Bold As Brass: Choosing The Best Cutting Method For Your Brass Sheeting

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Brass is a unique metal, and is highly prized for its combination of attractive looks and exceptional resistance to corrosion—it's no wonder, then, that brass sheeting has so many potential applications, from decorative garden screens to bullet casings and clockwork components. However, to turn your sheet brass from a nondescript slab of metal into a useful or attractive component, it needs to be cut, and cut well.

Whether you have a large or small amount of brass sheeting that requires cutting, choosing the best cutting method for your needs is vital. Sheet metal cutting and fabrication workshops use a wide variety of cutting methods to craft sheet brass, and some methods are more suited to certain applications than others. Keep the pros and cons of the following brass sheeting cutting methods in mind, and you are much more likely to choose the cutting method that's right for you.

Manual cutting

The oldest and simplest method of cutting brass sheeting, manual cutting is performed with sharp-edged tools that cut through the brass in a very literal sense. On occasion, manual cutting is performed with traditional tools such as tinsnips and hacksaws, but almost all modern manual cutting workshops use angle grinders, power shears and other power tools to cut brass and other sheet metals.

The main advantage of this cutting method is that it tends to be extremely cheap, so large pieces of brass can be cut into shape on a very small budget. Unfortunately, choosing manual cutting means compromising on precision, and it produces a somewhat ragged finish compared to more sophisticated cutting methods. It is also a slow process, even with powered tools and is not suitable for urgent cutting orders.

Torch cutting

Torch cutting workshops use handheld, heat-based cutting torches to cut and craft brass sheeting; acetylene torches are the old standby, but more efficient plasma torches are becoming increasingly popular. This method is much faster than manual cutting, and it is relatively inexpensive. Unfortunately, brass has a comparatively low melting point, and heat torches often melt the areas surrounding a cut and distort the finish. Torch cutting is therefore much more suited to cutting other, less delicate metals.

Laser cutting

Considered by many to be the gold standard of modern sheet metal cutting methods, laser cutting machines are very fast, extremely precise, and can repeat identical cuts on hundreds or even thousands of sheets of brass. Laser cutting is also surprisingly inexpensive, largely due to its popularity, and bulk cutting orders tend to be particularly well-priced.

However, brass can be a problem when it comes to laser cutting, as its surface is too reflective for conventional laser cutting machines to reliably penetrate. You will therefore have to find a service that uses specialised cutting machines that can penetrate brass—CO2 lasers are an excellent choice, but using them tends to be significantly more expensive than using conventional laser cutters.

Waterjet cutting

This very sophisticated cutting method uses a thin stream of extremely highly-pressurised water which slices through a sheet of brass as efficiently as any solid or laser-based cutting tool. The finish created by this unique cutting method is extremely precise and smooth, and the cutters themselves work almost as quickly as laser cutting machines, making them similarly useful for bulk or urgent cutting orders.

The only real problem with waterjet cutting is that it tends to be quite expensive compared to other cutting methods. If you opt for this method, consider choosing a sheet metal cutting service that deals primarily or exclusively in waterjet cutting, as this can lower the cost of your cutting job significantly. 


2 March 2018

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