Anyone who has ever worked with fiber cement knows how difficult it is to work with. This is especially the case when it comes to cutting fiber cement. Using various saws leaves you open to inhaling dangerous silica dust and it’s also difficult to get a precise cut. There’s also the additional noise level that comes from running a saw all day. This is eliminated easily with a quality fiber cement shear.
Benefits of Fiber Cement Shears
Fiber cement siding has become more and more popular over the years due to its ability to outlast many other types of siding. It also has the added benefit of being resistant to fire, wind, rain and insects. However, it does pose a bit of a dilemma for those of us in the construction industry due to its difficulty to work with. Luckily, fiber cement shears can reduce most of this difficulty.
Some of the benefits of using fiber cement shears include the following:
- Limitation of exposure to harmful silica dust
- Clean and smooth cuts not obtainable with other tools
- Will often be more accurate and precise
- Significant noise reduction on the jobsite
- Potential cost savings (compared to repeatedly replacing saw blades)
- Easier to work with than other tools
- Can be used for other difficult cutting jobs (like cutting tile cement backer board like HardieBacker)
- Safe and efficient cutting
- OSHA compliant
Qualities of the Best Fiber Cement Shears
There are two main styles of fiber cement shears. There’s the power tool fiber cement shears which basically look like a giant pair of powered scissors and then here is the manual style shear. The manual style looks similar to a guillotine and cuts the same way you’d cut through a giant piece of paper with a paper. The obvious advantage of the power shears being efficiency, whereas manual shears give you the benefit of added control and the ability to work in areas where power isn’t readily available.
In general though, the qualities to look for in general and when comparing and contrasting manual versus electric fiber cement shears:
- Quiet Operation: A manual fiber cement shear wins this hands down. However, even when choosing between powered fiber cement shears it is best to go with the shear that operates most quietly.
- Cost: Both manual and powered fiber cement shears will run you about the same amount of money. You will most likely be replacing blades less in manual shears, which will save you some money, but you’ll lost on cost anyways in terms of efficiency with manual shears.
- Efficiency: Obviously, the efficiency of the powered shears is much better. If you are doing large jobs, you will eventually get tired of cutting with manual shears and probably call it an early day.
- Material Compatibility: Make sure to find a cutter that is compatible with the type of material you plan on cutting. Look for a cutter that will cut the thickness or the material as well as the type of material you plan on cutting. Manual shears are generally going to be able to cut much thicker pieces of fiber cement.
- Heads: If you plan on doing a lot of different jobs, looks for shears that fit other types of heads so you can cut different types of material. Also, if you’re looking to get more cost savings, look for a head with reversible blades.
- Motor: Find a motor that matches the job you plan on performing. A four to five amp motor will be adequate for most smaller jobs. A six amp or more shear is more suited for heavy duty work.
The Best Fiber Cement Shears
1. Kett Fiber Cement Shears (KD-1495)
Most people think of PacTool, DEWALT, Malco or Makita when it comes to fiber cement shears, and they’re all good choices, however, Kett is a brand that should not be overlooked. Kett itself has been in business for over 70 years and is known for making professional quality tools for aircraft repair. They don’t mess around.
In fact, Kett makes a fiber cement shear that’s tough to beat. This particular model, the Kett KD-1495, has a strong steel head, a 5 amp motor and easily cuts 5/8″ fiber cement.
This tool is best for residential jobs or small commercial jobs where you are not dealing with an excessive amount of fiber cement to cut. However, if push came to shove and you had to do a bigger job, this guy could handle it. With a motor capable of 2500 RPM, it can cut through 300 inches of fiber cement in one minute (per the specs). In reality, a three foot cut will take you approximately 30 seconds or so.
The best thing about this tool, apart from its motor, is its light weight. Weighing in at only four-and-a-half pounds, it’s great to use for long periods of time without wearing yourself out. Its pistol grip is also very ergonomic and its small size (15 inches in length) allows you to work in tight places, if need be. It almost feels like a drill when you’re using it.
Made of 95-20 steel, the blades are replaceable and cut very cleanly. They have a 10-inch minimum cutting radius and have no problem slicing their way through 5/8″ fiber cement. You can also swap out this head set for use with any other head set made by Kett. That’s one major advantage of going with Kett over some other brands.
All in all, great tool, great brand, hard to beat when it comes to fiber cement shears.
2. PacTool Contractor Grade Snapper Shear (SS404)
The PacTool SS404 is a very powerful fiber cement shear meant for large, professional level projects and long-term use. The company describes it as—”Smooth as Silk. Tough as nails.”—and it’s hard to argue with their description.
This hoss is equipped with a 6.5 amp motor and can cut through fiber cement like a hot knife through butter. It can also cut tight curves and 90 degree angles. Although it cuts tighter and faster than the Kett, it’s mainly designed for cutting 5/16″ fiber cement siding. The cuts themselves are very smooth and the trigger responds perfectly to the pressure applied (it doesn’t ramp up speed or slow down speed too quickly when pulled).
