What's your Rebar Cutter?
Cutting rebar can be easy or hard. It all depends on how you go about it and how much money you have to spend on equipment. Your investment in a rebar cutter tool will be paid back by savings in labor. The more rebar you have to cut, the more you can justify spending on a rebar cutting tool. In the end the tool has to make you money otherwise it is not worth it.
If you only have a couple of smaller diameter bars to cut you can always bring out the trusty hack saw. Saw through about half way and then break it apart by stepping on it and pulling up. This method of cutting rebar will get old really fast if you have any quantity of bars to cut or if you need to cut bars larger than around #5 (5/8” diameter) rebar.
The next step up from a hack saw is a chop saw. Cutting rebar with a chop saw throws sparks and smoke which can be a fire safety hazard. Abrasive cutting wheels are expensive and the cost per cut compared with other methods is high.
An acetylene torch also throws sparks and smoke. The time it takes to cut with a torch plus the cost of gas makes this one of the most expensive ways to cut rebar. On top of that most inspectors will not allow torch cuts because heat changes the mechanical properties of steel rebar.
A manual lever type rebar cutter is an economical way to cut rebar without throwing sparks because it simply shears the bar. They are outfitted with special hardened cutting blades that can make several thousands of cuts before they need to be replaced. #5 (5/8” diameter) rebar is about the limit for cutting manually. Anything larger just takes too much force. These cutters are often called “arm-strong” cutters because whoever ends up on the lever end must be strong and/or have a plenty of weight to put behind them if a lot of rebar needs to be cut.
Once you have had your fill of pulling down on the lever of a manual cutter it is time to consider investing in an electric hydraulic rebar cutter. Sizes range from small handheld units to portable bench-top models and all the way up to commercial automated shear lines.
For maximum flexibility you can even get models that combine a rebar bender with a rebar cutter into one small portable unit. Some have handles so two people can pick them up and carry them and they plug into standard 110-volts. This gives you the ability to take the machine out to the job site if needed.
Working with rebar is notoriously hard on equipment so selecting a strong durable machine is important if it is to last. Choose one that has relatively few moving parts and is easy to maintain and lubricate. Rebar cutters that turn on and off every time you make a cut are usually powered by a brush type motor. Brushes wear out in time so they need to be checked periodically whereas cutters that run continuously do not have that problem.
If you have to cut rebar regularly and/or your jobs require larger diameter rebar, it makes sense to invest in an electric hydraulic rebar cutter. It will pay for itself and increase your profits faster than you think.