What tools do sheet metal workers use?
The Sheet Metal trade is one of the most varied and diversified of all the skilled trades. As a union Sheet Metal Worker, you will belong to a skilled, technical craft that works with other building tradespeople to construct commercial, industrial, and residential buildings. You'll be part of creating something that is long-lasting and enhances the quality of life for many people.
Sheet Metal workers use sheet metal for roofs, rain gutters, siding, ventilation, heating and air-conditioning duct systems. They also assist in the development of restaurant equipment, automobiles, customized precision equipment, outdoor signs, handrails, column wraps, and many other products that are made from metal. They work with plastic and fibreglass materials. They read plans and determine the type and amount of materials and then measure, bend, cut, shape, and attach pieces of sheet metal to make the products. They check the products for accuracy and perform any necessary adjustments.
Sheet metal workers are skilled in projects involving heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) of commercial buildings and private homes, including indoor air quality, energy management, service and repairs. Sheet metal workers are trained in the Testing, Adjusting and Balancing of mechanical systems as well as servicing them.
Sheet metal workers work in both the field and in the shop utilizing mathematics and pattern layout development methods. They cut, bend, and shape sheets of metal. They use specialized fastening devices such as bolts, rivets, screws and solder. Sheet Metal workers use hand and power tools and equipment including shears, breaks, punches and forming presses, edging and crimping machines, hammers, grinders, etc.
Sheet Metal workers create 3 Dimensional drawings to be utilized for Building Information Modeling (BIM). Sheet Metal workers also perform all types of welding on all types of materials.
What are the tools for sheet metal works?
A 4 ½-inch or 6-inch angle grinder. This handheld power tool is used for cutting, grinding, and polishing different types of metal, which fab workers often do, so make sure you purchase an angle grinder that's durable.
A set of cleco fasteners. This nifty tool temporarily fastens multiple sheets of metal (typically aluminium) together before the pieces are permanently joined. Think of it as a stronger clothespin.
Various angle grinder discs. This set can include grinding wheels, which can be super abrasives or conventional abrasives, depending on your projects; cut off wheels; and flap discs, which are used for finishing; and wire wheels.
A throat-less shear. This tool is made for achieving straight, curved, or irregular cuts on a metal project. It has three holes for simple mounting and features a tall handle that gives you the leverage necessary to cut stainless or mild steel and aluminium easily. Needless to say, this tool is an everyday staple in most fab workshops. Throatless shears are ideal all purpose metal cutting tools because they permit any desired cut in heavy gauge material, yet handle lighter materials without distortion. Unique shoulder design allows work to be turned in any position during the cut. Geared rack and pinion makes heavy metal cutting easy. Upper and lower blades are positioned to provide a clean, knurl - free cut, regardless of material. Features an 18" handle to give you plenty of leverage for cutting anything from aluminium to stainless steel. Replaceable 4" hardened alloy steel cutting blades. Overall dimensions: 8-1/4" L x 7" W x 27-1/4" H (with handle) 3 holes for mounting. Weight: 16.4 lbs.
Wire cutters. Every handyman should own a reliable pair of wire cutters for snipping frayed ends.
An auto-darkening helmet. These helmets can range anywhere between $200 to $400, depending on the manufacturer. Still, every sheet metal fabricator should invest in a dependable auto-darkening helmet for the occasional project that requires a lot of welding.
Angle finders. Most quality angle finders are made of stainless steel or high-grade aluminium, and most sheet metal fabricators use these frequently, so splurging on a good set is often recommended.
Cutting glasses. In this business, safety comes first. Since sheet metal fabrication projects are typically large-scale, they can pose a greater risk for accidents. A solid pair of cutting glasses will help decrease your chance of getting hurt in case of an accident.
Drill bits. Most fab shops will have a drill or drill press handy, but sheet metal fabricators should have their own set of drill bits. Though the choices are virtually infinite, a standard length drill bit and a shorter, machine screw drill bit are good starting points.
