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Thread: Best Tools for metal fabrication at home

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    The Real Captain Slow Red_5's Avatar
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    Default Best Tools for metal fabrication at home

    Now that I have a welder I'm beginning to see the need for other metal working tools. For many years I've gotten away with a Dremel, a hand drill and a hacksaw that I could make work for most of my metal working needs. Since getting a MIG welder I also got a 4 1/2" angle grinder with a cut off wheel. I'm also looking at various chop saws and/or possibly a metal band saw. What do you guys have in your garage for metal working? It doesn't have to be limited to race car fabricating either.
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    A big bench vice, selection of files, and small drill press can work wonders.
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    Senior Member fatbillybob's Avatar
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    I have been able to do alot with a cheap harbor freight mill and lathe. The trick to getting some precision out of these POS is to pull out the chinese bearings and replace them with good SKF bearings from your local bearing house like King bearing. I also find a sawzall mandatory for metal work. I really like my plasma cutter too.
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    Kam
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    What I have:
    - a vise that is also an anvil
    - solid work bench that isn't big enough for when i want to do all the things
    - a crappy harbor freight chopsaw that needs to be replaced with a good chopsaw
    - an angle grinder that, honestly, I'm surprised I haven't had to fetch from my neighbor's yard when it kicks out of my hands and goes flying
    - a drill press, that's quite good actually.
    - tons and tons of drill bits that are in various ranges of of dullness -- from won't drill a hole into balsa, to being really good at friction welding
    - oil for drill bits, a must to keep those dull bits, shiny.
    - a few stepped drill bits, with alternating steps that actually drill or just make lots of noises
    - jigsaw, that cuts metal at a slight angle.
    - center punch (automatic or otherwise)
    - plasma cutter when I want to inaccurately cut thick metal, while giggling at the tool's power

    Of all the tools I have, the most used for metal fab is the angle grinder.
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    Good files. I find the Snapon files, while pricey, really make a difference. A big time saver is to have several angle grinders fitted with different wheels so you can switch back and forth quickly from cutting, grinding, or sanding. Spend a bit on safety glasses so there is always a pair within reach. It is always the one time you forget that something bad happens.
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    The Real Captain Slow Red_5's Avatar
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    Great info, thanks and keep it coming. I do have a set of 3 Craftsman files that have been fine so far and I have 2 sawzalls. I also have a decent workbench with a vice. An anvil sounds like a good idea and I also like the multiple angle grinder idea. I bought a HF drill press once but it sucked so it went back, I'll put it on the list for the future.

    I can't quite tell but what's the difference between a chop saw and a miter saw? I haven't noticed many miter saws mention the ability to cut metal. Not sure if the chop saws can change angle for cutting. There's a probably a Youtube that will tell me.
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    Senior Member robburgoon's Avatar
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    non harbor freight Angle grinders (one with cutoff, one with grind wheel) wear eyes, ears, long sleeves when using these. Face mask when using cutoff wheel.
    harbor freight Band saw
    harbor freight bench drill press. A $50 one is a MASSIVE improvement over handheld (maybe splurge on a non-HF model)
    harbor freight big files
    harbor freight little files
    harbor freight 6" bench vise, don't use it as a press, it's held together by a big "e-clip"
    harbor freight middle quality 120v hand drill
    *several* sets of drill bits
    cutting oil
    baby sledge
    BOSCH projecting laser level $80
    90* magnets
    extension cord for welder
    earplugs while welding something above you
    halogen lights

    Once more: eyes, ears, sleeves, facemask when using the cutoff wheel.


    Edit: deleted gloves from the list due to peer pressure on finger damage if the glove gets caught in the grinder. Dunno... I might keep using the gloves. Need to think about it. Maybe closer fitting gloves that are less likely to get caught.
    Last edited by robburgoon; Yesterday at 08:25 PM.
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    Junior Member Grabbed_Crow_Mobe's Avatar
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    In the order of use frequency:

    -Safety->Ear plugs, glasses, gloves, mask, etc.
    -Drill press
    -Chop saw
    -Vice
    -Angle grinder
    -Bench grinder
    -Dremel
    -Miter band saw (brand new!)
    I also use other nonspecific tools->Saws all, jigsaw, etc.

    I've been following your thread on a good garage welder. I've been wanting one of those for a while.

    We’ve met before. I took a look at your last Miata. I don’t live too far from you if you want to come over and try stuff out.
    Last edited by Grabbed_Crow_Mobe; 04-20-2017 at 04:28 PM.
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    The low cost harbor freight horizontal bandsaw is actually a pretty good bang for the buck. i have one of those and also a bench top mitre bandsaw that sees tons of use but it was not cheap. Bandsaws == quiet. Chopsaw == ear plugs. I have a chop saw but it hasn't been used in years.
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    Eric, I have the HF metal band saw and a DeWalt chop saw that you can have for cheap.

    A good vise is a must, at minimum something like a Craftsman Professional series, everything else is a waste of time.
    Sometime an old Wilton (not the newer china crap) would come up on CL for semi reasonable price..

    A good 4.5" grinder is super versatile.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackbird View Post
    Eric, I have the HF metal band saw and a DeWalt chop saw that you can have for cheap.

