Cutting curves into metal is not the easiest of tasks, especially if you don’t have the right tools on hand. You can try and make a clean cut using kitchen shears, but you’d most likely just mess everything up and have to toss both the tool and the metal sheet in the trash.
Instead of breaking your favorite pair of scissors, just get a tin snip. These simple tools have powerful jaws that are designed for cutting through thin pieces of metal without any of the heartache or handache. The good news is that tin snips are available at any hardware store you visit.
The bad news is that there are so many models to choose from that finding a reliable pair is not going to be simple. They seem like straightforward tools, but there’s a lot more than meets the eye.
So instead of spending countless hours researching different tin snips, why not take a look at what our editors have foundThey did the research; all you need to do is pick, which among them will work best for you.
Ultimate Tin Snip Buying Guide
As we mentioned in an earlier segment, finding the right pair of tin snips is not as easy as it seems. Take a look at the following guide to gain a basic understanding of what makes for a high-quality tin snip.
Left, Right, or Straight Orientation
The orientation of the blade will determine how well it will work at producing curved or straight cuts. Tin snips with a left-bevel lower blade are meant for cutting to the left, right-level lower blades for the right, and straight-set blades for cutting straight. There are two ways of determining whether a blade’s orientation is set to the left, right, or center – either by looking at the lower blade’s bevel or by paying attention to the color of the tin snip’s handle (red for left, green for right, and yellow for straight).
Straight or Offset Handles
A tin snip’s handle in relation to the cutting blades are either straight or offset. Straight-handle tin snips are better suited for making dead-on cuts into sheet metal. They typically have narrower blades which make them great at producing acute curves. An offset handle forces the user’s hand to the side and away from the material. Offset tin snips are the preferable option for producing long, straight cuts.
Once again, we have two options to choose from: serrated and smooth. Like a serrated kitchen knife, this type of blade is ideal for keeping the workpiece in place as it cuts smoothly through the sheet. Serrated blades can also be used to cut through several sheets of thin metal to produce identical results. However, the serrations on the blade will wear out over time, and the tin snips will end up bending and tearing metal rather than snipping. Smooth blades don’t have this problem, but they are a lot more uncommon.
The material used to make the blade plays a role in the maximum life expectancy of the tin snip. The most durable materials are high-speed steel and titanium-coated high-speed steel. The latter is the better option for cutting through stainless steel, whereas HSS can be used for general-purpose cutting on any piece of sheet metal. There are lesser-quality steels used in tin snips like special high-quality steel, high-quality steel, and standard-quality steel. These are cheaper but effective at cutting softer metals.
Earlier, we spoke of the different handle color options and what they mean, but that’s not the only thing on the handle worth looking at. The grips that encase the tool are meant to give you the most comfortable, pain-free grip when snipping through metal. A larger, more cushiony grip is ideal if you’re working with stainless steel or other metals that require more hand power to cut. However, a wider grip will feel bulky and awkward when working with thinner materials.
Specialty Tin Snips
There are two types of specialty tin snips. The first is called pelican snips in the way the cutting blades are shaped. It uses an offset handle which keeps your hand from obstructing your view. The blades are longer and wider than normal tin snips, making it the ideal tool for long cuts in thicker sheets of metal. Circle snips are designed specifically for making circular cuts of any radius.
Tin Snip FAQs
Can I use tin snips to cut steel wool?
Yes, you can, but it’s not recommended. The blades’ sharpness and teeth will wear down much more quickly when used on abrasive objects like steel wool.
What materials can tin snips cut?
Apart from sheet metal, tin snips can be used on almost any material imaginable. Plastic pipes, thin wooden boards, leather, you name it. Of course, tin snips aren’t a blanket solution for everything – the best option cutting tool is that which is designed for specific materials.
Can tin snips be used to cut [insert random object like dwarf goat hooves, pennies, and circuit boards]?
Just to be clear: a pair of tin snips can cut virtually anything softer than the hardness of the blades. The only thing you need to consider is whether the snip’s jaws can open wide enough to stuff whatever in between the blades. Tin snips can be used for objects they weren’t intended to cut, but they may wear the blades down quicker than normal.
Tin snips aren’t the harder tool in the world to shop for. Although there are numerous types of tin snips – both specially made and general-purpose – you can bet that you can find a reliable tin snip relatively easily, especially if you consider one of the models on our list.
Before settling on a particular tin snip, you first need to decide how you’ll use it (on what materials, straight or curved cuts, etc.). Knowing this, it’s simply a matter of finding which tin snip has the correct jaws for producing the intended cut. Easy peasy, folks!