How to Cut Stainless Steel Sheets and Tubes

If you buy something through a link in our posts, we may get a small share of the sale.

Due to its rust resistance, strength, and sturdiness, stainless steel is one of the most used and popular materials all over the world. But cutting stainless steel is more difficult than cutting other metals because of how sturdy and strong it is.

Luckily with the right tools, the job will be done a lot easier and quicker. What’s more, there are lots of proven methods that are certain to help you. Nevertheless, read on and get to know more about these methods.

Safety Measures

But before anything else, let’s take a look at the safety measures that you need to keep in mind to avoid any accident while you’re cutting.

Top view of a stainless metal sheet
  1. Keep kids out of your working area.
  2. Wear eye protection like certified goggles to protect your eyes from flying sparks and particles.
  3. ​Wear a pair of gloves to protect your hands from small fragments of metal and sparks. Also, it is recommended that you wear safety shoes that have insoles.
  4. Don’t forget to use a dust mask to avoid inhaling fume and dust particles which may badly affect your health.
  5. Remove all pieces of jewelry or accessories in your body before doing the job.
  6. Prepare a fire extinguisher close to your workplace.
  7. Get rid of paper as well as flammable materials like gasoline and diesel from your working area as well.
  8. Properly light up your working space.
  9. Keep an eye on the power cables. Make sure to place them behind you to prevent cutting or tripping yourself.

Materials Needed

There are different forms of stainless steel, such as bars, sheets, plates, tubing, and wires. Either way, depending on what form you are working with, you will need to prepare ONE of these tools:

​Note: If you don’t already have one, a DIY dust collector might also work well for this project.

Plasma Cutter

This tool is ideal for cutting very thick stainless steel sheets, bars, as well as solid tubes. Plasma cutters can carve out exact cuts with ease. However, most DIY homeowners don’t have one. 

Circular Saw

circular saw is a type of saw that uses a blade or abrasive or toothed tooth to cut various materials including stainless steel. If you’re doing long cuts on stainless steel sheets, a circular saw is the perfect tool to use.

Angle Grinder

This second is perfect to use when you are working with thicker tubes or sheets. A good quality angle grinder is capable of making fast cuts and grind. You can also use this when polishing or sanding the project.

Additional Materials Needed

Aside from the above-mentioned, there are also a few other things that you need to prepare to get the job done effectively.

  • Marker and Tape Measure
  • ​Safety goggles
  • ​Work gloves
  • ​Metal file
  • Workbench
  • ​Clamps

​No matter which method you pick to cut the stainless steel, keep these six tools on hand.

A thin metal sheet going through a machine

How to ​Pick ​the Right Tool

There are a lot of different tools that will work for cutting stainless steel (as you can see). Follow these steps to pick the right tool for your specific piece of steel:

  1. How thick is your stainless steel? The thickness of steel is noted by its gauge, with a lower number being a thinner piece of metal. Steel with a gauge lower than 18 is probably best to be cut with shears or even snips. Thicker steel is better cut with a plasma cutter, circular saw, or angle grinder.
  2. ​What kind of stainless steel do you have? This type of steel comes in a lot of different forms. If you’re cutting tubes, you’ll probably prefer a tube cutter or angle grinder. If sheets, a circular saw or plasma cutter.
  3. Are you cutting straight edges or curves? Cutting curves or circles in stainless steel is the only time we recommend a jigsaw, as this type of saw allows for curving while cutting. Other than that, stick with a tool that offers a circular blade.

How to Cut Stainless Steel​

There are several different ways to cut this type of metal, ranging from tin snips to power shears to plasma cutter to an angle grinder or circular saw.  The plasma cutter is the most accurate, but most people don’t own one. The circular saw or angle grinder will also do an adequate job.

Step 1: Prepare ​Your Work Area

Irrespective of how you will be cutting the stainless steel you will have to prepare your working area. If you are going to be utilizing a circular saw, it is best to work outdoors or in your backyard​.

​If working inside, get rid of anything flammable from your workplace, as the cutting process​ makes a lot of sparks which may cause a fire.

Further, you will need to prepare a sawhorse or durable workbench to work on. The last thing you need is for the steel to shift and adjust as you cut. This will cause your cut to be inaccurate and can also be dangerous. 

Get your clamps ready – you’ll need to clamp the sheet metal down before cutting.

Step 2: ​Measure the Steel

Utilize your tape measure to obtain a precise measurement for the steel that you need to cut. Then make use of a marker to mark where you need to cut.

