Checked and updated on January 17, 2021 by Aaron Barnett
The Makita JN1601 is the most popular nibbler choice weighting at only 3.6 lbs it has a powerful 5 amp motor. For a more portable tool consider the Makita XNJ01Z as a “cordless option”. And if you are cutting the thickest of metal sheets you could look into the Makita JN3201 with an even bigger 6.2 Amp motor.
For a cheaper alternative, a nibbler drill attachment is used by many DIY’ers for small metal-cutting jobs, more on this below.
And if you don’t know what sets a nibbler tool apart is its ability to cut circles in metal without jamming, if you have a look around Banging Toolbox you can find a full review covering all metal cutting options, however, the best options are as below.
The Makita JN1601
The Makita JN1601 is easily one of the best metal nibblers on the market. Boasting of Makita’s trademark power, quality, and performance, it is a lightweight and ergonomic model that is surprisingly capable of cutting through even thick sheets of metal.
At the core of the JN1601 has a 5-amp motor that delivers adequate torque and power for most sheet metal and metal roof cutting jobs. Nibbler tools are ideally suited for contractors, carpenters, roofers, and metal workers, the JN1601 handles everything from metal roofing to gutters and ducts.
The JN1601 has a slim and lean profile that makes it an excellent choice for working in tight spots and narrow corners. It even has a built-in thickness gauge that you can adjust for optimum performance and results.
How long does the replaceable cutter head last?
The Makita JN1601 has a replaceable cutter head that lets you get a lot more usable life out of the tool. When the cutter head’s bladed edge gets dull, you could simply replace it, and it’s like having a brand-new tool again.
Cutter blades usually last for as long as it takes to cut 200 feet (0.06 km) to 1,000 feet (0.3 km) of material. The actual usable life will vary depending on the type of material you cut. It is a good idea to replace your cutter blade as soon as you detect impaired performance, as dull cutter heads can cause burrs in the material.
The Makita JN1601 has the proven durability and rugged reliability that you expect from a Makita power tool. Cutting through thick gauge sheet metal puts considerable wear-and-tear on the components of any nibbler tool, but the JN1601 is more than up to the challenge.
Although you will probably want to move up to a more powerful nibbler for heavy-duty jobs, the Makita JN1601 is a solid all-arounder that should deliver the performance and reliability that DIYers and pros need to perform a wide variety of cutting tasks.
Makita has an excellent reputation among hobbyists and professionals. The company’s tools are known for their high-quality build and components, as well as their superb performance and reliability.
This reputation extends to the company’s nibblers, which are considered some of the best in the business.
Apart from performance and reliability, Makita tools are also known for their innovative design and features. The Makita JN1601, for example, has a rotating die that allows for full 360° rotation and an oversized ¼” stroke.
This allows for more power and flexibility than other nibblers.
Is the JN1601 easy to use?
Despite its power and functionality, Makita power tools are easy to use. This goes for the Makita JN1601 nibbler as well, which has a lean and slim design that makes it ideally suited for beginners and hobbyists.
The JN1601 weighs only 3.5 pounds, so it is easy to maneuver even if you don’t have a lot of experience with a nibbler tool.
It also has nylon bearings instead of the metal bearings used in other nibblers, which cuts down the bulk and weight significantly, allowing for easier handling and making it the best nibbler choice for many.
What power does the JN1601 have?
Surprisingly for such a lightweight and compact device, the Makita JN1601 packs an impressive amount of power. Under the hood is a powerful and efficient 5-amp motor that delivers as much as 2,200 spins-per-minute.
This gives the JN1601 enough torque to handle even the most demanding jobs. Even though the JN1601 is rated for its ability to cut 18-gauge stainless steel, many users have successfully used it to cut multiple layers of thicker gauge metal without any issues.
What metal thickness can the JN1601 cut?
So what is the maximum thickness of metal that the Makita JN1601 can cut? The product literature states that it can cut mild steel of up to 16-gauge thickness and stainless steel of up to 18-gauge thickness.
As impressive as these figures are, some users have used the JN1601 to cut up to three layers of 29-gauge steel roofing sheet without any trouble.
If you have to cut even thicker metal sheets, it might be worth going for the Makita JN3201 10-Gauge Nibbler. Although it is a bit more expensive than the JN1601, its 6.2 amp motor and 1,300 strokes per minute capacity make it a good choice for the most heavy-duty jobs.
The expected price
The Makita JN1601 isn’t the cheapest metal nibbler tool on the market, but it does provide excellent bang-for-the-buck. The rugged build and quality components give it a look and feel of a state-of-the-art power tool.
You could easily spend considerably more than the cost of the JN1601 and still not get the same quality and performance that it provides.
It also has a slim and ergonomic design that encourages you to pick it up and use it, which isn’t always the case with cheaper electric nibblers.
However, if you want to read my full nibbler review covering other options like a compressed air nibbler or a cheaper DIY drill attachment follow my link.
Makita JN1601 vs. The Makita “JN3201”
If you need a bit more grunt than what the average metal nibbler provides, consider purchasing the Makita JN3201. A 10-gauge nibbler powered by a 6.2-amp motor, it has enough torque and cutting power to handle the most demanding jobs.
It is capable of spinning at a maximum speed of 1,300 per minute, so it can cut through even thick stainless steel sheets with ease.
Features such as the built-in thickness gauge, lock-on switch, and visible line of sight make this a serious tool for pros and experienced DIY’ers.
Should you get a cordless Makita nibbler?
Cordless nibblers allow you to work outdoors, in remote locations, or even at the far end of a large room where there isn’t a power outlet handy. The Makita XNJ01Z is an excellent choice, providing you with the power of a corded nibbler with the convenience and portability of a cordless unit.
The XNJ01Z is an 18-volt model that can cut through 16-gauge metal with ease. It is designed for corrugated metal, sheet metal, and stainless steel, and is ideally suited for cutting metal roofing in the most portable way.
What other tools can cut metal roofing?
Many power tools can cut sheet metal and roofing but nibbler tools and electric shears are the 2 most popular options.
With a nibbler tool being the most versatile, leaving a tidier cut. Electric shears can cut straight lines faster but are limited to only cutting straight.
The best nibbler tool can cut circles and curves with no problems jamming, that’s what sets this tool choice apart.
Even with nibblers being the best tool choice for cutting corrugated roofing, there are a few different types.
You still need a quality metal snips for trimming work, cutting flashings and tidying up after.
The Makita JN1601 is the best value power nibbler on the market. A reliable and versatile tool, it is capable of surprising power and performance that rivals many higher-end models.
Despite its power and capability, it is a lightweight unit with a compact form factor and an ergonomic design, making it very easy to handle even if you’ve never used a metal nibbler before. For sheer value for money, the Makita JN1601 is pretty much unbeatable.
When you do decide to get the JN1601, I strongly recommend getting replaceable cutting heads as well. This will ensure that you are ready to replace the cutting head at a moment’s notice, which will help reduce downtime.
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My name is Aaron, and welcome to Bangingtoolbox.
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