If you approach any workshop that handles tubes or pipes in any manner, you will see that tube notching is a process used extensively.
While tube notching goes hand in hand with tube bending, the process is not simple. Many people aren’t aware of tube notching and how the process is done.
Therefore, this article will serve as a detailed guide to tube notching. With the information provided here, beginners can learn about the basics of the process. Even professionals can read this information since we mention many tips people don’t know.
Let us dive into the topic right away:
What is Tube Notching?
Tube notching (also called coping) is the process of cutting a tube at an angle. The process of notching makes the tubes more usable in different metalworking applications. With the help of notching, joining tubes becomes easier and more sturdy.
Since tubes are empty on the inside, using improper force can often result in bending or collapse of the tube. Therefore, the process requires tools to prevent the tube’s collapse.
Without notching, tubes can often have gaps when they are joined together. This results in the requirement of gap welding and several other secondary processes. The absence of notching also reduces the overall strength of the frame.
These crucial points make tube notching an indispensable process. Therefore, many tube notching methods and machines have been developed. We will go through the different tube notching options in the sections to come.
What are the Different Tube Notching Options?
There are two ways to notch a tube, with the right way depending on the specific applications. These two ways are:
In end notching, the notch is made at one of the ends of the tube. The notch can either be a concave shape or convex shape. Concave notches provide the base for a T joint.
Convex notches are designed to go into the miter in applications such as bicycle frame building.
Side notching is also commonly named as offset notching. As the name suggests, side notching is made on the sides along the length of the tube.
As in the case of end notching, there are different shapes of side notching too. Vee-shaped notches are good for bending the tube and sometimes for the base of a T joint. Semi circular notches are used extensively as the base of tee frames.
What are the Different Applications of Tube Notching?
Many applications and industries rely on some form of tube notching machine. A few of these applications are:
- Bicycles: The bicycle industry relies entirely on tube notching before welding to build bicycle frames. Both end notching and side notching are used in the bicycle industry.
- Roll Cages: Roll cages for automotive are made using different tubes joined together after notching.
- Furniture: Tube notching can be applied to make frames for furniture made of metal. Even movable furniture like baby strollers utilizes tube notchers.
- Fabrication Workshops: Tube notching is utilized in any workshop dealing with metal fabrication projects.
- Handrails: When making handrails, the metal tubing is always notched the the end before joining together.
- Gym Equipment: Gym equipment also makes use of notching when joining the pipes of the equipment frame.
What are the Steps of the Tube Notching Process?
The exact process and steps of tube notching can vary based on the notcher you use. Therefore, you can read the basic overview of the steps here.
Place the tubes in the position where they are intended to go. Mark the tubes at the junction where the notch will go. While marking, it is important to be in a position where the intersection of the tubes is clearly visible.
Before making the notch, knowing the notch angle is important. Most machines are limited to 90-degree notching angle. Therefore, the measurement of notch angle is done as an acute angle.
A 90° perpendicular inclination is considered to be a 0° notching angle in many tubing notchers. So if your tubes are inclined at a 60° angle, the notcher will be at 30° (90°-60°).
If the tube length is longer than the requirement, don’t use a notcher to cut off the extra length. Instead, you will have to cut out some of the extra lengths before beginning the notching process.
The exact length to cut depends on the notching angle and the diameter of the tube. Once you have figured out the exact length, you can cut it with the help of an angle grinder.
If the notching angle is less than 45°, the exact length will be the length at the intersection plus the length one-third of the diameter of the tubing. If the notching angle exceeds 45°, you can cut the tube at its length at the intersection.
Using the Notcher
Once the preparation is done, use the tube notcher as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Set the two tubes one by one on the notcher at the required notching angle. The following steps will vary based on the type of notcher, as described in the next section.
Depending on the method used to make the notch, the tubing may then go through secondary finishing if required. Once the notching is complete, the tubes can be joined by welding them together.
What are the Different Types of Tube Notching Machines?
A tube notching machine, commonly known as a tubing notcher, comes in various shapes and forms. Here are some of the popular tube notchers:
A hole saw is a cheap, cylindrical-shaped blade that cuts through the tube, creating an circular fashioned notch.
The process of using a hole saw is very simple. The tube is clamped, and the hole saw goes through the tube while rotating at a very high speed. The notch is usually created in a single pass.
While this notcher is very fast, it can only create circular notches. Additionally, the range of tube sizes is very limited.
The VersaNotcher is named so because it is one of the most versatile notchers in the market. It can notch not only round tubes but also square tubes, flat bars, and C channels.
Unlike other tube notchers, the VersaNotcher isn’t limited to a 90° notch. This device can notch up to an astonishing 225°. The setup has a safety clamp that protects the operator and the equipment.
It is compatible with a standard hole saw on standard arbors. The arbors come complimentary with the machine itself.
A drum sander is also known as an abrasive belt notcher. This tool creates the notch using friction, similar to the action of sandpaper on wood.
Since the notch is created by sanding, the process produces a lot of metal dust. It also creates sparking and heat at the notch location.
Another downside is that the abrasive belt notching is very slow. Therefore, large quantity of tubes cannot be notched with this method.
The end mill is usually controlled by a CNC machine to create the notch. This process uses a drill-like cutting tool to remove the material at the notched location.
End milling offers highly accurate notches with a very good repeatability characteristic. Additionally, this method can create any type of notched shape.
However, the time taken to notch a single tube can be high due to the long setup time of the cycle. The equipment and CNC machine is very expensive, so cost is another drawback.
Notching dies use precast tooling where the dies have the notched shape. These dies can be pressed on the tube to create the notch. It is a very fast process to create a notch.
However, since the dies are precast with the shape, each die can only create a notch of one size and shape. For any variation in size or design, the process requires a new set of tooling.
Punch press, ram, or hydraulic press is an evolved form of the notching die. It uses a hydraulic mechanism to press the die on the tubes.
This process has the benefit of reduced labor requirements, fast coping, and ability to preserve the roundness of the tube.
However, as in the case of the previous method, this method too requires new tooling for any variation in the tube size or shape. This increases the process cost significantly, in addition to the already high cost of the hydraulic setup.
Lasers are one of the most modern ways to get notched tubes. It uses a laser beam to cut the tube into a notch shape. It is a very fast way of getting notches with no restrictions on the tube size or shape of the notch.
However, due to the complex nature of the equipment, the setup cost of laser notching is very high. Furthermore, since you are dealing with laser beams that can cut through metals, it requires a lot of precautions and safety measures.
Which Tube Notcher To Use?
For many metalworking processes, different types of machines can have different applications. However, in tube notching, any machine you use is a means to an end since the end result is always a notch.
Unless you work in a niche industry that requires very particular notches, it is best to use cheap and simple notching machine without compromising on build quality.
The VersaNotcher is the best of both worlds in this regard. With sturdy construction and a precise angle measure tool, the pipe gets the required notch without any unwanted tube bend.
The product has a lot of suitable attachments and sizing options. You can either use any generic tool with it or go through RogeuFab’s particular assortment of tools designed for VersaNotcher.
Tube coping is as widely applicable as tube bending itself. Any project that deals with metal tubes will require these two machines as a must-have.
Once the tubing is notched, they can then be joined together by TIG welding. The result is a sturdy joint that can handle anything you throw at it.