If you’re a metalworker or looking to get into the industry, you will not be a stranger to the great nibblers versus shears debate.
Both tools are used to produce clean cuts in metal and reduce damage to workpieces and the risk of injury. So, if they are so similar, why does it matter which you use?
While they may seem similar, several significant distinctions exist between the tools.
So, to help you decide which tool is best for you, nibblers or shears, we have put together a comprehensive guide full of advice. From what each tool is to what it is best used for, find all the tips and information you need here to make your choice.
The Importance of Nibblers vs Shears in Metal Work
An experienced metalworker understands that the job is far more complex than people may realise, and getting the right tool is vital.
Heavy gauge metal sheets need to be cut to precise specifications regularly throughout the working day. Getting measurements spot on is not the only consideration required. You also must ensure the metal will be cut as safely and accurately as possible to maximise output and efficiency.
To do this, you need the right tools for the job, and this is where we can help!
What are Nibblers?
Nibblers are named after their distinctive cutting method, which features a ‘punch & die’ assembly to destroy the material in its path. Just like an actual rodent that nibbles to destroy, let's imagine the nibbler as a metal motorised chewing rodent.
Using high speeds, nibblers cut through sheet metal and spray out small, semicircular chips as the operator guides the tool through the material. For this reason, extreme caution and care should be taken with the off-cuts and containment as the small pieces can be very sharp.
If not properly contained, you can expect the thousands of tiny chips to cause injuries, scratch floors and any surfaces they contact, and even find their way into other machines and electrical systems.
What are Nibblers Best Used For
As mentioned, nibblers tend to destroy the materials they are guided through as a form of cutting. For this reason, we don’t recommend you use them for cutting extremely fine lines. Although, rest assured that the surrounding metal of your cut will remain undistorted.
Nibblers are also popular among sculptors and creative metal workers for cutting patterns out of sheet metal. This is bolstered by their ability to easily negotiate tight curves and cut more intricate shapes, meaning they are a preferred choice by experienced operators able to wield them with precise control.
However, this doesn’t mean that curves and intricate shapes are all nibblers are suitable for, as straight lines are also easily achieved. Cutouts from the centre of a metal sheet can also be done using a drilled hole starting point.
We love using nibblers for corrugated sheet metals, as the tool can cut through peaks and troughs of the metal without becoming stuck or jammed. This is thanks to the elongated die assembly that juts outward of the motor housing at a 90-degree angle.
What are Shears?
Shears are a sheet metal cutting tool that makes repeatable cuts with long-lasting durability and dependability. They are available in two different designs, single cut shears and slitting shears, sometimes called double-cut shears.
Single Cut Shears
You can think of single cut shears as a super-powered, industrial pair of scissors as they cut cleanly through sheet metal with no material waste.
The machine features a sharpened, movable blade that rapidly cuts against a fixed blade, or anvil, with the sheet metal in between.
Although the slices created by single cut shears are clean, they can cause the sheet metal to become distorted. This appears in bending and warping of the edges and so is not a preferred tool for jobs requiring the sheet metal to remain perfectly flat.
If you’re working on a heavy-duty cutting task, you might want to consider single cut shears for the job as they have a higher cutting capacity than both slitting shears and nibblers.
Slitting shears are different as they utilise two separate cutters to remove a thin strip of the material as it is guided on its path. This means that as long as they are kept relatively straight, they do not cause as much distortion as single cut shears leave behind.
Unfortunately, slitting shears do not excel at cutting curves and intricate shapes; they’re also not what we recommend for more heavy-duty metal projects.
But, when used for light gauge sheet metals, they can offer a quick and clean cut that will preserve the material's shape, appearance, and integrity. They do this with only minimal wasted material that can be efficiently cleaned up.
Choosing Nibblers or Shears: Next Steps
By now, we hope you have a better understanding of the differences between nibblers and shears to make the right decision for you.
Knowing exactly what each tool is, what they can handle, and their results will help you assess what tool you need for each job. So, once you have put the information and advice here into practice, all that is left to do is find high-quality tools that work for you.
At Cladding Mate, we have a wide selection of Trumpf tools for you to explore. From profile nibblers to single cut shears and slitting shears, you can find it all here in one place, among plenty of accessories and batteries.