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I have a table that I want to cut the hollow steel legs down to coffee table height.

These are the table legs I have:

http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/70217973/

What's the best tool and method to do this simply? A hack saw? Some special bit for a drill?

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4 Answers 4

A hack saw is a fine tool to cut fairly thin gauge tubing (which this seems to be). You may want to use a jig of some sort, such as a miterbox, to keep your cut square to the piece.

Tape around the diameter to minimize chipping of the finish. File down the cut edge to remove the burrs from sawing, using a metal file, followed by emory paper.

If there is a finishing cap on the bottom, you may be able to pry it from the cut off section and reinsert it in the shorter leg.

There are alternatives for cutting tubing, such as a tubing cutter (but not especially well suited to steel - save for softer metals, such as copper), Dremel-type tool (small grinding system with "cutoff wheels", basically abrasive disks - slow, better for smaller items), abrasive grinding tools (somewhat crude and messy) and metal cutting miter saws (a bit of overkill unless you have it at hand).

For all of these cuttings (especially motorized ones) use safety glasses! It's all fun and games until someone gets a metal shaving in the eye.

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1  
I used a tubing cutter on steel pipe - it lasted about 10 cuts, then fell apart. I should have used a hacksaw and a jig. –  mskfisher Jul 8 '13 at 17:19
    
I have used a tubing cutter on emt conduit which is made of a decent gauge steel and it works fine. These legs are about 2 pounds so they are probably not very thick steel and I think it's worth trying the tubing cutter. It will give the cleanest cut by far of any method available. –  Philip Ngai Sep 2 '13 at 17:04

NOt as High Tech as Bib's answer but its still popular and only requires a bit of elbow grease.

A hand held hacksaw with a blade designed for steel.

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TIPS

  • The blades sharp edges need to curve/point towards yourself (called a pull-cut orientation). So it will cut when you pull back. Otherwise you will have a really hard time doing this.
  • Apparently a push-cut orientated blade cuts easier as pointed out by AJMansfield
  • The blade should be tightly tensioned and if cutting for an extended time tighten it more when the blade heats up.
  • You can use a metal file to straighten out your edge.
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Have you ever actually used a hacksaw for extended periods in a pull-cut configuration? It actually extremely tiring, and very hard to control over extended periods, plus it doesn't cut as quickly. Pull cut saws are only for situations where push-cutting can damage the workpiece, equipment, or surrounding material. –  AJMansfield Jul 8 '13 at 15:16
    
Oh right. Well I never actually knew you get push-cut blades. You learn something new every day. I shall update my answer. Thanks for the comment –  ppumkin Jul 8 '13 at 15:22
    
There is actually no real difference between a push cut and pull cut blade (except for specialized applications). Most normal saw blades (any type of blade you can just buy at a store) will work in either direction. The important thing is to not drag the blade on the backstroke (same applies to files, actually - most files cut only in one direction, and can actually be damaged if you attempt to file the wrong way). If you have a saw like this one, though, you can only do pull cuts with the tip (it can bend the blade if you push). –  AJMansfield Jul 8 '13 at 15:31
    
One other small mistake - "The blade should be tightly tensioned ... tighten it more when the blade heats up." The mistake here is that some manufacturers supply their own directions, and it is almost always a better idea to follow the manufacturer's directions. Overtightening can actually make the blade more likely to heat up. Plus, if you tighten it to compensate for heat expansion, you need to be sure to loosen it back up when you are done, because otherwise it can damage the either blade or the handle when it shrinks back down. –  AJMansfield Jul 8 '13 at 15:48
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Well we used to buy these blades in pack of 10 or 50 for pocket change. I suppose more expensive ones have special instructions. I would have thought that cutting while pulling back is much easier that cutting while pushing forward though. I must say your comment is quite fascinating as I never saw anybody cutting while pushing forward before; Africa nor Europe. –  ppumkin Jul 8 '13 at 15:58

My favorite technique (if I don't care to load a 12" metal cutoff blade in my miter saw) is have a helper slowly rotate cylinder (works well with large PVC, too) away from me while I hold a 4 1/2 angle grinder with a metal blade.

Start by wrapping blue tape around the leg. The same rotation technique with a pencil will yield a cut line. A tight string is another way to mark.

The usual safety gear: eye, hand, hearing, dust mask.

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Small angle-grinder.

Or failing that, a large hacksaw.

Or failing that, a small hacksaw.

Each will be slower and more annoying than the one before. All will need filing/evening etc. afterward. Watch out for sparks with the angle-grinder.

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Even more convenient option might be a bandsaw. (Chopping type, not upright.) :) –  XTL 2 days ago

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