Like every other craft, working with metal requires having the proper skill set and equipping yourself with the right tools and equipment. Metal fabrication is a vast and demanding task. It involves many processes. Beyond having a clear understanding of what goes in each metal work process, working with the right equipment will always increase your productivity.
If you're into metal fabrication or looking to work with a metal fabricator, here are the top tools and equipment every fabricator must have in his workshop.
Top Metal Fabrication Tools & Equipment
From bending to cutting, shearing, shaping, punching, and many metal fabrication processes, many tools come in handy at each stage. Fabrication of metal sheets is a complex process that calls for a long range of experience and professionalism. But beyond that, having a wide range of tools and equipment is a huge boost.
Here are the top tools common in metal fabrication processes.
Be it die grinders or angle grinders, grinders are helpful in metal fabrication as fabricators use them to satisfy all cutting needs. Besides cutting metal sheets, this handheld tool functions to grind, sharpen, sand, and polish different metal sheets. Welders, Auto Body workers, HVAC technicians, and Boilermakers, amongst others, often make use of grinders for engraving, cylinder head porting, and general shaping of projects. If you're starting your metal fabrication career, as a fabricator, this tool is a must-have!
Another excellent tool for cutting in the metal fabrication process is the nibbler. The nibbler is your tool if you want to achieve minimal distortion cutting through sheet metal. This tool can be powered by electric or compressed air. It also functions as a punch and die - travelling in a straight line against a fixed die and removing small bits of metal along its way, and finally leaving a "kerf." Nibblers are also a decent tool in the hands of DIYers, although some may find them to produce more waste than necessary.
Throatless shear is one of the most popular tools every fabricator must have. It comes in handy in nearly everyday fabrication activities. Throatless shear literally has a throatless design. It comes with three holes for simple mounting and a tall handle to help you cut through metal sheets. This tool is crucial for attaining curved, straight, or irregular cuts on metal sheets, as the project may demand. There are two common types of throatless shears used in different metal fabrication workshops they include;
Throatless Hand Shears
Throatless Rotary Shears
Throatless hand shears have an arched top blade that allows you to cut effortlessly through any metal sheet. On the other end, Throatless rotary shears are more flexible and allow you to cut as much as any shape you want. In addition to the heavy steel frame, which it shares in common with the throatless hand shears, it also sports a ratcheting head and an adjustable cutter.
Cleco fasteners are another interesting must-have tool in every metal fab workshop. Cleco fasteners are temporary fasteners used to hold different pieces of fabrication materials together until they are joined permanently. They are used to temporarily join metal sheets (mostly aluminium) and various parts like frames and stiffeners. Although they play a temporary role in metal fabrication, they are indispensable.
Benchtop Budget Brakes
Sheet metal bending is another intriguing process in metal fabrication. One of the top pieces of equipment used in fab workshops to bend metal sheets is the benchtop budget brakes. The benchtop budget brakes consist of a wide benchtop with two beams—a fixed lower beam and a variable upper beam. The variable upper beam creates a radius when this benchtop functions in bending aluminium.
Bracket Makers are another bending equipment. Unlike the benchtop budget brakes, this unique bending equipment creates brackets of varying shapes and sizes according to the desired specification. It easily achieves this feat, thanks to its radius and 90° tools.
There are different metal cutting saws, including cold saws, circular saws, chop saws, and band saws. Out of these options, band saws are the most popular metal cutting saw, thanks to their outstanding efficiency and reliability.
Metal bandsaws consist of sharp blades and a row of sharp teeth sandwiched between wheels. A bandsaw is an everyday tool in metal fabrication workshops. They come in various sizes and are widely used by fabricators to cut curves and irregular shapes. Even if you're not a professional, a bandsaw is an excellent tool for you. It is easy to use and quite versatile. Besides working with metal sheets, you can flip the blades and work with other materials, including wood.
One of the popular tools in sheet metal forming is the shrinker stretcher. Shrinker stretchers help to shape and form metals without applying heat, welding or cutting. This tool uses force to stress the metal sheet beyond its yield point, thereby bending the material.
Other Common Sheet Metal Fabrication Tools
Besides the equipment and tools mentioned above, other common tools and equipment necessary for metal fabrication processes include,
Ball Peen Hammer
Metal fabrication comprises different processes, and the endpoint is always the same. While it pays to know all the proper techniques and methods applied in fabricating sheet metal, what is a workman without the right tools?