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Metal saw questions...??

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  • Metal saw questions...??

    I.m in the market for a metal saw of some sort. I'm looking at cutting smaller pieces of aluminum, cast iron, and some steel. By small I mean up to 2" square max dimensions. What are the differences between a horizontal / vertical bandsaw, cold saw, cut off saw etc. I know nothing about saws and have never run one myself. I'm tired of the hack saw. Any advise as to what I should be looking for??


  • #2
    I'll take part of your question...sure others will take up my slack. Man I'd love to have a cold saw. A cold saw is a metal cutting saw with a circular blade usually 12"-14" diameter. The blade turns nice and slow, there is an oil resevoir and pump to provide flood coolant/lube, they are heavy, produce a great cut with very little burr, and due to the blade speed they are nice and quiet and do not generate a lot of heat (hence the name). They are also rare on the used market with good ones going for well over a thousand dollars in my neck of the woods, think about the same price as a good used mill. New or factory demo ones are 3-6K$. If you find a good one cheap jump on it. Other than expense, the only other downside I see is that the reduction box can be integral with the motor or have a rare coupling making it much harder to slap a surplus motor on it if you have electrical issues such as phase and voltage. Also some are limited in the angles they can cut.

    Another popular cutoff solution is the horizontal bandsaw...a good look on ebay or search will give some pics that will explain it better than I can in little words. The 4"x6" (refering to the size of stock it will cut) is an affordable tool available from the import purveyors and popular enough to have a good home shop following with various tweaks to make them work right/better. Larger sizes are often better quality and can be found cheap on the used market. These can be limited in the angles they cut depending on style with pivoting ones available for a price premium. Import 4x6's are available in the couple hundred dollar range and will plug into your wall socket. Bandsaws in general can be finicky though and require more maintainence and attention than a cold saw or cut-off saw. They're pretty quiet though and can be comfortably used indoors.

    A vertical bandsaw is not really a cutoff machine (though varieties are designed for this work with sliding tables and a search for "roll-in" band saw or Marvel bandsaw and I'm sure you'll find examples). The vertical bandsaw may be one of the most versatile saws around though...If I was limited to one saw, and didn't have to do that much long-bar cutoff work, I'd probably choose an 18"-20" vertical bandsaw (referring to the size of the bandwheels in this case). Metal cutting versions have the low speeds required to cut steels and other hard metals. Good ones are not cheap.

    The "cut-off" saw you mention is usually an abrasive wheel type...they are the noisiest dirtiest type of saw you'll use and are not suitable for work inside a small shop. Eye protection is a must with all tools but these things really spray sparks and such...I always use breath protection as well when operating. You also have to watch out for any flamable material in the area of use. In general they are no good for aluminum as delivered. There are special aluminum abrasive wheels available though. These are the cheapest in dollar terms and they are portable...I've used the heck out of mine but it's a crude tool at best, leaves a dangerous razor sharp burr, and cut ends often need some sort of second operation to remove the burr and get them really square and clean.

    A second type of cut-off saw is a cutting type that is reminiscent of a regular wood cutting miter saw that you're probably familiar with. These run about half wood speed and have a carbide tipped blade. They run dry and faster than a cold saw...I've never used one of these but they look like a good value and solution for home shop cutoff needs.

    None of these will build as much character as a good hacksaw* though

    *another option you don't see much these days is a power hacksaw, but they turn up dirt cheap on the used market once in a while. I used one for while in a shop class and I would snap one up if the price was right. Not too versatile on the angles but the blade is quiet and I actually like the mechanism sounds, usually have auto-shutoff so you can start the cut and walk away - come back when it's finished, good blades are still available as well.

    Hope that helps.


    • #3
      It also depends a bit of the volume you need to cut.
      Cut a few things a week and the cooling can be a problem on a cold saw.
      Clogged pump. Slippery floor from slapper. You need to be serious about sump maintenance.

      Bandsaw: my new replacement portable bandsaw does NOT saw square enough to tigweld without a lot of fillerrod. -->grinding.
      It is quiet, resonable portable and i can chuck it into a corner where it is not in my way. 350 euros.

      Right now i am looking for a quality replacement for this brand new machine.
      Lets see where this thread goes. I am game.


      • #4
        ABN did a great job for you. The only thing I can think of that he missed that I am familiar with is the venerable "Sawzall" ! I have a large Milwaukee (gotta boast here....Diamond Anniversary Model) and use it frequently for cut off work even though I have a 4x6 horizontal and a 14" horizontal bandsaw as well as the cheap cutoff chopsaw.