Steel Rule: It is a very important tool used in the sheet metal fabrication process. It is mainly used for measurement purposes.
Snips: Snips are the hand tools used to cut sheet metal. They are of two types: Straight Snips and Aviation Snips.
- Straight Snips: These are used to cut sheet metal in a straight direction. They have straight blades for cutting.
- Aviation Snips: Aviation Snips are mainly used for cutting sheet metal in a circular form or curved direction. They have curved shaped blades for cutting. The aviation snip for cutting a curve in the left direction is different from the snip for cutting a curve in the right direction. They are distinguished by their colours. The right directional aviation snip possesses the green-coloured handle. And, on the other hand, the aviation snip which the curve left has got a red-coloured handle.
Scriber: It is a type of marking tool used to scribe lines on the sheet metal surface. Scriber is made up of a steel wire which has one sharp end.
Burring Tool: It is another tool in our sheet metal hand tools list, and it is used to remove the burr from holes and edges of the sheet metal.
Half Round Stake: It is a pressing tool. It is used for pressing the seam joint.
Hand Stake: It is also used for the purpose of pressing. Where there is a need for pressing inner sides of straight joints, there it plays its role.
Divider: Whenever there is a need for scribing curved or circular profile/line, divider plays this important role.
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Trammel Points: It is used when there is a need for scribing/drawing large arcs or circles. Where the divider becomes useless, there the Trammel Points come into play.
Grooving Stake: It is a tool used for creating grooves of various sizes in sheet metal sheets.
Files: File is also a type of cutting tool which is used to remove extra material by abrasion.
Centre Punch: It is used for marking points. For example, if you want to mark the centre point of a hole to be drilled, you can mark that by using Centre Punch. So it also belongs to the category of marking tools in sheet metal fabrication. Its sharp end has an angle of 90 degrees.
Prick Punch: This is also a marking tool used for marking the centre position for dividers. Its sharp end has an angle of 30 degrees.
Mallet: Mallet is something like a hammer but used for putting light force. It is made up of wood or plastic. Mallet does not destroy the surface of the sheet but provides just a smooth and polite effect.
Ball Peen Hammer: It is a type of hammer that has a curved face and a round head. It is used for hammering sheet metal for shaping it.
Raising Hammer: It is also a type of hammer used for forming a curved shaped sheet from a flat sheet. It is used for riveting sheets.
Taper Stake: It is used in tapered jobs for rounding purposes.
A sturdy backpack. If you're an employer or full-time employee, you most likely will keep your tools of the trade at the shop. However, if you're an apprentice, hauling your tools back and forth can be strenuous, so invest in a sturdy backpack.
A benchtop english wheel. The English Wheel is the tool of choice to form gradual compound curves and high crown radii down to 2" diameter. It's ideally suited for fabricating patch panels, cowlings, air scoops, wing roots, and wheel fairings. The complete kit includes one fixed wheel and three small replaceable wheels, bearings, adjustment wheel and anvil support with quick release, top wheel, interchangeable Planishing Hammer/English Wheel frame with 22" throat depth and complete instructions. Top wheel measures 4-1/2" by 1-1/2" wide. Bottom wheel measures approximately 1-7/8" by 1-1/2" wide. Does not include mounting frame (see below) or stand.
A pneumatic planishing hammer. The Planishing Hammer has been long used in metal fabrication and restoration to smooth large areas of metal, welds and gentle panel crowning. The powerhead is a heavy-duty aircraft rivet gun (our ATS-4X Pro), not a cheap air chisel. The sturdy frame with a 22" throat depth is beefy enough to smooth 16 gauge aluminium and 18 gauge steel! A quick-release allows the lower shaft to slide down, to accept panels with deep flanges. The powerhead adjustment controls the intensity from light to very powerful hammering. A foot control starts and stops the hammering. The tool includes one 1-1/2" diameter flat top die, three anvils with different contours and complete instructions. Does not include mounting frame (see below) or stand.
