Steel cutting can be extremely complicated. There are countless machines, numerous techniques, and a variety of applications that can be used on your project. While we can’t go into every single detail (that would require a massive textbook!), we can describe some of the basic techniques.

This, we hope, will give you a foundation of knowledge and help you better understand the best techniques for your project.

What’s the Right Steel Cutting and Fabrication Technique for Your Project?

Cold Saw
The cold saw is made to slice through metal with a toothed blade that transfers friction-generated heat to the cutting chips formed during the cutting process. This allows both the blade and the work-piece to remain cool while cutting.

Through this process, the cuts can be more accurate and precise, and cutting can be performed with greater efficiency. Because they avoid excessive heat, cold saws resist premature wear that could impact the finished product.

Cold saws can be used to cut many different shapes, including rods, tubs, and extrusions. When tolerance and finish are important, or when high-speed cutting or a high-quality finish is required, a cold saw is often the best choice.

Band Saw
A band saw is simply a machine that uses a band (similar to a belt) with saw teeth on one end. The band rotates on two wheels like a tread (only vertically instead of horizontally), moving the saw teeth and creating the cutting action.

These machines are versatile and useful in many different applications. They are ideal when your project requires layered or bundled cutting, which can increase efficiency and lower overall costs. They can handle heavy-duty cutting (depending on the specific saw) and are more versatile than other machines. However, they leave a burr on the edges, reducing the final quality of the product.

Lathe Cutoff
When it comes to precision metal cutting, the most common method for shaping parts is the lathe and lathe cutoff. These machines are extremely effective for high-precision cutting and can perform multiple machining operations at the same time.

A lathe can be used to produce screw heads, tapers, drilled holes, and chamfers. The last step in this process is usually cutting off.

A lathe cutoff is generally preferred when detailed shapes are required. If a straight cut is needed, this is not the best choice (although it could perform this function). On the other hand, if a detailed shape is needed, a lathe cutoff is a good option.

Computer numerical control, or “CNC,” is a manufacturing process where a machine cuts, carves, and forms parts. The cutting is controlled by the computer through advanced codes that direct the tool’s speed, positioning, and movement.

We use CNC milling machines to cut steel into a variety of sizes and shapes. CNC machines can be used for constructing parts with highly precise cuts, and they often increase efficiencies by a wide margin.

For large orders that require precise milling, CNC cutting is often the preferred option.

Laser Cutter
Extremely precise and versatile, laser cutting is useful for tubes and pipes, and it can be used on round, square, and rectangular steel. It can even be used for precise cutting on triangular tubes and pipes. Laser-cutting machines are used on I-beams, H-beams, C-channel, and angled iron.

These machines can cut at any angle required and achieve a high level of accuracy. While virtually any project can take advantage of laser cutting, these machines are preferred when an easy fit-up is required.

Chamfering is the process of cutting off a 90-degree edge and creating, essentially, two easier edges and a smooth face between the two. It’s a variant of the beveled edge, and the technique is used in all sorts of applications, including woodworking, architecture, and (of course) steel cutting.

Chamfering is often performed at the end of a steel tube (not across the length) and has a variety of benefits. Because the tube’s edge is angled, feeding into other machines is easier, which can enhance efficiencies.

Get Expert Advice for Your Next Project

Still don’t know which type of cutting is right for you?

Contact our staff and let our experts guide you to the right choice. With over 100 years in the steel industry, we understand the unique aspects of each cutting option and can provide the information you need for successful steel fabrication.