        You can do a lot of work with a Sawzall and by-metalic blades. If I were you and had some floor to work with I'd get me the little import 4x6 horizontal bandsaw traditionally sellling for around $175.00.
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        It is true, there is nothing free about freedom, don't be so quick to give it away.


        • #5
          Horizontal / Vertical Bandsaw

          Krems, I recently purchased a saw that I am very happy with. See the link below (currently on sale for $155 at Harbor Freight). This is an apparently popular imported saw sold by numerous outlets. After buying one and getting it setup to suit me, I sincerely would never want to do metal work without it. It is was in need of some some tuning and a blade replacement right out of the box. For example, I replaced the blade with a decent bi-metal, re-built the vise to suit me, and spent an afternoon getting the saw adjusted to cut square and plumb. I highly recommend this as metal cutting system which easily handle the size of material you described.

          I use the saw to cut both steel and aluminum. If I had to cut a lot of either I'd get a different blade for the aluminum, as it cuts the alum slowly (you need less teeth for cutting alum) and a lubrication / cooling system.

          "When it comes to paradigms ... shifts happen" - Alain Rossman


          • #6
            It's hard to beat the small horizontal/vertical bandsaws in value for the dollar. As with a lot of the cheaper import stuff they tend to be a semi-finished kit of parts that requires a bit of tuning for best results, but (typically) nothing too serious. You'd want to reinforce the legs a bit, and probably work over the vise a little. Occasionally a blade guide may need some help.

            A power hacksaw, as somebody mentioned, is also a great machine if you can find a used one in good condition. Not quite as versatile or as fast as a bandsaw, but they work very well. It would likely be a much better-made and solid machine than one of the import H/V bandsaws, too. Power hacksaw blades are getting a bit difficult to find, but they are still available.

            Either the H/V bandsaw in horizontal mode or the power hacksaw can be "start and let run" so you can start a cut and then go do something else while it's working.
            Try to make a living, not a killing. -- Utah Phillips
            Don't believe everything you know. -- Bumper sticker
            Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects. -- Will Rogers
            There are lots of people who mistake their imagination for their memory. - Josh Billings
            Law of Logical Argument - Anything is possible if you don't know what you are talking about.
            Don't own anything you have to feed or paint. - Hood River Blackie


            • #7
              ABN did you ever use a cold saw they are very good but only for small pieces they don't go much wider than a few inches. The one I had was one and a half inches useless although they look good.Alistair
              Please excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease


              • #8
                I bought a handheld import bandsaw for about $50.00 and I'm very happy with it. I used it quite a bit on steel and Aluminum. Still on the original blade works as well as my buddies 4x6 bandsaw.
                When I get Time... I'll...


                • #9
                  What size was the blade? Yes I've run a cold saw before, the adult school I attend off and on has one and it's good for at least a 4" cut never tried anything larger but it does have more vise capacity.

                  Originally posted by Alistair Hosie
                  ABN did you ever use a cold saw they are very good but only for small pieces they don't go much wider than a few inches. The one I had was one and a half inches useless although they look good.Alistair


                  • #10
                    I've had one of the C3 (cheap Chinese crap) hor/vert. bandsaws for many years and it works very well as long as you get ride of the spring tensioner and put a hydraulic down feed control on it, mine is a small surplus air cylinder and valve, 12 dollars some years ago. You have to keep the blade guides adjusted correctly too.
                    The shortest distance between two points is a circle of infinite diameter.

                    Bluewater Model Engineering Society at


                    • #11
                      Those cold saws sound nice. A little pricey however. The bandsaw looks like its more versitile and less money. More suited for my hobby application.

                      ABN:...excellent posts. Very informative.

                      Thanks again! saw shopping time



                      • #12
                        I've got a h/v band saw and a chop saw. I've replaced the base of the
                        band saw so that it's just off the floor on casters, and added a proper latching relay, starter switches & microswitch to turn it off when the cut completes; the original just
                        had a sheet metal arm that flicked off the toggle, which broken after some years. With careful adjustment, it has worked very well over the years cutting all sorts of things. I bought the chopsaw because I do a lot of work w/ thin wall square tubing; the bandsaw needed very fine blades and then tended to hang up and pop the blades off the wheels anyway.

                        - Bart
                        Bart Smaalders


                        • #13
                          After working in a shop that had only limited access to a horizontal bandsaw, i'd saw buy one of these first! I can't imagine how i got along with out mine. It saves lots of time over the old hack-saw method. Plus if you get a cheap H/V it is pretty versatile for light duty hobby type work and with a good lenox or etc blade (THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT) it will cut fast. Dump any cheap chineese blades that may come with it!


                          • #14
                            abn it was a ten or twelve inch blade.Alistair
                            Please excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease