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Thread: Nibblers vs shears

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Default Nibblers vs shears

    Like the rest of you, I occasionally have to cut sheet metal, usually aluminum, rarely steel. I'm tired of hacking out pieces that look like they were cut with a hatchet, and cleaning up edges in the mill is just a PIA. I can't find the post, but I recall someone saying that they were getting good results with a straight edge and either a nibbler or air powered hand shear. This doesn't surprise me, as I can get a better edge on plywood with a straight edge and my circular saw than I can on my cheapie table saw.

    Horrible Freight has blessed me with a 25% off coupon, redeemable on Monday only, and since I'll be in that general direction, I was going to give it a go.

    Any of you care to relate any experience with this? I suppose nibblers would be better suited to doing curves, but I can't recall the last time I needed to cut a curve. And I don't do enough sheet metal work to justify the $$$ and space needed to own a shear.

    Thanks.
    Definition: Racecar - a device that turns money into noise.

  2. #2
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    I have only used a nibbler once or twice and not for very long at that. It worked great but was a "brand name" (I don't recall which) that worked great for what I was doing at the time. It was air powered sort of noisy and not super fast but very effective.

    I have a Kett power shear like this one:

    https://www.amazon.com/Kett-KD-440-G.../dp/B0000224KA

    Like you, I don't do a great deal of sheet metal work, but this love this thing every time I use it. I happened into it as a freebie as part of a lot of stuff. It will cut curves to a certain extent, but only a pretty wide radius and most easily on thinner material. It can cut fast and it's easy to screw up and veer off your line if you are not paying attention. It has also been handy for other stuff like cutting laminate sheet materials (think Formica countertop and the like) on occasion.

    Again, I don't use it a lot but would not part with it either. For what i do, I think I'd choose the shears though the nibbler is probably the more versatile of the two. I think there is enough overlap in capabilities that either would work.

  3. #3
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    Well, there are tin snips. Get both left and right and keep them sharp. Make sure the waste goes down. Cut near the layout line, then go back and do your final cut. Much easier if the waste is like 1/4" wide. Practice makes perfect.

    Sure, buy some powered shears. Get the kind that is center cutting. If you buy a nibbler from HF be sure to derate the thickness liberally. Try it on 16 gauge steel and watch the cutter snap. Nibblers aren't too bad if you don't need a perfect edge. For example, on a hole where the edges will be covered by a bezel.

    Nothing beats a shear, a corner notcher and a finger brake.

    metalmagpie

  4. #4
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    I use a nibbler regularly to cut sheet metal, usually steel. It is relatively easy to make good straight cut with little or no edge distortion using a straight edge as a guide.
    I use a cheap asian import attachment to a portable electric drill. I have however modified it so that the attachment does not swivel relative to the drill. This mod is described here:
    http://mikesworkshop.weebly.com/nibbler.html
    For fine precision work I have made a bench mounted nibble with a table and guide fence which also works well, see:
    http://mikesworkshop.weebly.com/a-nibbler-table.html
    The only downside to nibblers is the cuttings (or should that be nibbles) are sharp crescent shaped pieces that get everywhere and embed themselves in shoes. At least with the table nibbler they are all in one place but with the portable tool they scatter.
    Mike

  5. #5
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    The double shear cutters have the great benefit over ordinary ones of not distorting the sheet. At the museum, we have a cheap air powered one and a hand one which is better for smaller cuts. We also have a nibbler which attaches to an electric drill, mains or battery. With a nibbler, you need to lubricate aluminium with something like WD40 along the line of cut, and it pays to practice on offcuts before buggering up the job.
    A set of three decent hand aviation shears for the nadgery bits, yellow for straight, green (starboard) for right turns and red (port) for left hand turns.
    Last edited by old mart; 09-01-2017 at 01:04 PM.

  6. #6
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    Get the HF electric shear; https://www.harborfreight.com/18-gau...ars-61737.html
    I have the older yellow version and it does, indeed, cut 18ga. sheet steel (1008) like butter. I have several sheet metal shears; Some nibblers, scissor type and 40" shear. If your stock is generally small and you cut irregular shapes, a throatless shear is handy. If your cuts are mostly straight, the scissor type are easier to control and get a straight cut. If you're cutting larger sizes, get a full sized shear. A straight-line cut on any of the hand held tools is strictly up to you.

  7. #7
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    I also have the 16ga Kett shears. They will cut 16ga but only with some dedicated enthusiasm. 18ga no sweat. I only cut 16ga steel sheet.

    I saw the recent add from HF and they have this 14ga shear on sale. I am within walking distance to HF so I might give them a shot. If they dont cut the mustard Ill walk over and return them.. JR


    https://www.harborfreight.com/14-gau...ars-62213.html
    My old yahoo group. Bridgeport Mill Group

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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by drmico60 View Post
    The only downside to nibblers is the cuttings (or should that be nibbles) are sharp crescent shaped pieces that get everywhere and embed themselves in shoes.
    Because of this, I avoid the nibbler like the plague. If a shear will do what you require, go that route.

  9. #9
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    I have done a lot of sheet metal work for electronic items: chassis, control boxes, rack mounted equipment, etc. Also some other odd items that are best made with sheet metal. I always try to design and work in aluminum but sometimes I have had to work with steel.

    I have tried a variety of ways of cutting, starting with tin snips and hand nibblers. That was extremely hard on the hands, accuracy was not very good, and the edge needed a lot of cleanup with a file.

    One place where I worked got a 30", 3 In 1 Sheet Metal Machine and it was a great improvement for both cutting and bending the aluminum. On top of that I have a good collection of the Greenlee chassis punches in round, square, and other shapes. I even have one that cuts the double Dee shaped hole for a standard duplex outlet. They are very handy for the various cutouts that are always needed for electronic/electric work. I purchased them used on E-Bay in batches and sold off the duplicates individually after sharpening them properly (value added). They are easy to sharpen and I almost came out even on the collection.

    I do have a hand operated nibbling tool but do not use it often. Another thing I have a few of it the hand tools for specific sheet metal cuts. Small hold punches, Vee notch cutters, rectangular notch cutters, etc. They can be very handy when cutting odd features, like inside corners. None of these are from Harbor Freight; I would not trust them to make a good sheet metal tool. The good ones can cost $30 to $50 each, but they do work.

    Another thing I have used on aluminum in some tricky situations is wood chisels. I back up the aluminum with a hard wood, like oak, and cut along the line with a chisel.

    I don't even want a power nibbler. When I get room in my shop I will be purchasing one of the 3 In 1 Sheet Metal Machines for it. That, my punches, my several tin snips, the hand tools, and everything else above usually allows me to make a nice looking piece from sheet metal. Oh, and of course a 12" fine file.
    Paul A.

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by drmico60 View Post
    ....
    The only downside to nibblers is the cuttings (or should that be nibbles) are sharp crescent shaped pieces that get everywhere and embed themselves in shoes. At least with the table nibbler they are all in one place but with the portable tool they scatter.
    Mike
    Not for all types they are not. The round cut type also can leave a horrible scalloped edge that needs grinding down.

    There are ones that cut with a central blade between side blades, and those make a better rolled-up scrap piece. But they do not do such fine patterns as the round cut types.
    1601

    Keep eye on ball.
    Hashim Khan

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