Guillotine shear

I am just a hobbyist, none the less, I spend at least 30 hours/week in my jewelry shop. A lot of my time is spent sawing pieces from sheet for shanks, bezels and settings and then filing to the dimension line. Its great practice for sawing and filing, but very time consuming. My sheet stock often has no more truly straight edges so I usually need to file both sides of a cut.
Would a guillotine shear, like the Durston 6" (I want to be able to cut 1.5 mm thick) truly make this as quick of a process as it seems?

1 Like

Especially if you’re willing to invest in a brand like Durston, it really does. Put the sheet in, line it up, pull the handle down, and you’re done. I was advised to practice on some cheap metal like copper to get good at lining things up exactly how I want first, but as far as speed- absolutely no beating it. You may or may not feel the need to clean up the edge afterwards, but it will be a lot closer to done than with a saw or even an airline snips. I don’t own a bench shear yet but it is very, very high on my list and one of the tools I happily pay admission to my local makerspace to access in the meantime.

Look at the open throat shears at Woodward Fab and other suppliers. There is a learning curve, but the shears are a lot less expensive. Once you cut, run through your rollong mill and you are good to go…Rob

1 Like

Thanks ifutzwithfire and rmeixner. I did buy an open throat shear but sent it back. It (or me) really struggled with 1.2mm thick stock and I was unable to get a straight cut.It had a hold down but it wasn’t strong enough to prevent movement as the blade travelled along the cut. I’ll probably order a 6" Durston guillotine very soon. I’d rather have the 12", but I just cant fit it in the space I have and my wife refuses to give me her parking spot in the garage :slight_smile:


Cheap Metal Guillotine Shear
This is a very basic answer for people who can not afford shears or don’t have space in their workshop. I discovered that an old wooden paper cutters will cut metal very well and not distort the straight edge of metal up to 20 gauge. It will do 18g in a pinch but not as easily or without some distortion… Practically everyone who is older has seen one especially in schools. The one on my workbench is from Ideal School Supply Co. Chicago, Ill.
The bed of what may be called an “antique” paper cutter is usually made of plywood or wood. E-bay or second hand stores and tool sellers sometimes have them.
Mine has a ruler at the top and will cut square corners with care. It also has parallel lines cut into the bed surface that help keep things straight. New ones don’t work as well because they are not heavy enough. Metal workings on the old ones are cast iron. Mine is also smaller. Don’t buy a big one unless you are only cutting thin gauges… Contact me if you have questions: Marilynn Nicholson


There is a learning curve. I have cut up to 16 gauge sheet. In the setup you have to kind of compensate for what you know will be movement left or right as you cut through the metal. I started out looking at what were for me very expensive guillotines. Mainly lack of space and a bit lack of money pushed me towards the open throat shear that I have today. It works well for my needs and allows me to make cuts far longer than the guillotine would. I still have to clean up the edges. The easiest way for me to do this is to pass the piece through my roller set just slightly tighter than the thickness of the metal and then do some sanding. Good luck and let us know how it goes…Rob

I see that you say you don’t have the space for a 12” shear, but wanted to share this shear for others that may be interested,

I have students that have wanted a guillotine style shear, but simply couldn’t afford a Durston or Pepe. All reports back are positive.

As to the Durston, as others have said it’s a solid purchase. I’ve had one for 25+ years and just recently had to rotate the blade.


1 Like

Oh jeez, there’s another site I could spend all night window shopping…

1 Like

I’ve had this PRC tool for years and while it is definitely not high and requires some tuning it is very useful and the fully functional shear has met most of my requirements.


Thanks for the link Pam. I just purchased their 8" shear. I’ll be using it to cut up to 6"-long sheets of sterling and copper.

1 Like

My husband just bought me a similar 3-in-one from Woodward Fab. I haven’t opened it yet (it’s for my birthday!) but I’m concerned because per item description, the shear portion cuts up to 20 gauge. I don’t know if that limitation is a function of the opening size or the durability of the mechanism. If it’s a matter of the opening/excursion of the shear then I’m indeed limited to 20 gauge, but if it is designed to cut steel and I am cutting softer metals (copper, sterling and the occasional brass or bronze) I’m hoping I can cut up to 16 gauge. We shall see.

That’s exactly what I used to use in my studio in Boulder. It worked great for most of my silver or copper projects and required minimal cleanup of edges. Think I got it for $2 at a yard sale.

Now looking for one in Croatia, anyone? Buhler?