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  1. #1
    650b me
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    Talk to me about cut-off saws

    I'm considering my first - yes, first - power tool addition to my framebuilding setup. (Well, I guess there's my cordless drill)

    A cut-off saw seems like a very useful tool. Would any $180 model I can buy at Home Depot do the job? By "do the job", I mean:

    1. Cleanly cut any steel alloy frame tubing.
    2. Cut square.
    3. Last for years.

    Are there certain features I should look for? Blade diameter? Power? Type of blade? Stock holding mechanism?

  2. #2
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    I should add that my main motivation is not increased cutting speed vs a hacksaw, but getting a nice, square cut on head tube stock, etc.

  3. #3
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    I just use a Park fork cutting guide. Or a pipe cutter, depending.

  4. #4
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    For circular tubing, a big plumbers pipe cutter (go slow!) will give you a pretty great square cut fwiw.

    I've been thinking of buying a cut off saw for a while, but for more general fab stuff, I wouldn't see it being that much use for frame building.

  5. #5
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    Hey;

    The big drawback to abrasive cutoff saws is the mess. The dust is not good for you either. I've had a Makita for MANY years and it has been an utterly faultless tool, as abrasive saws go. Then, if you ARE doing heavier work, save your pennies and get a cold saw. Worlds nicer to live with.

    I'd rather have a good belt sander, and use it to square up my cuts, to the extent it even matters. Unless you are doing a fair amount of heavier work, a chop saw is overkill. For bike tubing, I'd rather have a good band variety if it came to having a saw. After not having one for many years, I use mine a lot.
    Most people ply the Well Trodden Path. A few seek a different way, and leave a Trail behind.
    - John Hajny, a.k.a. TrailMaker

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the input. I have one of the Park tube cutting guides. That will work fine for small stuff, 1-1/8" or smaller. I also have a pipe cutter, but I don't think it will cut anything bigger either. I'll look into a larger pipe cutter. I'll almost always opt for a smaller, cheaper manual tool over a power tool. That's just how I roll.

  7. #7
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    Check out a portaband setup with a Swag off road stand. Compact and works great. I use the Milwaukee portaband.

    I actually think a guide with the portaband would be sweet.

    SWAG V4.0 Portaband Table

  8. #8
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    That SWAG table looks sweet and cheap too.

    I started out with the Park steerer cutter thing and it is pretty ok for straight cuts. Then I got an abrasive saw from Home Depot and it can cut pretty straight and it's FAST. I think one is kinda needed in any shop. Probably good enough with a bit of post-filing to square it up. I then got a horizontal bandsaw and you can get those cheap from HF or Griz as usual and they are way more versatile but i don't get mine to cut at a solid 90* very well. Depends on if you're a tool ho or not.

    A good cold saw would be sweet but way too much $ and pretty messy with the coolant. I'm wondering if anyone uses a coldsaw withOUT coolant just for tubing (not solid stock or AL)...i remember a prominent FB's Flickr pic with a very clean cold saw (no coolant used it seemed).

    So i guess i'd recommend getting a horizontal bandsaw cause you'll never wish you didn't even if it doesn't cut perfectly square headtubes.

  9. #9
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    Cold saws without coolant are generally called dry cut saws. They use a carbide-tipped blade and run almost like a wood chop saw. They are ok, I have a DeWalt one. While they make good cuts, they make a mess and spit out red hot chips everywhere. The high speed air-cools the blade. Abrasive saws work decently well, but they make a mess too and can be hard to get good cuts with because of blade deflection. It's more noticeable on angled cuts though. The beauty of a good coolant fed cold saw is the very low rpm. You get machined looking cuts and little mess besides coolant. They are pricey though, with used ones being in the minimum thousand dollar range. They can't be ran dry because of the low rpm and heat build up.

    For what the OP wants, I would strongly suggest a bandsaw. The portaband is a decent compact setup for a garage, but would take some practice to get very square cuts. I use mine more for roughing out material. I think it would work really well with a guide clamped on. A nice horizontal bandsaw would work very well for what he wants. I would use a fine toothed blade. You can pick up quality used saws off CL. Don't shy away from 3 phase industrial equipment either, as long as you have 220 in your garage. You can easily run a converter. I have a 3 phase mill, lathe and soon to be band saw in my garage. Been looking for a decently priced cold saw that's not hammered for a while now. I can provide more info if anyone is interested.

