So, you just replaced your tires and you ride is looking good. But now what do you do with your old tires? You could just throw them away, but why not cut them up and make a DIY project out of it. Or at the very least cutting them up will make them easier to transport.
There are many different tools and techniques you can use to cut your old tires up. For the most part, there are two main steps, cut the sidewall out and then you can start cutting the tread of the tire. For the sidewall, it’s as easy as using a sharp knife and dowel. The tread is a different matter though because most tires have a steel belt supporting the tread, for this, you’ll need some good cutting tools.
How to Cut Tires in Half
There are many different reasons for cutting tires. Namely for transportation, recycling, and disposal. Disposal might be the most common reason for people to want to cut their tires. In many areas, the law states that you need to cut your tires in such a way that water cannot collect in them.
Water trapped in tires makes for a prime breeding ground for mosquitos, some cities even require people to cut the tire into four pieces to ensure that no water can collect and provide a breeding ground for the little pests.
Other than transport, recycling, and disposal, many people like to use their tires in DIY projects which vary in complexity. Some people simply cut out one side wall and use the tire for gardening in order to keep weeds out.
Some people buy used tires and make furniture out of them, even making it into a business for themselves. I have even seen, with my own eyes, people make sandals out of old tires.
There are all sorts of cutting methods and tools that can be used to cut and utilize tires. Tools can include knives, saws, dowels, grinders, even improvised tools such as roofers’ hooks and sickles have been used to cut tires.
There is in fact an entire industry devoted to cutting tires. There is a slew of companies that make and sell industrial tire cutting machines. I honestly didn’t know how big the tire-cutting community was until I started writing this article.
But I’m sure you don’t have one of these machines, nor are you going to buy one for your tire cutting needs. On top of that, you don’t need to! You simply need to follow the two steps down below, and you can become a tire cutting master.
#1. Cut the Side Wall Away
Firstly, you are going to want to remove the sidewall. This is the easiest part and can basically be done with a knife and a makeshift dowel, such as a good stick. Start by making a hole in the sidewall close to the tread.
You could do this with a knife, but an easy way would be to use a punch (or something similar like a screwdriver) and a hammer. Once you have a hole you can work your knife in, making sure not to cut yourself. You can use water to lubricate the knife and make cutting easier, this applies to cutting all rubber except when power tools are used.
Once you get the knife in and expand the hole enough to get your dowel in, you push down on the dowel to open up the hole more. This applies a pulling pressure on the area where you want to cut, making the knife cut through the tire like butter.
Follow this through all the way and you will cut the sidewall loose. The absolute best and easiest way to cut the sidewall away is with an oscillating saw and Dremel blade. These things will cut through the tire faster than you can move.
#2. Attack the Tread
The second step is a little trickier, however, you have a wider variety of tools to pick from to get the job done. The reason why this is more difficult is due to the way that the tire is constructed. The tread has a steel bead running through it which gives it support and allows for longer tire life.
If you want to cut the tire in half or cut it into smaller pieces you will need to cut through this steel bead. It is important to note that if you are using a grinder or circular saw, the steel bead can create sparks. Before cutting, you should prepare for any sparks by making sure you have protective equipment such as safety glasses, gloves, and posable nonflammable clothing.
Also, you should correctly and safely prepare the work area by covering and moving all flammable material and positioning yourself and the cutting equipment in a way that any sparks would fly off in a safe direction. Furthermore, keep in mind that rubber can release toxic fumes when melted or burned.
The rubber will most likely give off some fumes if a high rpm power tool is used, so make sure that you work in a well-ventilated area. If the fumes become too much, stop and take a minute to let them disperse.
Once your workspace is secured and your PPE is adorned, you can choose your weapon of choice. Make sure that whatever tool you choose to get the job done, is able to cut through metal. Personally, I prefer a band saw, you don’t even know that the steel is there when using a band saw, as long as you have a metal cutting blade.
A circular saw or grinder with a cutting disk are also good picks. When using one of the aforementioned tools, be careful to not let the rubber pinch the saw blade or disc. This can cause the tool to lunged forward and potentially cause injury.
I recommend firmly securing the tire with something like a vise grip. Rubber will inherently move around so properly securing the tire is important. Finally, once you have cut the tire, be careful when picking the tire parts up, or running your hands over the cut edge because the steel belt can be sharp and cut you.
Reasons For Cutting Tire
As mentioned above, there are a few reasons for cutting tires, namely for disposal and for creative purposes.
Proper tire disposal might seem like a hassle, but it is quite important. Improper disposal of tires can provide a perfect breeding ground for mosquitos, rodents, snakes, ticks, and other pests. Tires are also a fire hazard, though they need to be heated to around 700 degrees to start burning, once they do start, they are hard to put out.
Tires can also give off dangerous toxins, which coupled with burning or being buried can lead to injury or death. When properly disposed of, tires can be recycled into useful objects which would otherwise need brand new rubber. Some common items which tires are recycled into are:
- Rubberized Asphalt
- Barrier Covers
- Sports Field Tools
- Playground Surfaces
- Erosion Control Barriers
There are four basic steps in recycling old tires, other than collection.
- Removal of the steel belt
The tread of a modern tire is supported by steel beads otherwise known as the steel belt. The steel belt is removed so that the rubber can be processed with limited contaminants. The steel is also reused in other products. This step is sometimes skipped depending on what step two is.
- Tire processing
Typically, the tires are cut up into 2-inch pieces which are then treated with chemicals, producing a fine powder or granules. There are two main ways in going about this: The mechanical way grinds the tires into small bits, step one is required for this method to work. The cryogenic method sounds futuristic but is very much real. The tires a frozen with liquid nitrogen and then smashed up by a hammer mill. The pieces are then belted under a strong magnet which collects all the steel bits, which is why step one is not required with this method.
- Screening the rubber
The second last step is to ensure that there are no contaminants. Screening also separates the rubber into different sizes and any other chemical differences.
Once separated into different categories, the rubber is cleaned with water and cleaning solution, and then it is packaged for shipping. The rubber is then bought by companies that use it for new products.
Many people use old rubber tires for different creative ways, most commonly people like to use rubber for gardening applications. Some also use them for lawn ornaments and furniture, and who could forget the good old tire swing.
Whether you are cutting your tires up for disposal purposes or you want to use them around the house, you should do it in a safe manner. Ensure you use protective equipment when cutting and handling. The two basic steps are to first cut the sidewall out and then you can cut the tread, being mindful of metal parts within the rubber.