Cutting metal may seem straightforward, but it’s not as simple as first thought. Each metal has different characteristics, different densities, and different melting points. Whether you’re looking to cut aluminium, steel or any other metal, there is only one consistency – safety.
It’s crucial to ensure your own safety and the safety of those around you before cutting metal to ensure a safe workplace. While wearing the correct equipment is the first step, it’s also important to discern the various tools for the right job and the right metal.
At Aluminium Online, we strive to ensure that safety is paramount in everything we do. That’s why, as a leading aluminium supplier in the UK, we’ve created this helpful guide on how to safely cut metal.
When working with metal, you must take special care to protect yourself from injury. Whether you’re working at home or on an industrial site, your safety is the first thing that you must ensure before you start to cut metal.
Always wear the following Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):
- Safety goggles or a face shield
- Heavy-duty gloves
- Long trousers and a long-sleeved shirt or overalls
- Steel-toed or leather boots
Depending on the type of metal you will be cutting, you may also be working with power tools. If you’re going to be working with power tools, it’s also advised that you wear earplugs or other hearing protection.
While wearing the correct PPE is the first step, the next is to check your tools.
The most important step here is to make sure that you pick the correct tool for the metal you plan to cut; cutting an aluminium round tube, for example, will require a different tool than cutting a hardened steel shaft.
Ensure that your tools are in good working condition prior to any cutting. Make sure the tools are cleaned and free of any rust, dirt or other elements that could cause the tool to not work correctly.
It’s also recommended that you check the tool’s manual before use or be correctly supervised while operating it, especially if it’s a power tool.
Make sure to also use a vice or clamp to secure the metal you’re working on, so it doesn’t move off the surface while you’re cutting.
Finally, it’s important to check that your surroundings are clear of any obstructions or risks that could become a danger to you while you work. Make sure that the workbench or surface you plan to use, as well as the floor around you, is clear of any obstructions.
If there are other people within the vicinity while you plan to cut metal, it’s also crucial that they have the correct protective gear too, specifically if there is a risk of sparks.
As you cut metal, it often gets hot. Therefore, it’s recommended that you label recently completed cuts as ‘hot’ or instead create dedicated storage space to further reduce the risk of injury.
Ways to cut metal
Because each metal has various properties, tensile strengths and characteristics, there is a wide array of tools available at your disposal to fit the different purposes and metals. Below are a few of the most common tools often used:
Tin snips are a type of handheld tool that’s specifically designed for cutting thin sheets of metal, working essentially like scissors.
Tin snips are available in a variety of different sizes, some able to cut curves and circles while other variations can cut straight. Tin snips are often used to cut aluminium unequal angles, sheet steel or tin cans.
An angle grinder is a versatile power tool that’s commonly used for grinding, sanding, and cutting metal.
This type of grinder typically has a disc-shaped blade that’s made of abrasive material, such as diamond or aluminium oxide. Angle grinders are commonly used to cut through hard metals, like steel or brass but can be used to cut softer metals like aluminium beams.
A band saw is a power tool that’s designed for cutting curved or irregular shapes in metal. This type of saw uses a rotating blade to make the cuts, which makes it ideal for cutting intricate designs, like aluminium telescopic tubes.
Band saws are typically used by professionals, offering a precise and optimal way of cutting custom shapes. The blade of a band saw can be changed to match the gauge of your chosen metal, but due to its size, is not considered a portable power tool.
A plasma cutter is a tool that uses an electrical arc to cut through metal. This type of cutter is often used to cut aluminium flat bars, brass, and other metals. Plasma cutters are more expensive than other types of metal-cutting tools, but they are also more precise and can be used to cut complex shapes.
An oxy-acetylene torch is a tool that uses a burning mixture of oxygen and acetylene to generate heat. This heat can then be used to cut through thicker pieces of metal that would be almost impossible through other tools.
Oxy-acetylene torches are often used by welders and other professionals who work with metal on a regular basis.
Regardless of how to cut metal, safety must always come first. You should always remember to wear protective equipment and to choose the right tool that matches the gauge of the metal you plan to cut.
Aluminium Online is a leading supplier for your one-stop-shop of all things aluminium. We stock a wide range of aluminium products, including aluminium beams, aluminium round or square bars, and many more.
We also offer a bespoke cutting service so that you can get the perfect size and shape for your project, saving you time and resources in having to cut the material yourself. Visit our website today to learn more about our products and services.