Cutting Tire Tread Mats from old tires

Many years ago I grew tired of walking through mud to get to my pickup after a rain. I decided to create some tire tread mats from old tires that I had. I started with whatever tires I had on hand. I had a knife edge blade for my jigsaw that I knew was designed for leather and rubber. Saw edge blades do not work well in rubber because the the material is flexible and will vibrate once the teeth grab it and will not cut. I took my knife edge blade and started experimenting and have eventually come up with a process that works. The final act of cutting across the tread was a problem but I finally figured that out too. Steel belted tires have belts that end somewhere around the edge of the tread and you can cut them if you stay far enough down on the sidewall. Otherwise you will dull your knife blade quickly. If you can find nylon belted tires those work best but are rare today. I like to work with a full set as you can get four mats the same. You might try asking your local tire repair guy and he might give you all the old tires you can stand.

The first step is to find a stand where you can work your way around the periphery of the tire. It is easier to walk the jigsaw around the rim of the sidewall than to constantly shift the tire.

You can use any old jigsaw. One that has an adjustable slide plate that moves up and down on the blade would be better so you can get the best use of your blade's edge. But you can manage with a plain jane type.

As your blade dulls you may need to move it so that a sharped edge is in the cutting position. If you can't adjust your slide plate you can break off the old tang and grind a new one. Be aware that some blades are triangular and may sit in the holder slightly cockeyed once you grind a new tang. Another reason to prefer a jigsaw with an adjstable plate.

Start your first cut with a boxcutter or exacto knife. Cut as close to the steel belt as you can. If you get into the belt you will dull your knife blade excessively.

You simply need a through slot wide enough to get your jigsaw blade into.

When you have your cut started, inspect it to see that you are not too far into the steel belt. Heavy duty tires may have the steel belt too far down into the sidewall and should be avoided if possible. Also, too much curvature in the tread makes it harder for the mat to lay flat.

You may have to hold the sidewall up as you finish the cut. Try to stay the same distance from the tread as you cut so it lays evenly. Cutting may feel a bit awkward at first but you should get the hang of it.

Once you have cut both sidewalls out you will have a flat ring. You can set these aside and cut all through later. Cutting through the tread is a different setup and equipment.

The rings have uses as well. Put them around plants to keep down weed growth. You can even cut them through with the next setup and put them around small trees.

If you cut many mats you may wind up with a lot of rings. Friends may want some to put around their plants.

Cutting through the tire tread requires a jig to hold the tread still while you use a saw to cut through it. I prefer a cutoff saw or sawzall to cut it. Your jig needs to be fixed to something solid like a vice or it can be screwed to the side of a work table. You cut a single vertical slit at the top to guide your blade as you cut.

Fasten your jig to a sturdy surface so that it can't vibrate.

Place the tread circle against the jig and screw it tightly to the jig to make it stable. The slit in the jig should be perpendicular to the tread.

Four screws should be used as a minimum. They can be reused many times and I like torx drive screws (deck screws) for positive driving.

I use a standard sawzall type saw with a fine-toothed metal cutting blade.

Start your cut at the precut slit in the jig.

Carefully guide the saw down. The blade should follow the slit in the jig. You will need to keep the saw guide tight against the tread.

Go slowly at the end of the cut. You needn't cut into the jig anymore than you have to.

Unscrew the tread from the jig.

And here is what you're left with.

The mats will lay flatter with time and use. Tires with less steel in the sidewall and flatter treads will lay flattest.