How To Build Metal Cutting Station
Saving time on repetitive actions is an excellent way to help in maximizing profit in your business. And the more repetitive it is, the more those savings compound. Jon Bucklew from Seventeen/20 Handcrafted Furniture builds modern furniture from a unique mix of industrial metal and wood. Jon quickly realized that he needed to streamline some of the processes as the furniture business grows. This is what lead to this article on the how to metal cutting station.
We recently stopped by Seventeen/20 to have a look at Jon’s metal cutting station, and take some pictures. Most of the furniture being custom built include a base built from 2×3 rectangle steel tubing. All the corners are mitered and welded, so angles and measurements need to be precise and the same. After all, furniture doesn’t leave this place wobbling, warped or crooked.
Metal Cutting Station Setup
The secret to the success of this setup, if there is a secret, is having two (2) metal chop saws for cutting stock. One of these saws was the Skilsaw 12-inch Dry Cut Saw – SPT62MTC-22 that we reviewed a few months back. This dual-saw setup allows Seventeen/20 to always have one setup for 90-degree cuts and the other for 45-degree cuts. Both saws are fastened to the custom made work top.
We won’t get into details on actually building the workstation. The workstation build is pretty typical to many other miter saw workstations you can find all over the internet. We chose to build the frame of the metal cutting station from square and rectangle steel tubing. The work tops are typical MDF with counter-sunk screws for fastening. In the middle of the metal cutting station, both saws sit recessed in the middle, so the deck of the chop saws are on plane with the worktops. This allows for easy sliding of stock across the worktops and saws.
The Real Difference
Not only do you need the work surfaces to be on the same plane, but it’s critical that the fence, or fences, are in a straight line as well. We use a some 1/4″ thick steel plate cut to the length of our workstation. All the mounting fasteners have tapered heads, so we can countersink all the fasteners as well.
Once the fence on either side of the two miter saws are trued, hence in a straight line, then we move on to some more logical magic. Using four measure tapes with adhesive backing, we carefully stick these to the fence. Keep in mind, there are two tapes that read left to right, and two that read right to left. With the tapes indexed in the correct position, the steel stock can be easily cut to the correct length.
First, we’ll discuss using the chop saw to the left, which is setup at a 45-degree angle. On the left fence are two measure tapes. The tape on the top displays the length from the saw blade on the right (90-degree saw). The tape on the bottom displays the length from the long part of the angle cut.
On the right fence, there are two measure tapes as well. The top tape displays the length from the 90-degree straight-cut blade. While the bottom tape measures the distance from the long side of the 45-degree angled blade. Understand that Seventeen/20 always cuts 2″ steel, so the long side of the angle doesn’t change. If you were to cut deeper or shallower steel, then the length would actually change for the long side of the angle. You may choose to setup for the short side of the angle, which won’t change.
Quick Cross and Miter Cuts
Using some wood blocks and some welding clamps, we can quickly make cuts on the new metal cutting station. Let’s say we need some stock cut 36″ in length. We take the wood block and clamp to the left fence with the end of the block at the “36” on the top tape. But the steel against the wood block, fire up the 90-degree saw (Skilsaw in the pic) and chop it off. Voila, we now have a 36″ piece that is easily repeatable.
If we need a mitered end that is 36″ on the long side of the miter, using the same (left) side, we clamp the wood block at “36” using the bottom tape. Crank up the saw on the left (45-degree) and make the cut. Using the right-side fence is much the same for cuts over there.
Obviously, you may setup your metal cutting station in the reverse format, miter on the right, cross-cut on the left. It really doesn’t matter the configuration, but just make sure your tapes reflect as such. However, if you setup your miter measure tape to measure the long side of the cut (such as we have), one of the cuts measurement will change based on the depth of the material being cut. In our case, this happens on the right side. We’re measuring on the long side of the miter for both left and right side miters. The cut on the left won’t ever change, because the long side is against the fence on the left.
If the stock being cut on the right changes in depth, then the long side of the miter changes. The further away from the fence, the more length is added, and the closer to the fence, the shorter this becomes. Seventeen/20 always cut 2″ square or rectangle tubing, so it’s not a big deal as the depth won’t change (always 2″ from the fence). If this is a big issue for you, then you can just setup your tape to read the short side of the miter on that one side. This would be the right side in our case.
It’s not hard to see how a metal cutting station like this can save a lot of time, especially when many of the same cuts need to be done. Also, with the fence on the left and right, you can easily have two blocks clamped in different places to quickly make two different cuts. Using the metal cutting station and these cold cut saws, cuts can literally be completed in seconds. Time adds up quick, especially in production, and this is money saved or increase profits for the project/job.
You’re not limited to this exact style metal cutting station. You may decide to make a setup with only one saw, in order to save some money. Or, this may trigger a complete new idea for you. Just don’t forget to think about your processes, and brainstorm on how you might streamline repeating actions.
Huge thanks to Seventeen/20 for allowing us to slow down their production for a few minutes to snap some shots.