who own and regularly use a portable circular saw for cutting lumber and wood panels are familiar with the fact that there are specially hardened, carbide-tipped blades available that will cut through nails hidden in lumber, many do not realize that these electric power saws can also be used to cut marble, stone, brick and most other masonry materials, as well as metals such as iron, steel, aluminum or brass.
The only thing required to equip a regular portable electric circular saw for work of this kind is to exchange its conventional wood-cutting blade for one of the special abrasive cut- off wheels that are available.
Abrasive cut-off wheels do not actually have cutting teeth around the rim in the sense that a conventional circular saw blade does. Cut- off wheels work by abrasive action. They look more like thin grinding wheels than regular saw blades - and, in fact, that is exactly what they are. They cut through the material by literally grinding their way through, rather than chipping away with individual teeth.
Available from many well-stocked hardware stores, lumber yards and tool dealers, cut-off wheels come in diameters to fit most standard size portable saws - they range from six to eight inches in diameter - and they are usually about one-eighth inch thick. Prices are $5 to $8 in most cases, depending on size. Special arbors are available (often furnished with each cut-off wheel) to adapt them to fit all standard saw arbors, and to minimize the chances of the wheel's slipping while it is cutting.
These abrasive wheels come in two different types: one for cutting metal and another for cutting masonry and ceramics. The metal- cutting wheels are usually made of aluminum oxide particles, while the masonry cutting wheels are made of silicon carbide. In both cases the abrasive particles are embedded in resin and reinforced with Fiberglas to make them suitable for use in portable saws (there is a non-reinforced type that is made for industrial use, but these should not be used with portable saws).
Homeowners will find the metal-cutting wheels useful for such jobs as cutting metal gutters and downspouts or cutting angle iron, pipe, tubing, structural steel and sheet metal. The masonry cutting wheels can be used for cutting ceramic tile, quarry tile and concrete blocks, as well as slate, flagstone, marble, brick and similar materials. They can also be used for cutting grooves in in marble or in concrete .
Because these wheels are actually thin grinding wheels, they are also quite brittle and cannot be bent or twisted, so you have to use extra care to avoid forcing the wheel when cutting. Be very careful to avoid twisting the saw in such a way as to cause binding, as this will almost always result in breaking or shattering the cut-off wheel.
To protect against injury in the unlikely event that careless handling does cause the blade to break - and to protect against flying chips and possibly abrasive dust - the user should wear safety goggles while working. The saw should be moved forward at a steady but slow pace without forcing and with only a moderate amount of pressure.
The material being cut should be firmly supported on a solid surface or clamped in a vise to keep it from moving or vibrating, and when making long cuts one should always try to use a straightedge or guide of some kind to help make it easier to follow a straight line.
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