The Best Tin Snips of 2024 for Your Metalwork Projects, Tested

With a set of high-quality tin snips, you can easily cut through thin gauge metal to complete a variety of home renovations and artistic endeavors.

Best Overall

The Lenox 3-Pack Forged Steel Aviation Snips on a white background.

Lenox 3-Pack Forged Steel Aviation Snips

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Best Bang for the Buck

The Craftsman Aviation Snips Set on a white background.

Craftsman Aviation Snips Set

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Best for Metal Roofing

The Best Tin Snips Option: Midwest Power The Midwest Power Cutter Offset Long Cut Aviation Snip on a white background.

Midwest Power Cutter Offset Long Cut Aviation Snip

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Whether it’s repairing rain gutters, installing a metal roof, replacing a wood stove pipe, or any project that involves cutting sheet metal, a good set of tin snips helps get the job done accurately and efficiently. Tin snips look like heavy-duty scissors with thick, durable handles and short, strong blades that are able to cut through thin gauge metal like stainless steel, tin, and copper. We recently tested 16 tin snips of different types, sizes, and prices. In our quest to find the best options for different projects, we cut through more than 60 feet of sheet metal, galvanized roofing, and aluminum gutter. 

Our favorite option is the Lenox 3-Pack Forged Steel Aviation Snips, which is moderately priced and includes specially constructed snips for straight, left-curved, and right-curved cuts. The right and left cut options have a slightly angled blade to keep the user’s hand above the metal through long cuts. The best tin snips for your workshop will depend on how you want to use them and your preference for blade style.

In the product reviews, we will offer our observations from testing each of these metal cutters. Later, we will share the shopping considerations that guided our selections for testing. If you are unsure which of these snips might be right for you, the latter part of this guide will help you decide which type may be the best tin snips for your project.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Lenox 3-Pack Forged Steel Aviation Snips
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  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Craftsman Aviation Snips Set
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  3. BEST FOR METAL ROOFING: Midwest Power Cutter Offset Long Cut Aviation Snip
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  4. BEST FOR TIGHT SPACES: Midwest Upright Right Aviation Snip 
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  5. BEST FOR DUCTWORK: Malco Max2000 Double Cut Aviation Snips
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  6. BEST STRAIGHT-CUT: Irwin Utility Snips 
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  7. MOST VERSATILE: Stanley Fatmax Straight Cut Aviation Snips
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  8. BEST AVIATION SNIPS: Wiss Compound Action Aviation Snip Set 
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  9. BEST TIN SNIPS: Craftsman All-Purpose 10″ Tin Snips
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  10. BEST ALUMINUM SNIPS: Malco 12″ Andy Aluminum Handled Snips
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The Best Tin Snips
Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila

How We Tested the Best Tin Snips

We spent 7 hours testing tin snips and aviation snips for different applications, cutting more than 60 linear feet of metal in the process. After recording the dimensions and weight of each metal cutter tool, we used them to cut 12 inches straight across a sheet of 20-gauge cold-rolled steel, 6-inch circles in 28-gauge rectangular duct, and end cuts on 26-gauge standing seam metal roofing and aluminum gutter.

Throughout the testing process, we noted how smoothly the metal snips operated in thin and thick metals and how comfortable they felt in hand. We evaluated their clean-cutting ability for creating straight lines and curves as well as cutting shaped metal. We tested them for durability by repeatedly dropping them on the concrete floor from a height of 6 feet. After testing, we compiled our notes on a scoring rubric and awarded the titles presented in this guide.

Testing Stats
Products tested16 (including all snips in sets)
Hours spent testing7
Tests performed9
Price range$13.00 to $82.00

Our Top Picks

We chose to test these snips based on type, brand reputation, user reviews, and price. In our reviews ahead, find out how they performed and why we consider them to be some of the best tin snips available.

