Cutting aluminum is not always a straightforward job and trying to choose the right tool can leave you running for the ibuprofen. Is your job simple enough for a hand tool? Will a power tool give you the versatility you need? Can’t you just score it and snap it apart? What the heck do you do with gutters? Luckily for you, we’ve raked through the world of aluminum cutting and found the best tools for you and the job you’re trying to do. Our reviews will help you cut out all the guesswork so you can focus on cutting aluminum, instead. Read on to learn the best way to get the job done, learn which products are the most top-notch, and how to get the most out of your purchase.
|Rank||Model||Our Favorite Product|
|#1||A Miter Saw |
Our Preferred Method
|DeWalt DW717 10” Double-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw
|#2||An Electric Shears||Genesis GES40 4.0 Amp Power Metal Shear
|#3||A Dremel Rotary Tool||Dremel 561 Multipurpose Cutting Bit
|#4||Aviation Snips||DeWalt DWHT14676 Aviation Snip Set 3 pack
|#5||A Utility Knife||Milwaukee 48-22-1903 Fastback 3 Utility Knife
If you want power and precision, a miter saw is your best bet. It’s versatile enough to cut thick or thin sheets, it’s the best method for cutting gutters, and it’s our top pick for getting the job done efficiently. You’ll want to make sure your aluminum is clamped down firmly, that you’re using good carbide-tipped saw blades, and don’t forget to protect your eyes with goggles. Keep in mind that you won’t want to use this method for ferrous metals like iron, and you’ll want to cut thicker pieces slowly for safety and a clean-cut (use a smaller saw blade diameter to accomplish this, around 7 to 10 inches). It’s also important to use oil or blade wax to keep the blades from getting clogged. If you choose to go this route, check out the miter saw below and the perfect carbide blades to go with it.
We recommend the DeWalt DW717 10” Double-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw:
For cutting flexibility, you can’t go wrong with a good set of electric shears. When a stationary miter saw can’t get the job done, the versatility of shears can come in handy. Lightweight, portable, perfect for cutting tight patterns or awkward angles, and easy to use, these power tools will get your job done quickly. You’ll also get clean cuts without distortion or warping, and they’re good for up to about a 14-gauge aluminum sheet thickness. Remember to cut slowly, and when you start getting that first curl of cut aluminum, bend it away to one side to prevent it from curling back beneath your shears and clogging them. If you need to cut thick sheets, these will be perfect. If you need a straight precision cut, however, this may not be your best bet. You’ll need to rely on a steady hand and a trained eye to get straight edges with these. All this aside, electric shears are an economical way to get the job done, as well. Below is our top pick for the best electric shears.
We recommend the Genesis GES40 4.0 Amp Power Metal Shear:
Dremel tools are highly versatile and great for precision and detail work. You can use a tungsten carbide tip to drill holes or remove material, or you can use an attachable saw blade at a slower speed to make cuts (Dremel recommends 25-30 RPMs). While they’ll cut through aluminum like butter, they can also throw off particulates, so make sure you wear protective clothing and goggles before you get to work. The biggest upside to using one of these devices is the versatility of tips you can use to get the right cut or holes. They’re also compact and lightweight, making them easy on the hands and wrists. On the downside, they’re not the best for cutting thicker gauge metals or for getting precise, smooth lines. If you’ve already got a Dremel tool, you’re in great shape. Below is our recommended bit to get you cutting through aluminum.
We recommend the Dremel 561 Multipurpose Cutting Bit:
Let’s face it, you don’t need to plunk down a bunch of cash to start cutting aluminum, especially for thinner sheets. Good old tried and true aviation snips can get the job done, too. While distortion can be an issue if your blade dulls, and your precision is only as good as the steadiness of your hand, for small projects this is probably all you need. You’ll want to look for good quality metal in an aviation snip, and keep in mind that they’re color-coded. Yellow snips are for straight lines, green is for cutting to the right, and red is for cutting to the left. Make sure you wear gloves, too, as snipped metal can be dangerously sharp. Below is our pick for the best aviation snips on the market.
We recommend the DeWalt DWHT14676 Aviation Snip Set 3 pack:
Here is another tried-and-true classic method, and it’s perfect for cutting thin aluminum sheets. All you need is a straight edge and a nice sharp utility knife. You can use the knife along the straight edge to score the metal on both sides, then you can just bend the sheet and snap it apart. While you won’t get much versatility from this, and it won’t work well for gutters or thicker-gauge sheets, it’s perfect for simple cuts and it’s the most economical option available. We’ve found a great utility knife below that should be durable enough to get you scoring and snapping.
We recommend the Milwaukee 48-22-1903 Fastback 3 Utility Knife:
As you can see, you’ve got some serious options to consider when it comes to cutting aluminum. If you’re going to go with our recommendation on a miter saw, make sure you have the proper blades, or you’ll find yourself tearing out your hair in no time. Carbide-tipped saw blades are essential for cutting aluminum with miter saws or even circular saws, if you want to free up your motion. Make sure you consider the depth of versatility you’ll need. If you’re working on gutters, a miter saw is great for making those clean cuts, but you may need a good pair of aviation shears for more precision adjustments. Keep in mind how thick the aluminum will be, as well. Don’t rely on manual tools for thick gauge sheets, and don’t bother spending money on a power tool if you’re cutting thin sheets you can easily score with a utility knife and snap apart. If you need a drill bit to bore holes in aluminum, you probably don’t need any of the above. Go for a good quality cobalt drill bit and you’ll be set. If you’re on a tight budget but need quality cutting, the electric shears by Genesis are a great option, as well.
We hope these reviews have made it easier for you to decide how best to get to work on your project. With the myriad features available on the market, navigating the options can be daunting. When in doubt, remember the DeWalt miter saw will get you going quickly (don’t forget the carbide-tipped saw blade). While a miter saw can be a big investment, it’ll get you the best bang for the buck and last you a long time. Now get out there and get cutting!
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Ryan is a freelance writer from Arizona. When he's not blogging about his favorite hobbies, he's writing fiction, hiking or running in the great outdoors, and spending time with family.