​Utilize a square or ruler to get an straight, even line. Mark this line clearly, and make sure to utilize this square when cutting (if possible). 

Step 3: Cut the Stainless Steel

After doing the first two steps, you are ready to cut your stainless steel. If you are cutting through thicker sheets, an angle grinder, power shear, or circular saw is the best option. Thinner sheets, however, only require a tin snip.

For stainless tubing, a circular saw is a perfect tool to use. But if you’re working with heavy-duty, then it’s recommended that you use a plasma cutter.

First Method: Tin Snips

Just like cutting vinyl siding for your home, tin snips work similar to a pair of scissors. All you need to do is work your way over the steel slowly ensuring not to cut the edge you have created.

Don’t “over-cut” the stainless metal. If you make a full cut with the tin snips, this can leave jagged edges. It can also make it more difficult to cut a completely straight line.

Instead, only make half cuts with the snips. While this will take longer, it is usually a lot more accurate. ​

Second Method: Power Shears

​Power shears work like tin snips, but this tool uses a motor. This makes power shears a lot more powerful.

To cut using this tool, place the stainless steel up against the power shear’s jaws and then squeeze the trigger.

​Work through the steel slowly until you have finished the cut.

Third Method: Plasma Cutter

The plasma cutter is best used for cutting through thick sheets of stainless steel.

First and foremost, you will have to prepare your plasma cutter. Make sure to connect the cutter to an air compressor and switch on the air. Then, set the correct current for your cutter.

Note that the thicker the steel, the higher the current. ​

Next, connect the ground clamp to​ the edge of the steel where you want to start the cut. After preparing the plasma cutter, you can now start cutting.

Turn on the plasma cutter and bring the torch’s handle near to the ​steel. ​Maneuver consciously and slowly through the cut, ​keeping your hand steady as you trace your mark.

Fourth Method: Circular Saw

A circular saw works really well to cut this type of steel, provided you use the correct blade. Without a blade that is specifically designed for metal, you’ll ruin your stainless steel. More than likely you’ll want to opt for a diamond blade.

​Instead of using a table saw, switch on the circular saw and let it reach full ​speed before starting the process. Lower the tool to the work surface and let it work over the steel gradually until the cut has completed.

Make sure to line up a guide so that your cut will be straight. Circular saws are handheld, and without a straight edge guide, your cut will be off a bit.

​The circular saw​ is usually used for cutting materials that are too thin for power shears and tin snips. However, it can also be used for projects such as cutting tin metal roofing and roof panels​, in addition to making a great tool for stainless steel. 

Fifth Method: Angle Grinder

​Its possible to use an angle grinder for cutting stainless steel, but it ​isn’t the preferred method. Even the top angle grinder models will struggle to cut accurately. 

The process for cutting is very similar to using a circular saw. But, with a circular saw, you can use a guide to cut straight. With an angle grinder, you don’t have this luxury.

One great way to use an angle grinder is to cut stainless steel tubing. If you don’t have a tube cutter, and angle grinder can be a good alternative. 

However, for cutting sheets of stainless steel, we’d prefer one of the other methods listed.

Man cutting metal with an angle grinder

Step 4: Clean Frayed Edge

After you have finished cutting, it is normal for the sides of your cut to have a nasty edge. ​The amount of fraying will vary depending on which tool you used. 

You can use a metal file or deburring tool to file the edges down. Similar to sand paper, this will slowly take the edges off and smooth it out. With metal, these edges can be dangerous, so make sure not to skip this step.

Using a Jigsaw for Curved Cuts

You ​can use a jigsaw to cut stainless steel, but it isn’t the preferred tool of choice. This is our opinion, but we can explain why.

Jigsaws use a reciprocating blade to make their cuts. Even with the right blade, designed for cutting metal, the jigsaw still seems to lock up on its cuts.

The jigsaw is also handheld, which makes it harder to cut straight lines. Once you introduce the need for a straight edge guide, you might as well use a circular saw. The circular saw has a continuously rotating blade which just works better for this type of cut.

However, the one situation where a jigsaw is preferred is if you have to cut curves in your stainless steel. In this case, the reciprocating blade of a jigsaw works perfectly.

Conclusion

Depending on the type of stainless steel you are ​using, you can easily cut it using a plasma cutter, circular saw, power shears, tin snip, or an angle grinder.

​Unless you have a plasma cutter, we recommend opting for a circular saw with a guide. This method will apply to most out there, and will produce an accurate cut.

Ensure you use the right blade, both for your safety and to ensure your cut is smooth. Cut slowly, and you’ll be able to work through your stainless steel project.