Last updated on January 7, 2023 5:09 am by the writer.
A quick word about tin snips
The best tin snips or aviation snips are designed with what’s known as an 0ff-set blade, this stops the metal cutters from jamming during a cut.
Expect to find this in both Stanley, Malco, and Bessey tin snips.
Tin snips are safe, cheap, accurate, and easy for beginners to use, but are not fast-cutting for big jobs.
You should think instead about getting electric shears or better a sheet metal nibbler if you want to cut metal more quickly for big jobs.
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An overview to the use of tin snips
Tin snips are hand-operated shears that look like long-handled scissors with short, sharp blades.
Made of stronger metal than most scissors so that the blades can cut through some pretty tough metal materials compared to just paper and cardboard.
Tin snips aren’t only limited to cutting tin.
Snips can also be used to cut almost anything as long as the material is thin from plastic and cardboard to rubber, and sheet metal.
Tin snips are typically used for cutting and trimming thin metal sheets to specific measurements.
Aviation snips can be used to cut out different types of shapes from sheet metal, making a useful companion tool for metalworking and home DIY projects.
Tin snips are commonly used for cutting and trimming metal, like aluminum, for car modification, restoration, and repair.
Often used to shape metal components for HVAC systems.
How do you use snips at home?
For DIY applications, tin snips can be used to create metal parts for furniture, fences, roofs, and gutters.
How about tough-cutting jobs?
Some tin snips are designed for cutting through heavier metal materials such as wire mesh or netting.
For really tough materials, straight-pattern tin snips–often referred to as aviation snips–are preferable due to their serrated blades and more robust construction.
Aviation snip features
Best hand tools for cutting metal
#1 Tin snips to cut straight lines fast.
Straight-cut tin snips can cut through metal quickly and efficiently. And especially useful for making straight cuts.
The snips don’t cause dimpling in the material being cut.
The cuts you can achieve with straight-cut tin snips are pretty smooth, making excellent straight cuts for finishing work or long flashings.
Some straight-cut tin snip blades are too long and bend out of place and then stop cutting.
I use the Fatmax long-nose tin snips and find them a breeze for long straight cuts.
#1 Corner-cutting offset tin snips.
Corner-cut tin snips are better suited for shaping and corner work.
Coppersmiths and custom metalworkers often use corner-cut tin snips in conjunction with straight-cut tin snips for precision work and cutting out intricate shapes in metal.
But better known as a pair of left or right-handed tin snips. If the color of the tool is green this indicated a right-hand pair. And red indicates a pair for cutting corners to the left.
The Malco offset tin snips offer superb quality for a great metal-cutting experience.
Or get a single pack of quality offset snips.
For craft work and cutting sheet metal with extreme accuracy, this set of Besseyoff-set tin snips has tighter blades.
So you can expect the blades to hold strong on even tougher metals, without separating.
Seamers really do come in handy.
Seamers are primarily intended for bending light gauge sheet metal. I like seamers to help make cuts into sheet metal with the addition of a cutting blade.
Keep in mind that you will lose a bit of functionality when using a seamer in this manner.
Furthermore, you risk breaking the tool if you bent beyond the normal limit.
Seamers are best used for bending metal tabs in a tidy fashion and are mostly used for making up flashing details.
Want to cut sheet metal faster?
Electric shears are metal cutters that can come as dedicated tools or as drill bit attachments.
This bad boy can cut through metal pretty quickly, and allow you to cut straight lines more easily compared to tin snips or nibblers.
Electric shears like the Malco Turbo shears are also ideally suited for cutting roofing material hidden under ridges.
Important to know that there are 2 different metal cutting attachments made by Malco, a standard pair for sheet metal cutting and a dedicated pair for cutting corrugated iron.
Malco even does an attachment for cutting fiber cement sheets, if you are a builder you might not already know about this guy and he could be a handy tool to have in your toolbox too.
Electric metal cutting shears
Electric shears are useful tools for making faster straight cuts into sheet metal.
Roofers find the tool a more efficient alternative to tin snips, enabling the worker to cut through corrugated metal with minimal effort.
There are dedicated electric shears power tools like the popular cordless Milwaukee option, or you could also purchase a metal shear attachment for your impact driver instead, as a more cost-effective option.
