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Cutting Fiber-CementContinued

Another nipper I like to use is the SS306 WhipperSnapper arch-cutting electric shears ($279 retail from Pacific International Tool & Shear). This is the absolute best tool I've found for cutting curves. It is lightweight, and cuts smoothly, without dust. I use it not only for lap siding, but also for 4x8 sheets where an arch or even a hole is required. These shears won't cut 3/4-inch material, though, so don't throw away the circular saw yet (Figure 3).

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Figure 3. The SS306 WhipperSnapper is the best tool I've found for cutting curves.

A good choice for high-volume cutting is the Snapper 14-inch, 110V pneumatic SS110A Platform Shear and Roller Table ($998 retail from Pacific International Tool & Shear, Figure 4). Although it's excellent on large jobs, I stay away from this tool on smaller jobs, mainly because it's heavy and bulky to pack around.

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Figure 4. If you're a high-volume installer, the pneumatic Platform Shear and Roller Table are excellent, but too big for small jobs.

The 24-inch SS210M Manual Shear ($573 retail from Pacific International Tool & Shear) is a good tool for smaller jobs. It cuts an almost flawless line for butting siding to trim, and is especially good at rake cuts or on gable ends, where running cuts are needed (see photo on first page). It's somewhat difficult to push down through the material, though, and multiple cuts are tiring. This tool is also rather bulky and heavy. Although it is strenuous for the user, it's handy for those times when electricity is not available.

Improved Cutting With Saws

The one drawback shared by all of the shears is the inability to cut more than one piece at a time or cut 3/4-inch Harditrim. So I always keep a circular saw ready for action. Makita has come out with a unique line of dust- collecting saws for fiber-cement. The dust collector doesn't completely eliminate the dust, but does cut it down significantly (Figure 5). By connecting these saws to a shop vacuum, however, they become almost dust-free. I like the Makita XSV10 type 4, heavy duty (2 peak HP) wet/dry industrial vacuum ($349 retail from Makita U.S.A., 14930 Northam St., La Mirada, CA 90638; 800/462-5482; www.makitatools.com). It has a 10-gallon stainless steel tank with a crushproof 12-foot by 11/2-inch hose and a 14-inch metalmaster nozzle. The dust collectors on these saws do hamper your view of the blade while cutting, but the guide on the shoe allows for accurate cuts.

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Figure 5. By themselves, the dust collectors on these saws don't completely eliminate the dust, but they do cut it down. If you hook up a vacuum, however, they are just about dust-free.