along? I just spent thousands of dollars having laser surgery, I'd rather not mess it up by catching a metal chip in one of my peepers....

    Anyways, I appreciate any input you may have!
    Best,
    Tom G
    Last edited by Carapace79; 01-17-2011, 10:56 AM.

  • #2
    Re: Cutting Large Metal C-channel and I-beams

    Originally posted by Carapace79 View Post
    I am open to the idea of purchasing a metal cutting saw of some sort, but what would perform well in this situation, but may also be versatile for other applications?
    A horizontal band saw is the most civilized way to do it. http://www.google.com/products/catal...d=0CDYQ8wIwAA# I see these all the time on craigslist for a couple hundred or less.
    Bailer Hill Construction, Inc. - Friday Harbor, WA
    Website - Facebook

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    • #3
      Re: Cutting Large Metal C-channel and I-beams

      Originally posted by David Meiland View Post
      A horizontal band saw is the most civilized way to do it. http://www.google.com/products/catal...d=0CDYQ8wIwAA# I see these all the time on craigslist for a couple hundred or less.
      Ah yes, I've seen those from time to time as well! I'd like to avoid larger, semi-stationary tools as much as possible, mostly because I rarely do this kind of work, and if I were to occasionally get into it I'd (ideally) like to have a tool that would be mobile and multi-use. Thanks much for the idea!
      Best,
      Tom G

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      • #4
        Re: Cutting Large Metal C-channel and I-beams

        There is also the port-a-band;

        http://www.milwaukeetool.com/tools/s...rded-band-saws

        Knowing the metal gauge would help narrow this down.

        Tom
        http://chicagocraftsmen.org/2011/06/261.html

        Check with the AHJ, what we say doesn't matter.

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        • #5
          Re: Cutting Large Metal C-channel and I-beams

          Originally posted by tjbnwi View Post
          There is also the port-a-band;

          http://www.milwaukeetool.com/tools/s...rded-band-saws

          Knowing the metal gauge would help narrow this down.

          Tom
          Thanks Tom! Yeah, I was looking at the Milwaukee and Makita portable band saws. For what applications are they ideally suited? Are the best suited to cutting heavier gauge materials? If I were to purchase one, would it work in a pinch to cut metal studs?
          Thanks!
          Tom G

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          • #6
            Re: Cutting Large Metal C-channel and I-beams

            Seems to me your employer should be providing the necessary equipment to cut the material.

            You won't be cutting any structural beams or channels with a cutting wheel. You will need a band saw like posted above to be most efficient, but in most cases, I don't see why you'd be cutting this material on site anyways. It should be supplied by the fabricator in the lengths required. The only cutting needed in the field is usually when there was a fab mistake.

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            • #7
              Re: Cutting Large Metal C-channel and I-beams

              Hi Mike! I agree that ideally everything should be cut to length, and if not the employer should be supplying the proper equipment. When I'm running jobs that is usually what happens, if I need a tool I just buy it and charge it to my job and just make sure that it fits in the overall budget and allowances I've been given.

              The problem I run into is when I'm stuck working for some of the other leads, who are more often than not "penny wise, dollar foolish", where they try to go the cheapest route possible, often leading to longer labor hours than if they simply purchased the correct piece of equipment.

              Sooo..... really what I'm looking for is, if I get stuck doing this kind of work I want to be able to present to the production manager the best possible way to perform the work, and explain that I'd love to do it with the right equipment, otherwise he can call me at home when they have the correct (and safe!) equipment or they have another project ready for me to run.

              I guess I just had a really bad experience cutting the studs with the wrong saw, and I'd rather sit home than injure myself.

              As far as buying tools for myself, I figure it makes my day-to-day life on the jobsite much more tolerable, and helps set me up for a more smooth transition to working for myself (eventually). Thanks!
              Tom
              Last edited by Carapace79; 01-17-2011, 12:05 PM.

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              • #8
                Re: Cutting Large Metal C-channel and I-beams

                You need to know the metal gauge to pick the proper band/blade. This will cut bundles of studs with the proper band very well. You can use a 14tpi band in most cases, but as with any cutting, matching the blade to the job works better.

                Tom
                http://chicagocraftsmen.org/2011/06/261.html

                Check with the AHJ, what we say doesn't matter.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Cutting Large Metal C-channel and I-beams

                  My first question is "How large is large?" I have torches, quick cut and a dry cut saw at my disposal but I use a mini grinder with a 5" Walter zip cut blade in it to cut red iron when it's in place, as long as the section isn't too big, I mean you don't want to be hanging off a roof trying to cut a 12" beam but it works well on stuff like 1/4" angle. They cut fast and are easy on the body because they don't weigh much or chatter. The also make a nice clean finished cut. http://www.walter.com/PortalBuilder/..._Zipcut_EN.pdf I use 5" x 3/64" in a mini grinder and they cut surprisingly, amazingly fast. It has to be Walter zip cuts, the imitators are just not as good and it has to be the extremely thin ones.

                  I would invest in a full face shield for cutting and grinding and I wear safety glasses underneath the face shield. You can look right into the stream of sparks which helps keep a nice straight line for fitting HM doors etc. I carry two, a regular one and one that goes on my hard hat

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                  • #10
                    Re: Cutting Large Metal C-channel and I-beams

                    Just a thought.....
                    http://www.millerwelds.com/products/plasma/
                    SteveC
                    The improbable takes time, the impossible takes a little longer.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Cutting Large Metal C-channel and I-beams

                      Originally posted by SteveC View Post
                      2x
                      ---------------------------------

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                      • #12
                        Re: Cutting Large Metal C-channel and I-beams

                        Call Neil at R.S. Phillips Steel in Vernon, New Jersey. He'll probably tell you to get a metal cutting saw (Millwaukee makes one) like the ones he sends out with his crews on structural erection jobs. Here's a link to a good one: http://www.milwaukeetool.com/tools/s...l-cutting-saws

                        Edit: I have seen Neil use these saws on my jobs. They really do go through the beams/channel/pipe like a hot knife through butter.
                        Last edited by dixonpeer; 01-17-2011, 06:13 PM.
                        Visit www.peercon.com

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                        • #13
                          Re: Cutting Large Metal C-channel and I-beams

                          We have one of the Milw. circular saws mentioned and love it. Ive cut 3/8" plate and angle with no problems. It has also come in handy cutting the steel siding on pole barn projects. The cuts are cool to the touch and the chip collection works reasonably well.

                          I know guys will cut re-bar with them too. they are a little noisy on the thinner materials. It all depends on the size of stock. They work well and are easier to transport than a torch and don't require gas or fire watch!

                          andy

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                          • #14
                            Re: Cutting Large Metal C-channel and I-beams

                            Another option is this http://www.evolutionpowertools.co.uk...n_evo230x.html

                            The 9" blade gives you a little more capacity than the Milwaukee. Although its not recommended, I have cut 3/4" steel plate with this saw. The saw does a good job of collecting the chips too.
                            Crown Molding in Bergen County NJ
                            www.levelhomeimprovements.com

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                            • #15
                              Re: Cutting Large Metal C-channel and I-beams

                              These tools are all metal cutting and they work with little or no spark. They also leave a smooth cut with very few if any burrs.

                              It depends on the size of the cuts you need and the thickness of the material.

                              http://makitausa.com/en-us/Modules/T...ls.aspx?ID=471

                              http://makitausa.com/en-us/Modules/T...ls.aspx?ID=309

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