When shopping for a tool to slice through sheet metal, consider options such as edges (finished or unsmooth), weight (is the tool going to be hand-held or table-supported) and requirements (will it use blades quickly? Does it require electricity?). Further, research whether the tools can cut intricate patterns, circles and edges or if their capacity is for large slices and thicker metals.
Plasma cutters: These cutters ionize the metal to separate it into parts. They must have an air compressor with high capacity. Plasma cutters cut all metals, and leave an edge that must be smoothed. They cut small circles and corners.
Water cutters: These cutters are usually found in engineering shops. They work on a profile cutting rig, so they are not hand-held. Water cutters cut exact patterns with no smoothing edges required, and cause no discoloration or heat distortion.
Laser cutters: These may be hand-operator or hooked to a profile cutter. They are excellent for engraving or cutting intricate metal designs. Laser cutters use an air compressor.
Sheer shears: These shears, sometimes called steel scissors, are not recommended for tight curves; they are better for ducting, light fixtures and thin steel. Sheer shears have to be used with oil or cutting compound.
Throatless shears: These shears are for use in machine shops; they are not hand-held. They cuts a shallow capacity. Throatless shears may require the installation of a foot pedal and light.
Electric Jigsaw: One of the most popular tools, this hand-held device facilitates cutting almost any type of metal. Jigsaws vary widely in price, features and quality. They are subject to overheating and blade replacement. The edges may require sanding.
Stationary Jigsaw: This is a jigsaw mounted under a cutting table, with an extra-long blade. The blade can cause bouncing, noise, vibration and must be supported. Because if its bulk and size, it is less recommended over the electric and hand-held tools.
Fionia LeChat is a technical writer whose major skill sets include the MS Office Suite (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Publisher), Photoshop, Paint, desktop publishing, design and graphics. LeChat has a Master of Science in technical writing, a Master of Arts in public relations and communications and a Bachelor of Arts in writing/English.