Copper sheeting is versatile, and it adds a gorgeous finishing touch to many different projects at home.
But, working with sheet metal can be intimidating, especially if it’s not something you’re familiar with. Fortunately, our guide will show you how to cut copper sheet like a seasoned pro, and by the time you’re finished reading, you should be confident in your ability to get the job done right.
What You’ll Need
Thankfully, working with copper sheet doesn’t require many tools, and the tools you may need are usually affordable.
Regardless of the tool you use for the job, you’ll need the following:
- A workbench, table, or other workspace
- A pair of gloves
- Eye protection
- Copper sheet
- Deburrer or shop file
As for the cutting, these tools are all built specifically for cutting sheet metal. If you’re planning on working with sheet metal often, these tools are worth the investment.
- Metal Shears
- Otherwise, there are some traditional tools you may already have that can make quick work of copper sheet.
Step I: Preparing for the Job
Your first order of business will be preparing your workspace and copper sheet for the job.
You’ll want to measure and mark the copper sheet, or trace the pattern you’ll be cutting out before you get started.
Before you lay down your copper sheet, make sure the surface you’ll be laying it down on is clean and free of debris that may scratch the finish.
Next, lay down the sheet on your work surface, and clamp it down to keep it in place.
I like to wear gloves and long sleeves whenever I’m working with any metal to reduce the chance I get a splinter or cut myself. You should also wear eye protection when cutting any material.
Step II: Cutting the Copper Sheet
Now we’re ready to answer the question of how to cut copper sheet. Depending on the tool you’re using, the process will differ a bit.
Using Metal Shears
Perhaps the easiest way to cut copper sheet, metal shears or tin snips are ideal for making straight cuts in high and medium gauge sheet metal.
Tin snips are perhaps the most popular (and affordable), but there are also heavier duty versions available designed for cutting thicker sheets. There’s also power shears, which are a heavy duty powered version of tin snips. They’re definitely cool, but unless you’re going to be cutting sheet metal often, they may not be worth the investment.
There are three different types of tin snips you’ll need to be aware of. The color of the handle will indicate what the tin snips are for.
Yellow tin snips are best for cutting in a straight line, they also do a good job cutting wide curves. Green tin snips are best for cutting straight, or cutting to the right. Finally, red tin snips are best for cutting straight, or cutting to the left. Often, tin snips are sold in three packs so you can have every tool for the job at your disposal.
Using a Nibbler
For thicker copper sheet, or for cutting designs, scrolls or basically anything that isn’t a straight line, it’s tough to beat a nibbler.
Sheet metal nibblers are expensive, and if you’re not going to be working with sheet metal often, they’re impractical, too. Fortunately, there are plenty of companies that make nibbler bits that attach to any power drill or pneumatic tool.
Whether you’re using a nibbler bit or a dedicated nibbler, the process is the same. Turn the tool on, and slowly cut through the metal in your desired line or pattern.
Using a Hacksaw
What if you’re looking to get this project done quickly, with tools you already have? If you don’t have tin snips or a nibbler handy, your trusty hacksaw will do the job just fine.
First, you’ll want to prepare your copper sheet and clamp it to the table. Now, you’re ready to cut. Start slow, and never try to force the blade if it gets stuck. It’s better to back out and then resume your cut than it is to break a blade, especially if you shelled out good money for an expensive blade.
Using a Dremel
Chances are, you have a Dremel or similar multi-tool at your disposal. Outfitting your tool with a metal cutting blade will help you make short work of your copper sheet cutting needs.
First, prepare your sheet just how you would if you were using metal shears or a hacksaw.
Next, outfit your tool with a metal cutting wheel. There are wheels specifically designed for cutting sheet metal, but any metal cutting wheel will do the job in this case.
Hold your tool parallel to the copper sheet and slowly and carefully cut along the line or template that you have marked on the sheet.
Step III: Finishing the Edge
Regardless of how you cut your sheet, you’re going to wind up with a burred edge. The edge is going to be sharp and unsightly, and you’ll need to finish it off before you’re truly done.
You could invest in a deburrer for this, which will quickly remove the edge from your cut, or you can just go over the edge with a file to remove the edge.
Wrapping It Up
Whether you want to invest in some new power tools specifically designed for cutting sheet metal, or you’re looking to make the best of what you have available, the question of how to cut copper sheet is an easy one to answer. Any of the tools we’ve covered today will help you make quick work of your project.