Precision Cutting: A Guide to Using Circular Saws on Different Metals and Shapes

blog article titled Precision Cutting: A Guide to Using Circular Saws on Different Metals and Shapes

The circular saw, a mainstay in the toolkit of metalworkers and DIY enthusiasts alike, stands out for its ability to cut through various metals with precision and ease.

Versatile and powerful, these saws are indispensable for a range of projects, from simple home repairs to complex industrial fabrications. However, the key to harnessing their full potential lies in understanding both the properties of the metals being cut and the specifications of the saw and its blades.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the art of using circular saws for cutting different types of metals, including mild steel, stainless steel, aluminium and more. Each metal presents unique challenges and requires specific approaches to cutting, which we will delve into. We’ll also cover various metal shapes and profiles, providing insights on how to tackle each with your circular saw. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a weekend warrior, this guide will equip you with the knowledge to make precise, efficient, and safe cuts in a range of metals.

Let’s get into it..

Understanding Circular Saws and Blade Types

A circular saw’s ability to cut metal is greatly influenced by its design and blade type. For successful cutting, it is crucial to understand these elements:

Circular Saw Features:

In order to make a strong circular saw suitable for cutting metal, it should be equipped with a powerful motor, durable construction, and adjustable speed settings. For cutting different types of metals, the ability to control speed is incredibly important, as it affects the amount of heat that is generated during the cutting process.

Blade Types and Characteristics:

  • Tooth Count: There is no doubt that blades with a higher tooth count create smoother cuts, but they may generate more heat as well. It is true that blades with a lower tooth count are faster, but they are also rougher.
  • Kerf Width: There is a variation in the width of the cut made by the blade, known as the kerf. Kerfs that are thinner reduce material waste and require less power, but may not be as durable as those that are thicker.
  • Material: Blades are often made from materials like carbide or diamond-tipped steel, offering durability and the ability to cut through harder metals.


Choosing and Maintaining Blades:

  • A blade should be selected according to the metal type, thickness, and desired quality of the cut.
  • Be sure to check the blade on a regular basis for wear and tear, and always make sure it is sharp and free from damage before you use it.
  • The blade should be cleaned after each use in order to remove any metal particles, and it should be stored properly so that it does not corrode or damage.
blog article on cutting metal with a circular saw

Cutting Mild Steel with a Circular Saw

In many fabrication projects, mild steel is used because of its ductility and malleability. Circular sawing it requires an understanding of its properties:

Understanding Mild Steel:

Due to its lower carbon content, mild steel is easier to cut than harder steels. Due to its softness, it can bind or clog the blade if not cut properly.

Cutting Process:

  • Blade Selection: Make sure that you use a blade that is designed specifically for cutting steel, with a tooth count that is appropriate to the thickness of the metal you are cutting.
  • Setting Up: Make sure that the mild steel piece is firmly secured. It is very important to measure and mark the cutting line clearly before you begin cutting.
  • Cutting Technique: Ensure that you maintain a steady speed and apply even pressure throughout the process. As soon as you have established the cut, you should gradually increase the speed, but be careful not to overheat as you increase the speed.


Safety Precautions:

  • Protect your ears, eyes, and hands with appropriate safety gear, such as goggles, gloves, and earplugs.
  • Make sure the area is well ventilated and does not contain any flammable materials.
  • To be on the safe side, it is a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case of sparks.

Techniques for Cutting Stainless Steel

Stainless steel presents unique challenges when cut with a circular saw due to its strength and corrosion resistance. Its hardness can quickly dull standard blades, and improper cutting techniques can cause uneven cuts and excessive heat buildup.

Challenges in Cutting Stainless Steel:

  • One of the most challenging aspects of the material is its hardness, which requires more robust blades and slower cutting speeds to work effectively.
  • Due to the heat generated by friction when stainless steel is cut, it is also prone to work hardening, which means that the cutting area gets harder over time.


