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post #1 of (permalink) Old 05-26-2007, 04:37 PM Thread Starter
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Need advice for next round of fab tools, help me spend my $$

Now that i'm working during the summer I'm just about ready to spend some $$ on fab tools. The main goal for this next round of tools is to be able to do cages. I'm thinking a chop saw/multi cutter/band saw, a nothcher, a bench grinder or belt/ disc sander and a tube bender. I'm planning on spending around 2 grand. I need some advice how to spend my money right, I plan on keeping this stuff for a while and there's a chance I open a small fab shop/ do side work.

-Metal cutter, my shop is pretty small and I don't think I have the room for a horozontal band saw. I have used a chop saw, they are nice but are loud and a mess. I've never used a multi cutter though I hear they are a big improvment over a chop saw. What does everyone have?

-tubing notcher, what's everyone using? there's a million different ones out there, so far i've been using a drill press, hole saw and drill press clamp and I want something better then that

-grinder/ sander, so far i've used an angle grinder for cleaing up cuts and it gets old which way should I go?

-bender, i've wanted one for a long time, only thing i've ever used is a harbor freight pipe bender and it worked great for pipe. I want to be able to bend tube and have lots of die options. i'm debating how much to spend, I'm thinking hydrolic would be nice though it's a lot more $$

I allready have a 220v mig, torches, grinder, drill press, basic hand tools, do these tools sound like the right "next step"?
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 05-26-2007, 07:17 PM
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I have opinions on all your requests but they are nit much diffrent than anyone else, BUT I WILL SAY!!!!!

If you want a normal swing arm type tube bender get the pro tools 105 hd. They are a great bender and what others quote when comparing benders. Mine is down right now because I am converting it to hydro and need a bur under my tail to get it finished.

I got mine from Keith at extreme crawlers. He gave me the best deal I could find. Treated me right and I try to buy all my specialty fab tools from him.

Grinders,,, I have good ones, cheapies, they all preform about the same. I have a Pro tools notcher. It is good, but I would look for a beter one given the chance again, but with the dough I have in this thing I will keep it.

My next step is a GOOD hydro press with a set of swaging dies. I am alwayse needing to stiffen a flat piece of metal. Probably go for a tig welder at some point plasma cutter would be nice as well

Ya only go around once, best to enjoy it the first trip.
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 05-26-2007, 09:05 PM
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looks like you are well on your way...

as for the bender.. i have the 105hd pro tools.. love it.. it will get converted to hydro some day.. but it kicks tail....

as for grinders.. i have two bench top ones.. and have found that to be nice... one has a wire wheel and polisher.. the other a coarse and fine grinding wheel... as for angle grinders.. get two or three.. so you dont have to change them out.. cheapies will do...

chop saw is nice.. get a good one.. i have a rigid and like it a lot.. cuts pretty straight and is easy to use.. built much better than the milwaukee.. and is great for quick chops of tubing.. as for the thicker tubing.. a horizontal band saw is good.. never tried one of those multi cutters.. have heard good things about them..

as for the notcher.. i have a cheapie 30 dollar one.. i have done about 100 cuts with it.. works ok.. starting to get sloppy.. bushings are wearing out.. if you have a drill press and use it while clamping the notcher to it.. then the bushings will probably last longer.. if not.. then get a notcher with bearings... which is a few hundred dollars.. but if you plan on doing more than a few cages.. its worth it..

i have pretty much all of the above.. and one of my next purchases will be a sander.. disk/belt combo unit.. and a better notcher..

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post #4 of (permalink) Old 05-26-2007, 10:16 PM
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Not to hijack the thread, but you can print out notching templates at Tube Coping Calculator - Universal Version. Works for most any angle and size. You can also offset notched tubes. Really cool.

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post #5 of (permalink) Old 05-26-2007, 10:21 PM
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Chop saw - Harbor's Freights fine as long as it's one of the better ones.
Plasma cutter - don't get a cheapie - buy quality and a big one. I have a 35 amp - too small. 1/2" it's a pain, it does it, but --.
Angle grinders - several, loaded with different wheels.
The HF 20 ton press does most everything I need, but I put an air jack on it. I made bending jigs - It can bend 3/16 easy, 1/2 depending on how wide.

And - good extension cords for the welders and Plasma cutter.

drill press - get a good one - the HF ones are too inaccurate. A good used one will be less $ and better quality.
Drill bits - quality bits make a huge difference - I find them at swap meets from ex-machinists. Then I use a Drill Doctor to sharpen them. Get the bigger Drill Doctor that handles bigger than 1/2".

Bender - love my JD2 - it's manual, hyd would be nice - but - Each die set is $200+ - so plan on what sizes you'll want. I use 1 3/4 and 1 1/4 the small one gets rarely used. Wish I had a 1 1/2 and 2" instead. Get the degree wheel too.

Notcher - there are nibbler types - made more for making horse corrals - forget them. I use a HF - when the bushings go I'll just get another one - not really expensive. Biggest error most have with them is they try to cut too deep.

A good solid steel welding table a little higher than waist high. Another one as bit lower for taller things. Obviously lots of welding clamps, C-clamps etc. Magnets - and a very strong overhead lamp over the tables.

And - 2 oe 3 telescopic stands that extend to 7 feet help.
Overhead electric hoist helps too - for lifting/repositioning cage etc. I use it alot!

Of course - good shop air is a necessity.

$2000 doesn't even start to get what you really need.
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 05-27-2007, 09:09 AM Thread Starter
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RRich i've allready got a lot of the basics you mention and plan on adding more tools to the collection when $$ allows. Right now the goal is to be able to do a cage for my bronco and i'd much rather spend the $$ on tools then some one else to do it.

