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Alternative to Plasma Cutter?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Ace_ChopShop, Jul 31, 2012.

  1. Ace_ChopShop
    Joined: Jul 26, 2012
    Posts: 23


    Anybody have a good idea for a alternative for a plasma cutter? I got my steel in today for my frame rails and since the wife and kids are gone I really want to get started. I have a everything ready but the steel looks like its either cut with a plasma cutter or a torch on the designs. I cannot have either on base was wondering if there was a good alternate to these.

  2. peter schmidt
    Joined: Aug 26, 2007
    Posts: 657

    peter schmidt
    from maryland

  3. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 44,302


    Sawzall. And lots of blades, and patience.
  4. Small metal twin blade saw(sears, harbor) jigsaw with metal blades.
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  5. falconsprint63
    Joined: May 17, 2007
    Posts: 2,348

    from Mayberry

    4 inch angle grinder and dewalt wheels for fast cutting, good ziz wheel and cutting wheels for more precise cuts. not fast, but effective.
  6. Bib Overalls
    Joined: Aug 3, 2001
    Posts: 4,068

    Bib Overalls

    I use a 7.25" carpentry circular saw with 7" metal cutting abrasive discs. They generate a lot of heat and that is hard on the saws. I use cheap pawn shop and Craigslist sourced saws for this. With a little practice and some clamped in place guides you can make some very accurate straight cuts.

    Attached Files:

  7. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 44,302


    I'm thinking he needs to cut long, curved cuts in flat sheet. I could be wrong.
  8. Ace_ChopShop
    Joined: Jul 26, 2012
    Posts: 23


    Yeah your right .125 thick steel that is 6 feet long and 8 inches wide.
  9. peter schmidt
    Joined: Aug 26, 2007
    Posts: 657

    peter schmidt
    from maryland

    Oh in that case probably an angle grinder and lots of cutting wheels or just mark it all out and get someone to cut it off base?
  10. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,217


    I borrowed a Bosch commercial nibbler 30 years ago to make boxing plates. It went through 120 like paper. It was high end $$ and it had a self oiler, and could cut faster than you can steer it. :)

    Maybe hunt around for a used one or a tool rental place that does commercial renting. I would think someone still has these, even though there are so many other ways to cut steel now.
  11. Drive Em
    Joined: Aug 25, 2006
    Posts: 1,748

    Drive Em

    I have a plasma cutter that I rarely use since I discovered the 4 1/2" angle grinder cutting wheels. I scribe a line make the cut, and finish with a sanding disc. You can cut heavy plate with those wheels.
  12. 1/4" would be bad but since you are using 1/8" you can use the thin cut offs mentioned.
    I do that all the time and it is very easy to cut curved lines with practice....meaning you cut on the angle in the corners untill you"score" your steel half thru the thickness.
    this will usually leave a blue tracer line on the reverse side/score that as well about half thru as well and break it off with flat jaw vise grips/grind to finished size and install.....
    dont use an electric grinder it runs too fast to safely handle....
    I use an air sander 5" pistol style handle......
    you can amputate fingers with an electric as it is wide open only when on .

    use a pro tool /air powered and play the violin later....
    I am currently using"tool shop" brand cut offs[040 by 4-1/2"] available at Menards for 1.09 each....7/8" center hole for the air tool]
  13. Fenders
    Joined: Sep 8, 2007
    Posts: 3,922


    Great for straight lines but I find it hard to cut a nice curve with those.

    Mebbe a good jig saw with very good metal blades.....
  14. Drive Em
    Joined: Aug 25, 2006
    Posts: 1,748

    Drive Em

    Outside and inside curves can be done by nibbling a little at a time, and then finishing with a sanding disc.
  15. Big_John
    Joined: Mar 28, 2006
    Posts: 327

    from Upstate NY

    It might be worth finding a local waterjet shop. I have stuff done for work all the time and it's surprisingly inexpensive if you have good drawings.
  16. using cut off wheels you can easily cut curves...
    you just score the top side along your marks and you do not cut thru,thus the curve can be cut....if cutting clear thru of course it [wheel]will not bend around a corner, that was too simple....
  17. kscarguy
    Joined: Aug 22, 2007
    Posts: 1,555


    If you use the angle grinder and cut off wheels...WEAR SAFETY GLASSES and keep the gaurd on. Someone even mentioned wearing swim goggles to keep stuff out of your eyes. I have first hand experience of the extreem damage the stupid wheels can do to fingers and eyes. It happens so much quicker than you can imagine

    For long straight cuts, clamp an angle iron to the metal you want to cut.

