Last updated on March 5, 2021 by qualified builder Aaron Barnett
When looking for the best metal shears you are going to want to pick a cordless tool made from either Milwaukee or Dewalt. Take note that there are three different cutting head types and some do smoother cut with less jamming.
You should opt for a double cut or an offset snip style for your electric metal shear.
#3 Straight cut electric metal shear
Makita XSJ01T cuts up to 20 GA, SS, 18V, double-cut metal shears (kit)
#4 Heavy-duty cordless electric metal shear
DeWalt DCS491M2 cuts up to 20 GA, SS, 20V, double-cut metal shears (kit)
Best corded electric metal shears
#3 High-capacity double-cut
DeWalt DW890 cuts up to 18 GA, SS, 5 amp, double-cut metal shears
#4 Powerful lightweight corded metal shears
Kett KM-442 up to 18 GA, SS, 6.5 amp, double-cut metal shears
#5 The Makita corded electric shear
Makita JS1300 cuts up to 20 GA, SS, 6.5 amp, double-cut metal shears
#6 Single-cut corded metal shear
Kett KD-446L cuts up to 18 GA, MS, 5 amp, single cut metal shears
#7 DIY corded double-cut metal shear
Kett KD-400 cuts up to 20 GA, SS, 5 amp, double-cut metal shears
#8 Another DIY electric metal shear
PacTool International SS201 cuts up to 18 GA, MS, 4.8 amp, double-cut metal shears
#9 Metal shears for thin wires and sheet metal
Grizzly Industrial H5503 cuts up to 18 GA, SS, 3.8 amp, double-cut metals shears
# Fastest stroke for DIY’ers
Wild Edge SEMS5A cuts up to 15 GA, SS, 5 amp, double-cut metal shears
#11 A light-duty option
Chicago Electric 68199 cuts up to 14 GA, MS, 4 amp, double-cut metals shears
#12 High-capacity Genesis metal shear
Genesis GES40 cuts up to 20 GA, SS, 4 amp, double-cut metals shears
#13 Cheap corded metal shear
WEN 3650 cuts up to 20 GA, SS, 4 amp, double-cut metal shears
Most, if not all, of the commodities we make use of today have their origins from centuries back. Many of the power tools that we’ve grown accustomed to and easily carry around are the product of years worth of development of once immobile and primitively-complex machinery.
Electric metal shears, or basically mechanical scissors for metal, if you want to term it operatively, started as big industrial engines that cut metal through bending or shearing. Fast forward to today, and the same concept is still used, albeit made easier and in a more portable form thanks to the advancements in science and technology.
Nowadays, it’s very unlikely that you’ll find anyone who works with power-tools to not have an electric shear. Electric shears are some of the most common tools for cutting sheet metal as well as being among the most common ones used in general metalworks.
Electric shears are usable by both the skilled and unskilled; meaning just about anyone can use them, be they professional or just your standard stay-at-home folk. These tools are a staple for any person who works with metal as they are key in aiding light fabrication which is a staple in the practice and business operations of local builders, roofers, and hardware store owners.
Electric shears are powerful as they allow you to cut straight through steel like a hot knife through butter. They are versatile, simple, and don’t require too much maintenance to keep operating in peak condition.
There are corded variants for bigger jobs, as well as cordless ones that are just perfect for workers who are constantly on-the-go. In this article, we’ll be guiding you through what we’ve ranked are the best shears in terms of performance, specifications, and price.
Features to consider
Benefits of using electric metal shears
Before you buy electric metal shears…
Check the durability.
It’s crucial for you to consider the shear’s build quality before buying it. Continuous usage can definitely do some serious wear and tear on your equipment, especially since it’ll be used to cut metal and other hard materials. Getting a model that can take a heavy load without breaking will help you finish more tasks quickly and efficiently.
Research the brand.
By choosing a model from a brand with a reputation for creating high-quality products, you have a better guarantee that your shears will operate properly. Good brands also offer warranties and great customer support in case the tool doesn’t work as expected.
Purchasing electric sheet metal shears from no-name brands with little to no customer support is usually not advisable and could potentially be a safety hazard if things go awry.
Think about the price.
