Creating a circular hole in a piece of metal is very easy, but did you ever think about creating square holes? It doesn’t seem as simple and straightforward.
So, how to cut a square hole in metal? The trick is creating a circular hole using any drill machine and then filing it down to get a square shape. But this might not be the best way to get a precise square cut. There are other techniques such as- laser cut, mechanical saw cut, plasma cut, water jet cut, etc. to achieve a smoother finish.
In this article, I’ve discussed in detail about these methods. So, give it a good read if you want to know all about them.
Can You Cut a Square Hole in Metal?
Cutting metal into pieces has become a really simple job nowadays. There are lots of power tools for this. But what about cutting a square hole in a piece of metal? Although it might seem like a complicated task at first, there are actually quite a few methods to do it.
The easiest way to do it is to drill and file. Although, this method won’t be the best for you if you want to create square cuts for commercial purposes. This process doesn’t give the best finish and the edges remain pretty rough and uneven.
You can use a machine filer to solve this problem. However, if you want a more accurate cut, you might want to choose the laser cutting or water jet cutting method.
There are also other ways like mechanical saw cuts, water jet cuts, square punch method, nibbler method, etc. While working with a laser or nibbler, keep in mind that there are size limitations in these methods. They can’t cut through metal pieces that are too thick.
So, you must choose a suitable method depending on the material and thickness of the metal piece that you’ll be working with.
Choosing the Right Material and Thickness
While cutting any piece of metal, choosing the right material with the right thickness is extremely important. The cutting process will then be decided depending on the property of the chosen metal.
As you can imagine, not all methods will be efficient for all types of material and thicknesses. For example, plasma cutting works best for cutting metals like carbon, stainless steel, and aluminum with a thickness of ¼ to 2 inch.
While laser-cutting machines excel at cutting through non-reflective metals which are thinner than ¼ inches. On the other hand, the highly pressurized water stream used in the water jet cutting method allows it to easily cut through metals with even a thickness of 5”.
So, you can see different cutting methods specialize in cutting materials of different thicknesses. So, choose the desired piece of metal that you want to cut first. And then choose the method for creating a hole in it.
Choosing the wrong method can create unpleasant results as well as cause safety issues. Also, while buying the material, pay attention to their gauge number. A lower gauge number indicates thicker material.
Marking and Measuring
The main goal of marking and measuring is to prepare the metal piece for the next step of the production process and achieve a clean and even cut. Prior to cutting the metal, measure the desired area that you’ll be cutting and outline it with a marker or chalk pencil.
By doing so, you are transferring your desired shape onto the metal piece which will then work as a guide throughout the cutting, bending, and shaping process. You can then follow this outline closely to create an accurate square hole.
Failure to complete this step will produce joints that are poorly fitted and incorrectly aligned. Precisely marking and measuring the metal piece will also allow you to have better control throughout the drilling or cutting process.
Choosing the Cutting Method
In this segment, I’ll be discussing the advantages of different metal-cutting methods. So that you can compare them and choose the method which would be best suited for you.
Drill & File
This is one of the simplest techniques to exist. You don’t need any expensive machines or prior experience to follow this method. This method is best for beginners to use in small household projects.
In comparison to the rest of the methods, the laser cutting method gives you the best finish and higher precision. It also doesn’t affect the strength and properties of the metal after cutting.
Moreover, laser cutting offers cheaper maintenance and replacement cost and a lower chance of material contamination.
Water Jet Cut
Water jet cut is a cold cutting method which means it does not subject the metal piece to any heat or stress. This reduces the risk of the metal being thermally distorted.
Also, the water jet method can cut through thicker metals with great accuracy. This method is however extremely costly and only used in large industries or factories.
In shearing, immense pressure is applied on the metal piece which forces it to strain and break. This is a waste-free way of cutting metal as no metal chips are generated throughout the process.
This ultimately reduces the overall material cost. Other than cutting, shearing is also known for its bending, punching, and pressing ability.
Mechanical saw cutters can reduce waste generation by a lot. This ultimately results in a lower overall project cost. This method has a super-fast cutting speed that produces high-quality metal cuts. It leaves a smooth and even finish and doesn’t even require finishing procedures.
This is a small and handy tool that is perfect for small household projects. It’s really easy to operate and will give you better control over the metal-cutting process. You can create pretty accurate clean cuts with it even if you are inexperienced.
If you are someone who needs to create a lot of uniform-shaped square holes on a regular basis, this is just the tool for you. As the name suggests, this tool punches through the material and creates a hole. It’s great for maintaining uniformity.
A nibbler is a specially designed pair of shears or scissors to cut thin metal sheets. It works best with softer metals like Aluminum and is not much suitable for thicker metals. It’s an easy and low-cost way to cut metal sheets into any shape you desire.
It’s an excellent tool for cutting any sort of soft or hard metal piece. With the right cutting disc, they can cut metals of various thicknesses and sizes.
For cutting thicker metals in larger projects, install an abrasive disc into the angle grinder to get the best result.
This is a low-cost and easy method for beginners to use in smaller projects. Simply measure and mark the area you want to cut. Place a ruler along the marked line and score in small and light strokes.
Next, bend the metal front and back and apply moderate pressure to snap it into 2 parts.
Read Also: How to Keep Bolts from Rusting
6 Best Methods for Cutting Square Holes
There are a lot of different ways of creating square holes in a metal sheet. Some of them are easy and inexpensive, while some are more precise but a bit costlier.
