How to Cut Sheet Metal Using Different Metal Cutting Tools

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Last Updated on April 14, 2021 by John Patterson


how to cut sheet metal

What is the easiest and best way to cut sheet metal?

As long as sheet metal cutting is concerned, the easiest method is not the simplest of them all.

It requires the right amount of physical effort, proper expertise on tools, and a whole idea of everything regarding cutting sheet metals.

And today’s article is all about providing the one-stop guideline for all of our fellow readers.

Go through the whole piece where we’ve explained different kinds of tools, methods, and scenarios on how to cut sheet metal.

Best Tools for Cutting Sheet Metal:

Sheet Metal Cutting Tools/Machines

There are wide arrays of tools we can use for sheet metals cutter. And each of these tools has its unique propositions. From all of these options, the Framingnailersguide team chooses particular methods depending on what sort of output they want, and how much they are going to spend on it.

However, from a broad point of view, we can divide all sorts of sheet metal cutting tools into these two kinds-

Sheet Metal Cutting Hand Tools

There are tools like shear cutters that are both versatile and easy to use when cutting sheet metals. Among other tools, there is a hacksaw which is also for short and straight cuts. Among other hand tools, there are-
#1. Tin snips.
#2. Beverly shears.

There are a couple of right sides when you’re working with a hand tool like this. First of all, it saves you a lot of time and money. And secondly, it’s a preferable method for beginners who’re not so used to cutting with power tools yet. The wrong side is the level of precision and accuracy you’ll get is too low to consider its professional work.

Sheet Metal Cutting Power Tools

Industrial-grade cutting jobs of sheet metals are hardly done with hand tools that consume more time and provide less output and precision. Therefore, power tools are the only option in these cases.

Among power tools, the most commonly used ones are quality handheld nibblers. It works like a tiny scissor-type snip. There are a couple of jaws that can make a series of cuts to create a line through the metal. And that’s how the cutting job is taken care of.

Apart from handheld nibblers, there are power tools like Angle grinders, heat cutters, laser cutters, and so on.

Sheet Metal Gauge

Whenever it comes to cutting any sheet metal, the first and foremost concern is- how thick the cut will be? And just like wires, the answer is derived in the unit of the gauge.

The tool that is used to measure this thickness is called a sheet metal gauge. It can cut sheet metals both in gauge and inches (fractions). It has quite some variations based on the type of job.

However, as there are two kinds of sheet metal (ferrous & non-ferrous), sheet metal gauges also are of a couple of types.

Some Consideration While Sheet Metal Cutting 

Sheet metals can be cut and processed in countless ways. But as long as professional preparation is concerned, you have to stick to a few convenient methods. And each of these methods comes with some precautions and considerations.

Here is a list of facts that we want you to keep in mind as considerations-

#1. The Project Specs

While choosing one cutting method from many, save the project size, the material type, and the tools available nearby.

#2. The Corner

Corners of sheet metal play quite an important role when choosing the method. Almost every worker prefers the edge to be tight. Because the tighter the corner is, the more versatile it becomes.

#3. The Noise

Almost all of the hand and power tools create noise while working for cutting sheet metals. And when you are working in residential areas with this much noise that will never be an acceptable scenario.

How to Cut Sheet Metal

#1. Tin Snips/metal snipsTin Snips/metal snips

Tin snips or aviation snips are one of the most widely used tools to cut sheet metals. Tin snips and Aviation snips look like scissors and work fine with sheet metals like brass, aluminum, tin, steel (stainless steel), etc.

There are some cuts that you can do with decent tin snips. Such as straight cut/snips, left cut, the right cut, etc. From a wide variety of tin snips, you can recognize their cutting patterns by the color of the handle.

Tin Snips are almost like a beginner’s tool (right tool) to cut sheet metal. With some guidance, one can master an optimal level of expertise pretty soon with a tin snip.

#2. Hacksaw 

Hacksaw for cutting metal sheet

Hacksaws are another non-conventional tool to cut sheet metals, but there are some limitations along with it.

First of all, the shape and type of the blade in a hacksaw limits the turning radius and depth of the sheet metal. So, professionally prepared sheet metals can’t be taken through hacksaw cutting.

However, if you attempt to cut sheet metal with a top-rated hacksaw, follow these couple of tips-
Rub some wax along with the blade of the hacksaw.