Blade Selection and Cutting Speeds:

  • It is recommended that you use a blade designed specifically for stainless steel, typically made of carbide or cobalt.
  • You may want to choose a setting with a lower RPM. Slower speeds reduce the amount of heat that builds up, thus minimizing the risk of work hardening occurring.


Minimizing Heat Buildup:

  • You should apply a steady, controlled amount of pressure. As a result of forcing the blade, excessive heat is generated and the blade is subject to premature dulling.
  • Reduce friction and heat by using cutting lubricants or coolants during the cutting process.


Ensuring Smooth Cuts:

  • Avoid abrupt movements with the saw, and instead make gradual, steady passes with it.
  • It is advised that you clamp a guide to ensure straight cuts and to reduce blade wandering if possible.
blog article on cutting metal with a circular saw 2

Precision Cutting of Aluminium

Despite being softer than steel, aluminium presents its own challenges when cutting with a circular saw, including clogging and burring.

Considerations for Aluminium:

  • The softness of aluminium can cause the blade to clog and bind, so choosing the right blade and cutting speed is important.
  • As the material is also prone to burring, it is important to cut the material in a smooth, controlled way.


Best Practices for Cutting:

  • You can achieve a finer cut by selecting a blade with a higher tooth count.
  • The speed should be moderate to high, but make sure there is enough coolant or lubricant in the system to prevent clogging from occurring.


Techniques for Quality Finishes:

  • The blade should be used with steady pressure and should not be forced through the material.
  • You can smooth any rough edges after cutting by implementing post-cut deburring processes, such as sanding.

Working with Copper and Brass

Copper and brass are softer metals that require careful handling when cutting to maintain their integrity and achieve clean cuts.

Cutting Softer Metals:

  • Copper and brass are malleable materials which can lead to the material bending or warping if the material is not properly supported during the cutting process.
  • In order to avoid grabbing or tearing metal during the cutting process, choose a blade with fine teeth.

Blade Selection and Speeds:

  • It is recommended to use a blade with a higher tooth count when dealing with these softer metals.
  • If you want to achieve a balance between smooth cutting and heat management, use a moderate speed setting.

Handling Techniques:

  • The metal should be supported adequately during the cutting process so that it does not bend.
  • The key to preventing warping or tearing of the fabric is to pass it through the fabric slowly and steadily.
  • For straight, precise cuts, you may want to use clamps and a guide rail as well.

Navigating Complex Shapes and Profiles

In order to maintain precision and minimise waste when cutting complex metal shapes such as angles, tubes, and channels with a circular saw, a strategic approach is required. With the right tools and techniques, these intricate profiles present a unique challenge, but can be effectively managed if the right techniques and tools are used.

Strategies for Complex Shapes:

  • It is important to carefully plan the sequence of cuts so that material handling and repositioning are reduced.
  • If you are making an angled cut, use a protractor or angle finder to mark the exact angles before cutting them.
  • If you are cutting tubes or pipes, consider using a V-block or similar support in order to keep the piece steady while cutting.


Using Jigs and Fixtures:

  • When it comes to managing unusual profiles and maintaining consistency in the production process, custom jigs and fixtures can be invaluable.
  • Create or invest in adjustable jigs that can hold a variety of shapes securely and allow for more precise and controlled cutting.


Advanced Cutting Techniques:

  • In order to start cutting the material in the middle, plunge cutting should be used.
  • The best way to ensure accuracy when making long, straight cuts is to use a guide rail or straight edge.
  • It is important that you practice making relief cuts in tight corners so that your blade does not get stuck.

Post-Cutting Finishing and Best Practices

After cutting, proper finishing techniques are essential to ensure the quality and safety of the metal workpiece.

Deburring and Smoothing Edges:

  • In order to smooth out any rough edges or burrs on the surface, use deburring tools or fine-grit sandpaper.
  • When it comes to larger burrs, a hand file may be more effective and precise than a machine file.


