There are plenty of shearing machines on the market for construction, recycling, and other jobs that require cutting metal, but no shear has a name as colorful as the alligator shear. After all, a piece of machinery that takes its name from one of Earth’s most notorious predators has to capture the imagination. In this piece, we’ll learn all about alligator shears and their applications in fabricating—or perhaps de-fabricating—the metals we use each day.
So why the name? Alligator shears get their moniker from the heavy jaw and sharp “teeth” of its blade, just like the renowned menace of Florida. Much like a real alligator, all the power is located in the upper “jaw” of the alligator shear, while the bottom of the shear stabilizes the piece for cutting. While early models of the alligator shear were powered by a flywheel, modern alligator shears rely on hydraulic power to close their powerful jaws. Thanks to the high strength of hydraulics, the blade can thus cut through iron, steel, and copper with ease, whether it’s in the form of sheet, rebar, or other less common forms of scrap.
The alligator shear is a very powerful tool. However, while the sharpness of the blade allows for clean cuts that leave no chips behind, if you’re looking for precise and detailed cutting, the alligator shear is not your tool of choice. Rather, the alligator shear shines when it comes to brute force and simple tasks. When you have something big and you need to make it smaller, the alligator shear comes into play. Metalworkers rely on the alligator shear to cut down larger pieces of sheet metal for further work. Scrap yards make excellent use of alligator shears to cut down incoming scrap and make it more manageable for future steps in the recycling process.
Just like the alligator has its close cousin, the crocodile, the alligator shear has some relatives of its own. The bench shear has similar mechanics to the alligator shear, but at a smaller scale, making it a better candidate for tighter cuts. The guillotine shear squares up metal to provide a clean cut with a perfect right angle. By knowing all about alligator shears and their sharp-bladed family members, you can begin to further explore a career in metalworking or recycling.