English wheel / planishing hammer mounting frame. This mounting frame is the perfect companion for the Eddie Paul English Wheel and/or Planishing hammer featured above. It's CNC machined from solid aluminium and will securely hold up to 2 frames so you can mount both an English Wheel and a Planishing Hammer in one compact combo setup as shown. It also features convenient holders for extra english wheel anvils, or planishing hammer anvils.
Pneumatic shrinker/stretcher combo unit. Exactly reproduce such components as cowlings, fairings, skirts, and just about any complex shape. Reproduce almost anything requiring the combination of a curve and an angle. Both tools can produce curves as tight as 3" radius. The pneumatic operated press multiplies the pressure giving the hardened steel jaws tremendous force. Form mild steel up to 18 gauge, stainless steel up to 20 gauge, aluminium up to 16 gauge. Each tool comes assembled with drilled & tapped housings for easy mounting to your bench. The set includes a Shrinker Jaw and a Stretcher Jaw all on one tool.
Extended reach shrinker/stretcher. The new Dagger Tools shrinker/stretcher features a deep 8" working depth and a 6" working height for unmatched versatility. The possible uses for this essential sheet metal tool are endless. Use it to fabricate complex shapes ranging from simple flares, to intricate multi-curved shapes. Work all metals from straight sheets up to and including
2" wide angles. The heavy-duty frame is cast from ductile iron and fitted with high carbon jaws to form 14 gauge aluminium or 16 gauge mild steel easily. Each unit comes complete with one set of shrinking jaws, and one set of stretching jaws. Can be bench mounted or individual stand mounted.
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A panel beater and dolly kit. The most widely used selection of panel beaters and dollies for most metal shaping needs, professional-grade tools in a moulded plastic box. Each hammer is colour-coded for either shrinking (blue) or stretching (red) forming tasks. The three (3) panel beaters included are the dinging, shallow-domed face, and pick hammer combo. The dollies included are the thin toe, utility, curved, and heel shapes, providing the user with the best combination kit on the market.
T-DOLLIES. Simple, but necessary forming tool allows you to create new flanges or straighten out damaged flanges. Can be used effectively by locking in a bench vice. Creating an exact radius edge using any flat faced panel beater or wood slapper.
Bossing Mallets. High quality bossing mallets are lightweight, resistant to wear and feature non-marring polyethylene heads. When used with a shot bag, the simplest to very complex shapes can be roughed out and finished with either a planishing hammer or english wheel.
Hardwood Slappers. Leather covered wooden slappers are perfect for quick metal shaping without marring the surface. Use it with a leather shot bag to rough form shapes prior to finishing.
Shot Bags. Heavy-duty shot bags are made from .070"/.090" top grain cowhide for extended life, and to produce a blemish-free metal surface—approximately 1-1/2" to 2" when filled.
Short Finishing Hammer. For close work. 1-1/4" dia. head; 1-1/8" square head; flat faces; 4" long; Wt. 14 oz.
Shrinking Hammer. For all-around work and fast finishing; does not stretch the metal, 1-1/4" round serrated head, 1-1/8" square flat head; 4" long; Wt. 14 oz.
Bent Skin Hammer. Long shaft and small paddle, folds flanges on skins. 6-1/2" long, Wt. 17 oz.
Dinging Hammer. Perfectly balanced, for light dinging. 6-1/4" long. 1-1/4" round head; 1-3/16" square head; flat surfaces. Wt. 12 oz.
Curved Finishing Hammer. Chisel end is 3-1/2" long; Round head, flat face. 6-1/4" long; Wt. 11 oz.
General Purpose Rail Dolly. For bumping, dinging, and finishing. Also has 3 beading and flanging lips. 3" L x 3" W x 2- 3/8" H. Wt. 3 lbs.
Large Toe Dolly. Flat and low-crown curved faces for dinging flat surfaces. 7" L x 2-3/8" W x 2" H. Wt. 2 lbs.
Large Heel Dolly. Used in sharp corners and wide radii areas. 3" L x 2-1/2" W x 1-1/2" H. Wt. 2-1/2 lbs.
