How to Cut Stainless Steel: 5 Different Methods

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Stainless steel is one of the most popular materials in the construction world. It is not just durable but also solid and corrosion-resistance. But you may find cutting stainless steel more challenging than any metal or other type of material. 

If you want to learn how to cut stainless steel, our engineers have tips to make the process easier and quicker. So ready your materials now, and let’s start cutting!  

Working With Stainless Steel

Stainless steel features good physical characteristics, which is a different variant of steel. In a two-alloy system, stainless steel is mostly made of iron and carbon. 

And nickel and chromium, which make stainless steel highly resistant to corrosion, give it a wide range of properties.

The only reason stainless steel rusts is because there’s iron in it. So, most manufacturers add other things to their products to strengthen them. When steel is exposed to air after having chromium added to it, chromium oxide is formed. 

stainless steel tubes

This oxide then forms a protective surface that stops air and moisture from making the steel rust, which would happen with regular steel.

There are many different kinds of stainless steel. But the common ones include the following:

Ferritic Stainless Steel

Ferritic stainless steel is also a popular type of steel. It has elements similar to austenitic steel but is less likely to rust and is stronger. Hence, it is more suited for making boilers and clothes washers.

Austenitic Stainless Steel

This is the most common and used type of stainless steel. The simple reason for this is that it doesn’t conduct heat well and doesn’t rust. 

Its better mechanical properties are another reason why it was widely used. Austenitic steel is best for making modern vessels and funnels, creating veneers, housewares, and development.

Martensitic Stainless Steel

Martensitic stainless steel is a kind of steel that’s very strong and durable. But it doesn’t withstand rust as well as other grades of steel. It has about 10% chromium in it and is usually used in making blades for airplanes.

martensitic stainless steel

There’s a so-called “duplex stainless steel,” a mix of ferritic and austenitic steel. So they’re stronger and more flexible. Paper and other petrochemicals are often made with duplex steels.

Advantages of Stainless Steel

Tools and Materials

There are many forms of stainless steel – from sheets to tubes to tiles and everything in between. 

Most of the time, a gauge is used to talk about how thick the metal is. Depending on the thickness of the steel you’re going to work with, you’ll need the following tools and materials:

cutting tools for metal

No matter what is your preferred method to cut stainless steel, you may also need the following:

Step #1: Prepare Your Work Area

No matter how you plan to cut stainless steel or metal, you’ll need to set up your work area. For this task, you’ll need a strong workbench. 

preparing the work area

We suggest you work outside if you need to use a plasma cutter, grinder, or saw. If not, ensure you clear the area of anything that can catch fire since sparks will fly out as you cut.

Step #2: Measure and Mark the Cutting Line

Get your tape measure and use it to get an accurate measurement of the edge you need to cut. Then, mark where you need to cut with your marker. To get a perfectly straight line when cutting a straight line, we suggest using a square or just a simple ruler. 

Step #3: Cut Away

After setting up your work area, measuring, and marking where you want to cut, it’s time to choose the right cutting tool for the job. Before you begin cutting, make sure you’re using the right tools for the stainless steel materials to ensure a straight cut.   

To be sure, refer to the following: 

cutting stainless steel

Tin Snips

When cutting thin stainless sheets, using a rotary tool like a tin snip will make the cutting easier. Use the tin snip like a scissor and begin cutting slowly through the material. Be mindful not to cut yourself on the edge you’ve made.

Power Shears

Power shears are almost similar to tin snips. The only difference is that this power tool has a motor. Starting in the middle of the cut, power shears will bite off a thin metal strip. 

To use power shears for cutting stainless steel, put the steel in the shears’ jaws, squeeze the trigger, and slowly cut through the material until the cut is done.

Circular Saw

When your power shears or tin snips can’t cut edges or thick pieces of steel, using a circular saw helps. The most crucial thing to note is that you’ll need the right blade for cutting steel or metal.

cutting stainless steel with circular saw

Once you’re ready, power on the saw and let it reach its full RPM before you start to cut. Then, bring the saw down to the surface and let it slowly cut through the metal until it’s done.

Angle Grinder

Using an angle grinder, you can do the same things you can do with a circular saw.

Make sure you always have protective gear on. Let the tool reach its full RPM before you start cutting, and then cut slowly through the metal.

Plasma Cutter

A plasma cutter can cut stainless steel quickly. But it might be too much if you’re working on thin sheet metal. It’s suitable for cutting a thick stainless steel sheet.

cutting stainless steel with plasma cutter

Now, you can start cutting stainless steel. Turn on the machine and move the torch handle close to the surface you’re working on. Once you pull the trigger, start cutting. Move slowly and carefully, and give a high cutting force to keep your hand steady as you cut stainless.

When you’re done, turn off the plasma cutter, unhook the air and ground clamps, and roll up the hoses.

Step #4: Polish the Edges

Once you’re done cutting, any side you cut will have a pretty rough edge. Use a deburring tool or metal file to smooth out your material’s rough edges to finish the job.

polishing stainless steel

How to Trim Stainless Steel Sheets

1. Use your circular saw and ensure it’s equipped with a diamond saw blade for circular saws

2. Now, attach the sheet metal to your work table with clamps. If you don’t clamp the stainless steel, it could move while you’re cutting it. Use adjustable clamps (preferably F clamps [1]) to tighten and hold your sheet metal on the table.

3. Align the saw blade along the part you want to trim, and power on the circular saw. Put the saw’s flat surface on your metal sheet’s top. After you power on the saw, move it slowly across the sheet metal, keeping the blade on the line you like to cut.

4. When you’re done cutting, power off the saw. 

How to Trim Steel Tubes

1. Use a stainless tube cutter for cutting pipes or tubes. A stainless steel tube cutter is a type of handheld tool that clamps and cuts around a stainless steel tube using a rotating wheel.

2. Attach the stainless tube to your tube cutter. Align the wheel on the cutter with the part you like to cut. Once the tube is set, turn the knob at device’s end to tighten it. Turn the knob and make sure the tube is locked in place.

trimming steel tubes

3. Twist the tube cutter until it goes all the way through. Hold the tube’s end that sticks out with one hand and turn the tube cutter with the other. As you turn the tube cutter, the small wheel will slowly cut through your steel tube.

4. Finally, take the steel tube off the cutter. If the tube is stuck, turn the knob at the tube cutter’s end. Be careful when you touch the tube’s cut edge. If you have rough edges, use a deburring tool to smooth them down. 

How to Trim Steel Tiles

1. Use a wet saw for this task, and make sure to use a diamond saw blade.

2. Put the shiny side of the stainless steel tiles on your wet saw table. Align the wet saw’s blade with the part of the tile you want to trim.

3. Power on your wet saw and carefully move the table to the diamond blade. You can push the table using your hands, but be careful to keep them away from the blade. Push the table slowly toward the blade until you cut stainless steel completely.

trimming steel tiles

4. Once done, power off the wet saw and get the cut steel tile. 

Safety Precautions

Ensure you take the right safety steps before you start cutting. Take note of the following:

Conclusion

As you can see, it’s easier to learn how to cut stainless steel than it looks at first, right? Depending on what you’re cutting, you can use tin snips, power shears, a circular saw, an angle grinder, or a plasma cutter. 

But no matter what method or tools you use to finish cutting stainless steel, or any cutting process, be sure to work slowly and safely.

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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