Everything You Need to Know About Sheet Metal Tools

Sheet metal tools are among the most commonly used tools in an aircraft technician’s tool chest. They are so frequently employed, in fact, that it is possible to take them for granted — especially when it comes to exploiting their full range of...


Adams: Pan American Tool offers a double margin drill bit that, if used in place of a standard jobber drill bit, can improve the quality of the hole by 50 to 60 percent. As well, these bits eliminate the need for reaming in most applications.

AMT: What is the most common mistake made in the handling of sheet metal tools?

Messner: In my opinion, I think it’s foolish to handle sheet metal without gloves or without first deburring the edges. The edges of the piece can be razor sharp and have been the cause of many trips to the hospital for stitches. Although gloves and deburring won’t eliminate all those accidents, it will sure help. A simple, cheap deburring tool is all you need to take the edge off. It only takes a second or two to be safe.

Adams: Knowing the materials you are drilling and using proper feed and speed to lengthen the life of the cutting tool. The rule of thumb is the harder the material, the slower the speed and the higher the feed rate. Be sure to check metal cutting handbooks for exact speed and feed rates.

Messner: It’s also important to have a large, clean bench to work on. Keep your sheet metal clean and free of scratches or nicks and bends. Have a safe, protected place to store it flat until you’re ready to use it.

AMT: What are the most important things to know about the care of sheet metal tools?

Messner: Sheet metal tools are no different than any other tool when it comes to care and maintenance. Keeping them clean is a start. Be sure to lubricate or grease those that require it on a scheduled basis.

Adams: The maintenance such as oiling of pneumatic tools is very important in ensuring their longevity. Over-oiling can lead to premature failure, drastically shortening the life of all components in the motor housing. Not oiling prior to storage can cause rust to seize internal parts due to moisture in the compressed air system.

Messner: Sharpen or replace dull cutting tools like drill bits, shear and saw blades, countersink pilots, and aviation snips, just to name a few.

If you’re using air tools like drills or rivet hammers, be sure you have an inline lubricator, filter, and regulator. Nothing is worse than dirt or water getting into an air tool.

As well, be sure to wipe your tools down before putting them away for the day.

AMT: Finally, what advances has your company made in sheet metal tool design?

Adams: We implemented a drill system (Nova kit) with 16 interchangeable heads housed in a portable case for use in the field or in the hangar.

Messner: One of the hottest items we have been working on is our new tungsten bucking bars. The use of a tough grade tungsten allows us to make very high-quality bars to our own design or custom-made to our customers’ drawings. The repetitive hammering, and the resulting impact shock transmitted to an operator using a conventional bar, has been known to be a big contributor to technicians developing carpal tunnel syndrome. The tungsten bar absorbs much more of that shock, sets the rivet quicker, and helps reduce the chance of developing carpal tunnel. Once the mechanic has a chance to use these new bars, he’ll never want to use his old ones.

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