Best Overall

Lenox 3-Pack Forged Steel Aviation Snips

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Our Ratings: Ergonomics 5/5; Performance 5/5; Cut Quality 5/5; Durability 5/5; Value 5/5 

Product Specs 

  • Type: Aviation snips
  • Gauge: 18
  • Blade length: 1⅝ inches

What We Like

  • Kit includes straight, left, and right snips
  • Forged steel blades cut up to 18-gauge sheet metal
  • Ergonomic slip-resistant overmold handles won’t twist while cutting
  • Offset snips protect hands and move smoothly through long cuts

What We Don’t Like

  • Latches are not designed for ambidextrous work

Aviation snips are arguably the best type of tin snips for general use due to their added cutting leverage and compact blade size. A set of three is needed to take on most metal-cutting tasks. This Lowe’s-exclusive tool bundle includes Lenox 10-inch straight (yellow), 10-inch offset right (green), and 10-inch offset left (red) aviation snips. 

These snips are designed for smoother, easier cutting and a longer working life. The forged steel blades on each tool measure 1⅝ inches long and are capable of cutting 18-gauge sheet metal. The blade finish helps avoid material catching while cutting, while the pivot bolt prevents loosening and blade separation over time. They feature an improved leverage system that maximizes cut length relative to hand span and requires less force than older models. The ergonomic molded handles are made of lightweight polypropylene with a rubber overmold for a comfortable, slip-resistant grip.

In our tests, the Lenox tin snips narrowly outperformed the sets from Wiss and Craftsman thanks to smoother movement and better ergonomics. These snips were comfortable and easy to use in gloved hands. Each of the snips performed straight cuts well, and the right and left offset snips easily navigated smooth circular cuts. We especially liked the grip design, but the locking tabs required a second hand to operate when using them in the “opposite” hand. The pivot points opened and closed smoothly prior to and after our cutting tests, and our drop test showed no signs of damage. For frequent use over the long term, we recommend spending a few extra dollars on this set.

Get the Lennox tin snips at Lowe’s.

Best Bang for the Buck

Craftsman Aviation Snips Set

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Our Ratings: Ergonomics 4.5/5; Performance 5/5; Cut Quality 5/5; Durability 4/5; Value 4.7/5

Product Specs 

  • Type: Aviation snips
  • Gauge: 18
  • Blade length: 1½ inches

What We Like

  • Value-priced, good-quality set of basic 10-inch aviation snips
  • Induction-hardened steel blades cut through 18-gauge sheet metal
  • Comfortable grips with cushioned rubber overmold
  • Offset right and left snips keep hands above work

What We Don’t Like

  • Pivot points and blades not as smooth as our top pick

Investing in this value-priced three-piece set of Craftsman aviation tin snips will enable you to handle a wide variety of tasks and projects with the right blades for each job. The kit includes an offset clockwise-cut pair, an offset counterclockwise-cut pair, and a straight-cut pair. The induction-hardened steel blades can cut through 18-gauge cold-rolled steel and 22-gauge stainless steel. The ergonomic handles are covered in a protective rubber coating for a comfortable and controlled grip while using the snips.

Each tin snip is equipped with a latch-locking system to keep it securely locked when not in use. The spring-assisted latch can then be unlatched using just one hand, allowing you to resume work as soon as you are ready.

Priced significantly lower than our top pick, we liked the Craftsman kit as a budget-friendly option for occasional use, but there may be better choices for consistent extended use. The fit and finish were good but could have been better, possibly due to micro distortions during the blade-hardening process. The blades and pivots felt a little gritty or sticky when we squeezed them right out of the box without having cut anything yet. We also felt a little drag in the feed while moving through some of the cuts, but the cuts came out nice and clean. For a one-off DIY project or as a set of cutters to have on hand just in case, these snips will do the job for less.

Get the Craftsman aviation tin snips at Amazon or Lowe’s.

Best for Metal Roofing

Midwest Power Cutter Offset Long Cut Aviation Snip

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Our Ratings: Ergonomics 4.5/5; Performance 5/5; Cut Quality 5/5; Durability 5/5; Value 4.3/5

Product Specs 

  • Type: Offset aviation snip
  • Gauge: N/A
  • Blade length: 2¾ inches

What We Like

  • Ideal for long, straight cuts in roofing, siding, sheet metal
  • Offset blade and flared finger guards protect hands from edges
  • Heavy-duty blade with 40 serrations per inch for precision cutting
  • Cushioned handles provide a soft, sturdy, comfortable grip

What We Don’t Like

  • Higher price than similar offset long-cut snips

When working with metal roofing panels, steel siding, and sheet materials, regular aviation snips don’t cut it. The Midwest Power Cutter aviation snips are the ideal choice because the 2¾-inch blades move faster and easier through long cuts. They may be more expensive than other options, but they offer professional-grade cutting action and long-term durability.

