Cutting Brass Tube Cleanly

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Schmed88

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Hello Everyone

I work at a workshop/shop in East London (www.untothislast.co.uk).
For 15 years we have been making mid-priced furniture (almost entirely in plywood) but have recently started experimenting with metal (brass/aluminum/stainless) for small furniture objects.
Admittedly we are all very new to metalworking - I did a little lathe and mill work at college but that was a long time ago now.

I have an initial question with a follow-up question...

1. How can we cut a small section brass tube 30mm long cut from 25.4mm x 1.2mm tube stock without a burr.
The product in question is a small candle holder and we will need to be making these short sections by the hundreds (please see attached pic for ref).

Our current process:
- Cut to length with a metal working chop saw (and appropriate bade for brass)
- Sand faces clean on lanisher with 400g belt
- Deburr and chamfer edges using internal / external chamfering tools in hand drill
- We also tried tube cutters (turning sharp wheel type) but these leave a substantial internal lip that we then need to remove in post processing so not great.

As I mention we are making these in quantities of 100 at a time and have the following problems.
- It currently takes 1-2 min per 30mm section from start to finish. (too long for us)
- The saw is really noisy and unpleasant to use for long periods and leaves a rough edge which we then need to post process with sanding etc.
- There are multiple setups that is disruptive to the workflow.

2. Secondly, I suspect maybe a lathe with a parting tool is the right way to go? (alternative solutions also very welcome). This should be quiet (important for our workshop) and give a very clean cut.
We don't have a lathe yet. If we were to get one is having a spindle bore wider than our tube stock (25.4mm) important for efficiency in the setup?
I have seen there are material support fixtures for supporting longer lengths on smaller lathes but have read elsewhere that these can be fussy to set up and can mark the work surface.
We would like to avoid cutting lots of sections of short tube before going to the lathe to cut down again as again this would be disruptive to workflow. Therefore a wide spindle bore allowing us to work form 1000mm lengths with the excess protruding out the back of the spindle seems like a possible solution - but this would need a lathe on the big side?
Is there another workaround? Ideally we would like to keep the lathe on the small side (benchtop and moveable - maybe a Proxxon, we have used and like some of their other tools). It is not exactly the most complex operation we are trying to do in any case.

3. Is there a lathe that stands out as a possible choice? I think we would prefer to buy new (we are a business and don't really have time for ebay haggling and other possible issues with used lathes).
There is a Sealy lathe 500mm centers and 26mm bore that looks quite good but is still on the big side for us.

Hope my questions make sense and I haven't packed too much information in here.
Any pointers would be very helpful.

Thanks
Ed
 

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Sandyn

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Nice candle holder!! You seem to be on top of time and materials, so look at buying to a spec, in bulk already cut. If you use huge quantities and cost is critical, then look at China, but you need to have a watertight spec and take current problems into account for shipping. They require money up front and cost normally excludes shipping. I may still have a contact of a company I have used in my old company mail. No harm getting a price.
 

Alpha-Dave

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Your website appears to make a strong statement towards being locally made in the heart of the city, with people able to see you at work, so I assume you want something that is both productive and nice to use.

Obviously a for thousands of these then renting time on a CNC bandsaw or CNC lathe would be the way to go. For hundreds that is probably still true, but set up costs will increase. The way you talk about buying some specific equipment for the work (a lathe), I assume you have a business/investment case that the capital purchase is worth the labour saved, but unless very high-end (dual spindle), then all cut-off tools will need some post processing.

I would have thought that the pipe cut off tool was the right hand-tool for the job (as you mention), but they are supposed to be used with an internal and external deburring tool like the Swagelok one linked below; are you using one of these?


You mention a chop saw: is that an abrasive or carbide tooth type? If you are using abrasive, then that makes sense for the amount of post-cutting clean up. A carbide toothed blade will give a cut edge on brass that needs almost no finishing. However a metal chop saw is extremely loud on hollow material, so that may be an issue for you.

A powered hacksaw or bandsaw with auto feed would be worth looking in to
 

Peri

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Cutting metal leaves burrs - even cutting them on a lathe will leave a burr.

This is a great tool - but probably more than you need.

