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Cutting metal may seem like a daunting task, but it’s actually one of the easiest ways to get started in metal fabrication. Once you know how to cut angle iron, a whole world of projects opens up to you, from building metal-framed furniture to installing shelves and even walls. Learn four methods for cutting angle iron, and when to use each one.
What Is Angle Iron?
Angle iron is metal formed into an L shape. It can be made from either iron or steel. Aluminum angle iron is also available.
Pieces of angle iron can be bolted together for constructional purposes. It is commonly used to support structures, walls, or shelves, and to create frames for furniture.
Aluminum angle iron is usually sold in lengths of 16 feet. Iron and steel angle iron lengths generally measure 20 feet. When shorter pieces are required, use one of several methods to cut angle iron down to size.
How to Cut Angle Iron
There are four main tools that are used to cut angle iron. They are; chop saws, angle grinders, reciprocating saws, and hacksaws. Any method will work – choosing one depends on your personal preference, your budget, and what tools you already own.
1. Use a Chop Saw
A chop saw fitted with the right kind of blade can easily and precisely cut angle iron.
- Make your mark. Use a measuring tape and a permanent marker or paint marker to delineate the area where you want to cut the angle iron.
- Attach an appropriate blade. If you have a wood cutting blade installed on your chop saw, you will need to remove it. Wood cutting blades are not designed to cut metal. Look for an appropriately sized blade rated for the kind of metal you are cutting. Common materials for metal cutting are ceramic, zirconium, and aluminum oxide. Line the cut line up directly in the path of the blade.
- Clamp the angle iron. Secure the angle iron to the fence of the chop saw. Make sure the drop zone, where the waste material will fall away from the clamped angle iron, is clear.
- Chop through the metal. Connect the chop saw to power and ensure the cutting area is clear. Grasp the handle and start the blade spinning. Keep the other hand and fingers well clear of the blade’s path. Plunge the spinning blade all the way through the angle iron, then back it out of the cut and release the trigger. Wait for the blade to stop spinning before unclamping and collecting your cut angle iron.
Learn about the differences in chop saws and miter saws.
2. Use an Angle Grinder
- Measure and mark. Starting from one end of the angle iron, stretch a measuring tape along the surface. Use a marking pen to mark the cutting line in several places. Then, use a straight edge to connect the marks, creating a straight line to follow with the blade of the angle grinder.
- Use a vise. Keep the angle iron steady by screwing it tightly into a high quality vise. Learn more about how to use a drill press vise to make this process even faster.
- Install the right disc. To cut metal with an angle grinder, you need to install a cut-off disc (also called a cutting wheel). Diamond-tipped discs work best. Make sure the wheel you choose is properly installed, does not wobble, and is the correct size for your angle grinder.
- Take safety precautions. Adjust the angle grinder guard position so it protects your face from sparks or shards of metal. Don safety glasses and/or a full-face shield. Place both hands on the angle iron and hold it steady.
- Grind through the angle iron. Turn the angle grinder on and watch the disc spin for 30 to 60 seconds. There should be no wobbling or distortion. When the blade is at full speed, orient it along the cut line. Introduce the spinning angle grinder disc to the metal, allowing the tool to do the work. Do not force the disc through the metal. Keeping the disc at a 90 degree angle, work your way through the angle iron for a straight, even cut.
Learn about the differences in an angle grinder and die grinder.
3. Use a Reciprocating Saw
The best reci saws, also known as ‘sawzalls’ after a popular brand name, make quick work of angle iron cuts.
- Mark your cut line. Draw a line on the surface of the angle iron using a paint marker or permanent marker. Correctional fluid, such as Wite-Out, will also work. Measure carefully from the end of the angle iron.
- Place the angle iron in a vise. A table-mounted vise will keep the angle iron from rotating or repositioning while you cut, leading to a better outcome. Make sure the angle iron is firmly gripped by the vise before starting to cut.
- Check the blade. You want to use a bi-metal or carbide tipped blade on your reciprocating saw, with a relatively high teeth per inch count (TPI) around 18 to 24 TPI. To cut aluminum, you can use a blade with 32 TPI. Make sure the sawzall blade is securely fastened.
- Make the cut. Squeeze the trigger of the reciprocating saw to start the blade. Introduce it to the angle, centering the blade along the cut line. Hold the reciprocating saw steady and allow it to cut through the angle iron. Release the trigger and wait for the blade to stop before setting the reciprocating saw down and disconnecting it from power.
4. Use a Hacksaw
To cut a single piece of angle iron, you don’t need anything more complicated than a hack saw.
- Measure the length. Use a tape measure to mark the desired length onto the angle iron. Put a mark on the waste side so you don’t get confused after the cut is complete.
- Position the angle iron. A bench or table-mounted vise can hold the angle iron off your cutting surface while ensuring it doesn’t twist or wobble. You can also clamp the angle iron at both ends, spanning two stable surfaces and cutting in the gap between them.
- Install an appropriate blade. Ideally, you would choose a long blade labeled as ‘bi-metal’. A shorter bi-metal blade will also cut through angle iron, but requires more effort on the part of the operator. For cutting steel, you may choose a rake set blade, with teeth in groups of three. Wavy set blades arrange the teeth in a wave pattern, and make short work of even the hardest materials.
- Saw back and forth. Hacksaws are not power-operated, so the force comes from your arm and shoulder. Draw the full length of the blade back and forth across the surface of the angle iron. Make sure to keep the blade at a 90 degree angle to your cut line.
What Tool Should I Use to Cut Angle Iron?
When preparing to cut angle iron, consider how many cuts you need to make. You can use a hacksaw, chop saw, reciprocating saw, or angle grinder.
- A short-bladed hacksaw will cut through angle iron, but if you need to make hundreds of cuts, it’s not very efficient.
- For high volume angle iron cutting, using a chop saw is the best choice.
- If you already own a reciprocating saw or angle grinder, you don’t need to purchase a chop saw.
Use a hacksaw, reciprocating saw, angle grinder or chop saw to cut angle iron. Carefully measure and mark your cut before starting. Use clamps or a vise to hold the angle iron steady. Ensure your blade matches the type of metal you are cutting and the implement you are using to cut it.