How to buy shears
A shear buying guide
Sheet-metal shears are specialty tools that features blades which are strong enough to cut through steel. These tools are an essential part of the tool set for anyone who does metalwork, from artists to artisans to do-it-yourselfers.
>> Consider the types of shears
As you learn how to buy shears the answer, you'll find both manual and powered models available.
Manual: Of the many different types of shears, the oldest — and some believe — best shears are manual, requiring only human effort to operate. There are two basic manual shear designs: those that look like over-sized scissors and bench tools. With hand-held shears, you maneuver around the sheet metal; with bench shears, you move the metal around the shears.
Pneumatic: Pneumatic shears are powered like other air tools: by a compressor. Pneumatic shears comes in two basic types: portable power tools and bench models. Pneumatic shears cut through thicker metal with less effort than manual shears.
Electric: Most modern home improvement tools including metal shears are now available in electric models. Electric shears offer almost as much power as pneumatic ones, but you can run them from household outlets. These models usually have a gun-shaped body, although some specialty models are roughly cylindrical.
Cordless: Cordless shears offer the most flexibility for working with metal. Cordless power tools have come a long way in recent years and now offer nearly as much power as electric, and battery life has improved many-fold making them real time savers to own. For many do-it-yourselfers, cordless models are the best shears.
Power scissors: Less powerful than cordless shears, battery-operated power scissors fill a niche for cutting tough or fibrous fabrics, such as carbon fiber or Kevlar. They also save your hands in cutting open the plastic away from "bubble" packaging of vinyl-covered products on cardboard backing. In addition, they can help you cut in a straight line across long lengths of fabric.
>> Consider shear uses
As you learn how to buy shears, think about the types of projects you'll use the shears for. The best shears for one type of project might not be suitable for other projects.
Fabrication: When preparing to do a home improvement project, such as installing air-conditioning duct work, consider a 3-in-1 metalworking machine (shears, press brake, slip roller) to do small-scale cutting and trimming, such as minor HVAC ducts.
Automotive: Automotive enthusiasts, especially those who restore cars, will also find a 3-in-1 metalworking machine, plus a rotary shear and handheld shears indispensable as sanders and polishers in bringing classic cars back to life.
Crafts: Crafters and artists who work with sheet metal, whether to create unique works of art or home and garden projects, will love the convenience of various shear designs in helping them shape metal to meet their creative goals.
>> Which shear features do you need?
The features of shears that matter most as you learn how to buy shears are a matter of personal preference. Two major considerations, though, are how hard the metal you typically work with is and how frequently you'll use the shears. These factors will play major roles in the life expectancy of your shears.
While titanium itself is a soft metal, it strengthens steel as an alloy. Titanium-coated edges on shears can make them sharper and help them remain sharper longer.
The Rockwell scale measures the hardness of metal and determines how sharp a blade can get and how long it will stay sharp. Different types of shears have different Rockwell hardness levels. For example, shears with a Rockwell hardness of 52 will be sharper than those with a hardness of 60. On the other hand, the shears with the hardness of 60 will stay sharp longer than the one with the hardness of 52.
>> Consider shear safety
As you learn how to buy shears, keep in mind that metalworking requires a number of safety measures to prevent injury from the shear blades and the cut metal. This is especially true for all types of power shears, where accidents can happen in a hurry.
Gloves: Anytime you're dealing with sharp blades and edges, it's vital that you keep your fingers and hands safe. Rather than using just cotton or leather gloves, consider using Kevlar or other similarly-coated gloves that resist cuts and punctures.
Work area: Keep your work area neat and orderly. Pause regularly during your work to clear out metal scraps and shavings. In addition to improving personal safety, a tidy work area allows bench shears to remain flat and stable.
Handling: When using any shear design, grip the tool only by the handle. This will ensure that your hands are clear of the very sharp cutting blades in the event the shears activate unintentionally. Be sure to always follow the manufacturer's handling instructions.
Maintenance: Properly cleaning and maintaining your shears will ensure that they last a long time and are always ready to be used. Remove all loose metal shavings from the tool after each use. Clean and oil your tool regularly according the owner's manual to keep it free from dirt and other debris. Store your shears in a secure location.