Check out the Malco TSHD Turboshear that could take the place of most nibblers or tin sniping jobs when the day comes to cutting corrugated iron.
Is a dedicated electric nibbler a more consistent cutter?
Electric nibblers can cut through metal in the same way as hand nibblers but are much more effective for roofing jobs as the power-driven motor chews through metal like butter.
Electric tools can cost more, so you might want to hold off on buying one unless you have to do a lot of metal-cutting work to do.
With electric nibblers, it is necessary to finish up with tin snips for corners and detailed areas.
Click here to read my nibbler tool review.
Here’s a cheaper DIY alternative
If you have an impact driver, you could get a nibbler attachment that expands the original capabilities and allows you to use it to cut through metal sheets in a similar way that a nibbler does.
Nibbler attachments are a good option as a cheaper option that does the same job as a dedicated nibbler, however, are better if you only have to do occasional and small amounts of metal cutting work.
For trade use, use a dedicated tool, however, the DIY alternative is surprisingly capable when we used one.
A nibbler drill attachment can pair well with an electric shear. You can use an electric shear to cut the bulk of the straight cuts, and then use this nibbler drill attachment to cut around steep corners.
The CaNibbler is a good option for this.
Popular metal cutting jobs done with tin snips
Tin snips are best suited for metalworkers and DIY’ers that want to make accurate cuts.
Even though snips are relatively cheap tools, these beastly scissors can make clean and precisely controlled cuts that costlier devices would have difficulty finding perfect accuracy in tight corners.
One of the best uses of tin snips is to clean up edges that you first cut with a nibbler.
For example, you can quickly cut roofing material to about half an inch longer than the intended length or width.
After installing the roof, you can then trim the excess with a good pair of tin snips if there is a visible and seen cut edge.
Tin snips are also useful for cutting large pieces of sheet metal.
For this purpose, however, you should make sure that the sheet is large enough so that you can twist the off-cut away and keep the snips on a straight path without the blade jamming.
1. Cutting metal roofing
The best tin snips for cutting metal roofing are the same as what’s above in this review, tin snips that are off-set are less likely to get jammed when cutting, and are also less likely to have the blades stretch apart.
But for cutting metal roofing have a look at the electric shears tool that is pretty much just electric-powered tin snips.
2. Cutting metal studs?
The best tin snips for cutting metal studs are what is outlined in this review, the best pair of offset tin snips are what you need for cutting metal studs.
Some commercial steel wall systems have a steel top and bottom plate that is too thick for tin snips, so for thicker metal-cutting jobs, have a read of my angle grinder findings for more information.
Another idea is to bulk cut the metal studs using a metal chop saw as the drop-down motion is faster.
Meanwhile, here are more manual cutting tools to use for metal.
3. Making metal art
Creating copper wall art is a process that requires precision and a steady hand.
Tin snips can be useful for cutting out shapes precisely, making a staple tool for copper work and other sheet metal artworks.
As with highly intricate metalwork, you will get better results by using a straight-cut pair of tin snips in addition to left- or right-handed snips for cutting corners.
In some cases, you might be able to make more precise cuts into copper with a good pair of hand nibblers.
Some copper workers find that they can get the best results by alternating between tin snips and hand nibblers.
When to actually use tin snips?
Tin snips are the best options when you need a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to cut metal roofing materials, and are also easy and safe to use to make an accurate cut.
For most roofing work, you would be best to have a straight-cutting pair of snips, as well as a left-handed or right-handed pair, depending on your preferences.
Having these options will allow you to perform a wider variety of jobs, from straight to corner cuts.
Tin snips allow you to make precisely controlled cuts.
These tools are ideally suited for cutting edges of corrugated iron that will be visible after the project is completed.
Other tasks that tin snips can handle effectively are cutting galvanized steel and plastic flashings.
Can be useful for cutting stainless steel–if the material is thin enough–and for intricate copper work.
Tin snips cut copper like butter as copper is soft which makes them ideal for shaping copper artwork as well.
When not to use tin snips?
Tin snips probably aren’t the ideal choice when you need to cut excessively thick material. Trying to cut material that is thicker than the snips are capable of will likely cause the blades to separate, resulting in rough or uneven cuts.
You could experience similar issues with tin snips that have excessively long blades without the ability to re-tighten the blade tension.
