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On test: Effetto Mariposa CarboCut, December 2, 2008
Carbon fibre... meet tungsten carbide
Fibre composites require special care when cutting to prevent irreparable - and possibly very expensive - damage. Cyclingnews' technical editor James Huang takes a look at an intriguing solution for an increasingly common problem.
Fine-toothed hacksaws work reasonably well for cutting carbon fibre parts, but even the sharpest ones still essentially tear through the substrate in violent fashion and can dislodge fibers if youre not careful. On the other hand, Effetto Mariposas new CarboCut uses a non-toothed blade coated with bits of tungsten carbide to gently remove material with little risk of damage.
CarboCut actually cuts a bit slower than standard saws in our experience but if youre patient enough to do the job correctly and let the blade do the work for you, the reward is a fantastically clean surface that looks like its already been sanded down. This should perhaps come as no surprise because thats exactly what youre doing; you dont cut through the part so much as grind it.
The blade is roughly twice as thick as standard hacksaw blades, though, meaning that most saw guides will have to be modified to fit. In addition, since the sides of the tungsten carbide-coated blade are just as abrasive as the primary edge, heavy users will find that you will have to replace your saw guides more often, too. The upside is that the tungsten carbide material is incredibly hard so youll have to replace blades far less often than usual.
Even so, although the CarboCut saw indeed works as advertised we cant help but balk at the exorbitant US$74.95 price tag. Sure, you get a well-made cast aluminum handle and a high quality steel frame in addition to the fancy tungsten carbide blade (all made in Italy, of course) but unfortunately for Effetto Mariposa, weve used similar blades for years now that can be had for as little as US$4.20 at our local home improvement store (they work fantastically for cutting ceramic tile in case youre wondering).
Those cheaper blades also seem just as durable when limited to use on carbon fibre (over a year of heavy use passed before we needed to buy a new one) and their standard 12" length is more likely to fit in a hacksaw frame you already own than the shorter 10" format that Effetto Mariposa prefers for easier fitment in toolboxes.
Making matters worse is the fact that CarboCut replacement blades are sold in packs of five for US$49.95, suggesting that the hacksaw frame effectively costs buyers about US$65 apiece. Seeing as how these blades last so long, who on earth is ever going to need five of these in one pop?
If the idea of sawing through your new high-dollar carbon frame with a common ceramic tile blade offends your sensibilities, then the Effetto Mariposa CarboCut will allay your fears and satisfy your need to spend extra money quite nicely (those users should also be informed that Cyclingnews will now transition into a subscription service; please remit generous and regular payments directly to the authors Paypal account).
For the rest of us there are other options that do the job just as well but at a fraction of the cost. We'll choose door number two, please.
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Images by James Huang/Cyclingnews.com