How to Cut Hardware Cloth?

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The fine metal mesh known as hardware cloth has a myriad of protective and screening applications. Most projects that include hardware cloth won’t use an entire roll. Learning how to cut hardware cloth into smaller pieces or shapes is necessary to get the most out of this versatile material. In this article, we’ll give you step-by-step instructions for two hardware cloth cutting methods.

What Is Hardware Cloth?

Hardware cloth is a flexible mesh, made from finely woven or welded metal wires. The openings between wires are generally square or rectangular. They can measure as small as ⅛ of an inch by ⅛ of an inch, up to two inches by four inches per opening. 

Hardware cloth is sold by the roll, or cut to order. Each roll is generally between two and five feet wide. The length of a roll of hardware cloth can be between ten and 100 feet long. 

Hardware cloth can be made from bare steel, stainless steel, or galvanized steel. The gauge of the wires used to construct the cloth indicate how strong it is. Lower gauges indicate thicker wire, which has a greater yield strength. 

Hardware Cloth Uses

Hardware cloth has a variety of uses in residential, commercial, and industrial contexts. 

  • The heavy duty mesh is too thick for animals to chew through, so it is often used to protect poultry from predators. 
  • It can also be used as a form of pest control, to keep vermin from entering a structure through unshielded vents. 
  • Hardware cloth is used as a machine guard, to prevent fragile human bodies from coming into contact with unforgiving mechanical parts. 
  • When newly planted trees need protection and support, hardware cloth mesh can be wrapped around their trunks. 
  • Hardware cloth is ideal for sectioning off maintenance equipment in shared or semi-public spaces, where building solid walls would be impractical or unnecessary. 
  • Small pieces of hardware cloth can be used for household projects, such as storing tools, making baskets, or creating a message board. 

Methods for Cutting Hardware Cloth 

Cutting hardware cloth is a simple project that can be achieved with a variety of tools. The simplest way to cut hardware cloth is to use a cutting tool designed for metal, such as tin snips or aviation shears. An angle grinder fitted with an appropriate disc will also cut through hardware cloth.

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1. Use Tin Snips or Aviation Shears

Regular scissors won’t cut through hardware cloth, but tin snips or aviation shears will do the job nicely. 

  1. Know your tool. Tin snips function like a pair of scissors. As you bring the handles together, the force of your grip causes the two blades to slide past each other, separating whatever is in their way. Aviation shears have an added leverage-enhancing compound system, allowing you to cut through materials with much less effort. 
  2. Lay out the cloth. Unroll the hardware cloth onto a flat surface. The cloth will not automatically lie flat, but will try to curl back into the shape of the roll. Use rocks, bricks, paint cans, or whatever heavy objects you have lying around to weigh the edges and hold the hardware cloth in place. 
  3. Measure and mark. Use a measuring tape to find the location for your cut. Mark the wires using a paint or permanent marker. Try to make the cut where the horizontal wires meet vertical supports – this will prevent a jagged edge. Extend the mark along the width of the hardware cloth. 
  4. Start snipping. Insert the first metal wire into the jaws of the tin snips or aviation shears. Keeping your fingers, clothing, and hair clear of the blades, squeeze the cutting implement handles together. Loosen your grip to open the jaws.
  5. Keep going. Find the mark on the next section of wire, and snip away. Continue on in this way until all the wires are cut and the section of cloth has separated from the roll. Check your progress regularly, making sure you stick to the cut line for a straight and even edge. 

2. Use an Angle Grinder

Hardware cloth readily yields to an angle grinder with an appropriate cut off wheel installed. 

  1. Choose your workspace carefully. Angle grinders produce sparks when cutting through metal, and these sparks can become a fire hazard. Evaluate your workspace and remove any potential ignition risks, such as stored chemicals, piles of sawdust, or oil-soaked rags. 
  2. Roll out the hardware cloth. Clamp or weigh down the edges of the hardware cloth so it doesn’t spring back into its rolled position. Measure and mark the cut you want to make. You can use scrap wood or saw horses to raise the hardware cloth off the flat surface on either side of the line, giving you room to operate the angle grinder without cutting the floor or work bench underneath. 
  3. Install a metal cut-off wheel. Choose a disc that is the appropriate size for your angle grinder. A diamond-tipped wheel will easily slice through hardware cloth. Another good choice is an aluminum oxide wheel, which is hard enough to cut through steel. If possible, make sure you’re using the best angle grinder on the market.
  4. Protect yourself. Angle grinder discs spin at extremely high speeds. Anything caught by the disc can become a projectile. Metal cutting wheels are extremely thin, and have been known to shatter, causing serious injuries. Don’t take any chances – wear full-face protection every time you use an angle grinder. Never use an angle grinder without an appropriately installed and adjusted guard. Always control the angle grinder by using two hands during operation. 
  5. Test the cut-off wheel. Whenever you install a new wheel onto an angle grinder, it’s a good idea to test it. Power on the tool and let the disc spin for half a minute or so. If you don’t hear any funny noises or see any wobbling, you can be reasonably sure there are no structural defects or installation problems and that it’s safe to continue. 
  6. Make the cuts. Position yourself parallel to the cut line. Bring the angle grinder up to full speed. Using the edge of the wheel only, plunge the angle grinder disc through the cut line at a right angle. Lift the angle grinder disc clear of the cut, move it to the next section, and repeat. 
  7. Finish and clean. When you’re done cutting, turn the angle grinder off and disconnect it from power. Put on gloves and check the cuts you made for burring and jagged edges. You can use a grinding disc to clean up sharp edges. 

What Tool Should I Use to Cut Hardware Cloth?

There are several tools that will cut through hardware cloth. Use tin snips to make a single cut. Use aviation sheers for many cuts. Us an angle grinder to cut large sections.

  • If you only have to cut one section of hardware cloth, it’s not worth it to bring out the angle grinder. Use a pair of tin snips or aviation shears instead. 
  • Using tin snips can get tedious quickly, and your hands are likely to get tired. Aviation shears are a bit better, since the compound action makes the mechanical cutting motion more efficient.
  • For larger projects that require many cuts, it’s worth it to use a power tool. Either a rotary tool or an angle grinder will work, so if you already own one of those tools and feel comfortable using it, there’s no need to invest in anything else. 

Conclusion

Hardware cloth is a versatile steel mesh product with many different uses. It can be cut through manual or powered means. Manual methods for cutting hardware cloth include using tin snips or aviation shears. An angle grinder can also be used to cut hardware cloth. Cut along vertical support wires to minimize jagged edges. 

Ellenkate grew up on job sites run by her family’s construction company. She earned her theater degree from The Hartt School, a prestigious performing arts conservatory in Connecticut. Her design and DIY work from her Chicago loft was featured in the Chicago Reader and on Apartment Therapy.