Removing (lots of) Rusted Bolts

I need to remove about 80 rusted 3/8 bolts/nuts to repair a steel fire escape. The unit itself is in good shape but the angle iron and bolts holding the treads to the stringers need replacement.
These bolts and nuts are really old, probably from 1920. Square heads. Heavily rusted. Some with easy access only from the nut side. I know for sure that none of them will break free with a wrench even if I could get square sockets to fit them. I really don't want to torch each one individually and try to wrench them apart - that sounds like way too much time. The nut splitter approach would be a long day. Impact chisel looks bad too.
Is there any sort of flat blade that I could use in a die grinder to cut a slot through the nut ? I do that with those thin dremel blades in small quantities but there are lots of these. Other ideas ?
Bob
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Get a nut splitter. It will work on those which are not too close to obstructions.
Regards,
John
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You might try weld cutting disks on a 4 " grinder.

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Dan G

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Are they thin ? I have a 4" grinder.
Bob
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http://unitedabrasives.com/current/PDF/CuttingR.pdf
You might also consider leaving the originals and drilling and installing fresh ones next to them.

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Dan G

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Out of curiousity, what's wrong with using a dremel? If it's the durability of the cutting wheels, they have different grades of those. I think the ones that are "fiber reinforced" would get through a decent number of the nuts before needing replacement.
Doug
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<snip>
If you have a roto-zip, they now make a right angle cut-off attachment with disks that are about 3-3.5" dia. I use it to zip through copper pipe in a fraction of the time it takes to use a tubing cutter, and without leaving a burr. It's like a dremel on steroids; much more power, and the disks are thicker so they don't break and last longer.
The nut splitter would be slow going...unless you drive it with an impact wrench. I'll bet that would be fastest if you have clearance and have an air impact wrench.
But if you have the clearance to swing a 2 or 3 lb sledge, one smack on a sharp cold chisel would likely split the nut. Use the kind of chisel with a hand shield, for obvious reasons.
HTH,
Paul
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Ok I've tested my harborfreight nut spitter, it takes less than two turns to split the nut--total time 30 seconds. If I chucked up a socket in a hammer drill even less. Forget using a cutoff wheel--first of all a Dremel tool is way too under powered for the job. Secondly the blade is spinning in the wrong plane to cut a nut without gouging the angle iron in the process. Thirdly you will eat cutoff wheels like popcorn in the process (figure an equal area of cutoff wheel will be used for each square inch of steel cut). Fourthly the time required will be minutes for each nut. Not to mention being showered with hot steel in the process. The pneumantic chisel would also be practical but would require an expensive tool and 8 to 10 cfm of compressed air. A sharp cold chisel and a 2 or 3 lb. hand sledge would (with a little skill) pop the nut and a piece of the bolt off almost as fast. A nice source of exercise, but requires good hand/eye coordination or good health insurance.
I have a 1/4 inch 25,000 rpm die grinder and keep a supply of 3" dia. 1/16" thick cutoff wheels on hand. I have used it to cut a fair amount of steel and the speed of cutting is not one of its strong points. A Dremel tool spinning a 1" wheel would be a joke compared to a 1/4 hp die grinder and I wouldn't think of using it for more than one or two cuts. It soon gets uncomfortably hot to hold.
Regards,
John
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Ok I've tested my harborfreight nut spitter, it takes less than two turns to split the nut--total time 30 seconds. If I chucked up a socket in a hammer drill even less. Forget using a cutoff wheel--first of all a Dremel tool is way too under powered for the job. Secondly the blade is spinning in the wrong plane to cut a nut without gouging the angle iron in the process. Thirdly you will eat cutoff wheels like popcorn in the process (figure an equal area of cutoff wheel will be used for each square inch of steel cut). Fourthly the time required will be minutes for each nut. Not to mention being showered with hot steel in the process. The pneumantic chisel would also be practical but would require an expensive tool and 8 to 10 cfm of compressed air. A sharp cold chisel and a 2 or 3 lb. hand sledge would (with a little skill) pop the nut and a piece of the bolt off almost as fast. A nice source of exercise, but requires good hand/eye coordination or good health insurance.
I have a 1/4 inch 25,000 rpm die grinder and keep a supply of 3" dia. 1/16" thick cutoff wheels on hand. I have used it to cut a fair amount of steel and the speed of cutting is not one of its strong points. A Dremel tool spinning a 1" wheel would be a joke compared to a 1/4 hp die grinder and I wouldn't think of using it for more than one or two cuts. It soon gets uncomfortably hot to hold.
Regards,
John
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knuckles, and money to rebuild this thing, have you asked your insurance company and local fire inspector for input? 80-year old metal assemblies like this can look fine, but old welds or formed corners can shear right off with sudden stress loads or the heat of a fire. Even if the steel is perfect, the operating design and specs may not meet current code in your area. Even if the old design is grandfathered, if heaven forbid there is a fire, and a fire escape <you> rebuilt fails, the inevitable lawsuit may come after you. I'm no expert, and IANAL, but every insurance company and FD I have ever dealt with is more than happy to help with stuff like this, because it makes life safer and cheaper for THEM. Who knows- going to a modern fire escape could even lower your insurance rates enough to pay a chunk of the up-front costs. It doesn't cost anything to call and ask.
aem sends....
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wouldnt a sazzall work on the ones that are used as hinges ect. where you could get between the two pieces that are being held by the bolt. even alot that arent ,get a good saw/milwakee ect. and a few extra blades cpl long ones / look for some thing that says for rescue, work what they use to get you out of the car ect. and go to work , and the few that you cant get the cold shissel and hammer should work fine. I find you can get most anything apart with a sazzall you can get them all this way if you arent worried about roughing the surface around the bolts.also get a good long drift pin to knock them out when the heads are off.

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'nuther Bob < wrote:

Cheap angle grinder, 2 lb ball-peen hammer and drift punch. Don't worry about mangling the bolts. At 80+ years, with this critical an application, it's best to replace them with new, automotive grade 5 or higher fasteners.
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arte says rusted bolts are a part o f too much crack
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'nuther Bob < writes:

Really big bolt cutters, if they can reach.
Hydraulic nut splitter, if you must have a power tool.
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There isn't always a easy way to do a job. If you have access to a large air supply then use a large air chisel with a sharp flat blade. It should make quick work of 1920 fasteners. DON'T forget the earplugs!
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Use an angle grinder and grind them off. I run a farm, and on old farm equipment I never even try to loosen old bolts. Bolts are cheap and grinder blades are cheap too. If you learn how, you can grind them off without ever damaging the metal. I grind down till only a paper thin piece of bolt remains, them use a hammer and punch to punch out the piece. Either gring off the heads or the nuts. Either works. Of course if you are handy with an arc welder, you can burn them off too., but that can be messy.

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OK... thanks to all for the ideas.
I'm going to try out some of the ideas. The angle grinder cut off disks are cheap enough to try and see how long they last, how the angles work out, how much bolt I have to cut, etc. I have a (hand) nut splitter I'll try, along with a cold chisel. I have a feeling that the old rusty bolts will still be sound under the rust and resist me, but we'll see what works easiest.
I'll report back on the best choice later.
Bob
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