  10. #10
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    Now I remember....Park's largest diameter tube cutting guide maxes out at 45mm, and True Temper's 44mm head tube stock has an OD of 46.4. Doh!

  11. #11
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    A tube cutting guide would be relatively easy to build, even with basic tools.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by golden boy View Post
    Now I remember....Park's largest diameter tube cutting guide maxes out at 45mm, and True Temper's 44mm head tube stock has an OD of 46.4. Doh!
    The abrasive saw will not produce very good results on this sort of cut. The cut will will require a good bit of clean-up work before it is square and it is going to be hard to get +/- 1mm accuracy.


    If you do cut it manually I would use a hacksaw and cut slightly on the plus side. You can make a really good mark by rotating the tube against a sharpie pen before you cut so you have a line to follow. Make the cut in several areas independently then join the areas. After you are done you can use a belt sander to create a flat and square surface but it is a lot of work to do this sort of work without a lathe. If you cut on the plus side then belt sand you can follow it up with a park facing tool and get where you need to be.

    The best way to cut this sort of stock would be with a lathe. The other alternative is to go with a Paragon tube or ask someone who has a lathe to cut the tubes down to size for you. Unless you already have the tube I recommend the Paragon because it will take a lot less time.
    Mark Farnsworth, Raleigh, NC
    http://farnsworthbikes.com

  13. #13
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    I find a belt sander to be an extremely useful shop tool. This is what I would recommend getting instead of some kind of cut-off saw. It is what I use to square the ends of all kinds of tubes including head tubes. I adjust the platform and the T square - which the work rests on - with a machinist 1-2-3 block. With my left hand holding the work tight against the T-square, I rotate and keep the tube flat against the platform with my right hand.

    My system of hand cutting tubing with a hack saw starts by marking it with a Sharpie. I use the squared end of a short piece of slip tube (.058" wall thickness tube with an OD 1/8" bigger than the tube being cut) to help me accurately place a mark around the tube. Once cut, it is easy enough now to use the belt sander to accurately square its end.

  14. #14
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    I just use a large pipe cutter - works on anything up to 2" diameter, quick to use and always square. Quick finish off with a deburring tool and it's done. For oval tubes that the pipe cutter won't work on, I use the Park FCG.

  15. #15
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    Thanks, everyone. I love how a seemingly trivial part of the framebuilding process like this one will get several thoughtful replies on this forum.

    I am mulling over the options. Mark, I actually have a Paragon 44mm head tube. I haven't decided yet if I will use it. It's a beast! Love the sculpted shape, but it seems way overbuilt to me. I know Garro uses them, but he's a pro and I'm sure his heat control is light years better than mine. At this point I really struggle when joining thick to thin.

  16. #16
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    I used an abrasive cut off saw on my first frame. It worked well enough for my purposes. I think it was more accurate than the hacksaw-and-file-to-square method I used on my second frame. It's a nice tool and I don't think the mess is that bad - it's not like you're going to be doing a ton of cuts with it anyway. I just can't justify the space for one if I'm only going to use it to make 2 cuts per frame (head tube and seat tube).

  17. #17
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    +1 on the Swag v4.0 for the Porta Band saw.
    I've used an abrasive saw and its messy and slow.
    The Swag gives you a metal cutting band saw basically.
    Even using the miter guage its hard to get a perfectly square cut, plan on filing however.
    But its a heck of a tool and I use it a lot.
    cheers
    andy walker
    andywalker.info

  18. #18
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    +1 on a band saw before a hot, cold or abrasive saw.

    That SWAG table looks pretty cool but at $400 for the saw plus table you can find a pretty good older horizontal for that if you watch CL for awhile. There's an old Johnson band saw on CL in Oregon right now for $300. I found my Wells on CL for $125 and all it needed was a new belt and step pulley. I made a bolt on table for it and usually use it vertically but it sure does save time to set it up horizontally with a work stop when cutting a lot of stock.

    These older saws will cut very straight if you take the time to set them up right but I'm not sure it's really worth the time to make them straight enough for a finish cut on a head tube. Other tools do that better.

  19. #19
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    Saws aren't $400. You can buy them all day long off CL for $100-150. Not the a horizontal saw wouldn't be more ideal if you have the space....well a good one anyway.

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