I want to cut up just a few sheets of metal. The pieces will be no longer than about 18". Right now, I'm looking at thin sheets of galvanized & aluminum, oh, maybe 22 gage or thinner. I want the cuts to be straight, but I ain't building rocket ships, but I want something straighter than I can cut with a pair of hand sheers.
I have a table saw. can I just use that? Are there cheap sheers that do an OK job? Or is going to a sheet metal shop and paying the setup fee for a few cuts the best way to go?
These will cut a straight line with no distortion on either side of the cut other than a slight roughness that can be easily removed with a file. If you have a lot of cutting to do then an electric or pneumatic version will geatly reduce fatigue, but the hand-powered version is a lot easier to control. 22 gage is easy to cut with a tool like this. It isn't fast, but it is easy. It avoids distortion and curving by shearing both sides, cutting out a thin strip that curls up into a little spiral.
I don't know how good the HF version is, but I have a pair like this I got from J. C. Whitney 20 years ago that is still working fine. It was made in France.
Be careful cutting curves: it's easy to snap the blade on curves. Replacement blades should be available.
That looks great. I do have to cut a fair amount of metal, and want to be able to do more in the future. So I'd like to check out the electric version of this, if it isn't too expensive. I tried searching the site for "electric nibbler" (w/o the quotes), etc., but couldn't find anything. Can you recommend a particular tool?
I'd also like to find an electric rivet gun somewhere. The number of rivets I will need to use has gone through the roof!
If you can't get it straight, you aren't doing it right. BTW, do you have "aircraft snips" (wonky looking blades) or normal tin snips (bigassed scissors)? The former are almost impossible for anything BUT circles.
Any deformation can be beaten out on a sand or uphostered bed (aka, chair).
I wouldn't, at least not without an abrasive wheel. There's about 1/2" between teeth on an average blade, making it rather difficult to get even 1 tooth in the cut at any given time... Rumor has it a disposable plywood blade can be ran backwards and do a good job though. In any case, full protection (eye, ear, body, nether regions, etc.) will be required...
I think tin snips are $10 or $20 at Ace Hardware.
If you have a million of these things to do.
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I think that the little writeup below may help. However, I tend to agree with the guy who said that with practice and the right snips (aircraft type), you can probably cut by hand more accurately than with power shears. I tend to work with 18 ga, so power is the way to go. If you go with power, the three bladed type is the style to use.
Hand-held Power Metal Shears Comparison of different styles
What is a Hand-Held Powered Metal Shear? These are portable power tools running on electricity or compressed air. They have a reciprocating blade that cuts sheet metal. Most of these units have a rated capacity of 18 ga mild steel (0.040 inch or 1 mm thick). The price generally ranges from $30 to $200 US.
Why would you want to use one? They cut accurately and rapidly along a marked line These are much less expensive than plasma cutters and do not generate sparks. The cut edge only needs to be deburred to be finished. Since they are a power tool, they are easier on your hand than manual snips. They are faster and easier to use than a sabre saw or reciprocating saw. They are much smaller and cheaper than a foot operated shear. They are probably most comparable to a Beverly type shear, but Beverly shears are hand operated and bench mounted. I was first exposed to these shears in a sculpture class that I took in Mexico. I used one every day in class, and bought one as soon as I got home.
There are two types of these shears, the three blade type, and the two blade type, sometimes called throatless.
The three blade type has two fixed blades, with a reciprocating blade in the center. The reciprocating blade cuts out a strip of metal about 1/4 inch (6 mm) wide, which curls up as you advance the tool. This style is particularly good at cutting large panels in two parts. It does not distort the panel, the distortion ends up in the strip instead. However, these units do waste some material (the width of the strip), and cannot cut a tight curve (less than 6 inch radius). I usually use mine to cut straight lines, and find it somewhat difficult to use to cut curved lines. I use a Kett model KD200 shear of this type. This is a good unit, although relatively expensive, around $150. Don't waste your money on the nibbler attachment, it is very difficult to change from the shear to the nibbler.
The two blade or throatless type has one fixed blade and one reciprocating blade. One side of the cut line is pushed up, and the other is pushed down. This type does not waste any material, since it does not produce a kerf strip. It will also cut relatively tight curves, down to 1" or 1.5" (25 to 35 mm) radius. However, it does distort the panels being cut. When used to cut large panels in half, the weight of the panel and the distortion can make it troublesome to advance and control. Sometimes, to facilitate more accurate cuts and to minimize panel distortion, it can be advantageous to rough cut the panel about 1/4 inch (6 mm) outside the cut line, and then go back and cut along the final cut line. This was the style of shear that I used in Mexico, I think it was an old Porter-Cable unit. I own a Harbor Freight shear of this type, $40, cheap and effective, but I had to do some shimming to get the cutting blades parallel.
Another hand power tool that can be used to cut sheet metal is a nibbler. My air nibbler takes little "bites" out of sheet metal, generating hundreds of sharp shards of steel in the shape of a new moon. It cuts out a kerf about 1/4" (6 mm) wide. It can cut tight corners, but is hard to keep going in a straight line. The cut edge is generally very rough. I understand that some nibblers do not gernerate the sharp shards, instead wadding up a strip of crumpled metal. Good for cutting narrow slots and holes or odd shapes in sheet metal, rather than cutting a piece in half. My air nibbler is made by Central Pneumatic, $50 from Enco.
Each unit has it's place, which is why I have one of each type. I use the throatless shear more than the other two put together, but your milage may vary. I hope that you find this useful in terms of choosing what kind of metal shear to purchase.
I have, in the past, found sheet metal shops that would let me use their stomp shear in exchange for $. Not a lot of $. Their only concern is that you won't cut something nasty that would damage the blade. 22 gauge isn't nasty. Brian, in Cedar
Absolutely! With this blade (the 7 1/4" one), $34.95 + $5 (IIRC) shipping:
It will cut your sheet metal straight, clean, and FAST! I have one that I use on my 10" table saw and it cuts 22 ga about as fast as a wood blade cuts 1/2" plywood. WAY faster than my HF air shears. And easier, too.
And when you're done cutting sheet metal, you can cut just about any other mild steel (I have cut up to 3/4" thick).
Ive got a Pexto 52" stomp shear thats been converted to hydraulics for sale. $1500
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