I'm thinking about buying a shipping container to use it for storage/bike shed/workshop. I can get one from a retailer with an extra door, but this would be rather expensive. So now I'm investigating ways to do this myself. The first question is how to get the hole into the container wall.

What are possible tools with their pros and cons and approximate cost that are able to cut through the wall of a shipping container, for long (~2m) straight cuts?

2 Answers 2


There are many tools for cutting steel. In addition to what you have suggested you could use:

  1. A "sawzall" type reciprocating saw.
  2. An oxy-acetylene torch.
  3. A plasma cutter.
  4. A body grinder with a cutting disc.

If you are good at following a marked line freehand then you should be able to just cut away and get the result you want. If your cuts tend to drift, you might put together some sort of guide to keep the cuts straight.

(Since you asked...) If I had to choose one, for example if this was my project, I'd probably opt for the plasma cutter route. Plasma cutters cut through sheet steel like a hot knife through butter and leave a very clean edge. The biggest con with them is that it can be tricky to keep a straight line. But a straightedge of some sort will fix that issue easily.

  • Could you extend this answer with some comments for each tool? I've already figured that it's in principle possible with a torch or a saw or a grinder but now looking which tool to get.
    – Jasper
    Oct 4, 2020 at 12:23
  • "In addition to what you have suggested" where were these suggestions? Did I miss some comments that got deleted? #confused
    – FreeMan
    Oct 4, 2020 at 12:27
  • that comment might refer to the other answer
    – Jasper
    Oct 4, 2020 at 12:29
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    Approximate cost? If you do your own research, you will become a better person. Have folks become so lazy that they will type out questions with more words than a internet search with two to four words!? "Sawzall cost near me"
    – Gunner
    Oct 4, 2020 at 14:47
  • 1
    @SteveSether is that how this place works? Thanks. Price for something near me could be $50, and someone else could be $150 for the cms tool. This is why we don't discuss prices here.
    – Gunner
    Oct 4, 2020 at 16:20

In my opinion the fastest, cleanest way to cut it is with a saw. There are circular saws made for cutting metal such as the Milwaukee 6370-20. It can make plunge cuts to start the cut. You could attach a straight scrap of 2x4 or something to guide straight cuts.

Milwaukee 6370-20

For a shipping container this might be overkill, it's a real beast and can cut much heavier things. You can get metal cutting blades for regular circular saws that will cut metal roofing materials. However the shipping container is going to be a lot heavier than metal roofing so I'd say use the metal cutting circular saw to be safe.

  • 1
    It won't get the corners without cutting past, so you will need a reciprocating saw also. Oct 4, 2020 at 12:18
  • 2
    @JimmyFix-it - you do have a point. In thin material, you'd only have to cut past by about the thickness of the metal. That might be no problem, covered up with the door framing. Oct 4, 2020 at 12:23
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    The "overcut" at the corners would be no problem with the ~3mm(?) steel.
    – Jasper
    Oct 4, 2020 at 12:25
  • Seen some cuts by gas axe that would easily match the finish needed to weld to a future door frame...
    – Solar Mike
    Oct 4, 2020 at 13:38
  • I'm a fan of the plasma cutter if you've got access to a good one (maybe a friend? ) use a guide for straight lines, and zip zip clean cuts. I've never been able to get a straight line with a sawzall,or 'demosaw' as I call em.
    – mark f
    Oct 4, 2020 at 21:15

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