Metal Cutting 101: An Introduction to the Basics
It’s hard to even imagine human civilization developing without the advancements that came as a result of using metal in our everyday lives. Manipulating metal to create tools and inventions is one of the key aspects that led humanity to where it is today. Over time, we have developed a plethora of ways to change the characteristics of metal to suit our needs, whatever they may be. Metal cutting, and eventually machining, is a huge part of this.
By definition, metal cutting is the process of using tools to shape or cut metal into various desired shapes. We use this process in a variety of industries, from automotive manufacturing to furniture making and far beyond. If you’re new to this or just want a refresher course, we’ll give you an introduction to the basics of metal cutting and its many intricacies.
Types of Metal Cutting Tools
When it comes to metal cutting, there are three main tools that you need to know about: saws, drills, and grinders. Each tool is suited for different types of jobs, so it’s important to know which tool is best for the job at hand. These categories are very large umbrellas, and they include everything from extremely basic hand tools to modern machines that perform these processes quickly and accurately.
Saws are used for cutting straight lines into steel or other metals. They come in two varieties—hand saws and band saws—and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Hand saws are great for small projects where precision is not necessary, while band saws are more precise and can handle larger pieces of metal. Band saws may produce better results, but they also require more training to use properly.
Drills are used for putting precise holes into metal. They work by spinning a drill bit at high speeds while pushing it against a metal surface. This creates small chips that eventually wear away the surface of the metal until a hole is formed. Drills come in a variety of sizes and styles depending on your needs. Electric drills are typically used when working with hard metals such as steel, while pneumatic (air) drills are better suited for softer metals such as aluminum or brass.
Grinders are used for grinding down surfaces or edges of metal pieces. They use a spinning wheel covered in an abrasive material to quickly remove excess material from the surface of the piece being worked on. Grinders come in two varieties—angle grinders (which have wheels mounted on an angle) and straight grinders (which have wheels mounted perpendicular to the handle). Angle grinders are better at reaching tight spaces. Straight grinders offer greater control over your workpiece due to their lack of angles. The effectiveness of these grinders depends heavily on the skill of the operator.
Metal Cutting Materials
The type of material being cut will determine which type of blade or attachment you should use with each tool. For example, aluminum needs a specialized blade because it tends to dull regular steel blades quickly due to its soft nature. The best way to determine which type of material you should use is by understanding each material’s unique properties or by consulting with an experienced professional who knows what types of materials would be best suited for your project.
The Main Types of Metal Cutting
There are several types of metal-cutting methods, and some are more common than others. Each type has its own unique benefits and drawbacks, depending on the application. Let’s take a look at a few of the methods that we use most often.
Sawing is perhaps the most common type of metal cutting because it is quick, accurate, and easily repeatable. Although the term sawing evokes an image of a typical hand saw moving back and forth, machine sawing actually comes in a variety of different shapes. There are many types of saws used for cutting metal, including hacksaw blades, band saws, jigsaws, circular saws, and reciprocating saws. The tool you choose will depend on the thickness and shape of your material as well as your experience level with using simpler tools. Modern saws take a lot of the work out of the cutting process, but they still require the right knowledge to use safely.
Shearing involves using two blades that come together like scissors to cut through material. This technique is much faster than sawing but can cause distortion in thin materials due to its high speed. Shearing is typically used to cut sheet metal or trim straight edges from larger pieces such as pipes or beams.
Far more common nowadays is using applied heat in different forms to cut metal extremely precisely. We see this most often in processes like laser cutting and plasma cutting. While they aren’t perfect cutting methods, as they can cause distortion and damage due to the extreme heat, careful use of these processes can make a huge difference in the quality of the finished product.
As we previously mentioned, grinding involves using an abrasive wheel to wear away material until it reaches the desired shape or size. This process is much faster than manual chiseling but also produces more heat, which can cause damage to softer metals if not properly controlled or cooled during use. It is also important when grinding that you use safety equipment such as eye protection. Sparks from grinding can fly off in any direction during use, which can cause serious injury if you do not protect yourself against them ahead of time.
Safety Practices and Precautions
Speaking of safety equipment and precautions, metal cutting safety should always be your number one priority. This means wearing protective gear such as safety glasses, gloves, and earmuffs at all times when operating any type of power tool. No matter how experienced you are or how familiar you are with a tool, a single slip-up could cause a disaster if you don’t have the right protective equipment.
It’s also important to keep your work area clean and free from debris that could cause accidents or injuries. Additionally, make sure you use the appropriate type of blade or attachment for the job at hand in order to reduce the risk of injury or damage to your equipment.
Because this is just an introduction to the basics of metal cutting, there is quite a lot we still haven’t covered. Here at TMT Toolbox, we offer high-quality metal cutting tools to our customers and the knowledge that we’ve accumulated over many years in the industry.