There are several tools you can use to cut metal. Most metalworkers are probably familiar with the good ol’ fashioned hacksaw or junior hacksaw. But if you’re looking for a more efficient way of slicing through metal pipes or bars, you can turn to bandsaws, reciprocating saws, chops saws, and multi-cutters to do the heavy work for you.
Cutting Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metal
There are two types of metals used for construction purposes. These are ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Ferrous metals – carbon steel, cast and wrought iron, and stainless steel – are foundation metals used in large construction projects. They’re the rough-and-tough metals used in skyscrapers, bridges, and even some DIY projects. These are the high-density metals that require a lot of power and super-durable blades to slice.
Non-ferrous metals, such as aluminum, copper, tin, and zinc, have no iron content (rust-resistant). For liquid pipes, roofing, gutters, and outdoor signs, you should turn to non-ferrous metals. In addition, these metals are highly malleable so cutting them down to size can be done with less powerful saws.
What to Look for in a Metal-Cutting Saw
Metal-cutting saws come in all different sizes, shapes, and with different specs. These are the most important features to pay attention to.
Abrasive Disc vs Carbide Blade
When strolling down the saw aisle at your local hardware store, you’ll most likely encounter metal-cutting saws that come with two types of blades: an abrasive disc and a carbide blade. An abrasive disc is a flexible disc which grinds against the metal stock. These discs produce a whole bunch of sparks when grinding against metal which can leave residual marks on your stock (not safe for aluminum or other soft metals).
Carbide blades are rigid, durable, and produce much cleaner results when slicing through metal stock and pipes. They’re also long-lasting so you don’t need to purchase replacement blades for several months or years of use. This is a good thing too since replacement carbide blades are rather costly.
Blade Rotation Speed
Looking at the maximum RPM of a metal-cutting saw can help in determining how powerful the unit is. Typically, we want a tool that can deliver at least 1,300 RPM for metal-cutting purposes. However, if you purchase a saw that uses abrasive discs rather than carbide blades, you’ll want a tool that delivers at least 3,000 RPM.
Obviously, we want the blade/disc of our metal cutter to pass through whatever size pipe or bar we place put on the chopping block. Depending on what you need, you can get some great metal-cutting saws with blades ranging from 7 to 14 inches in diameter. We suggest going for at least 12 inches to all DIY-ers, but you might also get by through all of your work with a small 7-inch blade.
When cutting small pieces of metal, it’s best to keep your hands away from holding the stock since cutting metal produces heat. The best metal-cutting saws come with great clamping systems. Some manufacturers skimp out on installing a reliable stock-clamping system which can result in disaster (kickbacks, causing your metal stock to fly and hit you in the face).
Which Metal-Cutting Saw to Get
The market is saturated with some great-performing metal-cutting tools like multi-cotters, chop saws, and bandsaws. However, in our opinion, the safest and most reliable tools to use for metal-cutting purposes has to the chop saw or multi-cutter. Here is our pick for the top 5 metal-cutting saws on the market.
5 Makita LC1230 12-Inch Metal Cutting Saw
Our number 5 spot goes to the Makita LC1230. It features a 15.0 amp motor which spins the blade at up to 1,300 RPM for cutting all sorts of metals – both ferrous and non-ferrous. The LC1230 can also produce mitered cuts up to 45° with depths up to 4-1/2 inches. The unit features a quick-release back fence and clamping system for holding down your stock with proper force to prevent kickback.
If you care about portability, this unit weighs only 42.5 pounds fully assembled, so carrying it to and from your truck won’t murder your back. It’s definitely the best 12-inch metal-cutting chop saw on the market.
4 DEWALT D28710 14-Inch Abrasive Chop Saw
The DEWALT D28710 is the only metal-cutting saw on our list that uses an abrasive disc rather than a carbide blade. If you’re looking for a cheap but effective option for cutting ferrous metals, the D27810 could be the perfect tool for you.
