Cutting Guide

Can Chainsaw Cut Metal? What Material Can Be Cut Through?

You may have wondered if you can use your trusty chainsaw to cut through metal materials for your projects. I totally get the appeal – chainsaws are powerful cutting tools designed to tear through tough materials quickly. Who wouldn’t want to put that kind of cutting force to work on metal tasks?

However, using a chainsaw on metal comes with some risks and limitations that are important to understand. In this article, we’ll dive into the details of whether chainsaws can handle cutting metal or not.

I’ll draw from my experience helping customers find the right tools for metal-cutting jobs to give you the inside scoop. Let’s rev up those chainsaw engines and see if they’re up for the metal challenge!

Can A Chainsaw Really Cut Metal? explained

Chainsaws can cut metal, but it’s all about the specifics. You’ll need a powerful chainsaw equipped with a metallic-reinforced or carbide-tipped chain to get the job done.

Keep in mind, the type of metal and its thickness are also key factors. So yes, with the right gear, you can slice through metal like butter!

Read more: Does Ice Dull A Chainsaw

What Types of Metal Can Chainsaws Cut Through?

I don’t blame you for wondering if a chainsaw could slice and dice its way through steel or iron sheets. Those materials are way tougher than lumber. But as it turns out, chainsaws can only cut through softer, thinner sheets of metal before running into issues. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Softer Metals – Your chainsaw can cut through non-ferrous soft metals like aluminum, copper, and tin. The saw’s sharp-cutting teeth can chip away at these materials without too much trouble. Just don’t expect perfect cuts.
  • Thin Steel/Iron Sheets – With the right chainsaw model, you may be able to cut through thinner sheets of steel or iron. We’re talking 20 gauge (0.8-1 mm) or less. Any thicker, and you risk binding the blade.

The key is that chainsaws can only cut metal so that their teeth can shave away. Harder metals like steel quickly dull saw chains, limiting how far you can cut. Attempting to saw through thicker sheets can overtax the motor or get the chain stuck. So chainsaws do have metal-cutting limits.

Chain and Tooth Design for Cutting Metal

If you plan to use a chainsaw on metal, look for models with a chain designed for it. Here are some ideal features:

Carbon steel or carbide-tipped
These ultra-strong materials resist abrasion from metal cutting better than standard chains.

Aggressive, sharp cutters
Cutting teeth need sharp edges and steep angles to shave off tough metal.

Special rakers
The rakers (teeth that pull chips out) should be designed to handle hot, abrasive metal chips.

With the right chainsaw chain for metal cutting, like the Stihl Cutquik line, you can extend the life of your chain substantially. It’s a worthwhile investment.

Technique for Cutting Metal with a Chainsaw

Okay, your chainsaw may be able to cut thinner sheets of mild steel with the proper chain. But you’ll need some special techniques to pull it off safely and get decent cuts:

  • Secure the metal – Clamp down the sheet to prevent vibration or movement while cutting. Shifting metal can bind the saw.
  • Make relief cuts first – Cut vertical relief slots at the edges of your cut line. This prevents metal pinching that could jam the blade.
  • Go slow – Don’t rush the cutting process. Let the chain do the work at an even pace to avoid overheating.
  • Use lubricant – Either water or special chainsaw lubricants help keep the chain cool during metal cutting.
  • Support the weight – Don’t let the chainsaw’s weight rest fully on the metal. Keep it supported to avoid binding.

It does take some practice to master the chainsaw metal-cutting technique. And even then, the cuts will be rougher than other metal-cutting methods. But with care, chainsaws can manage lighter metal tasks.

Safety Tips When Cutting Metal

Working with a chainsaw and hot, sharp metal requires extra safety steps:

  • Wear heavy protective gloves to avoid cuts from sharp metal burrs. Chainsaw gloves won’t be enough.
  • Use eye and face protection. Sparks and metal shards can fly as you cut.
  • Chainsaw kickback becomes more likely on a hard surface, so be prepared.
  • Wear chainsaw chaps for leg protection as you normally would with lumber.
  • Beware of lung damage from breathing fine metallic dust. Consider a respirator.