(careful - loud music)




Edit - Would a benchgrinder with a taper cup wheel on one side and a cone wheel on the other side work? - just touch the end to each wheel and it'd be done
 
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Rorschach

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A lathe is definitely the best choice for this, but you would need something large so as to be able to pass 1" through the headstock. You would also need a collet chuck so as to avoid damaging the tube.

I would definitely look into farming this out to another company.
 

Phil Pascoe

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I would have thought that the pipe cut off tool was the right hand-tool for the job (as you mention), but they are supposed to be used with an internal and external deburring tool like the Swagelok one linked below; are you using one of these?

The deburring tools gets rid of a burr, not the flare caused by cutting in a hurry. I've cut ferrules from brass tube with a pipe slice and caused a flare no matter how careful.
 

AES

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I agree with most of the above. You COULD use an ordinary plumbers pipe cutter (they use them for cutting copper central heating, etc, tubing, sometimes over 1 inch OD, and work well on brass too). And they're completely silent, plus have a built-in deburring tool (though these tools produce little in the way of burrs, and those that do arise are INTO the bore - a flare actually, as Phil says above). Such a flare MAY not matter (depends on the candle - do candles come in "standard" sizes? I dunno.

BUT using that tool for 100s off quantities? Nah, no way, hopelessly uneconomic! (but perhaps keep one handy to show in use if you've got visitors in the shop)! ;)

Otherwise any "machinery" to do that job efficiently (and "cleanly") will IMO not be economic unless you can find other tasks to load it with for most of the time - IMO, 100 off is too big for hand tools and too small for CNC, lathe, band saw, etc, etc, from the usage viewpoint.

So I really do agree, I think your best bet is to buy them in ready cut & "finished" (deburred). Although where to look for such a supplier I have no idea, sorry.

Nice looking candle sticks BTW.
 

gregmcateer

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I can't add any more to the good suggestions above but wanted to say that I love what you are doing with your workshop and business model. I'll try to visit sometime when I'm back down south.
 

Schmed88

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Many thanks for all your help.
Some very helpful pointers here.
Thank you to everyone for taking the time to have a think and respond.

I understand the temptation to outsource this but I don't think its the route we are looking to go down. Were making them by the 100s on a monthly basis not the 1000s and are selling the candle stick for £35 to match market price on similar products so small outsourced batches are unlikely to be viable. Also if we outsourced every small-fiddly-thing we came up against the workshop would be converted into a admin centre for suppliers! (too much of that already).

Also, the plumbers wheel cutter, powered or otherwise, is too slow and leaves a internal lip that we don't like. At least on the ones we have tried.

Largescale 3 phase machinery is also not something we have room for at the moment I'm afraid and were a bit early on in the process for this kind of investment.

Also apologies, I think my question was a bit fuzzy and I was confusing burr with saw cut marks, a small burr is probably something we can work with.
I have just made a batch of 70 rings myself and by far the longest and most tedious part of the process is the removal of cut marks through sanding (53 min for 70 pieces since you ask) so ideally we would skip this step completely and focus on cut and burr removal only.

Current Steps for 2400mm x 25.4mm tube...
Clean & Wax Tube: 3 min
Cut into 30mm sections: 15 min (noisy)
Sand both faces on Lanisher: 53 min (tiring needed a break halfway)
Chamfer Tube Edges (internal & external): tbc on this batch.

I am hoping that with a lathe we could cut and go straight to the burr removal and skip out the 53 min sanding entirely.
Do you think this is the right way to go or is there another way around that stands out?


This setup with a stop for repeatable parting looked very encouraging.

Also is there a lathe that would be well suited to a beginner with the above capability in mind?

Many thanks again.
Ed
 

Jelly

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Largescale 3 phase machinery is also not something we have room for at the moment I'm afraid and were a bit early on in the process for this kind of investment.

...

Also is there a lathe that would be well suited to a beginner with the above capability in mind?

Many thanks again.
Ed

The two requirements kind of crash head on...

Doing that on a lathe as a repeated production run, with a semi skilled operator, you really want a "Turret Lathe" with a collet Chuck and bar feeder. Set up the stops, parting tool and rebutting tool one time, then it becomes a case of just pulling the levers in the correct sequence to generate the parts.

Small ones of these (size 2B from Ward or Herbert) are available readily in the second-hand market for not a great deal of money, but they're very heavy for their size and single phase ones are rare.