The blades are long-lasting and made out of solid steel. In fact, these blades can last up to 20,000 linear feet, which is the equivalent of up to 15-20 houses. The key to their longevity is the fact that they are reversible. This is great if you do a lot of cement siding work and don’t want to spend excessive money on blades.
The only pitfall of this cement shearer is its corded operation. For whatever reason the cord on this one tends to get in the way a bit. You can fix that easy by taping the cord to the side a bit or just not worrying about it and then electrical tape the cord later when it gets a bit tattered. Some people care about this more than others. It is a slight annoyance on an otherwise great shearer though.
You should also consider complimenting this shear with the company’s Gecko Gauge siding installation tool. This tool clamps to the already installed cement siding and allows for the next layer to placed on top. Then, you can easily nail the next layer in place and then repeat the process all over again. This handy tool is worth its weight in gold if you do a lot of cement siding job.
Check out the fiber cement siding installation tool below:
3. DEWALT Variable Speed Fiber Cement Siding Shear (D28605)
As always, DEWALT can be counted on to make quality products and the DEWALT D28605 fiber cement shears are no exception. Specifically made for cutting fiber cement siding, these shears quickly and effectively cut up to 5/16″ siding.
On par with the Kett fiber cement shears, these are equally as light at four-and-a-half pounds. The ball bearing motor is larger, at 6.5 amps, and is designed for extended lifespan and increased power.
The blades are the real highlight on these cement shears. Not only do they last long, but they’re also reversible for extended life. The blades are also sharp and cut fairly clean. However, they do not cut as smoothly as the PacTool and Kett shears.
Although designed for 5/16″ only, these shears have been used to cut up to 1/2″ with no problems.
DEWALT also has one of the best warranties on the list with 3-year limited warranty as well as 1-year of free service.
4. Makita Fiber Cement Shear (JS8000)
One of the few cement shears to come with a case, the Makita JS8000 is a great tool to have in your arsenal. With steel blades and a powerful 6.5 amp motor, it is designed to cut through 5/16″ cement siding (like the PacTool).
Its rubberized handle provides a bit more comfort than the PacTool during use and it feels a bit more natural to use. At 4.8 pounds, it’s not quite as light as the Kett, but pretty darn close. It cuts very clean and has a lock-on trigger for continuous operation, a really nice feature that doesn’t exist on the others.
This cement shear comes with a long power cord of over eight feet. This is nice because the power cord on many of the other models out there can a bit short and also get in the way a bit when you’re trying to focus on cutting. You won’t have that problem with this model. The cord is barely noticeable.
One of the major downfalls on this product is its blades. It has a great motor, it’s light weight, it does the job very well; however, the blades do need to be replaced more often than the other cutters. Now, it’s not that big of a difference and they will still last you a long time, but it is a slight annoyance.
Also, the head itself is made from precision milled aluminum, not steel like the others, though it is hard to notice whether this really has any affect on the overall performance. Although, the head can be changed if this is a dealbreaker for you.
If you don’t mind these minor hiccups on this cement shear, it’s a great cutter that will last you a long time.
5. Norske Tools Laminate Flooring and Siding Cutter (NMAP001)
If you’re looking for a manual fiber cement shear and you’re on a budget, the Norske Tools manual fiber cement shears is going to be your best bet. Made of high quality steel and aluminum, this fiber cement shear offers a ton of value for the money.
This fiber cement shear is great for those who work jobs out in the middle of nowhere and don’t feel like lugging a generator around all day. It’s also quiet, so you won’t be disturbing your neighbors and you’ll be saving your ears when you use it.
The blade itself is a 13″ steel blade and it cuts through fiber cement extremely accurately and smoothly. It’s also designed for extended use and can cut approximately four to five thousand times before it needs to be replaced. And with the extended leverage handle, you don’t have to work too hard to get a nice cut either. It also comes with a miter gauge for accurate angled cuts from zero to forty-five degrees.
This manual cement shear weighs only 13 pounds so it’s great to move around the jobsite. It is also useful for cutting laminate flooring, composite board and vinyl siding as well. It can cut up to 19/32″ thick and 13″ wide.
The main downside is that this isn’t the best shear to use for medium or large projects and is mostly reserved for small jobs and do-it-yourself projects. That said, it’s a great tool to keep around just in case your powered shears crap out on you.
The Dangers of Fiber Cement Dust
One of the main benefits of using fiber cement shears is reduction in exposure to fiber cement dust. However, even though you eliminate nearly all of your exposure to fiber cement dust by using fiber cement shears, there are still dangers present. If you’re going to be working with fiber cement, be sure to view the video below to understand the risks of exposure.