The Basics of the Shearing Process

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The Basics of the Shearing Process

Within most steel projects, the need to separate a piece of sheet metal is a common requirement. There are several different cutting processes available, all of which are meant to apply enough force to cause the material to fail, therefore separating it.

At Wasatch Steel, one of our preferred custom steel cutting methods is known as shearing. This process uses a specific machine, and has certain specialized capabilities. Let’s look at some shearing basics to know.

Shearing Basics

There are several processes that utilize “shearing force” to cut sheet metal, but the actual term “shearing” refers to a more specific cutting process within these. Shearing produces straight line cuts to separate a piece of sheet metal, and it’s most commonly used to cut a sheet parallel to an existing edge which is held square. Angle cuts can also be made, however.


Because of its standard operations, shearing is generally used to cut sheet stock into smaller sizes – often in preparation for further processes later along the line. Shearing has the following basic capabilities:

  • Thickness: Shearing can cut sheets with a thickness of anywhere between 0.005 inches and 0.25 inches.
  • Tolerance: Shearing can handle a tolerance of plus-or-minus 0.1 inches (plus-or-minus .005 inches feasible)
  • Surface finish: Capability will be between 250 and 1,000 µin (125-2,000 µin feasible).

Shear Machine

The shearing process is performed using a shear machine, often also called a squaring shear or power shear. This machine can be operated manually, or by hydraulic, pneumatic or electric power sources. A standard machine includes a table with support arms for the sheet, guides to secure the sheet, straight-edge blades (both upper and lower) and a gauging device to help with positioning.

The sheet is placed between the upper and lower blades, and the blades are then forced together against the sheet to cut the steel. In most cases, the lower blade sits still while the upper blade is the one forced downward. The upper blade will usually be angled so that as the cut moves from one side to the other, the required force will continuously lessen.

To learn more about shearing, or for more information on any of our steel services, speak to the experts at Wasatch Steel today.