Looking to upgrade your armory of garage equipment? Air cutting tools are a great way to make life that little bit easier.
We’ve all cut things with hand saws. It works, but it’s a hard and slow process; especially if you’re cutting metal. If you’re a car enthusiast, it’s safe to say you’re going to be cutting and drilling metal very often, especially if you like fabricating parts yourself. So, you’re gonna need more than just hand tools.
Electric saws and disc cutters feel like a god send when you’re used to hand tools, but they aren’t perfect. Even ignoring the costs, their weight and size isn’t ideal when doing more intricate or tight jobs, and their main issue tends to be a lack of control and feel. Even with adjustable settings, electric cutting tools tend to be very ‘on and off’ in their actions which can make it hard to accurately do detailed jobs, which on your own car – that you likely want to be kept neat and tidy – is an important factor.
These downfalls are where air-based alternatives shine. They are small, light, usually around a quarter of the price of the equivalent electrical ones, and have much better control and feel than any other type of cutting tool.
Air Cutting Tools
Cut Off Wheel
Air-powered cut-off wheels have countless uses in the home workshop, from small jobs like neatly cutting rubber and silicone hoses, to bigger jobs like sheet metal and bodywork cutting, cut-off wheels make short work of anything you need to do.
Far smaller and lighter than the equivalent electrical disc cutters – in fact they often weigh barely 1kg/2lbs, they are available in a variety disc sizes, from around 2.5in up to 5in, though the most typical size is a 3in cutting disc. Air-powered cut off wheels are available with the disc mounted horizontally or vertically, with the horizontal style being very useful for many more jobs that the typical vertical blade of an electrically powered cutting disc wouldn’t be suitable for.
Interested in buying a cut-off wheel? You can pick up the Goodyear tool pictured above for just $25.
When you need to cut things quickly, especially exhaust pipework or multi-layered body and chassis components where a normal disc cutter simply wouldn’t reach all the way through, an air saw is the tool you need. With a speed that often reaches 10,000+ strokes per minute, these things can cut even touch parts like chassis rails with incredible speed, and with a wide variety of blade types available, these are suitable for all types of metal, as well as plastics, wood, and more.
You can buy the Aircat product above for $106, or check out price comparisons for your region below:
Cutting intricate shapes into sheet metal, especially tight curves, is no easy task with any conventional tool, but there’s an air tool specifically for this, and that is a nibbler. This tool, as the name suggests, takes tiny but very high speed bites out of sheet metal in a very controllable manor, allowing the tightest of bends and right angles to be cut very easily.
Unlike most other cutting methods, nibblers tend to leave no burrs or distorted edges, making your job even faster and more efficient. As air nibblers are able to cut sheet steel as thick as 14 gauge (1.6mm) in many instances, your days of struggling to cut shapes with hacksaws and similar are over once you purchase one of these.
Grab one from Ingersoll for $135, or check out the price comparisons for your region below:
As hand tools go, metal cutting shears are great to cleanly cut sheet metal with surprising ease, but ease is a relative term when it comes to cutting metal by hand, so if you’re doing a lot of it, air-powered shears are a must.
As well as practically zero effort, these things are fast, thousands of cuts per minute in fact, allowing you to slice through sheet metal at a rate you would’ve likely thought impossible previously. With none of your effort now needed to be put in to the cutting motion, you’re able to accurately cut curves with much more ease versus hand shears too.
The Eastwood/Omsix product pictured above costs $75. Alternatively, view price comparisons for your region below:
If you ever port cylinder heads or smooth off or contour any component on your car to improve flow, an air-powered die grinder is a must. While electrical versions certainly exist, air powered ones have the power of the largest electrical ones, with less weight than the smallest of the electrical ones. And, most importantly for this job, they have far more control than either.
Countless bits can be fitted to these for all manner of tasks, from small sanding wheels to full cutting burrs, and from an engine tuning point of view these things are the most useful air-tool of them all. You can even use them in conjunction with, or sometimes instead of, other tools as drill bits and rotary cutting wheels can be fitted if required.
Buy the Ingersoll product pictured above for $65, or check out regional price comparisons below:
With a typical weight of less than 1kg/2lb, air drills are incredibly powerful for their size, not to mention a fraction of the cost of a powerful electric drill.
Air drills come in both conventional as well as right angle designs which are particularly useful for tight spaces. Just like a conventional electric drill, the mounting chuck can hold more than just drills. So, for sanding and wire wheel attachments – something used very commonly for rust removal on cars – these lightweight and compact air drills are the ideal solution.
View regional price comparisons for the pictured DeWalt product below:
Words by Stav.