Can I cut sheet metal with a plasma cutter? – Sure you could cut sheet metal with a plasma cutter, if you have one, but it’s can be like hunting ducks with a bazooka. Plasma cutters will easily cut through metal from over 1 inch thick, to thin body work thickness. But if you are planning on cutting sheet metal for body work make sure you plasma cutter has fresh consumables and is "tuned in" with the correct settings or it could leave a rough edge on the metal that is more work to clean up than the actual cutting. Plasma cutting is best used for metal thicker than the 18 gauge that can't be easily cut with sheers or snips.
Can I use an oxy-acetylene cutting torch for sheet metal? – Yes, but the edge left on the metal will be even rougher than the plasma cutter. Again, the cutting torch is best used for more structural steel thicker than the 18 gauge that can't be cut with mechanical means.
What is the difference between shears and snips? – There isn’t really much difference in function between shears and snips. Typically snips are just like super heavy duty scissors that can cut through metal with nothing more than a little leverage and the strength of your hand. Shears feature much greater mechanical advantage, or are powered by compressed air or electricity.
I need to cut a complex curved shape in sheet metal, what do I use? – The simplest way to cut a curve in sheet metal are right or left handed aviation or tin snips. They are small and can even be used to cut holes in sheet metal that is still a part of your project car. For shop use a bench mounted throatless shear can be very useful for making curved cuts. For real tight curves the nibbler shears can be dropped into a ¼ inch hole in the middle of a panel and make very tight curves.
Is there a simple and effective way to punch round holes in sheet metal without distorting it? – Eastwood’s heavy duty punch kit will put perfectly round holes up to ¼ inch and a bit larger in most metals up to 16 gauge thick. It is designed with mechanical advantage to deliver 2000lbs of force with just your hand. It is a much better, neater option than trying to drill holes without distorting the metal.
What is the difference between the red, green and yellow snips? – The yellow handle snips are to cut straight lines, and can’t form curves very well. Green handled snips are for cutting curves that go toward the right, or clockwise. Red handled snips are for cutting to the left or counter clockwise. This is basically a universal color code used by all manufacturers that was set in the Aviation industry.
Are there any special precautions for working with sheet metal? – Good gloves are a must. Recently cut sheet metal is surprisingly sharp. Just a little slip can cause a serious cut on your hand, wrist or arm. Otherwise, no special precautions, just the usual gear like safety glasses.