It's nasty and rusty
Squaring a Piece of Salvage Steel

© Frank Ford, 2009; Photos by FF


A couple of years ago I found this sizeable hunk of mystery steel lying in the road. It's about a foot long and a nice big hex size, but rusted half to death. Today I thought I'd use a bit of it for a small project were I needed a thick-ish rectangular piece.


One thing I learned the hard way is to test such material before I commit to using any machine on it and potentially destroying a cutting tool. Now I check any unknown piece by cutting into it with a hacksaw:

If it cuts reasonably easily, I might use it. If the blade skates, I have another doorstop.


I roughed it out on the band saw, first cutting the length I wanted:

My saw is a 1944 Delta 14" metal cutting band saw, with a simple shop-made gravity feed.


Next, I cut lengthwise to get the rectangle I wanted:


Since it was rough on all sides, I couldn't trust the milling vise to hold it securely, so I selected one side that was a bit concave to go against the back jaw, and I used a round piece to apply the clamping force in the center of the other side:

As you can see in the photo, the bottom wasn't flat either, so I just balanced it on a parallel and cinched the vise down tight. I cut the top face with an end mill to flatten it.


Once I achieved a single flat surface I made sure to set up the next cut so it would be perpendicular. I set the flat face against the fixed vise jaw and tapped the piece as I closed up the vise, again using the round slug to contact the rough face at a single point:


Then I was able to flatten the upper face with confidence that it would be perpendicular to the first cut face:

In these photos , you can see the hacksaw test cut on the rusty end.


Another ninety degree roll to flatten a third face, still using the round slug against a rough part, and again tapping the piece down to get a good contact on the parallel:


At this point I was able to remove the round piece and hold the steel "normally" in the vise as I cut the fourth face:


Both ends were easy to trim with the side of the end mill:


Here's the result - a nice piece of steel stock that had been hidden inside a wreck:


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