In the past year, Diablo and Milwaukee have each come out with carbide recip saw blades specifically designed for cutting thick metals. The Diablo Steel Demon with “Amped” carbide and the Milwaukee Torch with “Nitrus” carbide both feature thick, high-density carbide teeth with wide gullets (the hollows between the teeth). Diablo’s blades have a bit closer spacing (8 teeth per inch) than Milwaukee’s (7 teeth per inch), but both companies are going for the same effect: increasing the speed of the cut through hard, thick metals. Rob Robillard at Toolbox Buzz did a well-thought-out test of both these blades before they were available on tool shelves, and we encourage you to watch his video review online. Rob and the Toolbox Buzz crew evaluated both speed and duration. The Torch blade proved a smidge faster, but the Steel Demon more durable (more cuts per blade).
The typical applications for these blades are cutting out old cast-iron drains and cutting structural steel and rebar. They seem perfect for residential builders and remodelers who don’t work with these materials on a production basis but do run into them more often than they might like. These blades are pricey—around $22 for a 9-inch Milwaukee, $20 for the Diablo. The 6-inch blades are around $15. These are not substitutes for a metal-cutting band saw, a chop saw with a carbide or diamond blade, a rebar cutter, or an acetylene torch—all of which will be much faster cutting options in production applications. But the new carbide recip saw blades can make these cuts when the cast iron or the steel is in the wall or otherwise impossible to access with other tools. That makes the blades indispensable for renovation work.
I was recently faced with a tough steel-cutting problem—taking out thick cut nails on a floor that needed to be removed so insulators could open up the floor and apply SPF to an otherwise inaccessible crawlspace. We needed to replace the floor afterwards so precision demolition was paramount, but the old wrought-iron nails were proving to be a huge obstacle. They smoked carbide multitool blades that ordinarily work well on steel nails. I could slip a 9-inch metal-cutting recip saw blade under the floorboards by bending it, but this was slow going—upwards of 40 seconds per cut and one blade for about 15 nails. At that rate, I would need about 10 blades and it would take about three hours just in cutting time.
Salvation came from the Diablo Steel Demon. Taking a cue from the Toolbox Buzz crew, I went for the longer-lasting blade. It zipped through each nail in about four seconds, and one blade did the whole job (upwards of 300 cuts). When I was done, the teeth looked unscathed. While wrought-iron nails are thick by nail standards, they aren’t especially thick compared with, say, a wide-flange steel beam. Yet the hardness of the nails was my challenge, and the Steel Demon’s aggressive carbide overcame it easily.
Photos by Elenai Studios.