Get a strip of masking tape from the top and bottom of the sheet metal. This way, it won’t create separate metal chips.

#3. Electric Sheet Metal Nibbler

Electric Sheet Metal Nibbler

Power slicing is one advanced and effective way to cut items from sheet metal. And the most frequently used tool in this regard is the best quality electric nibblers.

Electric nibblers can be used both as an electronic tool and a stand-alone air tool. If you occupy a sharp blade, they work even better.

The method of working of this tool is pretty simple. There is a punch that keeps the metal under grip until it cuts a half-moon shape from the metal. And repeating the process until the end, you will get your desired sheet of metal.

#4. Angle Grinder

Angle Grinders

Angle grinders are modified versions of regular electric grinding machines. The difference between them is, an angle grinder can cut metal gauges at an angle, and the depth of cut is quite substantial.

When cutting sheet metals with a top-quality angle grinder, you can have more liberty regarding cutting depth. And because of being lightweight and portable, it’s easy to operate as well. You have to sacrifice almost none of the cutting aspects.

#5. Power Shears/sheet metal shears

Power Shears/sheet metal shears

The way power shears works while cutting sheet metals is quite impressive. If you keep a sheet metal in the direction of it and operate, it will chew away the metals and get them into a perfect shape.

However, power shears are commonly used in small shops, and there are some advantages to using them over other tools. As there is no throat of this device, you can use it with more liberty of movements.

Also, it can make some small cuts on the sheet metal and creates a decent amount of vibration. So, you have to deal with the situation if you attempt to cut sheet metals with a suitable power shear.

#6. Electric jigsawelectric jigsaw


Jigsaws or electric jigsaws are entirely accurate and precise when it comes to sheet metal cutting. To get out of this cutting tool, you have to make a perfect combination of a high-quality electric jigsaw and a high-quality machine.

As long as it’s the question of achieving the right consistency in cutting and turning radius, there are hardly any competitors of this tool. On the other hand, the result can be quite frustrating if you fail to imply the right blade on the jaw.

Electric jigsaws are throat-less in design, and therefore, you can keep some variations.

#7. Sheet Metal Nibbler

Sheet Metal Nibbler

Nibbler is another tool to cut sheet metal that’s available both as a hand tool and power tool. While cutting sheets with a nibbler, you may get precise control over the operation. But you have to sacrifice with the cutting depth.

The way of cutting sheets with a nibbler is to cut punches out of a tiny metal sheet and repeat the process until you get your desired dimension.

Apart from hand nibbler, there are electric nibbler, drill-powered nibbler, and pneumatic nibblers, and so on. All you need is to find the best nibblers for your sheet metal cutting projects.

#8. Oxygen / Acetylene Torch

Oxygen Acetylene Torch

Quality Gas torches are a great tool to cut sheets as long as you desire superb efficiency. The immense amount of heat produced by burning the gas melts the metal down, and it works even in areas where it’s hard to hand-reach.

The kind of torch we are talking about is portable, so you don’t have any type of back to deal with them. But if you consider the expense of cutting with this tool, that would be higher than almost any of the other methods.

#9. Plasma Cutting Torch

Plasma Cutting Torch

Apart from oxidizing with heat, there is another way of melting down metals into their melting point, and that’s called ionizing. The valuable tool that we were talking about was oxidizing with gas, and this time we’re talking about a tool that can ionize sheet metals. It’s called the plasma torch.

One of the most exceptional facts about a good plasma torch is, you can cut almost any kind of sheet metal to turn them into custom metal pieces. But a couple of problems also come with the process. Firstly, it produces a tremendous amount of spark. And secondly, it leaves the cut metals with sharp edges. So you need to smoothen them up once done.

#10. Plasma


Another modern form of cutting using plasma flames is the plasma bed. Comparing to the other kind of industrial cutting techniques, this is comparatively cheaper and slower. But if you want to get away within a low budget, this is an excellent fit we guess.

The setup is a top-quality plasma torch that is mounted on the electronic gantry. And almost all kinds of metal sheets can be dealt with this tool.

#11. Water Jet

Water Jet

The water jet is quite an exciting way to cut sheet metals. It’s formed with a tiny layer of water that contains abrasive and sharp materials. The pressure of this water flow is insane, and that’s the reason it can cut metal sheets right away.

