How to Choose, Cut, and Bend Sheet Metal

How to Choose, Cut, and Bend Sheet Metal

First of all you will need to decide what thickness you’re going to require, this is one of the most important decisions you will need to make. Sheet thickness will be measured in gauges, with higher numbers indicating thinner sheets. You can use a sheet metal gauge to measure the thickness, which will give you a reading in both gauge number and thousands of an inch.

Note: ferrous and non-ferrous sheet metals that are the same gauge will actually differ in thickness, so you will need one gauge for each type.

Bending

This can be a tricky task, but it’s not that hard if you’ve got the right tool. That tool would be a sheet metal bending brake, now these can be fairly pricey and if you’re only a small time hobbyist you can get the same result by using a length of wood, 2 clamps and a mallet.

Cutting

There quite a few tools that you can use to cut sheet metal and each come with their own advantages and weaknesses. Below are some of the more general used tools for cutting sheet metal.

Snips

More commonly known as tin snips, these are a scissor like tool that a good for cutting sheet metals such as brass, aluminium, tin and 24 gauge or thinner steel. There are 3 types of snips that you can use depending on the shape of the cut needed, these are right-cut, left-cut and straight cut and they will generally be able to be indicated by their handle colour, green for right, red for left and yellow for straight.

Hacksaw

Hacksaws are able to cut sheet metal but due to their shape its turning radius and depth of cut are limited. You can help prolong the blade life of your hacksaw by rubbing wax along the length of the blade and for a cleaner cut you can stick a strip of masking tape along the bottom and top of the sheet to stop chips marking the material.

Jigsaw

Using a quality jigsaw with the correct cutting blade and you will make short work of cutting your sheet metal. If a straight cut is required clamping a straight edge to the sheet will make a great guide for the jigsaw footplate to follow.

Nibbler

The nibbler tool gives you a lot of control over your cut but does so at the expense of the cut width. Every cut will punch out a small piece of the sheet metal and then the process is repeated. Nibblers come in a variety of forms, hand operated, drill-powered, electric and pneumatic.

Band saw

Cutting sheet metal with a band saw is pretty straightforward if you’re using a suitable blade. Cutting metal will require you to use a slower blade speed then if you were cutting wood and most band saws have a multistep pulley for changing the speed.

Deburring

After the cutting been done, you’re more than likely going to be left with a sharp edge. You are going to want to remove this edge if you your fingers. You can get a specialised deburring tool for this but again if your only a hobbyist then you can achieve the same result by giving it a once over with a file.

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