For any kind and quantity of metal you cut, choosing the right tool is crucial.
However, preferences could drastically affect the type of tool you need to get the job done. It is impossible, for instance, to make a single tool suitable for weekend DIYers, woodworkers, beginners, and industrial contractors at the same time.
Therefore, I have compiled a list of the most commonly used metal cutting tools in any fabricator tool kit.
Find out which one is most suitable for cutting common items like sheets, pipes, studs, etc.
7 Best Metal Cutting Tools
We focused on the most common and affordable ones.
1. Plasma Cutter
BEST APPLICATION: Plasma cutters can work with a variety of thicker materials, making them the best metal cutting tool for industrial and small hobbyist usage alike.
MATERIALS: Steel, aluminum, stainless steel, copper, brass, and all other electrically conductive materials.
MAXIMUM CUT: 2 inches.
AVERAGE COST: $500 to $1500+
Plasma cutters have emerged as powerful tools for metal cutting both at residential and commercial levels.
It works by transferring pressurized gas through a narrow channel containing negatively charged electrodes in the center. The gas is heated by sparking in the channel until it reaches the fourth state of matter. A circuit is formed by applying power to the negatively charged electrode and touching the metal with the nozzle’s tip. The arc is formed continuously as long as the power is supplied and the nozzle is in contact with the metal.
Various metal objects can be produced using this technique, including gates, signage, and sculpture.
Gone are the days when plasma cutters were so expensive. Now, many companies are producing quality products under 1000 or even 500 bucks.
Because of this, plasma cutting has become a trend in the last couple of years. Learn more about plasma cutting in our comprehensive guide here.
2. Sheet Metal Snips
BEST APPLICATION: For cutting thin flat sheets hidden under a lofted material layer, metal snips are ideal for cutting body metal from the edge.
MATERIALS: sheet metal
MAXIMUM CUT: Up to 1.2mm (0.05 inch) or 18 gauge
Shears or aviation snips are hard tools for cutting sheets and tough webs. Sheet metal snips come in sets of three, including a pair of thinner snips and a pair of compound-action snips:
- Straight-cut tin snips
- Offset tin snips
- Vertical tin snips
From the dozen types of snips available, selecting the right one can be confusing. When using compound snips, you can cut thicker material with less effort since they are color-coded as green for clockwise and red for counterclockwise curves.
These tools can be used to replace sheet metal roofing, install metal gutters and drain pipes, and trim HVAC ductwork during home renovations.
However, they result in sharp, ugly, and gnarly edges that require a great deal of work to fix.
BEST APPLICATION: Small cuts in thicker metal. But also handy for cutting plastic in the plumbing and electrician industries.
MATERIALS: Metal and plastic
MAXIMUM CUT: Depends on your arms
The tool features a small-toothed saw with a c-shaped frame with small pins at each end that hold blades and handles on one side. In addition to cutting metal pipes, a hacksaw can also slice straight plastic, rods, brackets, etc. Electricians occasionally use them to cut conduits.
In order to extend the length of the frame and maintain the tension on the blade, a tensioner knob or nut is used. Hacksaws are always a smart choice when it comes to delicate touch.
A hacksaw usually has blades that are 12 inches long, with holes at both ends for mounting them into the frame. Large blades may be used in powered hacksaws and vice versa.
However, it is tricky to use despite its better visibility in confined spaces and its blade tension mechanism. It has a tank-like design, and it maneuvers somewhat like one as well.
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Pro Tip! If you start your cutting with a few backstrokes, your blade will be less likely to skate around your workpiece. It is the opposite when your blade is set to cut during the pull stroke.
4. Circular Saw
BEST APPLICATION: Roofing, sheet metal, corrugated metal, or any metal that requires a straight cut.
MATERIALS: Metal, aluminum, steel, wood, plastic.
MAXIMUM CUT: 3.8” inches mild steel.
The circular saw is a power-saw that cuts different materials with a rotating spinning motion around an arbor using a toothed or abrasive disc/ blades.
A saw is generally advanced slowly across material clamped or held in a vise. In a table saw, the blade is fixed and the material is slowly fed to the blade.
Cuts with circular saws are generally straight but leave burrs on the edges which then needs to be healthy with sandpaper. Therefore, your saw geometry plays a vital role.
Circular saws are known for their simplicity, portability, and efficiency.
Although it’s not usually the first tool to think of when cutting metal, if you’re using the right blades, it’s effective.
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NOTE: Wear eye protection while using a circular saw. Don’t place teeth on sharp surfaces to prevent them from damaging them. Choose carbide-tooth blades; they are expensive but effective in the long run.
5. Angle Grinder
BEST APPLICATION: Useful when you do not want significant clean and smooth edges. An angle grinder with a cutoff wheel can cut rusted bolts, fences, rebar, and other sturdy metals.