    A good vise is a must, at minimum something like a Craftsman Professional series, everything else is a waste of time.
    Sometime an old Wilton (not the newer china crap) would come up on CL for semi reasonable price..

    A good 4.5" grinder is super versatile.
    Also, I suggest getting several of those cheap HF angle grinders for your welding cart. You wouldn't believe how handy it is to have a dedicated grinder for the metal you're working with cause once that steel is contaminated with aluminum dust, it's a ***** to work with!

    Yeah, can't count the number of times I've gone to clean the metal prior to welding and this has happened. Then , I'd end up searching for pads, wasting a lot of time.

    If possible, add a good surge protector and grinder holder to the cart for the grinders. Once everything's appropriately labeled, and right there in hand, you'll wonder how you ever lived without this setup!
    Last edited by 2GRX7; 04-21-2017 at 06:05 AM.
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    The Real Captain Slow Red_5's Avatar
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    Lots of great info in this thread, thanks, I'm glad I asked. I also have ear protection that I'm pretty good about wearing. I wear a respirator pretty frequently too. Do you guys wear a big face shield when grinding? I'm thinking extra face protection would be a good thing with lots of hot metal flying around.

    Quote Originally Posted by Grabbed_Crow_Mobe View Post
    In the order of use frequency:

    -Safety->Ear plugs, glasses, gloves, mask, etc.
    -Drill press
    -Chop saw
    -Vice
    -Angle grinder
    -Bench grinder
    -Dremel
    -Miter band saw (brand new!)
    I also use other nonspecific tools->Saws all, jigsaw, etc.

    I've been following your thread on a good garage welder. I've been wanting one of those for a while.

    We’ve met before. I took a look at your last Miata. I don’t live too far from you if you want to come over and try stuff out.
    Thanks for the offer. Which bandsaw did you get?

    Quote Originally Posted by Blackbird View Post
    Eric, I have the HF metal band saw and a DeWalt chop saw that you can have for cheap.

    A good vise is a must, at minimum something like a Craftsman Professional series, everything else is a waste of time.
    Sometime an old Wilton (not the newer china crap) would come up on CL for semi reasonable price..

    A good 4.5" grinder is super versatile.
    Thanks Moti, I'll send you a message.
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    I wear face shields a lot while fabricating, porting etc. Having metal removed from your eyeball by doctor is no fun. Have several different types/brands of face protection. Current favorite is Uvex Bionic face shield with hard coat clear lens. They run about $35.00 shipped on Amazon.
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    Kam
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    Regarding safety, here's what I have:
    - 2 pairs of mechanic gloves. 1 for when I might be working in liquids (ie. radiator replacement), 1 for general stuff (ie. suspension).
    - face mask -- I use an expired full face helmet. It works brilliantly for cutting/grinding, as it has the added benefit of having ear protection and being flame resistant.
    - This should be basic, but HAVE A FIRE BOTTLE NEARBY! Two is even better


    And the one tool that has been a godsend that isn't for purely metal fabrication:
    Harbor Freight's hydraulic press.

    Thing has easily saved me thousands of dollars in labor costs and trips to midas to have things pressed in/out over the past seven years of ownership. You don't use it often, but when you need it, it's amazing.


    I might invest in another angle grinder... you lot speak of multiple grinders like it's a must-have, may be worth trying.
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    The Real Captain Slow Red_5's Avatar
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    I ordered one of the Uvex shields from Amazon.

    I'm pretty good about wearing gloves, I'm convinced my Mechanix gloves reduced the injuries to my finger when my suspension surprised me and trapped my pinky between the shock body and upper control arm.

    I have a good sized fire extinguisher in the garage but I should probably keep it closer to where I'm working.

    I had a HF press but I think it was missing some pieces because I could never get anything that needed to be pressed into a position so the press could actually do the work.
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    http://www.trackhq.com/Banners/yellowsitesponsor.gif Blackbird's Avatar
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    Big time warning - do not do any grinding with gloves, ever.

    EDIT TO ADD - no grinding with rings either.
    I'm sure that your wife will be okay if you took your wedding band off if that means you can keep all 10 fingers.
    Last edited by Blackbird; 04-24-2017 at 01:59 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red_5 View Post
    Thanks for the offer. Which bandsaw did you get?
    Wen 5-inch: WEN 3975 5-Inch Metal-Cutting Benchtop Bandsaw

    It was gifted to me so that's what I ended up with.
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    BMW Master bawareca's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NOT A TA View Post
    Current favorite is Uvex Bionic face shield with hard coat clear lens. They run about $35.00 shipped on Amazon.
    Thanks for the tip. I already got mine with coated visor so it doesnt fog much. Excellent stuff.
    Last edited by bawareca; Yesterday at 05:58 AM.

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    Senior Member robburgoon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackbird View Post
    Big time warning - do not do any grinding with gloves, ever.

    EDIT TO ADD - no grinding with rings either.
    I'm sure that your wife will be okay if you took your wedding band off if that means you can keep all 10 fingers.

    Huh? Why are gloves bad while grinding?

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    Kam
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    Quote Originally Posted by robburgoon View Post
    Huh? Why are gloves bad while grinding?
    Can and has happened: Glove gets caught in rotating assembly, glove is pulled into rotating assembly taking whatever was inside glove. Blood.
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