You don’t need to buy the most expensive model to have a reliable pair of electric metal shears. Although, that doesn’t mean you should settle for the cheapest one either. We all know the adage, “You get what you pay for,” so invest in a good quality model that can last a long time since it’ll save you a lot more money later on.
Consider the weight.
Being a hand tool, weight is an important factor. Make sure the shears are something you will be able to use for extended periods, especially if your work calls for it. A model that is easy to carry and handle also helps in maneuverability when it comes to making precise cuts.
Do electric metal shears cut corners or only straight lines?
Theoretically, electric metal shears can cut corners but are mainly designed to cut in straight lines and for large radius. Most shears like on this list work great on flat surfaces and are intended to be used in a simple manner.
The reason being is that the various properties of metal make it more complicated to cut as opposed to other materials like wood or stone. Splitting materials such as steel in straight lines or, up to an extent, at slight angles produces a clean and safe cut that not only looks polished but also minimizes the risk of suffering from any potential hazard posed by microscopic abrasion resulting from the separation of metallic bodies.
This doesn’t mean that you are totally unable to cut corners but, instead, will find it difficult and tedious to do so.
Certain offset shears like the Ryobi or the Dewalt do a little better at cutting around corners and doing irregular shapes thanks to their design and specialized mechanism; a swivel head also makes it possible to better cut corners or at certain angles because you can position yourself optimally when trying to do so.
Different types of metal shears to choose from…
Corded metal shears
Corded metal shears are perhaps the most common or should we say, the most traditional among all the different types. They require to be plugged into a power source that is oftentimes outlets running on 110 – 120 volts.
Corded metal shears usually have powerful motors that range from anywhere between 4 to 6 amps and are designed to make quick work of cutting steel materials that average anywhere between 22 – 18GA. These are part of the core lineup of any builder, hardware owner, or all-around power-tools guy.
Cordless metal shears
Cordless metal shears are a portable or mobile version of corded ones. They have almost the same amount of power and can dish out nearly the same kind of performance. Some of the more modern units are even able to take on tougher materials, like 14GA steel and thicker aluminum sheets.
Metal shear drill attachments
Metal shear drill attachments are shear heads that you can attach onto power-drills to transform them into cutting tools like a dedicated metal shear. They work on both corded and cordless power-drills and their output is determined by the power of the drill itself.
While not being an entire tool on their own, these types of metal shears are clever alternatives and are more situational rather than essential, or a cheaper DIY alternative.
Air-powered/ pneumatic metal shears
Pneumatic shears, in a nutshell, are metal shears that run on highly pressurized air instead of electricity. Performance-wise, these are not far from what electric shears are capable of; some heavy-duty air shears are even able to reach ludicrous numbers, with rates going as high as 4500 SPM!
But as they are powered by a heavy air compressor they are harder to set up while being tethered to an air hose.
Why are cordless metal shears the best?
We consider cordless metal shears to be the best because they have the capability of all the other types conveniently bundled in a portable and easy-to-carry package.
Portability has become such an important factor in today’s world due to how fast-paced building life has become. Roofers and opportunities are also now more mobile. Cordless metal shears do what metal shears are supposed to – cut metal. It does the job of common corded metal shears, minus the need for stationary outlets and cumbersome power sources.
People can work more conveniently without needing to worry about falling off in performance; most cordless models released nowadays are just as good, if not better than their corded counterparts, with designs slowly evolving to be able to take on thicker and stronger grades of steel.
Longevity is perhaps the only true drawback of cordless metal shears because you will eventually need to recharge them. Although, this is something easily remedied by having spare batteries on-hand. They are easy enough to maintain and definitely cost less than what you’d have to spend in refilling pneumatic air tanks.
What materials can be cut with metal shears?
Also called Carbon Steel, mild steel makes up the largest portion of steel production and is used in a wide range of applications. Mild steel is usually sturdy and is often used for manufacturing motors and appliances.
Because mild steel is pretty common, the raw sheet metal of mild steel is also plentiful and makes up for the majority of materials that electric metal shears work with. These are like bond-paper for metal shears, especially the thinner gauged ones.
