Whether you’re a seasoned metalwork professional or a beginner hoping to venture into the world of hobby steel craft, it’s no secret that it looks challenging on the surface.
Not only do you have to worry about the accuracy when cutting steel, but you also have to consider the potential health and safety risks, the correct tools to use, and the suitability of your work area!
In this guide, we’ll take a look at:
- The equipment you’ll need to get started
- All you need to know about making a cut
- Potential hazards you need to consider when performing steel cutting.
So, if you are thinking about venturing into the world of steel cutting, you’ve come to the perfect place! Let’s begin.
Things You Need To Get Started
Stainless Steel Sheet Or Object To Cut
Before embarking on any stainless steel journey, it’s important to have the right type of stainless steel sheet or object for the job.
After all, the grade, type, and thickness all play a pivotal role in what tool to use and how the process of cutting it is undertaken.
Safety Goggles And Gloves
Arguably the most important personal protective equipment (PPE) item you can wear when working with steel, a pair of safety gloves and glasses is a must.
When cut, steel produces sparks, fragments, and dust that can cause serious eye and hand injuries without the right protection.
Marker Or Pencil For Marking The Cutting Line
To cut steel, you need to measure and align everything with precision to prevent costly mistakes.
Measuring Tape Or Ruler For Accurate Measurements
Like marking, cutting steel requires exact measurement to avoid costly mistakes – making a measuring tape or ruler another essential steel cutting tool.
Straightedge Or Cutting Guide
Using a straightedge or cutting guide will prevent your cutting tool from veering off course.
With this approach, you can be certain that your cut is aligned with your intended measurements – and most importantly, straight.
Cutting Tool Or Method Of Choice (E.G., Grinder With Cutting Wheel, Electric Metal Shear, Plasma Cutter, Or Hacksaw)
Cutting steel requires a cutting tool that’s not only suitable for the type and thickness of the steel but also one that you are comfortable using.
Clamps Or Vise To Secure The Stainless Steel During Cutting
To cut steel safely, you want to ensure it is well secured to prevent any unwanted movement or slippage while it is being cut.
A clamp or a vice is a perfect choice and can be adjusted depending on the size and thickness of the steel you’re working with.
Workbench Or Sturdy Surface To Work On
It goes without saying: you should always cut steel on a sturdy, uncluttered, and clean surface to reduce the risk of injury.
Fire Extinguisher (As A Safety Precaution)
Whenever you are working with any kind of metal cutting, it’s always a good idea to have a fire extinguisher nearby when working with tools that generate sparks!
This is of particular importance when working with saws and other powered tools during the cutting process.
How to Cut Stainless Steel: Step By Step Process
Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or a professional, cutting pipes or steel sheets, knowing how to cut your steel is a must. First, you need to:
Step I: Preparing Your Workspace
To cut steel safely, ensure that the area is uncluttered and allows for plenty of space to move around with your cutting tools.
It should also be well-ventilated to prevent the buildup of fumes and dust generated during cutting, particularly with power tools. Finally, cuts should always be made on a firm, well-lit, and clean surface.
Step II: Measuring For the Cut
Whether you’re cutting stainless steel sheets, tubing, or pipes, you’ll need to either use a standard measuring tape or ruler to mark the region you need to cut.
Once you’re confident in your markings, you’re ready to begin the cutting process.
Step III: Cutting the Steel
Using Tin Snips
With a design that mimics that of a pair of scissors, the tin snip is ideal for cutting through thin sheets of steel with ease.
To make the best cuts, use the tin snips slowly to create a more clean and accurate whilst also protecting your hands from injury.
Using Power Shears
If your project requires straight cuts and thicker stainless steel, power shears are the tool for the job.
For optimal results, ensure that you are using the correct motorized control for the job at hand and operate the tool at a slow, steady pace.
Using a Circular Saw
Often overlooked, a circular saw is a great metal-cutting tool that can cut through medium to thick density steel up to 3/8 in thick.
However, it is worth noting that only blades and discs that are specifically designed for cutting metal should be used to prioritize safety and reduce the risk of sparking.
Using an Angle Grinder
Considered a garage staple, an angle grinder often paired with either a ferrous or a diamond blade can be used for a range of metal cutting projects; including steel.
Suitable for steel that is up to ½ inch thick, it’s a great choice for light to medium-density sheets with more complex or angled cut lines.
Using a Plasma Cutter
A plasma cutter is a versatile tool that can make precise cuts in a variety of materials, including thicker steel, metals, and plastics.
When it comes to cutting, this tool is best suited for thicker slabs of steel rather than thinner sheets.
Step IV: Clean Up Your Edge
After cutting your stainless steel, it’s a fairly common occurrence to be left with some rough edges.
If you want your work to look more polished and refined, use a hand file or a deburring tool to tidy up all the edges.
Wear Appropriate Safety Gear, Including Safety Goggles And Gloves
Don’t forget to gear up with goggles and gloves to protect your eyes and hands from sparks, debris, and sharp edges.
Secure The Stainless Steel Firmly Before Cutting To Avoid Slippage
Make sure to firmly secure the stainless steel before cutting to avoid any slipping or shifting during the cutting process.
Be Cautious Of Sparks And Sharp Edges During The Cutting Process
Cutting steel can create sharp edges and also the risk of hot metal sparks.
To minimize the risk of injury, make sure you wear the correct safety gear protective gear at all stages of the cutting process.
Do Not Overheat The Stainless Steel, As It Can Affect The Material’s Properties
Whether you’re cutting steel pipes or sheets, it’s important to use the right cutting technique, tools, and speed to prevent overheating the steel as doing so can negatively impact its strength and durability.
Keep A Fire Extinguisher Nearby As A Safety Precaution
Don’t take any chances when working with power tools that generate sparks; keep a fire extinguisher nearby!
Avoid Cutting In Confined Spaces With Poor Ventilation
When cutting stainless steel, make sure you do it in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling harmful fumes and dust.
Use The Correct Cutting Tool For Stainless Steel To Prevent Accidents
Only use tools designed for cutting steel to avoid putting yourself in harm’s way.
Seek Professional Help If You Are Not Experienced In Cutting Stainless Steel
If you’re not familiar with cutting stainless steel, it’s recommended that you consult with a professional or someone who has extensive experience.
The Bottom Line
Whatever your project needs, cutting steel is one of those skills that takes practice and patience.
From selecting the right tool to all the warnings you should consider, preparing yourself is the key to success.
Although it may seem daunting at first — especially if you’ve never done it before — you’ll become an expert at cutting stainless steel in no time with these tips and precautions in mind!