OK, so I'm looking for a low-ball shear, because I want to cut out some
panels, make one cruddy right angle bend in each one and drill some
holes, and assemble them into a 'U' shape. I'm starting to think that
this'll be cheaper to do in house than to farm out, particularly at
first when I'm making little engineering changes on every part made.
So it seems that all the itty bitty iron working machines from Enco,
Horror Freight, and Wholesale tools top out at 20 gauge mild steel. I
don't know why this is a magic number, but there it is. I may just
spring for one, knowing that I'll be abusing it by cutting thicker
material, but I hate doing that.
Without jumping up from $200 to $2000, is there a tool that will make a
nice straight cut in a 1/16" sheet of mild aluminum?
Initially I think I'm going to buy a $20 brake from Horror Freight and
use a reciprocating saw to cut out the panels, then use a file and elbow
grease to clean up the cut.
Can a power nibbler ($50 from Harbor Freight) make a straight cut, or
will it be a waste of $$?
Your opinions, please.
I like nibblers but they are slow, noisy and operator dependent for quality,
but a plasma cutter works a treat with a guide and a little practice. It
induces very minimal heat and will cut an almost perfect edge that only
light sanding with a flap disk makes perfect and it is fast. I just bought a
very light, 40 amp inverter plasma torch and love it. It uses wall power and
compressed air and you can carry it around on your shoulder.
A table saw. For 16ga material, sandwich the aluminum between two
pieces of Masonite or other sacrificial material. A saw sled will give
you something to clamp the sandwich to and make the operation much
safer, and will help if exact size and squareness is important,
especially on large pieces.
Ned Simmons fired this volley in
I see that, and raise. A table saw with a good carbide blade will cut
everything up to 1" aluminum plate without difficulty. I rough-cut 6061
plate all the time on mine.
It's unpleasant work, though. Wear long sleeves (buttoned up), heavy
eye protection (full mask), and be prepared to earn lots of tiny
blisters from hot chips. (don't wear gloves around rotating equipment)
Why not buy a used shear?
Near California? Ill sell you a 52" hydraulic Pexto shear for $800.
"Obama, raises taxes and kills babies. Sarah Palin - raises babies
and kills taxes." Pyotr Flipivich
For bends not more than a few inches, you can get by with some bits of
hardwood, a vise and a mallet. I've made lots of elex boxes and
chasses out of 1/16" ally (16-gage) with neither a brake nor a shear.
That's a good deal for what it is, but I'm not $800 sure that I'm on the
right track -- I'll spend time dressing my cuts with a file until I am,
and maybe I'll call if I think I'm going in the right direction.
It's not worth a special trip down to LA from PDX, but by June I should
know, and my brother will most likely be down for the Roadster Show. I
may get in touch with you then, he could easily toss it on his trailer.
Unka' George [George McDuffee]
He that will not apply new remedies,
must expect new evils:
for Time is the greatest innovator: and
if Time, of course, alter things to the worse,
and wisdom and counsel shall not alter them to the better,
what shall be the end?
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English philosopher, essayist, statesman.
Essays, "Of Innovations" (1597-1625).
The brake is no problem to build, but I can't argue with $20 from Harbor
Freight when I'm going to be driving right by it tomorrow.
The shear is stumping me for the moment, although I think I can work
around it at the cost of more time, until I either convince myself that
I need to pony up to get one, or I can afford to buy sheared blanks.
If you have the room etc. I suggest finding a used 48" + shear (eg.
Brown-Boggs). Make sure that the blades are in good shape all the way
across, and that the clamp works (otherwise you'll get angled cuts).
Grizzly sells a Chinese knock-off 52" shear for $995. Not sure how
good they are, but they'd have to be disastrously bad not to work on
I don't want to devote the space to that, so I have a smaller shear (a
12" one that cost around $200 6 or 7 years ago) and get the metal
supplier to roughly chop the 4'x8' sheets into narrow (eg. 10")
strips, but I mostly do prototypes in-house and send out production to
CNC metal guys (a bit expensive, but the parts arrive all perfect and
clean and without hassles). Plus the machine is light enough it can be
Grizzly has this similar one for around $300 at your door:
This sounds like a really good deal.
Shears are quiet, quick, generally leave edges you can leave as-is,
and the bits left behind are relatively pleasant compared to the
alternatives (no metal cuttings flying around to short things out).