Stainless steel is a less common material to encounter when using metal shears. These are usually for small-scale applications such as house paneling or hand-rail construction. Nevertheless, stainless steel is tougher than mild steel, and as such, metal shears perform better with thinner gauges.
Corrugated steel is the most popular material for metal roofing. While it can be either thick or thin, it’s the general shape and pattern of corrugated steel that makes it difficult to cut, by hand.
Double-cut or single-cut shears?
Whether to go with a double-cut or single-cut shear is heavily dependent on one’s work ethics. Though there is little in terms of the difference in how these two configuration types operate, it’s the resulting cuts that you have to keep in mind and your final product.
Single-cut shears are like scissors. As you advance the tool, a rapidly moving blade cuts against a fixed blade to slice through the material. Single-cut shears produce almost no waste material, but often cause distortions such as dents and bends.
Double-cut shears, on the other hand, work similarly to how a nibbler does. Double-cut shears use 2 separate cutters to remove a thin strip of material and leave behind what is called a “kerf”. These kinds of shears, while they do leave behind small waste by-products, cuts cleanly and with minimal-to-no distortion.
So while we are not giving you reasons to explicitly pick one kind of shear over the other, just consider how you would like to proceed with your work.
If you don’t mind a little distortion and would like to cut cleanly, go with single-cut shears. Otherwise, if you don’t want distortions but are not bothered by a little waste, go with double-cut ones or a Makita cordless nibbler that actually does a really nice job for more detailed work.
Top electric metal shear
#1 Value offset cordless metal shear
The DeWalt 20V DCS496B is hard to beat given its impressive set of features. These single shears are capable of cutting through 18 GA steel with a minimum cutting radius of 1 inch for curves. It weighs 3.7 pounds and is equipped with a swivel head that can rotate 360 degrees, making it a versatile and easy-to-handle tool even in awkward positions.
With its adjustable speed control, it can reach cutting speeds of up to 2300 strokes per minute, (SMP) providing greater accuracy and precision for different types of metal. You’ll also be glad to know that this model is commendable for its excellent battery life, lasting about 500 cuts on a single 5AH battery.
#1 Best straight-cut cordless metal shear
You’ll definitely notice the Makita XSJ01T not only for its noteworthy price tag but also for its premium specifications. It is built with a 4-pole motor, allowing it to have an even faster-cutting speed of up to 3000 strokes per minute.
The double-cut design enables it to cut through 18 GA mild steel and 20 GA stainless steel effortlessly. Weighing at about 5.3 pounds, it’s made even more comfortable to maneuver with its 360-degree rotating swivel head and rubberized grip handle.
#1 Most affordable cordless metal shear
If you’re on a slightly tighter budget, the Ryobi P591 does nicely for most cutting jobs. Its plastic body makes it the lightest model on the list, weighing only 3.4 pounds. These shears can handle cutting through 18 GA metal as well as other medium-duty tasks without much fuss.
However, it does struggle with cutting certain materials like R-panels and standing seam roofing. Fortunately, this won’t really be a problem if you only need to work on flat sheets of metal.
Top corded electric metal shear
Although it’s not as portable as the other models on this list, the Milwaukee 6852-20 surely packs a lot of power to make up for its lack of mobility. Its body is made out of polycarbonate, making it incredibly durable and hard-wearing. This Milwaukee metal shear can reach a cutting speed of up to 2500 strokes per minute on its trigger speed control, allowing for a smooth cutting experience on 18 GA steel.
It is a double-cut shear designed with a 6.8-Amp motor, ergonomic grip, and 10-foot runner cord. These features, along with the 360-degree rotating swivel head, allow for comfortable and easy handling.
Nibblers vs. metal shears
It’s understandable why some would initially be confused between these tools since their physical designs are very similar. Nibblers get their name because of how they raze or “chew” through a material. They are better for cutting out tight curves as well as more elaborate shapes and patterns without distorting the material.
You can check my recommended nibbler tool and see what will work best for you.
On the other hand, metal shears are better for heavy-duty tasks and can handle cutting thicker sheets of metal while not creating a lot of waste material.
But if you’re looking for hand-operated shears, have a look into what makes the best aviation snips from this post.
How useful is variable speed control?
