Materials Cutting Chart

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Needs to be turned into a proper chart.

Please include specific name of material, best tool to cut/grind/sand it with, other tools it may be cut with, tools it may NOT be cut with, and other details ("Plastic-cutting blade must be installed").

Safety Data Sheets (SDS) have been included where available.

Contents

Metals

No metal of any kind is allowed to be cut, sanded, or machined in any way on the woodworking equipment.

Material Best Tool Acceptable Tools Tools Not Allowed Details
Mild Steel Horizontal bandsaw Chop saw; angle grinder with cut-off wheel; hacksaw Any woodworking tools Keep a bucket of water around for quenching, as repeated cuts will make the steel incredibly hot.
Stainless Steel Horizontal bandsaw Chop saw; angle grinder with cut-off wheel; hacksaw Any woodworking tools Keep a bucket of water around for quenching, as repeated cuts will make the steel incredibly hot.
Hardened Steel Abrasive chop saw Horizontal bandsaw; angle grinder with cut-off wheel Any woodworking tools; carbide chop saw; jump shear Keep a bucket of water around for quenching, as repeated cuts will make the steel incredibly hot.
Aluminum Horizontal bandsaw; carbide chop saw Hacksaw Any woodworking tools; any abrasive tools (grinders, chop saw, etc.) Wax or cutting oil on the hacksaw blade will make cutting easier. Aluminum leeches into and imbalances the cutting wheels on abrasive tools, causing them to explode. Grinding and cutoff disks designed for cutting aluminum may be purchased but are not stocked.
Titanium Horizontal bandsaw Hacksaw Any woodworking tools (Gui: Not sure how titanium interacts with abrasive tools)
Copper Horizontal bandsaw; carbide chop saw Hacksaw Any woodworking tools; any abrasive tools (Gui: I think this is right. Don't know for sure) Copper tends to be "gummy" when cut. Use wax or other lubricant to keep teeth of blade from gumming up.
Brass Horizontal bandsaw; carbide chop saw Hacksaw Any woodworking tools; any abrasive tools (Gui: Again, double check)
Bronze Horizontal bandsaw; carbide chop saw Hacksaw Any woodworking tools; any abrasive tools (Gui: One more double check)
Perforated / Expanded Metal Cutoff wheel, plasma cutter Hacksaw Any woodworking tools, jump shear

Cutting Speed in RPM

The following chart shows the RPM to use when drilling, milling, or turning some common materials. For example, if you are using a 1/4" drill bit or end mill on mild steel, you would want to keep the machine below 1500 rpm. Similarly if you are turning a 2" piece of aluminum, you would set the lathe around 1000 RPM. These are meant as guidelines only. Many factors determine proper cutting speed and you should rely on training and careful observation to set the correct speed.

Numbers were calculated using the SFPM shown in parentheses after the material.

Material 1/4" 3/8" 1/2" 3/4" 1" 1.5" 2" 3" 4" Details
Mild Steel (100) 1500 1000 750 500 400 250 200 130 95
Hard/Stainless Steel (50) 750 500 380 250 200 125 95 60 50
Cast Iron (70) 1100 700 500 400 250 175 130 90 70 very messy, use precautions to contain flying debris and keep swarf out of machine
Brass (300) 4500 3000 2300 1500 1100 750 580 380 280
Bronze (200) 3000 2000 1500 1000 750 500 380 250 200
Aluminum (500) 7600 5000 3800 2500 1900 1270 1000 640 475

See also this, which seems to be some sort of speeds & feeds calculator. Apparently it's Flash that you download and then you have to register so it fully works, but it appears to be free to do so. I haven't tried it. Probably worth looking at the page and the "Install" tab in the left navbar. They claim it works in Windoze, MacOS, and Linux because hey, it's just Flash. And of course, the definitive guide is Machinery's Handbook. -- Sandor

