Three Questions To Ask When Buying Tin Snips

Well-constructed tin snips, and their close relative “aviation snips,” are the very best tools for cutting light metals that are hard to cut through with other equipment. Different configurations are best for different jobs.

Metalsmith making tools
A good pair of tin snips is an important part of every home shop.Clark Young via Unsplash

Try using some other tool for the job tin snips were designed for and you’ll quickly realize why this specialized tool was made in the first place. Truth is, tin snips are the very best tool for quickly and efficiently cutting light metal. To make a good selection, you should consider three important factors—blade type, straight or offset handle, and what power source you intend to use.

Blade Type?

Garden snips with yellow handle
This model features serrated blades with conk-ground edges for cutting low-carbon, cold-rolled steel.Amazon

You'll find snips with smooth or serrated blades, and each type is designed that way for a specific purpose. Snips with serrated blades typically require less force to cut with and grasp the metal well without slipping. Smooth blades can be useful for cutting natural materials like aluminum since they'll leave smoother edges on the cut. Some snips have replaceable blades for when the blade becomes worn out.

Straight Or Offset?

Offset garden snips
These offset snips are designed for making long, straight cuts.Amazon

Both straight-blade and offset-blade snips have their niches. Offset snips shine in situations where you need to make a long cut through fairly rigid sheet steel. The offset jaws place the user's hand above the material, allowing for the longer cut without interference. They also are best when cutting curves or circles. Straight snips usually have narrower blades and work better for shorter cuts or on tight curves.

Power Source?

Genesis electric shear
This electric model will save some strain on your hands and forearms.Amazon

Most tin snips use the most reliable power source around—you! And as long as your hands and forearms hold out, the job can continue. If you use them only sporadically, though, you'll wear down pretty quickly. Some manufacturers make electric tin snips that accomplish the same results with less wear and tear on the user. Both manual and electric snips will get the job done, so the choice is mainly personal preference.