You may have seen this feature in many of the higher-end models. If you need finer control with your electric shears to make precise cuts, this feature is a must-have. Variable speed control allows the user to adjust the cutting speed of the shears to their liking depending on the shape of the cut and/or the type of material.
I find it extremely useful when doing curved cuts on metal sheets, cutting at a slow enough speed to get through a tight curve with minimal error. Straight cuts are usually no problem even on the highest speed setting. Just don’t max it out all the time!
Tips for using electric metal shears
Comparing cordless electric metal shear
|DeWalt DCS496B||DeWalt DCS494B||Makita XSJ01T|| DeWalt DCS491M2||Milwaukee 2637-20||Milwaukee M18 2635-20||Makita XSJ02Z||Milwaukee M18 2636-20||Ryobi P591|
|Verdict:||Top performing cordless (offset)||Best straight cut cordless||Best low-cost|
|Weight:||3.7 lbs||4.6 lbs||5.3 lbs||9.65 lbs||4.2 lbs||3.9 lbs||5.1 lbs||4.6 lbs||3.5 lbs|
|Gauge stainless steel:||Up to 18 GA||Up to 16 GA||Up to 20 GA||Up to 20 GA||Up to 20 GA||Up to 20 GA||Up to 18 GA||Up to 16 GA||Up to 18 GA|
|Gauge mild steel:||Up to 18 GA||Up to 14 GA||Up to 18 GA||Up to 18 GA||Up to 18 GA||Up to 18 GA||Up to 16 GA||Up to 14 GA|
|Speed:||0 to 2,450 spm||Up to 2,450 spm||Up to 3,000 spm||0 to 2,300 spm||Up to 2,500 spm||Up to 2,500 spm||4,300 spm||up to 2,500 spm||Up to 1000 ft metal|
Comparing corded electric metal shear
|Milwaukee 6852-20||Kett KD-440||DeWalt DW890||Kett KM-442||Makita JS1300||Kett KD-446L||Kett KD-400||PacTool International SS201||Grizzly Industrial H5503||Wild Edge SEMS5A||Chicago Electric 68199||Genesis GES40||WEN 3650|
|Verdict:||Top performing corded|
|Weight:||4 lbs||5.8 lbs||5 lbs||5 lbs||4.2 lbs||5 lbs||4 lbs||7 lbs||5 lbs||4.8 lbs||4.8 lbs||5.4 lbs||4.7 lbs|
|Gauge stainless steel:||Up to 20 GA||Up to 16 GA||Up to 20 GA||Up to 18 GA||Up to 20 GA||Up to 20 GA||Up to 18 GA||Up to 15 GA||Up to 20 GA||Up to 20 GA|
|Gauge mild steel:||Up to 18 GA||Up to 14 GA||Up to 18 GA||Up to 16 GA||Up to 18 GA||Up to 18 GA||Up to 18 GA||Up to 18 GA||Up to 14 GA||Up to 14 GA||Up to 14 GA||Up to 18 GA||Up to 18 GA|
|Speed:||Up to 2,500 spm||Up to 2,500 spm||0 to 2,500 spm||Up to 2,500 spm||Up to 2,500 spm||Up to 2,500 spm||Up to 2,500 spm||0 to 2,500 spm||0 to 2,700 spm||up to 2,500 spm||0 to 2,500 spm||0 to 2,500 spm|
|Power:||6.8 amp||5 amp||5 amp||6.5 amp||6.5 amp||5 amp||5 amp||4.8 amp||3.8 amp||5 amp||4 amp||4 amp||4 amp|
In summary, the DeWalt 20V DCS496B ticks all the boxes of what an electric metal shear should be. It offers great maneuverability at a reasonable price while being able to handle several cutting tasks with ease.
The Makita XSJ01T may seem intimidating because of its price but is sure to impress you with its quality performance and unmatched cutting speed.
Although it may be difficult to use with certain materials, the Ryobi P591 still gives commendable results for an affordable price.
Lastly, the Milwaukee 6852-20 is definitely a model you should check out if you’re looking for Milwaukee metal shears with a lot of power and a heavy-duty build that is sure to last for years.
If you need even more ideas here’s a more comprehensive guide on how to cut corrugated metal and the other tools you can use.
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