Tin versus Aviation Snips: Which One to Use?

Cutting sheet metal may seem like a job for your trusty kitchen shears, but no… not. How in the world are you going to spatchcock a chicken if you ruin your shears’ blades by denting, rather than cutting, sheets of metal?

The last thing you’d want when working with sheet metal is to use the wrong tools, and this is where tin snips and aviation snips come into play. One look at the tools, and you’ll see just how perfect they are for the job.

Either that or you’ll end up even more confused than ever. The two look almost identical and are used for the same purposes, so where do the differences beginWe’re here to tell you. So sit back and grab a tin of your favorite baked beans as to how the tin sips and aviation snips differ from one another.

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Tin Snips

Tin snips look somewhat like a pair of long-necked scissors but with stubbier blades. That’s no mistake – tin snips are supposed to look like that, and their appearance is was gives them an edge in making cuts through long strips of sheet meal.

Most tin snips are used to produce straight cuts in thin materials dead-on, but the shape design of the cut depends on the design of the blades. A slight curve in the blades will determine which direction – clockwise or counterclockwise – to cut.

Tin snips are generally used to cut up to 22-gauge cold-rolled steel or thinner 26-gauge sheets of stainless steel. They’re by no means the heaviest-duty snips on the market, but for basic metal-cutting applications, they’re more than sufficient.

Types of Tin Snips

Technically, there are more than ten types of tin snips based on the shape of their handles and blades. Let’s go over the most widely used tin snip types and when they should be used.

Straight-cut Tin Snips

The name says it all. The style of the blade allows you to easily produce straight cuts along the length of metal. It’s even possible to make slight turns and curves with these snips, but it’s not recommended to deviate more than a couple of degrees to the side as it could potentially cause denting in the workpiece.

Curved Tin Snips

To make curved cuts, use curved tin snips. These have blades that are curved to either the right or left. In general, left-curved blades are more comfortable for right-handed users and vice versa. Some tin snips are sold in packs of two (left and right) or three (left, right, and straight).

Multi-purpose Tin Snips

Multi-purpose tin snips are a more versatile option since the blades aren’t just adept at chomping metal but also leather, plastic, wood, and anything you can fit between the jaw clearance.

Spring-loaded Tin Snips

A spring between the handles makes these tin snips extremely easy to use. Your fingers don’t need to pull the blades up after each snip, taking away much of the muscle-work needed to cut through thicker metal sheets.

Aviation Snips

Aviation snips were first invented as a way to easily cut through material used to construct airplanes. From the looks alone, we can tell that aviation snips are made for heavier-duty cutting jobs. These are the more widely used type of snips since they work well for most DIY home-repair projects like cutting gutters and ductwork.

The handles on aviation snips are larger and much more comfortable to hold. The grips encase the handles, which makes pain from constantly squeezing a thing of the past. All aviation snips come with spring-loaded handles so you can focus on snipping rather than prying the blades apart.

Like tin snips, aviation snips can have straight or curved blades, but the best part is that the handles of aviation snips are color-coded to prevent confusion when searching for the right curve. Red handles indicate counterclockwise cutting, green for clockwise, and yellow for straight cuts dead-on.

As a heavier-duty type of snip, you can expect them to do a lot more work. These snips can cut up to 16-gauge aluminum sheets, 18-gauge carbon steel, and 22-gauge sheets of stainless steel. Now that’s tough!

Types of Aviation Snips

Like tin snips, aviation snips can be categorized based on the shape of their blades, but their handles come with the same spring-loaded action across the board. The most popular types are long-cut, utility, and right-angle aviation snips.

Long-Cut Aviation Snips

As the name suggests, long-cut aviation snips are used specifically for producing long cuts through wider sheets of metal. Use these when you need to cut a straight cross-cut across sheets or if you intend to produce a large-diameter circle.

Utility Aviation Snips

Utility models are a weaker class of aviation snips. Their jaws are slightly smaller and shorter, thus making them unfit for thicker workpieces, but they will come in handy for more general-purpose applications like cutting cardboard, vinyl, leather, and other soft materials.

Offset Aviation Snips

Offset models have blades that are intentionally misaligned with the handle. This stops your hand from obstructing your view while cutting through narrower sheets. There are also right-angle blades which jut out perpendicularly to the handle. They have weaker jaws but are best for cutting at awkward angles in tight spaces.

Tin Snips vs. Aviation Snips – Which do I need?

Between the two, we feel that you could get more use out of a reliable pair of aviation snips. Tin snips aren’t bad, but they’re not at the same cutting-level as aviation snips in terms of thickness capacity and comfort. Plus, their color-coded handles makes finding the appropriate snip easier since you don’t need to examine the angle of the blade closely before using.


Shearing through metal is not an easy task that any old pair of scissors can handle. Whether you get a pair of tin snips or aviation snips, you can rest assured that you will have the right tool for cutting metal. Apart from actually being able to cut a metal object, the most important thing to consider is comfort, something that a standard pair of aviation snips offer in spades.

Aviation Snips
Aviation Snips
Aviation Snips
Tin Snips
Tin Snips
Tin Snips

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