Tube notching is used extensively in any workshop that handles tubing or pipes.
While tube notching goes hand in hand with tube bending, the process is not simple. Many people aren’t aware of how it is done.
This article is a detailed guide to tube notching. With the information provided here, beginners can learn the basics of notching tubing or pipes. Even professionals can read this information since we mention many tips people don’t know.
Let’s 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. Notching makes the tube or pipe more usable in different metalworking projects. It also makes joining tubes easier, resulting in better quality joints.
Since a tube is empty on the inside, using force to bend it can often result in it bending or collapsing. Therefore, the process uses specially designed tools to prevent the tube’s collapse.
Without notching, tubes can often have gaps when they are joined together. This results in the need for gap welding and several other secondary processes. The final joint is also weaker when not notched before joining.
These crucial points make tube notching indispensable. Therefore, many methods and machines have been developed. Below, we explain the different options.
What are the Different Tube Notching Options?
There are two ways to notch a tube, with the best way depending on the specific application. 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 or convex shape. Concave notches provide the base for a T joint.
Convex notches are designed to go into the miter, for example, in bicycle frame building.
Also commonly referred to as offset notching, 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. A V-shaped notch is ideal for bending the tube and sometimes for the base of a T joint. A semi-circular notch is used extensively as the base of T joints.
What are the Different Applications of Tube Notching?
Many fabrication processes rely on some form of tube notching machine. For example:
- Bicycles: The bicycle industry relies entirely on notching tubing before welding to build bicycle frames. Both end notching and side notching are used.
- Roll Cages: Building roll cages for automotive use is done using notched tubing pieces joined together.
- Furniture: Notching can be applied to make frames for metal furniture.
- Fabrication Workshops: Many fabrication workshops use notching for various projects. For example, baby strollers are fabricated using tube notchers.
- Handrails: When making handrails, the metal tubing is notched at the end before joining together.
- Gym Equipment: Gym equipment also uses notching when joining the parts of the equipment frame.
What are the Steps of the Tube Notching Process?
The exact process and steps vary based on the notcher you use. But a basic overview of the steps is provided below.
Positioning & Marking
Place each tube in a simple jig in the desired position where the notch is intended to go. Mark two lines at the junction where each notch will go. While marking, ensure the intersection of the tubes is clearly visible.
Before making the notch, knowing the notch angle is important. Most machines are limited in notching angles. Therefore, measurement of the notch angle is done as an acute angle.
A 90° inclination is considered a 0° notch angle by many tubing notchers. So if your tube is inclined at a 60° angle, the notcher will be at 30° (90°- 60°).
Preparing the Tube
If the tube is longer than required, don’t use a notcher to cut off the unwanted length. Instead, use a saw to cut it off before beginning the notching process.
The exact length to cut depends on the notch angle and the tube’s diameter. Once you have figured out the tube’s length, cut it with the help of a saw or angle grinder.
If the notch angle is less than 45°, the exact length will be the length at the intersection plus one-third of the diameter of the tubing. If the notching angle exceeds 45°, you can cut the tube at the intersection.
Using the Notcher
Once the preparation is done, use the tube notcher per the manufacturer’s instructions. Set the two tubes on the notcher at the required notching angle. The following steps will vary based on the type of notcher.
Depending on the method used, the tubing may need secondary finishing. Once the notching is complete, the tubes can be welded together.
What are the Different Types of Tube Notching Machines?
Popular types of tubing notchers include the following:
A hole saw is a cheap, cylindrical-shaped blade that cuts through the tube, creating a circular notch.
The process of using a hole saw is simple. The tube is clamped, and the hole saw cuts it while rotating at high speed in a single pass.
While this notcher is very fast, it can only create circular notches. Additionally, the range of tube sizes is limited.
Rogue Fab’s VersaNotcher
The VersaNotcher is named so because it is one of the most versatile notchers on the market. It can notch not only round tubes but also square tubing, flat bars, and C channels.
Unlike other tube notchers, the VersaNotcher isn’t limited to 90°. This device can notch up to an astonishing 225°. The setup has a safety clamp that protects the operator and the equipment. The VersaNotcher comes with arbors compatible with a standard hole saw.
A drum sander or abrasive belt notcher is a tool that creates a 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 generates sparking and heat at the notch location.
Another downside is that abrasive belt notching is very slow. Therefore, this method isn’t suitable for high-volume notching.
A CNC end mill is usually used to create the notch. This tubing notcher uses a drill-like cutting tool to remove the material at the notched location.
End milling offers highly accurate notches with excellent repeatability characteristics for similar joints. Additionally, this method can create any type of notched shape.
However, the time taken to notch a single tube can be a disadvantage due to the long setup time of the cycle. The CNC equipment is expensive, so cost is another drawback.
Notching dies use precast tools with a notched shape. These dies can be pressed on the tube to create the notch. It is a fast process to produce notches.
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 needs a new set of tools.
A punch press, ram, or hydraulic press is an evolved form of a notching die. It uses a hydraulic mechanism to press the die.
This process has the benefit of reduced labor requirements, fast coping, and the ability to preserve the roundness of the tube.
However, this method also requires new tooling for any variation in tube size or shape. This increases fabrication costs significantly, in addition to the already high cost of the hydraulic setup.
Lasers are one of the most modern ways to notch tubes. A laser beam cuts a notch shape into the tube. It is a fast way of producing notches without restrictions on the tube size or notch shape.
However, due to the complex nature of the equipment, the setup cost of laser notching is very high. Furthermore, working with laser beams that can cut through metals requires many precautions and safety measures.
Which Tube Notcher To Use?
Different types of notchers may have specific applications. However, a notching machine is a means to an end since the end result is always a notch.
Unless you work in a niche industry that requires specific notches, it is best to use a cheap and simple notching machine without compromising on build quality.
The VersaNotcher from the Rogue Fabrication series of tools is the best of both worlds in this regard. With sturdy construction and a precise angle measure tool, the tube or pipe can be notched without deforming the tube.
The product has a lot of useful attachments and size options. You can either use a generic tool with it or go through Rogue Fab’s particular assortment of tools designed for the VersaNotcher.
If you’re in the market for a pipe or tube notching machine, the VersaNotcher from Rogue Fabrication is the best option available. With its sturdy construction and precise angle measuring tool, the VersaNotcher can notch any pipe or tube without unwanted bending. Additionally, the VersaNotcher is a versatile and user-friendly notching machine.