Shearing, or die cutting, is the process of cutting metal with a bladed machine, instead of a plasma cutter or laser cutter. If you’re starting a metalworking project and need to know which type of shearing machine you should rent or buy, here’s a handy guide that can help you make your decision.
An alligator shear, also known as a crocodile shear or lever shear, gets its named from its hinged jaw, powered by a flywheel or hydraulic cylinder. The jaw size can range from 4 to 36 inches long, and they can be used to cut long metal stock or scrap, like steel pipe, rebar, angle iron, and I-beams. Alligator shears aren’t very precise, and are usually used when accuracy is not an important consideration. They are also often used in the metal recycling industry, to “clean” or prepare scrap for shredding by removing unwanted fittings that the metal shredder machine will not accept.
A bench shear is a bench-mounted cutting machine that is generally used to cut rough shapes out of medium-sized pieces of sheet metal. Like alligator shears, bench shears cannot do delicate work, and are typically used in instances where precision isn’t necessary. Bench shears are small, lightweight, and yet very sturdy, making them a great option for facilities and garages with minimal space. The cutting blades can be adjusted to make 90-degree cuts on angles, T-sections, and round/square bars.
A guillotine shear, also called a “squaring shear” or “power shear”, works a lot like its namesake: the material is clamped down with a ram, and a moving blade then comes down across a fixed blade to cut the material. In larger guillotine shears, the moving blade may be set on an angle, or “rocked”, in order to shear the material progressively from one side to the other, at an angle called the “shear angle.” Guillotine shears can be foot powered, hand-powered, or mechanically/hydraulically powered, depending on the machine’s size and capabilities.
The smallest, and generally hand-powered, shears include power shears, throatless shears, and tin snips.
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