It features a 15.0 amp motor that delivers up to 3,800 RPM. The pivoting fence allows for mitered cuts of up to 45°. Its 14-inch abrasive disc can cut as deep as 5.4 inches. The only problem with this unit is its somewhat underperforming fence and tension screw which sometimes leaves the metal stock wobbling dangerously under the disc. The unit weighs 36.5 pounds so it’s super light enough to lift from site to site without trouble.
3 Evolution Power Tools RAGE4 Multipurpose Cutting Chop Saw
The RAGE4 by Evolution Power Tools features the smallest blade on this list. Its 15.0 amp motor provides up to 1,450 RPM for quick, clean cuts through all sorts of metals. Its 7-1/4-inch carbide can cut as deep as 2 inches, though users should only cut steel sheets as thick as ¼ an inch to be safe, making it best-suited for home DIY projects and light-duty industrial work on all types of metals.
The back fence of the RAGE4 can pivot 45° to the left and right, and the reliable tension screw keeps your stock from moving even slightly while under the blade. If you’re looking for an extremely lightweight, small-blade model, this is it (only 19 pounds).
2 Evolution Power Tools RAGE2 Multi Purpose Cutting Chop Saw
Oddly enough, the RAGE2 is the big-brother model to the RAGE4. It features a 14-inch carbide blade built for slicing through all sorts of materials and metals – both ferrous and non-ferrous.
The 15.0 amp motor of the unit delivers up to 1,450 RPM for easy chopping. The action swivel clamp and fence allow it to make mitered cuts at up to 45° in either direction. The RAGE2 can cut metal stock and pipes as large as 3 inches.
1 DEWALT DW872 14-Inch Multi-Cutter Saw
Finally, we choose the rather underrated DEWALT DW872 multi-cutting saw as our number one pick. First of all, the 15.0 amp motor delivers up to 1,300 RPM. The 14-inch carbide blade is suitable for all types of materials, including both ferrous and non-ferrous metals. The DW872 delivers the deepest cuts out of any item on our list (5-3/16 inches deep) so you can chop a lot of bars, sheets, pipes, and small beams with this multi-purpose cutting saw.
Like the other models, you can make mitered cuts by pivoting the back fence. To help ensure that your stock doesn’t wiggle, this unit comes with an angle clamp to keep your stock nice and snug while bringing the blade down. The only drawback is that it’s the heaviest unit out of everything here (55 pounds).
And there you have it, folks. This is our buying guide and our pick for the top five metal-cutting saws that can help you in your next DIY project.
There are several important things to keep in mind while searching for a reliable metal-cutting saw. First, determine what types of metal you’ll be dealing with (dense, rust-prone ferrous metals (except stainless steel which doesn’t rust) or rust-resistant, malleable non-ferrous metals.
Next, decide whether you want a model which uses an abrasive disc for grinding through metals (more sparks and heat, messier finish, but cost-efficient) or a unit that uses carbide tips (usable on both ferrous and non-ferrous metals, produces few sparks and little to no heat, but a costly investment).
Depending on what sort of jobs you will be doing, you’ll want to check beforehand the maximum speed output of the motor (RPM) and the size of the blade or disc since thicker metals require a large blade to cut cleanly through. Finally, for safety reasons make sure that the unit comes with an adequate strong clamp to prevent unwanted accidents and kickback.
On our top 5 list, we provide you with metal-cutting saws with blades of all sizes (from 7-1/4 to 14 inches) as well a single abrasive disc model (DEWALT D28710). The best model, in our humble opinion, is the DEWALT DW872 which is an excellent tool but has yet to get the attention it so deserves.
It comes with a 14-inch blade that can be used for cutting through both ferrous and non-ferrous metals, and it has a cutting capacity larger than any of the other items on our list (up to 5-3/16 inches). In addition, the kit includes an angle clamp to assist in making mitered cuts by keeping your stock in place without the risk of wobbling under the blade.