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Sabre saw for chopping rods?

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  • Sabre saw for chopping rods?

    I've got a portaband and it's great for chewing through stock to cut itntto length and all the sorts of things you've seen them used for. But it's a bit of a pain to get out in a small space - my space is literally just large enough to wield it provided its relatively tidy so I'm not just being a wuss about it. For smaller stuff (Im thinking 20mm of less of steel/aluminium/brass), I was wondering about a small 12v sabre/reciprocating saw like this that can be had fairly cheaply if you've already bought into the battery system.

    Anyone tried this already and know if its a good idea or terrible? In my head its a mini power hacksaw...but is it a lot less finessed? Enough to not be useful for roughly cutting stock to length before chucking it in the lathe?

  • #2
    I recently used a corded Milwaukee recip saw for cutting some small stainless steel frames apart. It was just 1/8" thick angle sections, it did the job, but was tediously slow and fairly rough on the saw. I don't think the saw in your link would last very long cutting metal, it looks like it's intended for woodwork and home remodeling to me.
    I just need one more tool,just one!


    • #3
      The speed is just way to fast to cut steel well. They do worry through in time. But it's a nasty venture from the occasions I've used them for that sort of job. What I'd suggest is an angle grinder and thin cuttoff "Zip" disc and a way to perch the stock being cut and engage the cut so the sparks are thrown down into a steel bucket with a little sand in the bottom. Or if you don't mind the rusty soup even a 5 gal plastic bucket with a few inches of water in the bottom. It'll catch and hold the lion's share of the sparks so you don't get grinding dust over everything and not make much, if any, more noise than a saber saw with an angry metal blade.

      Another option is to mount your portaband in a vertical mode in a storage position so it lives there plugged in and can be used for cutting small hand held items like you're asking about. And for bigger needs you can lift it out and away to use with two hands.

      After all, you need to store it somewhere. Why not in a place and positioned such that it can be used right there?

      This could even be down below bench level and require you to lean over a little to use it in this "stored away" position. It's not like you need it a lot, right? Ideally it would be in a way that permits some reasonable length to both sides of the blade.

      Of course this will likely mean I'm also suggesting that you'll need to re-arrange things yet again to let you "tetris" the saw into such a storage/use position while finding new locations for the displaced items take over by the saw.... Sorry 'bout that.....
      Chilliwack BC, Canada


      • #4
        Sure, why not? Before I got a bandsaw I used my Bosch jigsaw for all sorts of crap including 1" thick aluminum and 1/2" steel. I got into the Ryobi 18v system not long ago in addition to my Makitas, because the gear was so much cheaper for stuff I might use less frequently. The jigsaw rocks! And I don't need to keep track of the stupid long screwdriver you need to change blades on the 37 year old Bosch.
        Location: Jersey City NJ USA


        • #5
          They do make variable speed saber saws. The ones with a speed limit on the trigger are specially helpful as you can set it and not worry about the speed creeping up as you cut.

          I have a couple of saber saws and love the one with the variable speed. But I guess my shop is somewhat larger than yours (two car garage) so I have and use a 4x6, horizontal/vertical band saw for most of my metal cutting. It is behind my lathe bench and I can pass long stock under that bench when cutting it to length. That 4x6 band saw and my drill presses are the most frequently used metal cutting tools in my shop.
          Paul A.
          Golden Triangle, SE Texas

          And if you look REAL close at an analog signal,
          You will find that it has discrete steps.


          • #6
            I started out posting over some concerns that a jig or saber saw used in this way has only a very small segment of blade actually engaging the metal and that the teeth would wear rapidly. This means going through blades quite often. I suspect that it is still the case. But also out of curiosity I stuck a metal saw blade into my jig saw to try it out. I'm pretty sure that the DeWalt brand blade is one that came with my DeWalt brand jig saw when I originally bought it about 30 years ago...

            I tenderly used the speed control to reach around 3 to 4 strokes per second. I didn't want to get anywhere near to exceeding the surface feet per minute. The tube cut rapidly through the middle and a little slower on the two ends. Time for the cut was about 15 to 20 seconds.

            The 3/8 bar took more like 30 to 35 seconds and I was "rocking" the saw slowly in the cut through about a 20 to 30 degree angle so I limited the number of teeth in engagement and kept the amount of pressure needed both into the cut and downward on the saw to keep the rest plate against the bar.

            Click image for larger version

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            So how do I feel about using a saw like this now? I'd say it's more than reasonable. And in fact up to around 1/2"... wait a minute.... .OK I'm back after one more test...

