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Ahh, the age-old question
MAN has been asking himself the best way to cut something since the dawn of time. I’m going to assume that, anyway. We’ve all been there, staring long and hard, with a puzzled expression trying to decide if making a trip to the hardware store is going to be worth it. I’m here to tell you, if you do not already have the right tool for the job in your garage, the answer is always unequivocally, yes. There’s a tool for every job and if you use the wrong one, you’re going to regret it. Those are words from my father, who always knew best. I’m not saying we should compare scars, but I have some good ones from making the wrong choices in life.
What you need to ask yourself
- What is the material I’m cutting?
- What is the shape of the material?
- What is the thickness of the material?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can move on to determining the right tool for cutting. I can’t cover every possibility, but I’ll try to make some generalizations that might, at the very least, help you ask the right questions when you finally get over your ego and decide to make that trip to the hardware store and ask for help. The most important thing to consider is safety. Not only your safety, but the safety of those around you. You’d be surprised how far a chunk of wood can fly off of a table saw!
If you’re cutting metal, you absolutely need a blade designed for it. You may also need some kind of lubricant. The most common type of metal that you might find yourself cutting around the house is pipe of some sort.
For pipe, it’s most likely brass, steel, or copper, and for that you will use a pipe cutter. They’re inexpensive, and there are specific ones for each type of metal, although, you’ll find some multipurpose pipe cutters out there too. They work on a pretty simple principle. Leverage. The cutter is sort of C shaped and wraps around the pipe. There’s a small cutting disc that makes contact with the pipe, and a knob that you turn to gradually apply pressure as you turn the cutter around the pipe. Eventually, it makes its way through and the pipe breaks off cleanly.
Sheet metal might be the type of stuff that’s covering your shed, back patio, or carport. It’s flexible, fairly lightweight, and strong. To cut it you’ll use either shears or a powered cutting tool. Here’s a link to Amazon featuring some various tools available. I replaced the metal roof on my back patio a few years ago, and all the metal sheets came in pre-cut, pre-measured lengths, so there wasn’t any cutting involved!
Have you ever had trouble getting a nut off? It’s an unusual thing to need to cut, but if you’ve ever found yourself underneath a car staring down a nut that won’t crack, you’ll thank me after reading this. Of course, I learned this the hard way and spent hours beating the living crap out of an alternator pivot bolt nut that was seized in place. After I damaged it so badly that not even a pair of vice grips could get a hold on it, I realized there must be something I was missing. A nut cutter! Yes, there’s even a tool for that job. It looks kind of like an eye hook with a bolt on one end. Basically, you place the open end of the tool around the nut and torque the bolt on the other end. The tool has a cutter inside the loop that mashes up against the nut you’re cutting, and BAM! It’s MAN handled!
Cutting wood may be the most trivial of cutting tasks, if there is such a thing. There are a multitude of saws, blades, and levers with which to dig into a piece of wood. The main consideration is the amount of cutting you need to do. If you’re building a house, there will be more cutting than you’ll want to do with a hand saw. You’re going to need a variety of table saws, circular saws, and other powered saws so you can get serious work done. Cutting down a very small tree or bush in your backyard, on the other hand, you might want to do with a garden saw. Regardless, the cutting action is all in the teeth of the blade. You just have to decide if you’re plugging into power, or using good ol’ sweat and muscle.
My favorite all around cutting tool is the Rigid Job Max. It has multiple attachments for various tasks, and gets through most things with ease. I’ve used it to cut baseboards, trim, small trees, pipes, and many other things around the house.
In the image, there are two oscillating head blade attachments. The one on the left is what I used to cut trim from the bottom of doorways when I was replacing a tile floor.
We’ll get into cutting the cheese in another post.
The different materials you may need to cut will require a different tool. The tool itself may have a variety of options such as, blade length, strength, tooth count, tooth direction, etc. I really want to drive home two key points.
- Safety first. I know you really want to save on gas and skip the trip to the store, but don’t listen to your MAN brain, listen to your logical brain (or your spouse).
- Get the right tool for the job. If you don’t know what that is for the particular job you’re messing with, ask someone.