Hand Tools for Working Sheet Metal

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Sheet metal is designated by gauge (ga). The gauge number is relative to the thickness of the sheet metal and as the sheet metal thickness decreases the gauge number increases. Sheet metal hand tools are designed to work sheet metal that is 18 ga or thinner and they are categorized by their function.

Hammers and Mallets

  • The riveting hammer, also referred to as a sheet metal hammer, is easily recognizable and the most widely used hammer to work sheet metal. It has a distinct shape--the front of the hammer is square and the rear edge tapers to a blunt horizontal line.

    Other specialty hammers common to sheet metal forming are the dead blow, ball peen, mallet and mini-sledge. The use of each hammer type is relative to a sheet metal worker's preferences, as the listed hammers can be used to perform the same type of work.

Cutting Tools

  • There are two types of cutting tools common to sheet metal work and although they are similar, each has a specific role in cutting sheet metal. Snips are the smallest hand cutting tool for working sheet metal and are referred to by the way they cut. Snips are labeled left, right or straight. The labeling refers to the way the metal curls while the snips are cutting.

    The two most common types of shears are bulldogs and pattern shears. Bulldogs have short thick jaws that are designed to power through thicker metal and cut long straight lines. Pattern shears have elongated thin jaws that are made to make curved cuts in sheet metal.

Notching and Bending Tools

  • V-notchers are used to create a V cut where the sheet metal will be bent and is commonly used when making ductwork. Flat pliers have wide flat jaws that average 3 inches wide by 1 1/2 inches deep and are used to bend or straighten sheet metal. Flat pliers are best used on sheet metal that is lighter then 18 ga, as the jaws thin and have little grasping strength.

Layout, Alignment and Clamping

  • An important part of working sheet metal is the ability to properly layout your work. Sheet metal hand layout tools include dividers, combination square, awl, prick punch, tape measure and scribe. Proper layout requires the combination of the listed tools and the knowledge as to each tools use.

    Aligning bends and edges of sheet metal requires tools that measure angles and locking pliers or locking clamps to hole metal in-place for proper alignment. Degree finders consist of two pieces of flat stainless steel; the main block is a protractor and has degrees maker around a center. The pivot arm is connected to the base block on center and swings to determine the degree of a straight bend.

De-burring and Finishing

  • Worked sheet metal that has been cut will inevitably have burrs that can be as sharp a knife edge. A de-burring tool consists of two stainless steel wheels and a handle that has a protective bar in-front of the user's hand. Running the de-burring tool along a sheet metal edge effectively removes metal burrs. Files are used to remove sharp edges from holes cut into sheet metal. Square, triangle and round files are all needed to properly finish worked sheet metal.

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