Cleaning and Finishing Cuts:

  • Remove any residue or metal filings from the cut surface with a cloth and appropriate cleaner.
  • Make sure the metal is completely clean and prepped before applying further finishing, such as painting or galvanising.


Maintaining Your Equipment:

  • Clean and inspect your circular saw and blades on a regular basis to make sure that they are in good condition.
  • In order to prevent corrosion, blades should be stored in a dry, safe place.
  • Maintain the cutting efficiency of your blades by sharpening or replacing them as necessary.

Comprehensive Review of Metal Cutting Techniques with Circular Saws

As we approach the conclusion of our in-depth exploration of using circular saws for various metal cutting tasks, it’s essential to consolidate our understanding into a comprehensive overview. In addition to the right tools, metal cutting is a crucial skill in both professional and DIY projects. Providing they are used correctly, circular saws are an ideal solution for cutting through various metals.

A blade should be able to handle mild steel’s density without causing undue wear when it comes to construction and fabrication. In order to achieve clean, straight cuts, it is best to use a tungsten carbide-tipped (TCT) blade along with a steady hand and consistent pressure. As opposed to stainless steel, which is known for its strength and corrosion resistance, stainless steel requires a more delicate approach. By cutting harder steels at a lower speed with a carbide or cobalt blade and cooling agents, work-hardening can be prevented.

In the case of non-ferrous metals such as aluminium, the challenges are different. For efficient cutting of aluminium, a high-tooth-count blade and higher speed are required due to its softness and tendency to clog. Regular chip clearing and judicious use of lubricants ensure smoother cuts without burring. For softer metals such as copper and brass, fine-toothed blades at moderate speeds are best. It is crucial to apply gentle pressure to these malleable materials in order to prevent deformation.

It is often necessary to use custom jigs or fixtures when cutting complex shapes and profiles, such as angles, tubes, and channels. By stabilising the material, these tools allow for accurate and safe cutting. Guide rails and plunge cuts are particularly useful for managing intricate cuts and minimising material waste.

Last but not least, post-cutting practices play an important role in the overall quality of a project. In order to ensure safety and precision, deburring and smoothing the cut edges are not mere finishing touches. When the saw and blades are regularly cleaned and maintained, their life and efficiency will be extended, making them ready for the next job.

This is the long version. If you only have a short time then the summary below should be a quick help:

Metal Type Optimal Speed (RPM) Blade Type Cutting Technique
Mild Steel 1500-2500 TCT (Tungsten Carbide Tipped) Blade Steady pressure- straight cuts
Stainless Steel 1000-1500 Carbide or Cobalt Blade Lower speed- use coolant- avoid force
Aluminium 2500-3500 High Tooth Count Blade Higher speed- frequent chip clearing
Copper 2000-3000 Fine-Toothed Blade Steady- moderate speed- support material well
Brass 2000-3000 Fine-Toothed Blade Gentle pressure- moderate speed
Angles/Tubes 1500-2500 Suitable for metal type Use jigs for stability- gradual cuts
Complex Shapes Varies based on metal Suitable for metal type Use relief cuts- guide rails

Throughout this guide, we’ve explored different techniques and considerations for using a circular saw to cut different metals and shapes. Adapting your approach to the specific type of metal and its unique properties is key to selecting the right blade and mastering complex cuts. Precision and quality in metal cutting depend not only on skill, but also on understanding the material and respecting it.

aluminium 5bar checker plate
blog article on cutting mild steel with a circular saw


We encourage you to continually experiment with metal cutting and refine your skills. Speciality Metals is here to support your journey, offering a range of high-quality metals suited for a variety of projects.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a seasoned professional or a budding craftsman, metal cutting always has room for improvement.

As always, thank you for checking out our blog. We hope that this helps you with your project. 

Please also check out the other articles in our helpful guide series. We have written about aluminium sheeting and checker plate recently to name but two of our articles.

We are also proud to sell this product on our highly popular eBay store, check us out there too.

If you have any further questions, feel free to contact us.



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