            Cutting through a piece of 3/4 round mild took just over 70 seconds. But it was a fairly stressful 70 seconds. Even with slow rocking the saw to minimize the teeth in engagement there was more more binding in the cut and a lot more times where the saw slightly bumped up and back down. I kept it under control but it was clearly by "just". It felt like it could easily end up dancing me up and down and slamming the saw against the bar stock if I had relaxed even a little. I'd rather not make a habit of doing things this way for that size of stock It always felt like a vibration filled ride that slammed my saw into pieces was only a slight relaxing away.....

            Oh, and I was using my big burly bench vise to hold all the pieces. To stop the saw from jumping up and down due to the extra grab from the metal a very firm downward hold is needed. I don't see doing anything like this with the metal in one hand and the saw in the other. ESPECIALLY with small round items where the blade will just spin the round stock in your grip way too easily. So some setup is still needed.

            All in all I'm still thinking that if you can re-arrange things to permit mounting your Portaband in some out of the way spot where you can also use it that you'd be by far a happier guy. Some time back I watched the Blondihacks video where she made a table for her own Portaband that has a piece of angle iron that permitted clamping the saw in her vise. HERE IS THE LINK. And in fact if you search on YT simply for "portaband saw stand" (<-Just click the link) you get back about 28 options with about 6 or 8 seemingly different options. Between all of them there should be a solution that jumps out which will fit some little corner.

            I know you're working in a compact spot but if the saw is in there now then it is already taking up room. So you just need to shift things so it takes up room where it can also be used... Right? Am I making it sound SOOOOO easy? Sorry...
            Chilliwack BC, Canada


            • #7
              I have a shop built table for my router. Since I built it, I was able to use a 1/8" hard aluminum plate for the central support of the router. Then I also drilled some holes so one of my saber saws could also mount there.

              With the saber saw upside down and the blade sticking up, you have a lot better control over the cutting process.

              I think some of the commercially sold router tables will allow a saber saw to be mounted like this. But don't ask me which ones.
              Paul A.
              Golden Triangle, SE Texas

              And if you look REAL close at an analog signal,
              You will find that it has discrete steps.


              • #8
                Porta-band, or other bandsaw, or a small metal-cutting circular saw have the advantage of pushing the work down against the table. As mentioned, the sabre saw wants to kick up, or, if upside down, wants to kick the work up.

                Sabre saw also has the "shaper problem"; it cuts only half the time. Bandsaw will be faster.
                CNC machines only go through the motions.

                Ideas expressed may be mine, or from anyone else in the universe.
                Not responsible for clerical errors. Or those made by lay people either.
                Number formats and units may be chosen at random depending on what day it is.
                I reserve the right to use a number system with any integer base without prior notice.
                Generalizations are understood to be "often" true, but not true in every case.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by J Tiers View Post
                  Sabre saw also has the "shaper problem"; it cuts only half the time. Bandsaw will be faster.
                  Of course if you have a shaper you could cut off with that.


                  • #10
                    Darn it, why can't you guys tell me what I want to hear sometime! The attraction was something small and light that I could stow in a drawer. The 12V drill driver pleasantly suprised me with its capability but I've found two things this morning. Firstly the quoted "50mm" in metal is for pipes and for mild steel it's only 8mm...which I may as well hacksaw by hand!
                    Secondly I eventually found a a video that tested it on metal - most were on wood: video (links straight to the test on metal - 18V first, then 12V)
                    As you can see, the small 12V unit looks rather pointless for the task. The 18V might be acceptable but it's already out of the cheap category, not as small and tops out at 16mm. Even the top of the range 18V-32 tops out at 20mm and that's over three times the price and definitely not small. And that doesn't look like it'll provide performance to offset the price tag: threaded rod

                    BCRider I do want to get my portaband mounted vertically better than just clamping the handle in the bench vise. I've seen Blondihacks' video but I've been overthinking that one for a while now. The vise is about the only place currently that it could go and It can't stay there permanently. My plan is to remove the shelving and storage that really writes off half of the very little space I already have. That means getting that storage relocated to the loft and that means getting rid of what's up there....which, to cut a long story short, is complicated. I guess I was hoping for a nice easy way of bypassing some of that chain of you can't do A until you've done B but you can't do B until you've done C but....

                    Paul Alciatore It's a nice idea and one I'd definitely not thought of. I'd like a router table but I don't have the flat space for even the plate, let alone in/out-feed. Very jealous of your two-car garage. My wife asked how much space I'd like (hypothetically!) and that seemed to be a good size....but I don't doubt you can easily (over-)fill whatever you have.