If your workshop would allow it on a size/access/floor loading basis you could buy one used from a machine tool dealer and then pay a local electrician to wire up a VFD to convert the lathe to single phase, this is probably the most economical option.



If you need a lighter, small footprint lathe, then something aimed at the model engineering market like a Warco WM180 would be a good shout.

If you're wanting to pass 1" tube through the headstock* (which will definitely be more efficient, as you could start with much longer lengths of tube stock, meaning less bandsawing prior to turning) that imposes a minimum size limit which still makes for a big-ish machine like the GH600 from the same manufacturer.

*You should never run a lathe with unsupported stock sticking out of the back of the spindle, as it can begin to whip round and become a serious hazard, so you'd still need to cut the tubes down to approximately the length of your spindle and Chuck, (likely 250-400mm), unless you bought a lathe with a dedicated bar-feeder mechanism.

In your position I would be inclined to contact the following four companies:
  • Warco,
  • Chester Machine Tools,
  • Emco Machine Tools and
  • Axminster,
In each case, ask to speak to a product expert on lathes, explain your requirements and ask them to price a package of:
  • lathe,
  • all tooling required for the task,
  • Delivery and Commissioning,
  • 1 day of user familiarisation for the staff using the lathe
And let them know it's a competitive bid scenario!



Moving further towards the "compromised" side of a compromise solution, you could also look at a pipe threading machine from someone like Ridgid or Rothenberger, as these have a cutting and beveling function, there are usually used examples on EBay in the £100-£300 region (new examples are disproportionately expensive, and dont make financial sense compared to a new lathe).



Finally, on the noise front, whilst all of those machine options are pretty quiet when running in and of themselves, cutting brass with a parting tool is notoriously noisy, and cutting hollow tube is only going to amplify that.
 

Rorschach

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Something to bear in mind with using a lathe. For a high speed repetitive operation like this it will be essential to have a lathe with a clutch and ideally a brake as well.

The collet chuck will need to be a fast acting type as well such as a 5C with closer. My own personal preference for collet is ER type but they are slow to use.
 

Cheshirechappie

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Most metal stockholders offer a cutting service. If you talk to your supplier, they may well be able to supply brass tube in lengths to your requirement, by the thousand if needs be. Ask them about deburring, as well. If your current supplier can't or won't, shop around.

Not really much point in buying a multi-purpose machine such as a lathe, even a cheap bench lathe, just for one function. It's capital tied up and space blocked, not to mention operator time used.
 

Jelly

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Not really much point in buying a multi-purpose machine such as a lathe, even a cheap bench lathe, just for one function. It's capital tied up and space blocked, not to mention operator time used.

I'm minded to agree with you on this, but it really depends on what OP's business is like and what their long term business plans are...

If they're considering moving into furnishings with more metal elements going forwards then it would give them a lot more flexibility, and understanding of what a good and bad design for production is when it comes to metal parts.

Equally if they have low levels of leverage and a strong cashflow position, then tying up a small amount of cash in a basic machine tool might not be material in their accounts, and if they're consistently profitable, they will recoup most of the cost against tax as they depreciate the asset.

Finally, and this is the kicker: if they have detailed plans to develop their business via new product lines incorporating metal elements, they could take advantage of FRS 102.18. 8H and capitalise the costs of time spent using it up to the launch of that new product line, as a development activity, allowing them to depreciate the intangible asset over the lifetime of the product(s) to recoup those costs against tax on future profits...
 

TRITON

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I made a bunch of door handles last year for myself. Couldnt get any to suit, so made them. Bit of a job i admit and the brass 'sleeve' bit from a brass tube bought on ebay proved a nightmare to cut square and clean.
Solution was the incredibly cheap attachment for the angle grinder - Cost 15 quid and turns it into a cut off saw.
A bit of fiddling for squareness and such and admittedly there was a burr to clean off in the last bit of the cut, but a handfile sorted that and they look ace.
 

AES

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The only "problem" with the above 2 suggestions is that the OP says right from the start that they want minimum noise (and dust) in the shop (shop neighbours and shop visitors).

Personally, unless there are pretty certain plans to expand the product range whereby something like a lathe can be economically employed, the best bet (still) is to track down a supplier who will deliver cut & finished to spec.

