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An Air Shear Can Cut Through Almost Anything

Feb 6, 2008
When you have some heavy duty metal that needs cutting, and a regular power saw is not up to the job, then the first place to turn is an air shear. This powerful air tool is designed to be used when you need a precision cut through the thickest metal without having to use sophisticated milling equipment.

An air shear works by using the compressed air feed in your workshop to power a motor within the hand held tool. In turn, this forces a blade to move thousands of times per minute in order to cut through whatever is pushed into it. Air shears work like incredibly powerful scissors, only they cut through things a lot tougher than sheets of paper.

Provided you have used a power cutter before, actually using an air shear is quite a straightforward task. As with all metal work, you do need to take some sensible precautions before you start. It is absolutely essential to wear safety glasses, because it is entirely possible that the fast moving blade can shoot sharp splinters of steel and debris out of the cutting area, and these can cause a lot of pain and damage if they get into your eyes.

Safety should always be paramount when cutting with a powerful tool like an air shear, and it is absolutely essential to make sure that your work area is completely tidy before you start. This prevents you from accidentally cutting through something such as a power cable when you are doing the work.

You should always mark out the area of metal that you are planning to cut before you start, leaving enough excess to allow you to file off any sharp edges and unevenness that you leave when you cut.

When cutting with an air shear, it is important to move at a steady pace through the metal. It can sometimes feel as though the blade is getting away from you and that you need to cut faster, but by keeping steady you will end up with a much better finish, and avoid getting into trouble.

Because most of the time you will be preparing panels for body work when using air shears, getting an excellent finish is essential, and this means being well practiced in getting the right result, so spend time learning how to cut effectively and efficiently with an air shear before you start on the real thing. Every different tool will have slightly different characteristics when you use it, so try cutting a few lines and curves on some scrap metal before you begin to use the tool on an actual job.

Typically, you will pay around $175 for a professional standard air shear. The kit will normally include everything you need to connect the tool straight into your existing compressed air feed and start work. A good example to consider when purchasing your air shears is the CPT785S from Chicago Pneumatic. These shears feature a powerful horsepower motor that has enough torque to avoid any stalls midway through a job, and will reliably cut through anything up to 18 gauge steel with a minimum of fuss. Despite weighing only two and a half pounds, which makes it easy to use and hold for long periods, this air shear has a blade that moves at up to 2,400 strokes per minute, which means that cutting through even the toughest material is easy.

When using your air shear, you still find that getting the right shape will often mean making multiple cuts, as the tool is generally unable to cut curves until the scrap has been removed, although with practice and forethought, excellent results are possible every time you use it.
About the Author
Jason has been in the construction equipment and industrial sales business for over 10 years. He owns and operates Red Hill Supply to better serve the automotive and industrial industries. - Air Compressors
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