Traditional Sheet Metal Hand Tools

Updated March 23, 2017

Sheet metal is thin, flat pieces of metal made of steel, tin, nickel, aluminium, brass, titanium or copper. Metalworking is the process of creating parts and objects with metal. Sheet metal is the primary metal used for metalworking, which the pieces are bent and formed with the help of tools. Hand tools are very important in metalworking--users use them to perform some of the procedures that turn simple pieces of sheet metal into objects. Here are the tool essentials.


Sheet metal is used to create some of the most regular and necessary items that we use in everyday life. Sheet metal is also used to create art. Like any other type of art, tools are required to manipulate and shape the metal until a finished product is produced. Many tools that are used in metal forming are hand-held tools because of the discipline that is necessary to get a part constructed just right. To get a product to the point where it is finished, an individual must use several different hand tools to assist them in different processes.

Deep Drawing

When making automotive fuel tanks, aluminium cans or parts for kitchen sinks, the metal goes through a process called deep drawing first. This method is used on parts where the depth is over half of its diameter. Three different types of tools are used for this process--a punch, deep drawing tool and hot tool. The punch is used to form the depth of the object. Depending on the size of the item, either an industrial or hand punch is used. For instance, a small aluminium container can be formed with a hand punch while a kitchen sink needs something bigger. The deep drawing tool and hot tool are used to further form and mould the sheet metal.


Since sheet metal is used to make all different types of parts, the tools used are dependent on the size of the part and the gauge (thickness) of the sheet metal. To cut sheet metal, the hand tools used are call tin snips. Tin snips are used to cut very thin pieces of sheet metal. Tin snips comes in two different categories--tinner snips and compound leverage aviation snips. The handles of tin snips are more like regular household scissors while compound leverage aviation snips has a compound leverage handle. The compound snips comes in two sizes--regular and offset blade aviation.


Metal spinning, or spin forming, is when the sheet metal is rotated at a very high speed to form an axially symmetric part. Examples of products that used this process are urns, motor casings and brass instrument bells. Instead of a flat sheet of metal being used, a disk or tube or metal is set on a rotating mandrel. The forming of the metal is done by hand with the help of rollers and rigid tools. A spoon, a hand metal spinning tools, is used as a way to help form the cylinder shape. It is made from harden metal. As the spoon forms the metal as it spins on the mandrel, regular hand-held cutters are used to cut off the excess metal.


Stretching and shaping the sheet metal is a process called wheeling. Even the largest and most complex parts can be wheeled by very skilled hands. An English wheel and rollers are used by having repeatedly drawing the metals through it. The trick to doing this process correctly is by stretching the metal without creasing. Tools like grips and pliers are used to guide the metal through the rollers.

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About the Author

Tiesha Whatley has been writing for over 10 years. She has been published in "Marie Claire," "Ebony" and "Modern Bride" magazines. She holds a Bachelor of Science in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and has been working in the wedding planning industry for over 13 years.