If you are new to cutting sheet metal, you should know that you can cut and shape sheet metal easily.
When it comes to metal fabrication, it’s always good to have some extra tools around to help you work with metal, and it is not only the proper equipment but also the correct way to use them.
This is a very simple list of sheet metal working tools. At least you'll know what is available.
The Different Types of Sheet Metal Forming & Cutting Tools
You need some heavy-duty metal working tools and accessories working with mild steel. Aluminum metalworking is the same. Here's my list of items you should have in your shop if you can purchase them.
If the price scares you, there are cheaper options from sites like Woodward Fab, Eastwood and Amazon.
Metal Cutting Tools
Cold Cutting Saw
A cold-cutting circular saw offers a clean way to cut steel and aluminum without the stock getting extremely hot. Eastwood is selling the one I bought. It comes with a guide to keep your cuts straight.
Check out their Mini Metal Saw specs and features on their website.
Chop saws are great for cutting mild steel and aluminum metal. There are two different types of chop saws. The older kind uses abrasive discs cut through. The newer style that I recommend, and use is the Evolution Chop Saw.
The Evolution uses a cold-cut blade for faster and cleaner cuts. Its adjustable blade makes angles easy. You can touch the workpiece right after the cut as there is limited heat buildup.
Check the price of the Evolution Chop Saw.
Sheet Metal Shear
The Woodward Fab sheet metal shear does a good job cutting through steel material.
If you work with tubing, you'll need a tube notcher. This tool takes the guesswork out of marking and cutting tubing. Used to you'd have to trace a line around the tube and then cut and grind to meet your next tube.
All of that has been eliminated with the tubing notcher.
A plasma cutter is a machine that is a must around any metal fab shop. A plasma cutter can slice through thick material, and if used properly, this tool can create intricate cuts and angles with no need for dangerous gas, like a torch.
You can do a lot with a plasma cutter as long as you know how a plasma cutter works A little practice will clean your cuts right up..
Metal Shaping Equipment
There are lots of metal-forming tools out there for shaping metal. You name it. They probably have it. If not, hopefully, you have the skills and fabrication equipment to make what you need.
A drill press is one of the simplest metal fabrication tools that one could own. They are great for performing the repetitive task of drilling holes in metal. It's one piece of equipment I use all the time.
They all have adjustable tables to adjust the capacity. Their capabilities are endless. Besides drilling, you could mount hole cutters to punch different diameter holes into steel.
One note of caution, the accuracy is better on higher-quality machines.
A bead roller can make louvers, door panels, and floor pans. You can handle fairly large workpieces if you get one with a deep throat depth.
A bead roller is a cool sheet metal fabrication tool that can make things look sharp and strengthen sheet metal simultaneously. It forms beads, flange bends, and offsets depending on the dies used.
The roller forms the metal as the workpiece is clamped down. As you roll the piece through, it forms lines and can be used to make curved lines.
Both Woodward Fab and Eastwood sell bead rollers. Woodward Fab has one for sale on Amazon that is a pretty good price with free shipping.
Metal Shrinker & Stretcher
A metal shrinker and stretcher can help take the washboards out of sheet metal bends. It is another tool that isn't always needed but is nice to have when you do.
As the name implies, you can help stretch metal around corners and shrink on the indies of your bends to keep your project looking straight.
Hammer and Dolly Set
If you're doing bodywork, you need a hammer and dolly set for fine-tuning your sheet metal. They work well for removing dents and smoothing out welds when installing patches on body panels.
Metal Brake, Shear & Roller
A combo machine that can roll thin sheets is good for bending and shearing. Some come with a large throat depth for larger sheet capacity. This tool is handy for battery stands, air ducts, floor pans, and anything else you can imagine.
Woodward Fab and Eastwood both carry these.
If you have to perform a lot of sheet metal forming, such as body panels, you need a power planishing hammer to get the job done. These heavy-duty hammers will make short work of metalworking auto body panels. Their large design offers great capacity.
You can see them at Woodward Fab, and another company has a build-it-yourself kit if you want a little more welding time.
An English wheel takes a lot of practice; however, you can make some cool stuff. This is by far one of the harder tools for sheet metal fabrication tools to master. I tried it once on a buddy's wheel, and it was just made for good entertainment.
Here is a video of Make It Custom on how to use an English wheel.
Dimple Dies Set
Dimple die sets are a cool way to give your project some customization. Not only do they look good, but they strengthen your sheet metal. The bends act like beads from a bead roller. They naturally keep the sheet metal from flexing.
Woodward fab offers sets of dimple dies at an affordable price. They cut the sheet metal into perfect holes. If you keep tightening them, they'll leave a perfectly flared-shaped dimple.
Metal Grinding and Sanding Tools
I'll roll right through these as they're pretty self-explanatory. For every job you perform to create your project, you'll either need to grind or sand.
Before welding, you need to prep the metal before striking an arc. Using a sander or grinding tool will save time and money by removing slag and mill scale.
An angle grinder should be in every metal shop, period. This tool is probably one of the most used tools in my toolbox. You can sand, grind and cut. One of the great features of the angle grinder is its ability to get into tight places.
Bench grinders are another great tool for working on small components that need grinding. I always use this machine when I'm rounding off round stock.
A die grinder is an air-operated tool that takes small flap discs and other accessories for grinding, sanding, and polishing. Die grinders are great at getting into tight-fitting spaces that would be too tight for an angle grinder.
A bench-mounted belt sander is nice for cleaning edges and deburring cut steel. The longer the belt, the cooler the belt will stay, and the longer the belt's life.
Cheap metalworking tools.
Several companies sell affordable fabrication tools. I've found that you can get away with cheaper ones. Most of the tools nowadays are made overseas. It's not that I wouldn't like to buy American all the time, but I'm just like most people trying to get by.
Woodward Fab, Eastwood, and Amazon all have affordable prices on power tools, and welding gear and you can shop their respective store online.
Final Thoughts on Metal Fabrication Tools
You can buy many different equipment and machines to create awesome projects in your shop. There are more tools than this list but look at 17 cool metal fabrication tools.
If you're just starting out, it can seem like a lot to take in. It's just like eating an elephant. Take it one bite at a time. I always reinvest a third of the money I make back into my shop. If you do the same, your toolbox will be full in no time.
I could have mentioned the bandsaw, clamps, and other items, but I've already covered them in the article "33 Welding Tools Every Beginner and Accomplished Welder Needs".
I didn't mention milling machines or lathes on purpose. They were covered in "What is metal fabrication?" At some point, I'll do individual articles on milling machines and lathe work.
Leave a comment below if you've tried any of these or think of things to add to this list. I'd love to hear your thoughts and hear about a recent project you worked on.