MATERIAL: Variety of metals like aluminum and steel. Additionally, it can be used for cutting tiles, stones, mortar, and other concrete materials.
Maximum Cut: 4-inch or higher
An angle grinder is another versatile handheld power tool that can grind and cut metal and can be used for sanding, polishing, and sharpening materials.
A disc or wheel fitted to an angle grinder spins at such a high speed that it grinds, cuts, or polishes material at a high velocity. This is usually between 8000 and 11000 RPM.
Different sizes of disks are available to meet multiple needs and tasks, including cut-off discs, milling stones, abrasive grinding discs, sanding discs, polishing pads, and wire brush wheels.
The grinder comes with an adjustable guard and side handle that allows two-handed operation, and if the grinder’s head wears out, it can easily be replaced.
Usually used to remove excess material from a piece, however, with the fitted piece of disc, you can do endless things!
With its power unit, an angle grinder is particularly good for straight and large-radius cuts.
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CAUTION: During cutting or grinding, angle grinders can kick back when they jam against the material. In addition, you may experience disc bursts due to high speeds, unguarded discs, and oversized discs. When a disc bursts, pieces fly outward and injure workers and anyone nearby.
6. Reciprocating Saw
BEST APPLICATION: Known for demolition and remodeling purposes.
MATERIAL: Metal, wood, plastic, nails & PVC, plywood, etc.
MAXIMUM CUT: 4-inch or higher
Reciprocating saws are one of the best metal cutting tools when it comes to remodeling and demolition of a building.
A reciprocating saw works on the principle of pull-and-push, fabricating the material with a back-and-forth motion of the cutting blade.
When the motor/battery starts working, a piston is moved up and down, pressing a clamp on that piston. This clamp holds the blade, and it is this clamp that allows the blade to move back and forth.
The reciprocating saw blade comes in a variety of lengths and tooth counts. Keep plenty of blades on hand because you will bend and break blades quite often.
As the reciprocating saw has a long stroke, it can cause problems in tight areas, so make sure the blade’s tip does not come in contact with cables, fuel lines, and oil lines.
Working free-handed with a cordless reciprocating saw is possible if there are enough batteries to compensate. When working with a wired tool, we usually choose a saw with a 9.5 amp motor.
In the case of a cordless model, a lithium battery will provide reduced weight, increased runtime, and longer battery life.
Back-and-forth saws can be used for a variety of tasks. With its cutting and notching capabilities, you can use it for your home remodeling projects, your DIY projects involving wood or metal, as well as for demolition and mechanical work.
7. Oxyacetylene Torch
BEST APPLICATION: We use oxyacetylene when it is impossible to cut with fire due to cold weather. Considering the fire risks, lack of accuracy, and the need to clean up the cuts with a grinder, only use torching when making rough cuts or when working with very thick metal.
MATERIAL: Thick metal of any type.
MAXIMUM CUT: 8-inches
Cutting torches have a power cut with two hose connections, one for oxygen and the other for acetylene, and one or two shutoff valves.
Some torches have an oxygen shutoff valve at the hose connection so that a mixing valve can control the cutting torch as well.
With the correct tip size and proper gas adjustments, you’re in the game! Despite being faster and quieter than a knife, the torch requires some expertise to use.
Torch-cut surfaces need to be ground and smoothed to achieve a clean finish. Other advantages of an oxyacetylene torch setup include gas and braze welding.
Torches are best used for cutting steel plates or removing heavy axle and frame brackets.
As oxygen and acetylene tanks come in a variety of sizes, oxygen and acetylene torch rigs cannot be compact. You may find it difficult to justify a small garage if you don’t use it often.
Overall an ideal tool for welding and heating rusted fasteners.
Can I utilize a masonry blade to cut metal?
Cut the mesh with an angle grinder equipped with a diamond blade. Even though we recommend using a diamond blade designated as a ferrous-metal-cutting blade, many tradespeople use masonry diamond blades with great success.
Can I use a concrete saw to cut metal?
This power tool can cut concrete, masonry, brick, asphalt, tile, and other solid materials. Concrete saws are also known as road saws, cut-off saws, and slab saws, which are used to cut steel and stone with abrasive wheels.
What is a diamond blade used for?
Diamond blades are composed of segments impregnated with diamond. A tile cutter can be used to cut cured concrete, green concrete, asphalt, bricks, blocks, marble, granite, or most anything with a base of aggregate.
What is a cutting disc?
Cutting discs are used in angle grinders to cut through hard, thick materials. These discs are flat, thin, and round, unlike DVDs and compact discs, and can be cut through wood, concrete, stone, and metals such as aluminum and steel.
Were we able to include your favorite tool to cut metal? Let us know below!