Makita XNJ01Z 18V LXT Nibbler
A cordless that can cut up to 16-gauge material.
In a hurry? While I recommend reading the whole article to find the nibblers that best suitsyour needs, I have to mention here that the Makita XNJ01Z is my favorite. It’s convenient to use since it is cordless, and it can cut up to 16-gauge metal sheets with no troubles.
A power nibbler or hand nibblers can be an extremely valuable tool when you need to cut sheet metal. However, with many different types of the tool out there – and even more models by various brands – it can get difficult to choose the right one.
To make your choice easier, I take a look at eight nibblers of various types that I recommend checking out if you are looking to get one. Before jumping into the full list, though, here are my top three choices:
4 Best Electric Metal Nibblers
While hand nibblers might work well for smaller jobs, if you need to do any decent amount of metal sheet cutting, you will likely want an electric-powered tool. Below is a list of what I believe to be the best electric nibblers – both corded and cordless – to help you make sense of the oversaturated market.
Best Corded: Makita JN3201 10-Gauge Nibbler
The Makita JN3201 metal nibbler weighs 7.4 pounds which makes it a little heavier than other nibblers. It has a built-in thickness gauge which is very convenient for the user. The operating sound rating is right around 81 dBA which is quieter than you’d expect.
It’s powered by a strong 6.2 Amp motor which can be used to cut 10-gauge mild steel or 13-gauge stainless steel. The punch and die can be replaced quickly, minimizing downtime. It also features double insulation as well as ball and needle bearings which means the tool will have a longer life.
This set comes with all of the necessary wrenches and tools you need to get to work. Its minimum inside cutting edge is just about 4-3/4 inches. The size, power, and ability to cut various materials puts this Makita tool at the top of this list.
Best Cordless: Makita XNJ01Z 18V LXT Nibbler
If you would prefer to ditch the cord, then you should put the 18-volt Makita XNJ01Z at the top of your list. It’s perfect for cutting up to 16-gauge material, and the die holder can rotate 360 degrees allowing you to cut in any direction.
This nibbler’s chip disposal is below the cutting material which means less damage to your cutting surface. The inner edge cutting radius is 1-3/4 inches.
It weighs just 4 pounds without a battery. It’s small enough to be operated comfortably yet strong enough to do most of the jobs you will regularly encounter.
Add the fact that it’s cordless and you’re left with what is most likely a more versatile metal nibbler than any other in this market. Overall, it’s a perfect pick if you’re working on metal roofing, decking, HVAC, or any work in a metal fab shop.
Runner-Up – Corded: Hitachi CN16SA
When it comes to corded nibblers, a close second in my research was the Hitachi CN16SA. Compared to the Makita, it’s designed for lighter gauge metals and has a 3.5 Amp motor that will glide through most flat sheet metal. It has a small grip width which means it’s easier to handle and control.
Since the unit punches downward, the chips produced on the workpiece is minimized. It is rated to cut at 5.7 feet per minute on 16-gauge mild steel which is relatively fast. The die holder has a 3-position indexer which allows you to quickly change direction.
It weighs 3.5 pounds which makes it light enough to handle comfortably for prolonged periods of time. It has a quick one-touch slide switch which means it’s easy to start and stop a project.
Its slim body and lightweight design make it easy to operate. As long as you have access to power on most of your projects, this tool is a solid choice.
Runner-Up – Cordless: Metabo HPT Nibbler
Next up is Metabo’s cordless metal nibbler. Like the Makita, this one is powered by an 18-volt battery as well, so it has plenty of power for most applications. It features an on-tool battery charge indicator which lets you know how much juice you have left.
Its grip is soft and ergonomic which means more comfort for you and less fatigue for your arms. The grip’s circumference is small so you can still do all of the precision work you need to. It weighs in at 4.1 pounds without the battery, comparable to other similar tools.
Its die holder can rotate 180 degrees and has 3-stops allowing for flexibility during your projects.
This nibbler is designed to cut mild steel, aluminum, stainless steel, and to corrugate quickly. It will leave a clean cut on your surface, and the downward punching means fewer chips on the workpiece.
Best Air Metal Nibbler: Astro 727 ONYX
If electric-powered nibblers won’t work for your project, you’re going to want to consider using compressed air. One of the pneumatic nibblers worth considering is the Astro Pneumatic 727. It works on up to 17-gauge cold-rolled steel and will easily cut through sheet metal without deforming the edges.
The tool’s speed is rated at just over an inch per second or about five feet per minute. It requires 2 CFM at 45 PSI and needs around 90 PSI to operate. It weighs 2 pounds and has a quick connect air coupler on the back so you can quickly start your project.
One of the tool’s downsides it the fact that it can’t be used on flush applications because there’s an offset built into the guide.
Best Metal Nibbler Drill Attachment: REXBETI Metal Cutter
This double-headed nibbler by REXBETI is a very convenient drill attachment. It fits onto any drill that works between 1,500 and 3,000 RPM. Using the double cutting head, you can position the attachment to not only cut straight lines but also perfect circles of varying diameters.
It will glide through 14-gauge material without much hesitation. Its head rotates 360 degrees to make any job easy. The attachments will cut sheet metal, corrugate, pipes, powder-coated material, stainless steel, copper, aluminum, Formica, plastic, and fiberglass. It can cut straight, curved, or complex designs, and leaves edges with minimal burrs.
This is one of those attachments that you didn’t know you needed until you use it. The package comes with all of the accessories you need to start cutting – you just need a hand drill.
