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Q & A: Slice Steel on Your Bandsaw



Slice Steel on Your Bandsaw



I’ve heard of a technique called friction-cutting that allows you to cut steel on a woodworking bandsaw. What is friction-cutting and does it really work?



Friction-cutting is used in industry for cutting iron-base metals, also called ferrous metals, such as steel. You can adopt the technology to your woodworking bandsaw to do limited cutting of ferrous metals in your home shop. Here’s how it works: Mount a metal-cutting blade in your bandsaw. The woodcutting bandsaw’s high speed—3,000 feet per minute (fpm)—will cause the blade to dull quickly when cutting steel (see photos, below). However, the friction generated by the dull teeth will heat the metal to molten red, allowing the blade to slice through the steel. It’s amazing when you first try it. You’ll feel some resistance before the metal reaches the molten stage, but once it does, you can cut 1/8-in.-thick steel as though it were 1-in.-thick oak. I tried this in my own shop and had great results in steel 1/8 in. or thinner. Thicker metal diffuses too much heat so the metal doesn’t become hot enough to melt.

Friction-cutting on a woodworking bandsaw requires a few precautionary measures. Sparks fly using this method, so be sure to vacuum up all the saw dust in and around your saw beforehand. Also, the blade can be quite hot after continuous cutting, so keep your saw running but give the blade a break from cutting from time to time to let it cool. Otherwise the rubber tire on the wheel could melt. We recommend using ceramic blocks or the stock metal-guide blocks that came with the saw.

Click any image to view a larger version.

Cutting steel at high woodcutting speeds turns a new metalcutting blade into a dull but effective friction-cutting blade that can cut up to 1/8-in.-thick steel. CAUTION Be sure to vacuum the dust from your machine before trying this procedure and disconnect dust-collection hoses from the saw.



This story originally appeared in American Woodworker November 2006, issue #125.

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