Cheaper tin snips can give you even more trouble, due to weak blades that tend to bend outwards and not cut into the material at all.
Most tin snips–particularly those of the cheaper variety–will suffer from this problem eventually, so always note to pay a little more money for a robust model that will give you a longer service life.
Although you could use tin snips to cut through fairly thin corrugated metal roofing, the work is often slow and difficult.
Depending on how thick the material is, you might be better off using a hand nibbler or electric shears.
Did you know that there are over thirty plier types that look like tin snips?
Comparing tin snips
ABN Tin Aviation
|Verdict:||#1 Top straight, long cut||Best 3-piece aviation snips set||Best left cut, offset||Best right cut, offset|
|Material:||Forged steel||Alloy steel||Alloy steel||Cr-Mo||Cr-Mo||Cr-V||Cr-V||Steel||Alloy steel||Alloy steel||Alloy steel||Alloy steel||Alloy steel||Alloy steel|
|Tool length:||12 inches||9-1/2 inches||7-14 inches||10 inches||10 inches||12 inches||10 inches||10 inches||10 inches||10 inches||10 inches||9-1/2 inches||9-1/2 inches||9-1/2 inches|
|Cutting edge length:||3 9/50 in||3 1/8 in||3 in||2-3/4 in||1-3/16 in||3-9/50 in||1-3/8 inches||1-1/4 inches||1-1/4 inches||1-5/16 inches||1-5/16 inches||1-5/16 inches|
|Type:||Straight cut, long||Straight cut, long||Set (Straight, offset-right, offset-left)||Set (Straight, offset-right, offset-left)||Set (Straight, offset-right, offset-left)||Set (Straight, offset-right, offset-left)||Set (Straight, offset-right, offset-left)||Set (Straight, offset-right, offset-left)||Straight cut||Offset, left||Offset, right||Offset, right||Straight cut||Offset, left|
|Cutting capacity||18 to 22 ga||18 to 23 ga||18 to 22 ga||18 to 22 ga||18 to 22 ga||18 to 22 ga||18 to 22 ga||18 to 22 ga||18 to 20 ga||18 to 20 ga||18 to 20 ga||18 to 23 ga||18 to 23 ga||18 to 23 ga|
|Handle material:||Vinyl cushion grip||Rubber||Nickel-plated||Plastic||Vinyl cushion grip||Thermoplastic rubber||Thermoplastic rubber||Thermoplastic rubber||Thermoplastic rubber||Thermoplastic rubber||Thermoplastic rubber||Rubber||Rubber||Rubber|
Comparing hand seamers
|Verdict:||Best value hand seamer|
|Material:||Cr-Mo||Alloy steel||Die cast zinc||Steel|
|Size:||202 mm (approximately 8 inches)||8 inches||3 inches||3 inches|
|Jaw capacity:||3-1/8 in||3-1/4 in||3-1/4 in|
|Handle material:||Cr-Mo||Alloy steel||Rubber||Rubber|
Comparing drill attachments
|Verdict:||Best drill attachment|
|Drill requirement:||1/4 in||1/4 in||1/4 in||1/4 in|
|Application:||Metal sheets||Corrugated metal sheets||Fiber cement backer board||Sheet metal, corrugated metal sheets, asphalt shingles, vinyl siding, steel mesh, wire, cardboard, plastics and rubber|
|Cutting capacity:||18 to 20 ga||30 to 24 ga||1/2 inch (.b. board) & 5/16 fiber cement plank||up to 18 ga|
|Types of cut:||Tight patterns, straight, curved, square cuts||Cross cuts, lengthwise cuts, circular, square outlet cuts||Precise arcs, straight lines, and fine trimming||Patterns, straight, curved, square cuts|
Tin snips: One of the mightiest hand tools in your tool box
Tin snips are a must-have tool in your toolbox really. They are versatile enough to cut through a variety of materials, from plastic and cardboard to even stainless steel and copper.
Metal-cutting scissors are also the cheapest metal-cutting option, and you could easily afford to have two or three different snips on hand for various tasks and angles.
If you do a lot of metal roofing, for instance, an electric nibbler will let you cut through roofing materials more quickly.
Even so, you might still want to have a pair of tin snips around for finishing work.
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