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What is a Rotary Shear?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 17, 2024
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A rotary shear is a device that cuts with a revolving steel wheel. The wheel is very sharp and produces very clean cuts in a fraction of the time it would take to make the same cut with scissors. A rotary shear can be used on any type of material and even sheet metal and aluminum can be cut with this device. The rotary shear can cut many times faster than a conventional pair of scissors and is able to also cut much more accurately.

In a production environment where time is very important, a rotary shear is able to increase productivity by cutting much faster and with less waste. Making more exacting cuts equals less discarded material and thus, more profits for the company. The rotary shear is able to offset any increased initial cost by generating a healthier bottom line in production costs.

When cutting sheet metal or aluminum, the rotary shear is able to make much neater cuts without distorting the materials in the process. Many times, cutting sheet metal with tin snips or tin shears results in jagged edges and bent and distorted metal from attempting to make turning cuts. The rotary shear eliminates all of the frustration by making turning cuts with ease. Straight cuts are also much smoother and are completed at a much faster pace.

Hard-to-cut materials such as fiberglass insulation are easily cut with a rotary shear. The cutting wheel glides right through the material without creating the fiberglass dust associated with a scissors-like cutting motion. Using a razor-blade knife typically results in repeated cuts until ultimately cutting all the way through the thick mat. The natural compressing action of a rotary shear allows the blade to slice cleanly through the material in a single pass. Best of all, there are no dangerous and itchy fibers filling the air with a rotary blade.

Increased speed, safer cutting methods and a cleaner work space are just some of the benefits of working with a rotary cutting tool. The shear also remains very sharp for a very long time; should the need arise to replace the blade, however, it is a simple process. By replacing blades and not entire cutting units, an additional savings is made which equates to increased profits over the long run. When operated with all of the special protective guards in place, the rotary cutters are much safer than scissors and result in fewer worker accidents and injuries.

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Discussion Comments
By cloudel — On Dec 04, 2011

My husband begged me to get him a rotary shear for Christmas last year. He has to cut a lot of sheet metal in his shop, and he was so tired of using the tin snips for this.

In November of last year, he called me out to his shop. He showed me exactly how tedious cutting with tin snips was and how much mess it left behind. I could see how much hope he was placing in convincing me to buy one.

I planned to get him one anyway, but I think since a good one costs over a hundred dollars, he was afraid I wouldn't be willing to get it. I had already set aside the money for one, and he was so thrilled to receive it. He told me that it has increased his work efficiency a lot, so he has been able to make more money because of it.

By StarJo — On Dec 04, 2011

@orangey03 – I cut my own Christmas cards, and I have a couple of different rotary paper trimmer blades that I use. They basically act like pinking shears and create a wavy edge.

You can get blades with different sized spaces between the waves. I have one that makes large, loose curves and another that makes hundreds of tiny curved edges.

It really adds interest to a card. People expect straight edges, and giving them something extra would probably be good for your business. I have gotten lots of compliments on my Christmas cards since I started using the different blades.

By orangey03 — On Dec 03, 2011

@shell4life – I never would have thought of cutting denim with one of these. That is a great idea! I have only ever used one for cutting thick paper.

I started a small greeting card business from my home. I knew I would need something to allow me to efficiently and neatly cut my cards, so I invested in a rotary paper cutter.

The blade itself is attached to a guide, and I place the paper up against the guide. I pull the plastic handle on top of the blade to roll it across the paper in a straight line. I can cut two pieces of card stock at once this way, which saves me some time.

I am interested in one day maybe adding some creative edges to my cards. Does anyone know if I can get a rotary blade that cuts something other than a simple straight line?

By shell4life — On Dec 02, 2011

My grandmother uses a lightweight rotary shear to cut tough materials, like denim. I never knew her secret, so when I watched her cut off a pair of my old jeans with this tool, I was amazed!

True, denim shorts are typically made to look worn around the edges, but I think that the rotary shear's clean cut provided a better foundation to fringe off of than a jagged scissor cut would have. Instead of having sections of material hanging at different intervals, I had fringe that started neatly from one even edge.

You generally don't think of your grandma altering clothes with an electric rotary shear. Most people picture a nice old lady with giant scissors, meticulously fighting the tough fabric. I appreciate my grandmother's resourcefulness, and of course, I had to take a picture of her using the rotary shear to show all my friends how cool she is!

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