BTW, shears cut like scissors, one end of the blade starts to cut
first, so the peak force required does not increase with cutting width
(beyond a few inches). That's why clamping is important.
I got one of these for $5 at a garbage sale, a year later i used it. Works
fine but not on thin material. I had to tighten the allens holding the lower
blades before it would cut. works great on 1/8 aluminum.
Because they can use less cast iron and steel to make one than
one for 16 Ga. And that extra weight costs money to ship from China
(which is where all of these you listed come from.)
The DiAcro shears and brakes are designed for 16 Ga. steel --
which just happens to be 1/16" thick (accident of the numbers more than
anything else. :-) They are no longer made (I believe) and you don't
want to pay the new price for them anyway.
How long a cut do you need to make? How much room do you have?
The 24" brake and shear (I have one of each) are easier to find than the
12" ones, though if you haunt eBay for long enough, you can find the 12"
I'm not sure where you live, but here are a pair of them (you
can bid on only one) DiAcro Model #3 -- eBay auction 150300285414.
The reason that it matters is that these are pickup only, no
shipping. Location is: Homestead, Pennsylvania
They *look* like 12" -- but they might be smaller. Contact the
seller and ask -- if you live close enough. He is asking $800.00 for
both, or $400 for one (or best offer, and there are two offers already
with four+ days to go. If you have a choice -- go for the one which has
the cross-bar painted white, as that has the auto hold-down clamp to
keep the workpiece from moving during the cut.
Not your $200.00 -- but certainly not your $2000.00 :-)
There's a #2 (9" cut) on eBay auction #280269874972
Looks nice -- but probably too small for you. Buy-It-Now,
24" shear -- eBay #370089012888 -- $875.00 -- Buy It Now.
All of the above shears should do 16 Ga steel.
O.K. Your elbows will get plenty of exercise. :-)
Which kind? The kind which is mounted on an electric drill type
of motor with scissors fingers, or the kind which is powered from
compressed air and cuts out crescent-moon pieces of metal from the
I'm not sure about the first type -- since it is made for
cutting curves. The second type could work held firmly against a piece
of angle iron clamped to the workpiece. Clamp the whole thing to a
heavy table, make sure that you can press hard against the angle iron
without toppling it, and then cut with the nibbler held firmly against
the angle iron guide. Note that in steel these produce nasty cuttings,
because each has a sharp point on each end, and there are jillions of
them made in a single cut. Aluminum may be a bit less aggressive, but
still cut over a wide spread set of papers or a tarp, especially since
you can't use a magnet to pick up the pieces.
It would have helped if you had put the model number of the
nibbler, so I knew what sort you were talking about.
You didn't tell us anything about width of cuts and depth of bends you
want to make. That would make a difference.
I bought one of the Harbor Freight Beverly-like shears a few years ago
and am very happy with it. I shear up to 16 gage mild steel with it.
If you mark your work out well, you can do nice straight crisp cuts.
The neat thing about this style of shear is that you can do curves well,
too. It ought to do alumimum like butter. They are about $150.
For a cheap quick bending brake, make one from a piece of angle iron.
Example: You need to make approx 90° bends in a sheet that's 2 feet wide---
Take 6 feet of 2 1/2" X 2 1/2" X 1/4" angle iron. Cut out one leg of
the middle foot. Now make a "hairpin" shape, heating (with a torch) and
bending that center section into a loop. This give you the basic brake.
After getting the basic shape, I opened mine back up so I could bolt it
to a bench with countersunk bolts. Then I heated it back up and rebent
it to shape.
To use it. insert the part to be bent from the back side, apply C clamps
to either side of the work and pull down, using a soft faced hammer as
needed. You can see that this isn't going to make professional bends on
heavy stuff, but it may fit your needs.
If the idea sounds useful but the construction details don't make sense,
email me off list and I can take a picture and put it on my website.
If you are going to go with an undersized brake and "abuse" it, try to
get a C clamp with a deep enough throat that you can clamp at the middle
of the machines clamp bar.
I clamped together a similar one from two 40" lengths of channel, ][.
The sheet goes between the pieces with the bend line along one side.
It wasn't neat enough for painted aluminum window trim so I rebuilt
the channel into a brake. Then I found a real Tapco to borrow.
Hammering on the flange tends to expand it slightly and it may be
visibly curved after you unclamp it. It helps to have an extra
practice piece or two.