Having a smooth and consistent edge seems to be a problem in most of the cutting methods. But with a decent water jet method, it’s no more a problem. It leaves a very high level of accuracy in the cut. Also, they are safe to handle, and the method can be applied to almost any kind of metal.

Unlike some other methods, there is no chemical abrasion or residue in this process. So, you can call it a simple process of cutting sheet metal as well.

#12. Punch Press

Punch Press

If you are likely to cut sheet metal in a particular size and shape, almost no process will work out but a few methods like the punch, press, etc.

With a suitable punch press, you can metal sheets as per geometrical shapes and can occupy numerous tools for this particular type of cutting. The process seems not to be so fast, but as extended precision and specialty in cutting are concerned, we can sacrifice the speed.

To create shapes and impressions like jogs, louvers, beads, and some more that is impossible to develop with laser cutting, this method is used globally. Also, the cutting cost is cheaper compared to complex and complicated laser cutting.

#13. Lasers (Sheet Metal Laser Cutting)


One of the fastest most precise sheet metal cutting methods is to cut with high power laser. There are modern laser machines available that can cut and format automatically once you set the track.

The speed and orientation of cutting with laser tools are limited within 2D. So, the geometric cut is quite hard to do in this case. Also, a laser cutting method doesn’t involve any physical cutting device. To achieve a precise and smooth finish is entirely possible in this case.


How you will be cutting sheet metal with Dremel?

How to cut sheet metal with dremel

Answer: Dremel multi-tool is also known as MultiPro, and you need these few tools to cut sheet metals with it-
#1. Dremel MultiPro rotary tool kit.
#2. Dremel cutting wheel attachment.
#3. Low adhesive tape.
#4. Pencil.

Once you get the tools in hand, follow these steps-
Step 1: Loosen up the drill head with the provided wrench. Install one of the cutoff ⅛” cutters.
Step 2: Mark the cut line with adhesive tape and draw your cut lines.
Step 3: Place the Dremel cutter on the cutting line perpendicularly to the sheet metal. Hold the tool tight.
Step 4: Set the rotation speed to 2000 RPM and start the machine. Take the cutter across the line of cut and don’t force it through.
Step 5: Repeat the process horizontally if you have to.

How to cut 16 gauge sheet metal? Best way to cut 16-gauge sheets. 

Answer: Cutting 16 gauge sheet metals comes with some different aspects comparing to cutting regular sheet metals. Because tin snips get failed after ¼ inches of an attempt to cut. If you try with a jigsaw, it drags the metal sheet up and down. Also, if you use a Dremel tool, it will take hours to do that.

However, there is some special kind of hacksaws that are appropriate for this job. They use to contain a wire-like blade. That might be a perfect tool to cut 16 gauge sheet metals.

If you ask for the nearest option right in your garage without any fancy tools, we will go for a handheld grinding wheel. While cutting a 16 gauge metal sheet with that, use the coarse cut method. And finally, use a Dremel tool for cleaning it up.

How to cut a round hole in the sheet metal?

Answer: Holes have a great significance as long as various uses of sheet metals are concerned. As an example, they help in mounting parts, routing wires, and so on. And if you’ve to learn how to create holes in sheet metal, here is a brief guide-

Step 1: Locate the centers where you will be building the holes and mark the holes with a compass or pencil: Punch-Strike, the center of each circle.

Step 2: Use a clamp to hold the sheet metal workpiece, and start drilling. Also, make sure to mask the sheet with tape. It will help to prevent tear-out and put more control on it.

Step 3: While drilling holes, twist drills are the best kind of options for straightforward operation. Drill a small diameter pilot first, and move towards more massive holes gradually.

In conclusion

Finally, we are at the rock bottom of the long guide on cutting sheet metal.

I hope that all of the methods and broken down processes helped you out to pick up the right cutting technique and the right tool for the proper purpose.

About the author

John Patterson

Hi there! My name is John Patterson. I’m a meticulous guy who loves to deal with the perfect tools for various needs. No matter if it’s a woodworking tool or gardening tool or anything else, I don’t compromise the quality and usability. Since 2010 I’ve been testing different tools for different DIY and professional tasks. Later in 2015, I decided to share my knowledge with the world. I started by answering people in the forums and several Q/A sites like Quora. Then I founded this blog to aid others like you with my knowledge and experience.

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