There's a huge difference between the desire to save time and just plain laziness. While I have been known to get the two mixed up on occasion, when it comes to any type of metal fabrication, I've grown quite fond of any tool or device that's not only good, but can cut some serious time off a particular process. In this case, the cutting's literal-we're talking shears ... old-school and new
Sheetmetal shearing is one task that I haven't ever been a really big fan of, well, at least until recently. Having some pretty serious arthritis, it's not much fun trying to cut a chunk of 18-gauge with a pair of snips, even if they are sharp. For casual use, tin snips were really the only choice from an economical standpoint. And, for the most part, they did (and do) the job-on my hands as well! Looking for a reasonable solution somewhere in-between the hardware store cutters I was using and a big ol' industrial shear, by chance I stumbled across Woodward Fab's throatless rotary shear while thumbing through the latest Summit catalog I'd received in the mail. If you're familiar with these, then you know how nice they are for making straight, angled, and (as advertised) curved cuts on up to 1/8-inch material (I think cutting that thick will wear the blades down real quick). Best of all, they're under $200. Once I familiarized myself with it, I probably wasted more pieces of sheetmetal than I should've just messing around. For a couple hundred more, you can always step up to a "good" Beverly shear, but that was my problem-didn't have an extra couple hundred. Regardless, for the amount and type of cutting I do, the rotary will do ... just fine.
While not quite as inexpensive as the rotary shear (roughly twice the cost), another time-saver tool I found that works equally well-and much better than snips-is the Excalibur 14.4-volt cordless sheetmetal cutter. Unlike a typical pair of electric shears, such as the Milwaukees shown, these cut just like a manual set in that they don't waste any material in the cutting process. The blades (which can be sharpened) will cut up to 16-gauge mild steel and 18-gauge stainless. Designed and manufactured in Australia for the roofing trade, these work great for light and heavy automotive sheetmetal fabrication. For the money you spend, you also get a charger, extra battery, and carrying case, so when you add it all up, it's not a bad deal.
Still, if money is a real concern, which is for most of us these days, then there's absolutely nothing wrong with the tried-and-true snips. For very occasional use, the Harbor Freight ones definitely do the job. However, for more frequent use and more precision, I've found the Prosnip brand works exceptionally well-far better than the typical hardware store ones from Wiss-and are priced right. I've had my yellows (straight cut), reds (left cut), and greens (right cut) for who knows how many years, and to this day they're still one of the most-used tools I have ... that is, when I'm not using one of my new time-savers to save my hands and actually try to finish a job!
For anyone who does a decent amount of sheetmetal work, it's hard to beat this tool. Woodw
For first-time users, it might take a bit getting familiar with, but all in all, the rotar
Regardless of whether you're right- or left-handed, you can feed/guide material with one a
While my skill level's indeed a factor, I was unable to get nice, even radiused cuts like
The rotary's blades are adjusted with a hex-head cam-if the cam's not tightened completely
Powered handheld shears are great, except if you want them to cut like snips without mater