In this segment, I’ll be discussing 6 methods of cutting metal that might be best suited for you:
Drill and File
Using a regular drilling machine with round bits is the easiest way to drill a hole in any piece of metal. Next, you’ll need a rectangular or triangular filer with sharp edges. Note that, triangular filers are more user-friendly and give you a stronger grip.
Now, manually file the circular hole to create edges and make a square hole. However, if you want to create square cuts in metal for commercial purposes, this method won’t be the best for you as it doesn’t have the best finish.
It leaves an uneven, rough surface which is not desirable for professional use.
Manual Saw Cuts
The hacksaw is one of the oldest tools that have been used for cutting metals. It is an easy and inexpensive way to cut through metal pieces of any thickness. It comes in various blade sizes like- 14, 18, 24 and 32 teeth per inch, depending on the thickness of the material.
For thinner metals, use the blades with more teeth per inch. For example- if the metal piece has a 1/16-inch or higher thickness, use a blade with 14 or 18 blades per inch. Otherwise, using the 24 or 32 teeth per inch blade will do great.
Mechanical Saw Cuts
Other than Hacksaws, some mechanical-powered tools can also cut through metal pieces very easily. They are mostly known as chop saws/ cut-off saws/ circular saws.
A circular saw uses rotary motion to cut off metals of any thickness using a toothed/abrasive disc or blade. Connect it to a power outlet and slowly turn it on to power up the blade. Then carefully slide it across the piece of metal.
Don’t try to rush or forcefully cut anything as it might deflect and create uneven cuts. Also, apply lubricants or cutting fluid whenever you notice the blade getting too heated.
In this process, a laser ray is used to vaporize metal, which produces a clean and precise square hole in the piece of metal. The laser system used in this method has a small heat-affected zone, so there’s no chance of warping the metal piece.
Also, laser beams do not wear out easily so the cuts made with them are more precise. Laser cutting has advantages over mechanical cutting and plasma cutting. This process uses way less energy than plasma cuts and the produced square holes also have a comparatively smoother finish.
Water Jet Cuts
Water jet cutting is a method where highly pressurized water is fired through a diamond or ruby nozzle into a mixing chamber, and then it’s released at an extreme speed. The energy from this high-speed pressurized water can easily cut through any piece of metal.
Water jets can cut through metal pieces of any thickness. As this method doesn’t cause any thermal damage or distortion, it is significantly better than other conventional metal-cutting processes.
Plasma cutting is a process where an accelerated jet of hot plasma is used to cut through any electrically conductive material. You can use a plasma torch to create holes in metals like steel, stainless steel, aluminum, brass, and copper.
This method is very popular due to its high speed, great accuracy, and comparatively lower cost. However, the accuracy of plasma cutting deteriorates with the diameter of the hole. The smaller the diameter of the hole gets, the harder it becomes to maintain precision.
You must strictly follow safety precautions while working with all these dangerous metal cutters. Otherwise, one tiny slip-up may cause major injury. Some of the basic safety measures are-
- You must wear protective eyewear or goggles at all times.
- Wear heavy-duty shoes.
- Wearing thick gloves to protect your hands is another essential precaution.
- Never run your finger against the rough edges of metal. Your finger might get cut and infected from it.
- Always use the right-sized tools and blades.
- Eliminate any sort of distraction around you and stay focused all time.
Is there an Easy Way to Cut Metal?
The easiest way to cut metal is to just use a circular saw or hacksaw. They might not be your first choice at a glance, but they are an easy and inexpensive tool to cut through metal without creating much hassle.
Using the circular saw with the right blade can make it very efficient, especially for small home projects. On the other hand, hacksaws are also popular among homeowners for their easy function and versatility. You just need to simply grab the saw by its handle and cut the piece of metal that you desire.
What is the Best Way to Cut a Square Hole?
The easiest way of creating a square hole in a piece of metal is the drilling and filing. All you’ll need to do is, create a circular hole with a drill and then file the edges to turn it into a square. Using a Dremel rotary tool is another effective way to create clean-cut square holes on any piece of metal.
However, if you want a more accurate cut with smooth edges, you should probably go for laser cutting or water jet cutting method. Although they are quite expensive, they have much better precision.
Can a Grinder Cut Metal?
An angle grinder, also known as a disc/side grinder is often used by professionals to cut up metal pieces. It’s an excellent tool for cutting any sort of soft or hard metal piece.
An angle grinder can be adjusted depending on the type of metal that you are going to cut. This way, they can produce more precise cuts. With the right cutting disc, they can cut metals of various thicknesses and sizes.
What Metals Can not be Cut?
Tungsten Carbide is a metal that is most popular for its wearing capacity. This metal can’t be cut by any traditional method. They are impervious to any type of metal cutting tools and can only be cut using diamond tools.
Other than that, metals like Titanium, Stainless Steel, and Inconel are also considered some of the toughest metals which can’t be cut easily.
There are a lot of methods to cut a square hole in a piece of metal. In this article, I tried to cover some of the basic methods that might be suitable for you. Try to enjoy the process as much as you can and be creative.
Choose the method that will be most practical for you depending on your available tools and the property of the metal piece. It’s important to use the correct tools and methods for your own safety. Lastly, stay concentrated and follow the essential safety precautions.