    If you cut it in a driveway...the dust will rust and discolor the concrete.
  18. bad4dr
    Joined: Jul 28, 2011
    Posts: 41


    I'm guessing you're stationed at MCAS Beaufort. If that's the case, there should be an Auto Hobby Shop on base somewhere (we have them in the Air Force, not sure if that's what Navy/Marines call it). Go talk to those guys and see what they recommend. They may have a plasma cutter you can use, or someone there might have access to one and would do the job for a small fee (usually beer, but this varies). Alternatively, you could go over to the sheetmetal shop (where they repair aircraft) and see if any of those guys will do it after hours (again, beer is the standard currency). This is also a great way to find other gearheads on base. We had a pretty strong group of them down at Hurlburt Field, and many had unlimited access to some serious fab equipment (those C-130 gunships are hard on metal parts, man). Ask around.
  19. oldolds
    Joined: Oct 18, 2010
    Posts: 2,854


    You on base? Don't they have a metal or woodshop? Bandsaw. Maybe even a portable band saw like a cheep HF. I have been using one of those for years. ^^^ What he said. ^^^
  20. Rigid duo-saw. I cut thru a 3/16 x 2x6 tube like butter. 149.00
    You could do outside curves easy. Inside not so easy.
    The cut off wheels work good but make a mess. Will damage glass, coffee cups, microwave faces, any thing you shoot sparks at.
  21. RatPin
    Joined: Feb 12, 2009
    Posts: 573


    Angle grinder works great. You can put a good scribe line with the grinder on the first pass and from there just follow the valley. I've done some amazing things with my Metabo. Probably my most used tool on my project, so much so that I want to buy another one so I dont have to switch disks back and fourth constantly.

    Spend the extra for a Metabo. They are by far the world leader in angle grinder manufacturers. My variable speed quick change is a sweet machine!

    My neighbor has a plasma cutter, and I can use it whenever I want but have not been very impressed with it. Unless you need to cut through .250 or more stick with electric.
  22. VoodooTwin
    Joined: Jul 13, 2011
    Posts: 3,455

    from Noo Yawk

    Do they allow a welder on base? If not, how will you fabricate? I'm thinking a flame-proof tent, and smuggle in a plasma cutter and go to town. lol. Too risky?

    By the way, THANK YOU for your service.
  23. Fogger
    Joined: Aug 18, 2007
    Posts: 1,404


    Bosch makes a great hand held jig saw Model 1581VS. It's variable speed and the cutting angle can change. I've used mine for everything from cutting wheelwells to dashes to 1/8" plate for frame boxing. It's one of the most valuable tools in the shop, and everyone I've recommended it to has the same high praise. Use bi-metal blades and with the instruction sheet you can pick different blades for metal, nonferrous metals, plastics and wood.
  24. Hot Rods Ta Hell
    Joined: Apr 20, 2008
    Posts: 3,934

    Hot Rods Ta Hell

    If you're not tooled up to do the cutting, I agree with farming it out if you can find someone that will do it reasonably and can do the work right away. You can get on with setting up your frame rather than shittin around with cutting wheels, etc.
  25. Mr48chev
    Joined: Dec 28, 2007
    Posts: 26,089


    Yep, make some exact patterns for the shape you need out of stiff cardboard and then go hunt down a metal working shop in a near by town that can cut it out with a plasma or waterjet.

    Maybe a Hamber in the area knows of a place or has the stuff to do it.

    Cutoff disks work good but when you are doing that much straight line cutting you will go through a few at 2-3 bucks each plus the mess and noise.

    You can cut them out with a hacksaw but that would take a whole weekend and a box full of blades.

    I don't know the size of any of these companies or if they take on small jobs but The worse they can do is say no or price themselves out of the job.

    Brown's Fabrication & Welding
    213 Laurel Bay Road
    Beaufort, SC 29906-8435
    (843) 846-2396
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2012
  26. Aman
    Joined: Dec 28, 2005
    Posts: 2,522

    from Texas

    Some very good advise here. I used the 4.5" grinders for years and never met a challenge I couldn't handle, including frame building, panel fabrication, and many other projects. I found the main secret to be buy 'em cheap. HB grinders can be had for about $20 and will take a pretty good beating and stand up to it. If not, you're out $20, not $60 for the big name stuff. HB wheels impressed me too. I've used the high end Dewalt wheels and found that they won't stand up any better tho, you're paying like 3x the price. If you're building a frame you're in for a lot of cutting so do it cheap, easy, and safe. Please take the advise here about the safety equipment. A wheel spinning at 10,ooo rpm and explodes is like a small bomb going off so be ready and use a face shield, not welding goggles, long sleeve shirt and welding gloves with long cuffs. they may not stop the scrapnel but it will slow it down quite a bit. OH, it's mandatory that if you do get injuried, you have to post photos and narratives about what happened. Really, it's in the bilaws;), somewhere. Good luck!
  27. thorpe31
    Joined: May 4, 2011
    Posts: 166

    from nor-cal

    Look at a Milwaukee corded metal saw.
    As asked above how are you going to weld it on base?
  28. Ace_ChopShop
    Joined: Jul 26, 2012
    Posts: 23


    Good ideas, I actually went to lowes at 8:55 before they close and got a bunch of cutting wheels and found an electric metal cutting wheel pretty cool tool... I just had to cut a bunch of little slits around the curve then follow the shape of the curve to cut them out I am about 30% done with my left side rail.
  29. atomickustom
    Joined: Aug 30, 2005
    Posts: 3,272


    What's an electric metal cutting wheel?
  30. 40FordGuy
    Joined: Mar 24, 2008
    Posts: 2,908


    Ditto, bad4dr. Most bases have great auto hobby shops,, and a lot of guys who have done the work you need.

    Ace chopshop,... THANK YOU , for your Service !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    4TTRUK (U.S.A.F. ret.)

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