Angle iron is a versatile steel product that can be used to create just about anything, from furniture like bed frames, utility tables and shelving units, to larger projects like trailer frames, metal building panels and utility sheds. While it is possible to work with angle iron using simple tools like drills to bore holes through the metal and bolts to fasten multiple pieces of angle iron together, it will not produce the best looking or strongest results.
If you will be working with angle iron and other steel stock often, it is wise to invest in quality metalworking tools to get superior, professional-looking results on each of your projects.
Here are a few of the best tools to use when working with angle iron and other steel products:
#1 Welding Machine
Angle iron can be drilled and bolted together, but for the strongest and best-looking results it is much better to weld each joint together. An inexpensive MIG or ARC welding machine should be able to handle all but the thickest types of angle iron, and with a little bit of skill and practice, it is relatively easy to weld several pieces of angle iron together to create complex structures. For more advanced work, it may be wise to consider contracting with a welding or fabrication shop, especially if you have very little experience welding.
#2 Welding Mask
Protecting your eyes is extremely important when doing any kind of welding work. Even a few exposures to an arc without a proper welding mask or helmet can cause vision problems. Some inexpensive welders come with a very basic welding mask that is often a chore to use and offers sub-optimal protection. For increased convenience and the best protection for your eyes, a great choice is an auto-darkening welding helmet, which adjusts the amount of shade as necessary according to the brightness of the arc. They are relatively inexpensive now and a great investment.
#3 Chop Saw
There are several ways to cut angle iron to size when required, including a torch, an angle grinder with a cutoff wheel or a chop saw. If you are doing several cuts in a row, mitered cuts or need absolute precision, the cop saw is the best choice. They are commonly available in 12 and 14-inch sizes with abrasive or diamond blades, and they do both standard perpendicular cuts and mitered cuts up to 45 degrees. If you are doing only a few cuts, a standalone chop saw may not be worth the investment, and careful work with a grinder may be the best option.
#4 Angle Grinder
An angle grinder can be used for several purposes when working with angle iron. With a cutoff wheel, it can be used to cut angle iron to length, create notches or trim a piece to fit perfectly. Standard grinding discs can be used to clean a joint before welding, shape the meta as required or to smooth and clean the joints after welding. For most applications a common 4 1/2-inch grinder is the best choice, though larger projects may require a 7 or 9-inch grinder.
For some applications, a cutting torch may be necessary to cut angle iron to length, to cut holes for bolting or to shape the joints properly. A cutting torch system typically consists of a tank of oxygen, a tank of acetylene, regulators, a pair of connected supply hoses, a torch handle and the torch tips. Inexpensive kits are often available at welding supply shops, hardware stores or online merchants.
#6 Welding Magnets
Welding magnets are handy welding jigs that can hold pieces of angle iron tougher at the correct angles for welding. Some feature 45-degree angles and 90-degree angles, and others offer more options. They make it simple to hold two pieces of metal together at the perfect angle, without using awkward clamps or your hands. They are relatively inexpensive and available in a variety of shapes and sizes.
#7 Chipping Hammer
A chipping hammer is used to clean welding slag off joints during the welding process. This allows the welds to cleaned for better adhesion of subsequent welds or to prepare the welds for a finish coat. Chipping hammers typically include a chisel on one side of the head and a point on the other to remove slag even from tight areas.
#8 Wire Bush
Wire brushes are used to clean corrosion off joints prior to welding and to clean finished joints. It is best to have a variety of wire brushes, including large ones for quick work on big areas and several small brushes of various shapes to clean in tight areas. Wire brushes are also available as attachments for drills and grinders to make cleaning quicker and easier.
#9 Safety Equipment
Safety is always an important consideration when working with any kind of tools. When you are using drills, grinders or saws with steel, be sure to wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from stray sparks and slivers of metal. Cutting metal can be extremely loud, so also ear hearing protection, and use a dust mask to avoid breathing in any dust or metal particles. When welding, be sure to wear a good set of welding gloves and fire-resistant clothes to avoid burns, a welding mask or helmet to protect your eyes, and a respirator to avoid breathing in any dangerous fumes. When using the torch, wear fire-resistant clothing and gloves, as well as cutting goggles to protect your eyes.
When working with angle iron, you will also need the appropriate welding rod or wire for your welding machine, welding gases, if necessary, and oxygen and acetylene, if you will be using the torch. You will also need cutoff wheels and grinding discs for the angle grinder, and blades for the chop saw, as well as sand paper and the appropriate paint or sealant to apply a finish that protects the metal when the project is complete.
With these basic tools, you will be able to work with angle iron and other steel products to finish just about any project, large or small, and many of these tools can be used for other jobs, as well.