Cutting metal with a chainsaw isn’t worth an injury. So gear up appropriately and take your time. Rushing is an accident waiting to happen.

Chainsaw Features for Metal Cutting

If you plan to regularly use a chainsaw for metal tasks, consider investing in a model designed specifically for it. Here are some ideal features to look for:

  • Powerful engine – Look for a high-horsepower gas engine with tons of torque. This gives you extra muscle for tough metal cutting.
  • Added chain tension – A separate chain tensioning knob allows for keeping the chain ultra-tight on an abrasive surface.
  • Long guide bar – A 20” or larger bar gives you more cutting length for straighter cuts on metal.
  • Easy chain access – Quick, tool-less chain removal makes swapping out dull chains faster after metal cutting sessions.
  • Sharpener compatible – Chains dull fast on metal, so find models that work with electric sharpeners for chain maintenance.

While no chainsaw will cut thick steel easily, these features let you get the most out of a saw on thin sheet metal tasks.

Chainsaw Models Marketed for Metal Cutting

Major power tool brands offer specialty chainsaw models for cutting metal:

  • Stihl Cutquik – Designed for steel cutting with a carbide-tipped low-profile chain.
  • Husqvarna Construction/Demolition Saws – Built for tough tasks like cutting rebar or roofing materials.
  • Makita Metal Cutting Chainsaws – Feature dust extraction holes to reduce metal dust exposure.
  • Milwaukee M18 Fuel Magnesium Chainsaws – Magnesium body resists heat damage from hot metal cutting.

While pricey, these purpose-built metal-cutting saws can make jobs like cutting rebar, conduit, sheeting, or ductwork go smoother. Consider renting a specialty saw if you only need it for one project. Either way, use proper precautions since these are still dangerous power tools.

Limitations of Using Chainsaws to Cut Metal

While chainsaws can cut thinner sheets of mild steel in a pinch, they aren’t ideal metal-cutting tools. Here are some downsides to watch out for:

  • Chains dull very quickly on abrasive metal, requiring frequent sharpening or replacement. This gets expensive.
  • Special chains with carbide cutting tips are still dull eventually. Their lifespan is limited.
  • Kickback risk increases substantially on hard, non-giving surfaces like metal. Be extremely cautious.
  • Chainsaws only cut as deep as one tooth, limiting metal thickness. Forget cutting I-beams or motor blocks.
  • Cut quality on metal is rough compared to plasma, abrasive wheels, or oxy-acetylene torches.
  • Intense heat and friction from metal cutting can damage chainsaw motors and frames over time.

Read more: Can You Cut Fiberglass With A Chainsaw?

While I don’t want to discourage you from trying out your chainsaw for small metal tasks, it’s not a long-term solution. For heavy-duty or precision metal fabrication, you’ll want the proper tools made for it. But if you protect your saw and technique, it can be a handy option in a pinch!

As you can see, using a chainsaw to cut metal has some serious limitations and risks. But for occasional light-duty cuts in soft metals or thin steel, it can get the job done with the right setup, chains, precautions, and technique.

Just don’t expect miracles – chainsaws will never replace high-powered plasma cutters or grinding wheels for metalwork. However, their raw cutting force still makes chainsaws useful for specific metal applications.

I hope this overview gives you a balanced, realistic view of whether you should break out your chainsaw for metal projects. Let me know if you have any other chainsaw or power tool questions! I’m always happy to chat tools and help fellow DIYers get the most out of their gear.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens when a chainsaw hits metal?

When your chainsaw hits metal, it can cause immediate damage to the chain, dulling or breaking it. There’s also a risk of kickback, which can be dangerous.

What can a chainsaw not cut through?

Chainsaws struggle with materials like glass, certain hard metals, and concrete. For these, you’d need specialized cutting tools designed for those materials.