What is the best tool for cutting wire mesh?
Jan. 13, 2022
We sell most pre-cut sizes of sheet metal. However, as most of you know, some jobs require precision. Whether you are trimming a few millimeters from the side or cutting custom shapes, you will need the right tool for the job. Some methods can leave abrasive burrs or distortion.
This is a quick guide to cutting wire mesh.
What are the variables?
Before we continue, we need to understand variables. If you've just Googled "how to cut sheet metal", we're sorry to say it's much more than that. Sheet metal is not made in the same way, so you'll need to know more details to figure out the way forward.
✴ First, what is the nature and profile of this sheet? Is it perforated metal or expanded metal? Is it barbed wire? Each has a distinctly different approach.
✴ Next, how thick is this sheet? Thinner materials will be easier to cut. What kind of metal are we talking about? Steel is usually harder than aluminum, so that needs to be considered as well.
✴ Finally, think about your application. Will the burr be dangerous? Does it need to look neat? Are there any other application-specific considerations?
What is the best tool for the job?
While presses, lasers and plasma cutters often achieve the best results (while sounding cool), these resources are not readily available. Here are our suggestions for alternatives.
1. Snips - These are fairly common and inexpensive, and hobbyists may already have a pair, and contractors certainly will. Snips are great for cutting thin sheet and wire mesh, and can even make nice curves, but you may have difficulty at lower gauges, especially if the metal is very hard. Scissors may leave burrs.
2. Hacksaw - Just like shears, most DIY hobbyists probably already own a hacksaw. Great for cutting thicker gauge that can't be handled, but harder metal can easily chew up the blade. It's hard to get a curved shape with a hacksaw, and the finish depends a lot on the blade you use.
3. Angle Grinder - Electric and portable, angle grinders can handle thicker gauges. Experienced hands may be able to get good bending results, but this can be tricky if you haven't used one before. Fast and efficient, with relatively clean cuts.
4. Electric Shears - Small electric shears bite small bites out of the metal as you maneuver the tool in its intended path. They require a little elbow grease to turn properly, but with some practice you can cut complex shapes with electric shears. They usually leave a jagged edge that requires careful handling. Both electric scissors and angle grinders can be purchased at your local hardware store.
There are also benchtop cutting tools available for more people who work with sheet metal and wire mesh more frequently, but that's another story.