I accept that this option may well be a hassle to locate initially, and there's always the problem of checking stock levels, cost of inventory on the shelf, space, etc . And 100 off is, IMO, a bit of a problem number - no doubt some company would jump at 10,000 off, but I wonder if a smaller company (brass stockholder or jobbing engineering firm) wouldn't perhaps be amenable to, say, 1,000 off - especially in view of the present Covid situation? Dunno, and as said, no doubt a hassle to find, but I'd guess more economic than buying any sort of metal working machine unless you have a very real possibility of employing for - at a guess - at least 50% of your working day.
 

Jelly

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100 off is, IMO, a bit of a problem number - no doubt some company would jump at 10,000 off, but I wonder if a smaller company (brass stockholder or jobbing engineering firm) wouldn't perhaps be amenable to, say, 1,000 off .

As you said that, I had a realisation...

Accu in Huddersfield would probably do 100 off lots, they offer volume pricing deals where you order and pay as you go, but get the volume discount applied so that your overall spend for the year balances out as if you'd made one bulk order.

They seem to specialise in supply F1 teams and other niche applications, but are open to just about anything, really rate them as a supplier.
 

hawkeyefxr

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Look up a company called Dean & Wood, they supply all things for air conditioning, and tools.
There are small pipe cutters there called Imps, they mat go low enough for you. It will leave a small internal bore burr but a de-burring tool will get rid of it, dean a
Hello Everyone

I work at a workshop/shop in East London (www.untothislast.co.uk).
For 15 years we have been making mid-priced furniture (almost entirely in plywood) but have recently started experimenting with metal (brass/aluminum/stainless) for small furniture objects.
Admittedly we are all very new to metalworking - I did a little lathe and mill work at college but that was a long time ago now.

I have an initial question with a follow-up question...

1. How can we cut a small section brass tube 30mm long cut from 25.4mm x 1.2mm tube stock without a burr.
The product in question is a small candle holder and we will need to be making these short sections by the hundreds (please see attached pic for ref).

Our current process:
- Cut to length with a metal working chop saw (and appropriate bade for brass)
- Sand faces clean on lanisher with 400g belt
- Deburr and chamfer edges using internal / external chamfering tools in hand drill
- We also tried tube cutters (turning sharp wheel type) but these leave a substantial internal lip that we then need to remove in post processing so not great.

As I mention we are making these in quantities of 100 at a time and have the following problems.
- It currently takes 1-2 min per 30mm section from start to finish. (too long for us)
- The saw is really noisy and unpleasant to use for long periods and leaves a rough edge which we then need to post process with sanding etc.
- There are multiple setups that is disruptive to the workflow.

2. Secondly, I suspect maybe a lathe with a parting tool is the right way to go? (alternative solutions also very welcome). This should be quiet (important for our workshop) and give a very clean cut.
We don't have a lathe yet. If we were to get one is having a spindle bore wider than our tube stock (25.4mm) important for efficiency in the setup?
I have seen there are material support fixtures for supporting longer lengths on smaller lathes but have read elsewhere that these can be fussy to set up and can mark the work surface.
We would like to avoid cutting lots of sections of short tube before going to the lathe to cut down again as again this would be disruptive to workflow. Therefore a wide spindle bore allowing us to work form 1000mm lengths with the excess protruding out the back of the spindle seems like a possible solution - but this would need a lathe on the big side?
Is there another workaround? Ideally we would like to keep the lathe on the small side (benchtop and moveable - maybe a Proxxon, we have used and like some of their other tools). It is not exactly the most complex operation we are trying to do in any case.

3. Is there a lathe that stands out as a possible choice? I think we would prefer to buy new (we are a business and don't really have time for ebay haggling and other possible issues with used lathes).
There is a Sealy lathe 500mm centers and 26mm bore that looks quite good but is still on the big side for us.

Hope my questions make sense and I haven't packed too much information in here.
Any pointers would be very helpful.

Thanks
Ed

Just seen a TV ad about a cutter that may do what you want, it has various cutting wheels one being a diamond wheel, this maybe of use. You would need to make at small ply table with a back stop to hold the tube in place. Below is the web address.
Home - Exakt Tools Ltd. i am seriously considering one of these.
 
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