                    • #11
                      I use my Portaband so much It hangs on a hook under my bench vise, and is plugged in all the time. Going back to a recip saw would be a major step backwards IMO. The saw in you link does look handy for other jobs around the house though. I wouldn't look to try and replace the portaband with it though.

                      Look into finding a spot to store the portaband that makes it easier to get at and use, so that it is no longer a pain or drawn out process to grab it for quick and easy cuts. I used to store mine in an overhead cupboard and always had the same issue until I brought it out into the open and hung right next to where I need it all the time. Haven't touched a hacksaw since


                      • #12
                        I guess I was hoping for a nice easy way of bypassing some of that chain of you can't do A until you've done B but you can't do B until you've done C but....
                        Very much a "Been there, done dat, got the shirt" along with you deal. It's annoying. But the struggle is real....

                        On Paul's router table example. He was actually suggesting a similar idea but with the jigsaw mounted under the table instead of a router. But then you have the same issue of lack of permanent space to mount said saw with table. Someone actually makes an upside down saw just like that now. But it's a fast strokes per minute focused on wood. Plus it's a boxy thing you would need to dedicate room towards. And due to your situation that's just the very thing you're trying to avoid.

                        Ya know.... I just went out and took those little offcuts from the test last night and cut through them with a hacksaw. And I didn't even change the blades which are getting a bit tired. I keep two hacksaws on hooks just below the vise. One has a 32TPI blade and the other an 18TPI.

                        The bit of tube was hacked through using the 32TPI in only about 10 strokes in 17 seconds. I attacked the 3/8 and after bashing a fingertip on the tube used a bit more caution at the end and did it in about 20 seconds. That was so interesting that I could not resist and took an end off the 3/4" bar which had been cut in the past with a shear and was squished oddly. Cutting through that with the somewhat dull 18T saw took about 90 seconds and gave me some much needed workout. So the lighter stock items can be cut with a hacksaw in the same time as using a jig or recip saw. The heavier stuff takes a little longer. Or perhaps with a new blade it might have been closer to the same 70 seconds. The old blade was giving me a fair bit of binding so it suggests that I have worn away most of the set..... Hold on....

                        ... New blade in the 18T saw. Stanley bimetal as it happens. New time for 3/4 inch mild round stock.... 40 seconds and not even breathing as hard. Yep, that's 30 seconds faster than the rather risky feeling jig saw cut on the same bar. I didn't do this as a speed run either. Just smooth easy strokes. I did rock the saw through a little tilt. Tip forward, 5 or 6 strokes. Tip back, another 5 or 6. Tip forward, etc, etc. About a 10 degree shift each time. This makes it easy to keep the teeth engaging well and cutting well and certainly speeds the progress on wider cuts. Not needed for up to 1/2. But for anything bigger it's a huge help.

                        So bottom line is that your best option for a small and light portable saw for small stock cutting might be the human powered one you already have. .. Just watch the knuckles during the final break through.

                        And this has been a big eye opener for me too.
                        Chilliwack BC, Canada


                        • #13
                          I gotta say, I'm with BC on this- I use a hand hack saw in preference to anything powered and reciprocating.
                          And I leave the sawzall right under the bench. But only reach for it occasionallly.

                          If you have a porta- band, use it. It's light- years more civilised than buzzing back and forth.
                          I have a larger band saw in a different part of the barn, and wander over when the cut needs
                          to be better than - or is too big for- the hack saw.

                          rusting in Seattle


                          • #14
                            Definitely interesting to see how bad, comparably, the power option is. My hacksaw is a decent Bahco high-tension frame. It's power source spends most of its time these days sitting behind a desk working is probably inferior to yours! The other thing is that the wall behind me tends to get in the way of my elbow. I think the only way forward is to try to progress plans to make more room so I can at least have the vise holding the stock at an angle that I can wield a hacksaw at. That's going to have to wait until we resolve the sewage issue that's currently writing off the kitchen. It was going so well but now it looks like the problem is under someone else's land but our fault - well, the builder we employed but getting him to foot the bill I suspect is going to involve court costs and then he'll as like as not fold the company and resurrect in a new very similar name with no liability. Yeah, I think priorities just changed :-/


                            • #15
                              I have a 12 volt Milwaukee Hackzall and it works great for it's intended purpose. Wood, drywall, Plastic pipe, lightweight metal. It will hold any blade and run times are very good with a larger style battery. 20 mm metal is not going to be this tools strong suit.