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What tools can I use to get a clean cut through thin steel? Specifically, I have several mini beer kegs I need to cut the bottoms out of. I don't mind it taking a while, but my cuts are jagged (easy to cut myself on them) and it takes me about an hour and a half to get a semi-clean cut to where I don't cut myself.

I also would prefer a tool that does not create sparks, as I don't exactly have a fire-safe environment to work with, but I can always do the cutting elsewhere if need be.

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When cutting steel sparks are always a possibility, there's no getting away from it, unless you use a manual tool like a pair of tin snips. –  GdD Sep 26 '12 at 19:14
Tin snips are what I'm using now, but they are a bit large for the space I have to work with. I've been searching on the internet and I'm finding that I should probably get a Dremel and find somewhere where sparks are safe. –  Alexander Miles Sep 26 '12 at 19:17
I need some mini 5 gal kegs for my home brew!!!! –  shirlock homes Sep 26 '12 at 20:07
Whatever you end up doing, you will likely have to use a file afterwards to get it smooth –  Steven Sep 26 '12 at 20:19
If you have a drill, will a holesaw work? –  mikes Sep 26 '12 at 21:58

7 Answers 7

Plasma torches are great. But maybe overkill for your needs.

I'd say a jig saw with a metal blade would be the best bet.

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a plasma torch would destroy the mini-keg in seconds! –  GdD Sep 26 '12 at 19:12
haha, i feel like any kind of torch would be overkill for my needs –  Alexander Miles Sep 26 '12 at 19:15
+1 for the jigsaw. It's worth the purchase if you don't already have one. They're not expensive and you'll find lots of uses for it. –  RQDQ Sep 26 '12 at 20:32
I agree with the jig saw with a metal blade. A rotary tool will take out too much material and will want to wander all over the place. –  BrianK Sep 27 '12 at 1:35

I would recommend either a oscillating multi-tool or a rotary tool. The rotary tool with a cut-off blade is more likely to make sparks, but the multitool should be fairly spark free. Multi-tool and rotary tool

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This seems to be up my alley, and it's what I'm seeing plastered everywhere over the internet. –  Alexander Miles Sep 26 '12 at 19:19

If tin snips are sufficient for the work, you can get a set of pneumatic metal shears. No sparks, fast work, and an inexpensive tool if you have access to a compressor.

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A Nibbler, is a tool that is used for cutting thin metal. A heavy duty nibbler is usually capable of cutting up to 14 gauge steel. I'm not sure what gauge metal is used for mini kegs, so this tool may not be appropriate in your situation.

Some nibblers work similar to a punch and die, nibbling small sections of the metal at a time (think hole punch). Other versions make two parallel cuts, and roll the scrap material in front of the tool as they cut.

Nibblers come in both manual, and powered variations. Powered version can be powered by both air, or electricity.

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There are even some available that attach to a drill, converting the drills rotary action to a reciprocating motion.

Drill attached nibbler

Nibblers will give you a clean cut, and will not create sparks.

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The Mini Keg is so small, I would simply use a hacksaw blade. Try to go for a nice fine blade edge, and if you can clamp the keg somewhere without bending the sides. then bonus!

Its better to go for the double thick blades which normally feature two cutting sides, then its easer on the hands, otherwise get a specialised pullsaw.

you can then clean off the cuts with a few passes of some 100grit or so sandpaper. enter image description here enter image description here

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An angle grinder with a cutoff wheel would probably be your best bet. Sure, it will create a hailstorm of sparks, but it will cut more cleanly than any other type of saw, or even a nibbler.

There are various sizes of cutoff wheels available from very tiny like what is used in handheld rotary tools, to massive like the ones used for heavy construction. Find the appropriate sized one for your application, and go to town. They can also be used as a sanding disk if you are careful. It can be used to clean up your jagged edges you currently have.

A word of caution, these tools can be dangerous in the wrong hands. You definitely would need to secure the work pieces to make sure it doesn't go flying when you are cutting. Also be aware that the cutoff wheel can kick back and cut you. They can also explode if the RPMs are too high, or too much force is applied. You also need eye protection, and should cut in an area where there aren't any flammable materials around. Gloves and long sleeves are also recommended.

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I'd use a sharp cold chisel (meant to cut steel) and a hammer. I have in fact used exactly those tools to cut the bottom out of full-sized barrels, and with a touch of practice it's just like using a can opener...

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