2 Best Hand Metal Nibblers
While using a power tool will certainly speed up the process, if you only need to do small cuts rather infrequently, you might be able to save money by using hand nibblers. Below is a selection of what I think are the two best ones on the market.
Top Pick: Knipex Tools Sheet Metal Nibblers
Standing at around 11 inches long, these Knipex hand nibblers take the hard work out of cutting sheet metal. They work on iron, copper, or aluminum sheets that are up to 1.2 mm thick. They barely weigh a pound and allow for really tight radiuses to be cut.
The kerf is around 2.7mm and will cut without deformation. The edges cut cleanly and there’s an additional chip breaker that will minimize the mess and keep your projects simple. The blades are oil-hardened and interchangeable.
The body of the tool is made out of oil-hardened and rolled steel so you can rest knowing that your tool has a long life ahead of it.
Runner-Up: Draper Expert 250mm Hand Nibbler
Taking the runner-up seat, Draper’s Expert hand nibblers are a good buy. Their cutter has precise ground edges, and it can be changed out and replaced easily.
The handle is spring-loaded, so it puts less strain on your hand. The handle is coated and has slip guards to keep your fingers safe. It weighs just a pound, which makes for a very easy experience when you use this nibbler.
The tool will cut sheet metal up to 1.2mm thick, and plastics up to 2mm thick. Its claim to fame is its ability to cut cleanly without distortion or bending. Keep in mind that the cutter is about 1/8 thick and will leave that size cut on your material.
This tool is a great addition to any sheet metal working toolset and will keep your hand safe while you manually work the sheet metal.
The Methodology: What I Considered When Picking the Products Featured Above
When going through the dozens of sheet metal nibblers available on the market, I considered, among other things, the factors below.
Price: With people rarely having an unlimited budget, price plays a big role when selecting the right tool. After all, selecting one that is too expensive for the needs of your project could mean not being left with a budget for another tool you might realize you need at a later point in time. Because of that, the list above contains mostly moderately-priced items. If you are on an extremely tight budget, you should consider either using hand nibblers or – if you have a compressor or a drill – getting a drill attachment or a pneumatic nibbler.
Quality: Equally (if not more) as important as price is quality. The three main ways I assess a product’s quality are looking at the reputation of the brand that makes it, and going thoroughly through positive, negative, and neutral reviews. Overall, all of the products I featured in the list are of decent enough quality in relation to their price and intended usage. However, if I had to choose one that wins on this front, it would be the corded and cordless top picks, Makita JN3201 and Makita XNJ01Z.
Power: When it comes to sheet metal nibblers, the power (or gauge) of the tool is another important factor. It is especially important if you are looking to cut thicker sheets of strong metal. One thing to keep in mind when choosing the right tool is that when it comes to “gauge” – the way metal’s thickness is usually denominated, a higher number means thinner sheet. In other words, a gauge 10 sheet is thicker than a gauge 16 sheet.
Versatility: Finally, you should also keep the versatility of the nibbler you choose in mind. You should consider whether you need a corded or a cordless one, as well as whether you need to be cutting accurate circles or just straight lines. You should also consider how it will fit into your existing toolkit – whether you will be able to use the batteries you already have or whether you will be better off getting a drill attachment rather than a stand-alone nibbler.
The FAQs: Things You Need to Know About Sheet Metal Nibblers
If you are unsure whether nibblers are what you actually need for your job – or if there is a question you have about them – chances are you will find your answer below.
Should you be getting a nibbler or shears?
When it comes to cutting sheet metal, the two most common tools are nibblers that I talk about in this article and shears. In most cases, you will be able to get your job done using either of those. However, you should keep in mind that nibblers are much more accurate and are able to cut clean radiuses.
For a full comparison of the two tools, check this article.
What types of nibblers do exist?
First of all, sheet metal nibblers can be split into two big groups: hand nibblers and power nibblers. As their names suggest, while the former is manual labor-intensive and works like scissors, the latter is powered by either electricity or compressed air.
Electric nibblers can further be divided into cordless and corded ones.
What type should you get?
If you need to cut relatively thin sheets of metal – and only have a few small cuts to do – you might be able to get away with using hand nibblers which are considerably cheaper than power nibblers. However, if you need to do any more work than that or to cut sheets on a regular basis, I recommend getting either a drill attachment or one of the power nibblers.
As for the power source, I recommend getting an electric one unless you already have a compressor in your workshop. Unless you need the extra power that corded tools provide or are on a budget, you should go with metal nibblers. They will be much more convenient to use and you will not have to worry about getting yourself tangled in the cord.
Which brand of nibblers is the best?
When it comes to hand nibblers, then I strongly recommend Knipex. For power nibblers, personally I recommend going with Makita – the brand of tools that I have the most experience with and that never disappointed me.
However, if you already have power tools of another brand, you should see if the brand offers nibblers as well. Going with the same brand – especially if you are using cordless power tools – makes a lot of sense.
I also recommend checking my article about the best power tool brands.
To recap the above, when getting nibblers, you have four options: you can get an electric variant (either corded or cordless), a pneumatic variant, a pair of hand nibblers or a drill attachment.
Among other things, when choosing between the different types, you will have to keep in mind the amount of cutting you are planning to do as well as the thickness of metal sheets that you are going to be cutting.
Except for the lightest applications, I recommend getting electric nibblers, preferably cordless like the Makita XNJ01Z. However, if you are on a budget and already have a compressor in your garage or workshop, you should also consider pneumatic nibblers.