Thanks for the replies. A plasma would be nice but that would blow my budget. I'm also looking for something to cut straight, I can allready cut crooked with my torch.

Anyone ever rig up a "stop" on their chop saw to get the same length cut every time? I used to use a rigid chop saw and if I tried to cut 6 pieces of metal the same length they'd all be a little different and trying to take an 1/8" off with that chop saw didn't happen.

How did everyone mount their manual benders? Right now i'm working out of my parents garage, it's probably 22x20 with a 7-8' ceiling, a yj and extended cab short box full size with all my tools bearly fit in it, i'm not sure how well bending tube in it would work. Anyone do any of the home brew hydro setups? Not having to mount a bender would be nice, I'm probably moving my tools in and out of 3 to 5 garages in the next year till I buy a house next summer/ fall.
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 05-27-2007, 09:40 AM
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Repeatability - chop saw - I welded a plate on the right side of my chop saw - kinda like a short extension table. When I need to cut several "repeatable" things, I clamp a hunk of angle to the extention - like a fence. Works great.
And I use an adjustable support stand on the left side when cutting a longer piece to hold it flat.

Same thing with a drill press when doing repetitive holes.

To cut straight with a torch - or even a plasma cutter - I clamp a hunk of angle to the work as a fence to guide the torch. If you move at the right speed - fast enough - you end up with very little dross (slag) and it takes very little grinding to dress it up.

White paint pens - available at stationary stores are wonderful cheap tools!
Pieces of cardboard and scissors are indispensable for planning shapes.

For the bender - I use a 90" bend as a model to plan out where I need to start the bends. And I use a big adjustable angle finder made from 2 flats and a bolt and wingnut. It allows you to estimate and repeat bends.

My bender is mounted to the floor solidly. You need lots of room around it, your lever and you need swing room, and the work piece needs to swing too. I support both ends with those adjustable support stands when setting it up.

And - I mounted a larger tube near the bottom of the stand - we call it the "Unfu--." If you overbend a few degrees - maybe by 5 or 6 degrees, you can put one end in and pull hard on the other end - reversing your bend slightly. Too much you wrinkle it. Saves lots of scrap.

If you go hydraulic most set-ups don't require a solid mounting to the floor - it can go on a roll around cart, but still you need swing room for the piece.

Remember - seam to the inside - and before bending mark the starting place - just in case you have to put it back in to bend it a liitle more.
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 05-27-2007, 10:23 AM Thread Starter
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I found this write up about making a bender hydrolic cheap power ram for benders! - OFN Forums

I think i'm going to try it because i've been eying the air/ hydrolic cherry picker for $200 from maxtool.com and I can kill 2 birds with 1 stone

Ok I think I have made up my mind, now I just need to get a couple pay checks in my bank account, how does this list sound? It's in my budget and I was planning on buying a cherry picker anyways this summer.

-Jet 1hp 8" bench grinder with stand and wire wheel

-Miluakee 14" multicutter, the dewalt is a couple $$ cheaper but the writeups said the clamp is junk

-Joint jigger notcher

-JD2 model 3 with 1.5" tube and 1.25" pipe dies, degree wheel and pointer

-2 ton air/ hydrolic cherry picker
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 05-27-2007, 10:50 AM
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The multicutter - ever price the blades? When on a limited budget seems too pricy for what it does - the same thing a chop saw does - maybe slightly faster. A good chop saw from HF is about $100, less on sale. Use Dewalt blades - about $1.50 ea. It lasts a year or two - about the same as an expensive one.

Notcher - that one may be the best one around, but the hole it makes is the same as a HF cheapie. On all of them you need to dress up the cut anyway. The important thing is the quality of the hole saw itself.

Look at most other cages around - rare to find one built with 1.5". 1.75 and 2". Very lightweight buggies maybe, but -.

The 1.25 dies I have sits idle - only good for small things.

Pipe? Pipe is made to carry pressure from the inside - tube is for construction. Even the steel is different - lower carbon - rest with a grinder - look at the sparks.
1.75 tube is 1.75 on the outside, 1.75 pipe is 1.75 inside. Needs different dies.
Most professional racing associations won't allow water pipe - wonder why?
Sure you can use water pipe, some do, but remember - lives depend on it!

The bench grinder - I rarely use mine except to sharpen drills etc, with a fine stone. The wire wheel gets most of the use, but the wire wheel on an angle grinder gets more use.
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 05-27-2007, 12:15 PM Thread Starter
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Multi cutter blades are crazy expensive but they are suposed to last longer. Also they are suposed to cut better with the lack of dust/ mess of a chop saw. We had a rigid chop saw and it worked allright but wasn't great. I'm hoping it lasts a long long time. I don't have a problem buying good $$ tools if they last.

I guess I probably should go 1.75 on the tube die. My old buggy was built out of pipe and I never had a problem with it, I did the research and was fine running it on my buggy, it's a ton safer then no cage or a rusted out beat up cab. Pipe is also a ton cheaper where I live and in stock vs. tube is a ton harder to get. Lots of other things like bumpers and sliders can also be made out of pipe for a huge savings. Last time I priced out pipe vs. tube it was a $3-5 a foot differance.

I want the bench grinder or a belt/ disc sander for cleaning up cuts. The last chop saw we had you had to hit every cut with a grinder to get rid of the bur and it was a major pain. I don't really have the room or $$ for a decent disc/ belt sander so I think the bench grinder will be a good compermise.
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