Our team is looking for sheet metal that is easiest to cut (and paint over), so I was wondering if there was a specific material property (such as those listed in the title) that affected the cuttability of the sheet metal? Thank you in advance!

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think the most important property is thickness. In some industries one inch think steel is called "sheet". $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ There is some nuance, especially in steels and stainless steels. Given similar strength and hardness spec, materials that work-harden can be much worse to work with. If milling or drilling, some materials form nasty chips compared to others. Some have a wear-resistant microstructure (grains of carbides or silicons) and hence eat up the cutting tool faster than others... There are direct qualitative comparisons you can find for suitability for any manufacturing process - sounds like you're talking about sawing, drilling, or milling. Often "machinability" is an informal term used $\endgroup$
    – Pete W
    Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 20:38

2 Answers 2


The number is typically tensile strength and hardness.

But you're overthinking it. Just go with the materials everyone uses by default: common aluminum alloys like 6061 or 6063, or mild steel.

Common materials are common for a reason. That reason is usually because they are abundant and easy to work with which makes them cheap.

Aluminum is noticeably easier and faster to cut and file by a lot with hand tools than mild steel and you may need to polish up the steel with a pad or something before painting.

I don't think you should be power sawing thin sheet metal though. Shearing is probably best. And drilling sheet metal can be extremely dangerous because the drill flutes can easily catch on it and pulls it and spins it around like a giant knife blade. If you try this, clamp it down and perhaps have a stop so it can't rotate if it catches. The drill press is said to be the most dangerous machine in the shop, and that's a shop with things like lathes, mills, and grinders.

Don't forget to debur the edges with a file after cutting.


The material properties that are more likely to affect the cutting for an isotropic material is the ultimate tensile strength.

Usually this correlates well with hardness indexes like HRC, or HRV (see image below source: S. Mckelvey, Y. Lee)

enter image description here

The ratio of the ultimate tensile strength to the yield strength, and the elongation to failure are indications of ductility which can sometimes affect negatively the cut.


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