Air Shears & Nibblers

Sheet Metal Fabrication techniques, questions and help. "Tricks of the Trade"

Moderators: Harold_V, GlennW

Post Reply
Ron W

Air Shears & Nibblers

Post by Ron W » Sat Nov 01, 2003 11:40 am

Mail order house has both Chinese air nibbler and shears on sale. I know that they both cut sheet metal but what are the advantages or uses of one over the other?
Obviously I don't do much sheetmetal work but I'm a tool junkie and I would like something better than hand snips when I do cut the stuff. Anybody willing to help me?

User avatar
Posts: 1046
Joined: Sat Dec 21, 2002 12:14 am
Location: Near Cleveland, Ohio

Re: Air Shears & Nibblers

Post by Jacin » Sat Nov 01, 2003 1:25 pm

Hi, The Air Shear I am familiar with are of the 3 fingered variety as well as the scissor type. My el cheapo 3 fingered fersion has given me many years of great service -(I oil the cutters and motor almost every use) they work GREAT for straight line cutting - will cut a radius BUT ONLY if it's BIG. The scissor type will cut a smaller (not small) radius.
The Nibbler type is a bit SLOWER in operation BUT will allow very tight curves.

So like many thngs each have their place.

Side note when using my 3 fingered type they produce a strip of metal that is WASTED. Usually around 1/4 or 5/16 in width. I KEEP those strips as they come in handy when clamping delicate stuff in the lathe. I wrap the strip around a small part and it prevents the lathe jaws from marring it.

Good luck!!!

User avatar
Posts: 66
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2003 2:13 pm
Location: Des Moines, WA

Re: Air Shears & Nibblers

Post by nic » Sun Nov 02, 2003 12:43 am

They are both nice tools to have, and while they will both will work for doing straight line cuts, the nibbler is better
for cutting notches and detailing around tight corners. Like Jacin says, the shear doesn't like to make corners, at least
inside (concave?) corners. For outside radii, you can just keep cutting the excess until you are close enough to dress
it with a file.
I do have a word of warning about the nibblers too, they seem to break the shearing rod rather frequently. I can't say
for sure whether that's the result of improper useage, or just the nature of the beast. Horror Freight wants $9.99 for
a new die and shear rod. I'm going to see if I can make one that will last from some drill rod that I have.
They operate by driving a rod with a section of reduced diameter back and forth through a die. The material is fed
into the die which has a slot to guide the material. As the rod moves up the smaller dia. section of the shear rod
comes into the die opening and the material slides into it, the rod then moves down and the larger dia. section
traps the material against the die and shears a small (maybe 1/32 inch thick)crescent shaped bit of metal off.
If I had to take on or the other, I'd get the shear and leave the nibbler. I find it to be a more useful tool, and reach for
it about 10 to 1 over the nibbler.

Posts: 275
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 10:47 am
Location: Atlanta, GA

Re: Air Shears & Nibblers

Post by Matt_Isserstedt » Sun Nov 02, 2003 9:10 am

Well heck, just get a plasma cutter and be done!

I've been really, really good ALLL year long!

The beauty of entropy is that it is self-maintaining...

User avatar
Posts: 202
Joined: Sun Jan 05, 2003 9:33 am
Location: Southeast Michigan

Re: Air Shears & Nibblers

Post by Ralph_Monroe_Mi » Sun Nov 02, 2003 11:52 am

In addition to the nibbler and shears there is a new low priced unit available from harbor freight. Check out
metal shear
It's a harbor freight $30 clone of several german and milwaukee shears that run in the $500-%1k range. It's throatless and turns some pretty tight radii. I have used it on 16 gage with no ill effects. I found out about these early in the summer and have used it quite a bit. It's faster than the nibbler or shear and leaves a great edge without the scrap. Heck, at this price buy two in case the harbor freight quality inspection fails. BTW my HF store gives that price if I bring in the printed page.

User avatar
Posts: 1046
Joined: Sat Dec 21, 2002 12:14 am
Location: Near Cleveland, Ohio

Re: Air Shears & Nibblers

Post by Jacin » Sun Nov 02, 2003 11:57 am

Hi Matt,
Plasma's are great, but not necessarily a end all. I remebering the first time I used one cutting some .09" stainless in my garage. The shower of sparkes was so intense it hit every inch of the entire perimeter! And it did so with no signs of running out of speed!!!! Don't get me wrong - I STILL want one, But CAUTION may need to be exercised. Plus the Clean up!!!! I'm not so sure I want to be doing that next to the machine tools <gritty?>- but that's a guess.

Post Reply