Plastics

Material Best Tool Acceptable Tools Tools Not Allowed Details
PVC (SDS) PVC cutter; hacksaw bandsaw (large teeth, low speed, high feed); miter saw (high feed) table saw; router; CNC router; laser cutter When heated above 232.2°C (450 °F), PVC will release dangerous hydrogen chloride gas. It is best to score the PVC with a sharp knife or a PVC cutter and snap it.
Acrylic, a.k.a. Plexiglass (SDS) utility knife; table saw (ONLY w/plastic blade, guard removed, and riving knife installed); bandsaw (ONLY w/fine toothed blade); sanding tools; drills; milling machine; laser cutter miter saw (ONLY w/plastic cutting blade) jointer; planer Acrylic may be scored with a very sharp knife and then snapped, or cut with a power tool. If you use the table saw, you MUST use the appropriate blade, or the plastic may melt, which can ruin the blades or the machine.
Polycarbonate, a.k.a Lexan (SDS) utility knife; table saw (ONLY w/plastic blade, guard removed, and riving knife installed); bandsaw (ONLY w/fine toothed blade); sanding tools; drills; milling machine miter saw (ONLY w/plastic cutting blade); jump shear (thin sheets only) jointer; planer; laser cutter Polycarbonate may be scored with a very sharp knife and then snapped, or cut with a power tool. If you use the table saw, you MUST use the appropriate blade, or the plastic may melt, which can ruin the blades or the machine.
UHMW (SDS) Milling machine; CNC router; machine lathe. Cuts with plastic blades like polycarbonate. Keep feed high and speed low enough to prevent melting.
Teflon (SDS) Can be a health hazard if heated above 200 °C (392 °F).
Delrin (SDS) Milling machine; CNC router; machine lathe. Cuts with plastic blades, similar to UHMW.
ABS (SDS) Milling machine; CNC router; machine lathe. Cuts with plastic blades, similar to acrylic.
Polypropylene (SDS) Hand tools; drills; milling machines; machine lathe Cheapo cutting boards are made of this; it's nontoxic and often food-grade. Want 1000-2000 rpm and fast feeds (F25ish); big thing is to move fast enough to avoid melting. This has a nice description of minimizing corner dwell and why ramp-in is handy, but milling without ramp-in has worked for me. -- Sandor
Styrene (SDS) Hot wire Saws; knives You'll get the cleanest cuts with a heated nichrome wire (or other fine-gauge hot wire). Bladed tools will tend to crumble it, but it will cut.
Polyurethane foam (SDS) Hand tools (blades, chisels, etc.) Hot wires Tools that generate heat should not be used to cut polyurethane foam, as it is flammable and will release dangerous hydrogen cyanide if burned.

Wood

No wood of any kind is allowed to be cut, sanded, or machined in any way on the metalworking equipment.

Material Best Tool Acceptable Tools Tools Not Allowed Details
Moldy wood Nothing Nothing All of them Moldy wood is a health hazard and can contaminate the rest of our stock. It should not be brought into the Asylum.
Wood with lead paint or paint of unknown origin Nothing Nothing All of them Lead paint is toxic and should not be brought into the Asylum.
Pressure-treated wood Hand tools, except sanding blocks. n/a All power tools; sanding blocks. Pressure-treated wood, particularly that manufactured before 2003, may contain toxic heavy metals such as arsenic and cadmium.
Most new, untreated lumber (softwood or hardwood) All woodworking tools All woodworking tools Metalworking tools Choose your tool based on the shape and dimensions of your wood and your desired outcome.
Engineered/manufactured lumber (OSB, plywood, MDF, etc.) Panel saw; table saw; bandsaw; circular saw; drills; hand sanders; jig saw Miter saw; powered sanders Jointer and planer Glue from manufactured wood will gum up and destroy the knives on the jointer and planer.
Reclaimed/salvaged lumber Hand tools; Sawzall Drill press; belt and disk sander Table saw; band saw; miter saw; jointer; planer; other power tools Reused and salvaged lumber may have metal fasteners in it which can damage power tools.
Wood with lead-free paint, varnish, stains Hand tools Power tools Jointer; planer Wood treatments can be a health hazard when turned into dust or heated with a power tool.
Hazardous woods such as walnut, black locust, cedar, and a number of other woods listed here Hand tools Power tools n/a These woods can cause severe health problems, such as asthma, allergic reactions, and nosebleeds. Wearing proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), conducting prompt cleanup, and using the best available dust collection is necessary when working with these woods. Large-scale projects should think twice before specifying these materials.

Everything Else

While the Asylum doesn't have tools for many of these materials, members may.

Material Best Tool Acceptable Tools Tools Not Allowed Details
Glass Glass cutter; wet tile saw with diamond blade Any woodworking tools; any metalworking tools
FR4 (printed circuit board) Jump shear Any woodworking tools
Carbon Fiber Any woodworking tools; jump shear
Fiberglass Any woodworking tools; jump shear Dust is potentially carcinogenic
Rubber (?) Knife
Stone/Cement (?)
Leather (?)
Personal tools
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