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How to Cut a Copper Sheet

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Are you working on a home project where copper sheeting is needed? They add a unique touch wherever they’re included. But if you’ve never cut a copper sheet before, working with it can seem somewhat daunting. This is why we’re here today.

We’re here to teach you how to cut copper sheets in different ways. With the right tips and tricks, you’ll be cutting copper sheeting in no time. Read on to find out more.

1. Take Safety Precautions

Accidents can easily happen, especially when it’s your first time cutting copper sheets. Here are some things you need to keep in mind to prevent them.

Man cutting copper sheets wearing safety gears

Wear Gloves

We recommend thick, heavy-duty work gloves to prevent any possible cuts. If you don’t have gloves, then you can tape your fingers.

Use a Dust Mask

Wearing a dust mask or similarly, a respirator will prevent you from inhaling sheet metal dust. Inhalation of metal dust, in general, has negative effects on your lungs.

Avoid Carrying a Large Copper Sheet by Yourself

Remember: the edges are very sharp. If it slips, it could cause genuine harm to you. We also recommend wearing a full cover if you’re willing.

Wear Safety Goggles

Flying debris can be extremely harmful, especially to the eyes. Eye protection is incredibly important.

Wash Your Hands

Even if you’ve worked with your gloves on, soaping and rinsing your hands is essential.

2. Prepare Your Work Space

To begin with, you need to make sure that your working surface is flat and able to support your sheet. Here are some other things you should pay attention to.

Cleanliness

Your surface should be completely clean, with no debris or anything else that can scratch your sheet.

For this purpose, you could use a homemade mixture of lemon juice, baking soda, and vinegar. Dish liquid is also a suitable option.

Measure the Copper Sheet

Start by marking where you want to cut it. Use a tape measure to determine your preferred dimensions, then trace a pattern where it’s appropriate. Make sure the copper sheet is tightly clamped down and secure on the table.

A close up of a tape measure

3. Cut Your Copper Sheet

There are various ways to cut a copper sheet. You could use a nibbler, metal shears, or a hacksaw. In this section, we’re going to explore all of these methods.

Using a Nibbler

The first thing you should know is that using a nibbler is ideal for a thicker copper sheet. However, that isn’t the only thing it’s suitable for.

A nibbler is also useful for cutting designs, curves, and scrolls. If you’re not cutting straight lines, then using a nibbler is an excellent option.

Unfortunately, nibblers can be expensive. Is it just a one-time project? If you’re not cutting metals regularly, then nibblers can also be impractical.

The good thing is nibbler bits are common. A lot of companies sell nibblers bits that can be attached to pneumatic tools or power drills.

When working, nibblers bits aren’t different from designated nibblers. The process remains the same.

You should begin by turning on the nibbler. Then, slowly cut through your copper sheet according to your pattern.

Using Tin Snips

Are you cutting straight lines? If so, then you should consider buying a pair of tin snips. Using snips is considered one of the most common ways of cutting copper sheets. This is mostly due to how easy and affordable it is.

If you’re working with high and medium gauge sheet metal, then using tin snips is ideal.

The thing is, tin snips exist in different types. You can tell them apart by their handle color. For example, snips with a yellow handle are most useful when you’re cutting straight lines and wide curves.

Meanwhile, red tin snips are best when you want to cut to the left. You can also use them if you’re cutting straight lines.

Green tin snips are a good choice if you want to cut to the right. If you’re cutting straight lines, they also get the job done.

Are you a bit confused about which tin snip to buy? Luckily, those three tin snips are sold in one pack. This way, you’ll have all the tools for every task right beside you.

A hacksaw

Cutting copper sheets using tin snips is easy. Using a tin snip, start to slowly cut along your marked pattern.

If you’re cutting a straight line, then make sure that your motion is continuous and steady. Keep your tin snips perpendicular to the copper.

Once you free your pattern from the copper sheet, smooth down the edges.

Using a Hacksaw

If you aren’t planning on cutting copper sheets regularly, then using a hacksaw is a good solution. It’s quick and practical. Also, it’s likely that you have one in your garage.

For this task, a regular hacksaw is what you want to use. But before using it, it’s crucial to clamp your copper sheet down. After making sure it’s secure, start cutting along your pattern.

Try to be as patient as you can. If your hacksaw gets stuck at one point, don’t try to force it through. This won’t only ruin your design, but it can also break your hacksaw.

Instead, you should carefully back out. Then, you can continue cutting.

If you’re cutting a curve, look forward to the turn. Anticipate it so that you start turning before you reach the corner.

Using a Dremel

Much like a hacksaw, it’s not uncommon to have a Dremel stashed in your garage. Dremels come in all shapes and sizes, but they are universally known as a very handy tool. Likewise, a any similar multi-purpose tool is also suitable.

You should begin by preparing your copper sheet. This process is nothing special. As usual, clamp your sheet down to secure it.

The next thing you want to do is to outfit your tool. You’ll need a metal-cutting wheel to do that. When shopping, look for wheels that are made for cutting sheet metal. But if you don’t find any, you could use any ordinary metal cutting wheel.

Place your now-outfitted tool parallel to the copper sheet and cut along the marked template.

4. Polish off the Edges

A polished copper sheet

Congratulations! You’ve successfully cut a copper sheet. Now what?

Now it’s time to focus on the edges. It’s inevitable that you end up with burred edges, which are jagged pieces that are not smooth. You’ll need to smooth that edge because it’s often unsightly and sharp. It doesn’t only look displeasing, but you also can get cut.

To finish your edges, you need to sand them. 

  1. File the edges to remove any burrs on the edge. 
  2. You can also get a deburring tool for this task. In this case, a deburring tool will quickly get the job done. It’ll smooth over the edge from your cut right away.
  3. In a pinch, give rough sandpaper a try. While not ideal, this can do the trick with several passes. 

Which Tool is Best?

The type of copper sheet you’re working with can be a big factor in picking out a tool. Are you working with high or medium gauge copper sheets? Then you should opt for a good pair of tin snips.

Is your copper a little bit on the thicker side? Then you should use a nibbler. A nibbler is also a good option if you’re cutting designs or scrolls.

Make sure you’re using a tool that’s suitable with your copper sheets. Then, work slowly and carefully.

Conclusion

The options are endless. They’re mostly dependent on the type of copper sheets you’re working with and the tools you have. You can easily get a perfectly cut piece of copper sheet with the suitable tools and correct steps.

The type of copper sheet you’re working with can be a big factor in picking out a tool. Are you working with high or medium gauge copper sheets? Then you should opt for a good pair of tin snips.

Is your copper a little bit on the thicker side? Then you should use a nibbler. A nibbler is also a good option if you’re cutting designs or scrolls.

Make sure you’re using a tool that’s suitable with your copper sheets. Then, work slowly and carefully.

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.