Low Crown Dolly. Has low crown and wide radius for general purpose contouring. 3-1/4" L x 2-3/4" W x 2" H. Wt. 3 lbs.
Roper Whitney Hand Punch. Punches up to 1/4" hole through 16 ga. metal. Sold either as an individual tool or as a complete kit in a case with seven punches and dies for 3/32" to 9/32" holes.
Adjustable Hole Cutter. Cuts perfect holes from 2" to 12" diameter in 16 ga. metal and wood up to 1" thick. Ideal for cutting out inspection and instrument holes. Uses any air or electric drill.
Circle Cutter. This tool, also known as a "Fly Cutter", uses a flying cutting bit to cleanly cut holes in metal, wood, plastic, and hardwoods from 1" to 5-1/2" diameter. The included 1/4" drill bit automatically forms its own pilot hole prior to cutting. The drill shank is 5/16". We strongly recommend a drill-press and safety gear when using this tool.
Instrument Hole Punch. Reversible cutter for both 2-1/4" and 3-1/8" instrument panel holes. Easy to use even with instrument panels installed in aircraft. Allows for close work with other instruments already installed.
How to prevent rusting your sheet metal tools?
Rust is the name for the orange-brown flakes of iron oxide that form on the surface of any metal containing iron that is exposed to air and water. It is a type of corrosion that can be highly destructive, as well as unsightly. In this article, we will share tips on how to prevent rust.
The rusting process begins when iron reacts with oxygen in the presence of water, salt water, acids, or other harsh chemicals. As the iron oxide flakes off the metal surface, it exposes new iron molecules, which continue the reaction process. Eventually, large areas of rust form that may cause the entire metal structure to disintegrate.
A ferrous metal is one that contains iron, and only iron can rust. Common ferrous metals include carbon steel (1018, 12L14), alloy steel (4130), and stainless steel (304, 316). Non-ferrous metals, such as aluminium and copper, contain little if any iron, and so cannot rust, though they can corrode.
Keep It Clean and Dry
Water is enemy number one when it comes to rust because it's the oxygen in water molecules that combines with iron to form iron oxide. That's why metals left outdoors, such as cars, gates, or tanks, are more likely to rust. If the object is located in a humid indoor environment, such as a garage or basement, install a dehumidifier. Any type of mud or dirt adhered to the surface can hold water, so it's important to keep metals clean.
Scratches or cracks in the metal expose more metal and hold water, allowing it to remain in contact with the iron. This is why cold rolled steel is more corrosion resistant than hot rolled steel because cold rolling creates a smoother surface without texture that can trap and hold water.
Apply A Protective Coating
Dipping metal objects, such as clocks, into a bluing solution of water, sodium hydroxide, and potassium nitrate provides strong corrosion resistance. Commercially available rust prevention products in the form of aerosol sprays or cloth wipes also can protect metal objects, including tools, outdoor gear, vehicles, and large metal parts.
Use Stainless Steel
Stainless steel alloys contain iron, but it resists rust because it also contains a high percentage of chromium which is even more reactive than iron. The chromium in the alloy oxidizes quickly to form a protective layer of chromium oxide on the metal surface which prevents oxygen from reaching the underlying steel.
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Use Galvanized Metal
Galvanization is a process used to preserve steel rust-free for many years. In the galvanizing process, a piece of steel is coated with liquid zinc. The zinc protects the steel in three different ways. First, the zinc coating acts as a barrier preventing oxygen and water from reaching the steel. Second, even if the coating is scratched off, the zinc continues to protect nearby areas of the metal through cathodic protection. And third, zinc is highly reactive to oxygen and quickly forms a protective coating of zinc oxide which prevents the iron from further oxidation.
Because rust spreads quickly, it's important to scrape it off as soon as it appears. Then, scrub with warm water and soap and apply a metal conditioner or other protective coating to prevent further oxidation. If necessary, apply a new coat of paint to the area.
Industrial Metal Supply is the Southland's largest supplier of all types of metal and metalworking accessories, including rust prevention products.