Electric hand held tools for cutting metals

Updated July 20, 2017

Without electric tools, metal working projects can be arduous and time consuming, while having the right tools can make the whole project easier and more enjoyable. That said, metal-cutting tools are powerful pieces of equipment and safe handling requires care and experience to avoid injuries and damage to materials.

Sheet Metal Nibblers

Nibblers are essentially a set of fast-moving metal punches that move up and down within a bracket. They are ideal for quickly cutting through sheet metal. The bracket is slipped over the edge of the sheet metal and the motor started. This brings the metal punch up and down at high speed, cutting through the metal. The tool can then be pushed along the cut line, punching a cut through the metal. The maximum thickness of sheet metal they can cut is usually around 1.2mm, though some models may be able to cope with thicker metal. They are quick-cutting, hard wearing tools, requiring little maintenance or replacement of cutting pieces. A nibbler fitting can also be attached to some electric drills. The disadvantages of this tool is that fast use can leave burrs along the cut edge of the metal. Additionally, due to the size of the bracket, cutting must be started from the edge of the sheet or from a large enough hole in the sheet's centre. This can limit the types of cut the nibbler can make.

Sabre Saw

A sabre saw is a small bladed, hand-held saw for precision cutting, much like a jigsaw; however, the tool's body is vertical in line rather than at a right angle to the blade. Most models have changeable blades for use on other materials as well as metal. The sabre saw's advantage is that the blade's thinness allows you to neatly cut tight curves. However, this tool is slower to cut sheet metal than nibblers and creates a lot more sparks. Also, blades need to be replaced fairly regularly to maintain the accuracy of the cut.

Angle Grinder

This is an essential tool for cutting non-sheet metal. The tool holds a spinning disk, usually with embedded diamonds to abrade the metal. .For larger, heavy-duty tasks, a grinder with an electric motor, grips for both hands which plugs in a wall socket is the most useful, while for smaller, precision tasks, a battery-powered, pneumatic tool is more handy. Though using the appropriate guards and technique is essential with all power tools, angle grinders need to be handled carefully, as they will give a certain amount of pull when used and can produce serious injuries.

Electro-Hydraulic Bolt Cutters

Electric hydraulic bolt cutters are especially useful for cutting chain, welding rod, locks, cable and railings. They work in more or less the same way as nibblers, though the action is slow and powerful rather than fast and repetitive. Hand-held models can cut a metal bar up to 1 1/2 inches thick. They are convenient, easy to use and safer than a cutting torch or angle grinder; they don't require a gas supply or hose that gets in the way of the user when cutting.

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About the Author

Will Milner started writing in 2005 for the University of Sheffield newspaper "Steel Press" and continues to write for the Sheffield-based magazine "Now Then." He gained a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from the University of Sheffield.