The forged molybdenum alloy steel blades on these snips are heat-treated to retain their edge for years of use. The bottom blade has 40 serrations per inch to improve grip for precise cutting of irregular surface materials. They are designed to cut all the way from the pinch point to the blade tip, requiring fewer cuts. They maneuver easily in either hand while making long cuts in ribbed material or while cutting gentle curves. The compound leverage handle’s action multiplies cutting force, while the cushioned handles provide a comfortable, slip-resistant grip.

Although neither the manufacturer nor the retailer suggested a maximum metal gauge for the Midwest Power Cutter, they performed as well as, or better than, our other top contenders in our tests. The cutting action was extremely smooth, and the cut edges were flawless. They navigated the texture of the standing seam roofing and aluminum gutters with no trouble, but they had a tougher time making the 6-inch circles. The grips were comfortable and easy to control. If you’re installing metal roofing, these long-cut tin snips will make fast work of any cuts.

Get the Midwest Power Cutter tin snips at Amazon, Grainger, or Global Industrial.

Best for Tight Spaces

Midwest Upright Right Aviation Snip

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Our Ratings: Ergonomics 5/5; Performance 5/5; Cut Quality 5/5; Durability 5/5; Value 5/5 

Product Specs 

  • Type: Upright aviation snip
  • Gauge: N/A
  • Blade length: 1½ inches

What We Like

  • Fits into tight spaces where other tin snips do not
  • Easily maneuvers through straight cuts or tight curves
  • Cuts along full blade length, from pinch point to tip
  • Works in forward and reverse directions

What We Don’t Like

  • Seems to cut slowly compared to other tin snips

If your workspace is limited, different metal cutter tools may be necessary. The Midwest Upright right aviation snips give you a completely different angle to work with than the more common straight-cut and offset tin snips. The blades extend out from the handles at a right angle, allowing you to fit the blades into narrow spaces, like behind a furnace or hot water tank. The blades can also be used to make vertical cuts or to access ductwork up in your ceiling.

These tin snips are ideal for cutting vinyl siding, aluminum, and up to 24-gauge sheet metal. They are made with hardened molybdenum alloy steel components, including high tensile-strength handles that won’t bend or break under pressure. The cushioned grips have indented ribs to increase your control, and a safety latch keeps the snips closed when they are not in use.

Because of the unique design, we found that we had to grip these tin snips upside down, with the blade end nearest our pinky finger, while cutting flat sheet material. The upside-down grip took some getting used to, but soon, we had no trouble making all the necessary cuts. It allowed us to use either a “push” or “pull” motion to cut in forward or reverse directions, using either hand. No other tin snip we tested was quite as maneuverable in small spaces. We also noted that the upright snips took longer to make long, straight cuts than other snips did. 

Get the Midwest Upright tin snips at Amazon, Lowe’s, MSC, or Grainger.

Best for Ductwork

Malco Max2000 Double Cut Aviation Snips

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Our Ratings: Ergonomics 5/5; Performance 4.7/5; Cut Quality 5/5; Durability 5/5; Value 4.7/5 

Product Specs 

  • Type: Double-cut snips
  • Gauge: 22
  • Blade length: 1¼ inches

What We Like

  • Makes clean cuts on round air duct or stovepipe
  • Curved center blade reduces cutting force
  • Serrations advance cut over smooth surfaces and through seams
  • Self-starting tip eliminates need for drilling starting holes

What We Don’t Like

  • Much more expensive than other aviation snips

Cutting round ducts or aluminum downspouts without distorting the shape of the metal can be tricky. The Malco Max2000 aviation snips make it easier. These heavy-duty metal shears use a triple-blade design to remove a thin strip of metal along the cut line, leaving a clean, distortion-free cut in their wake.

The key to the design is the triple-blade configuration. The two upper blades are flat and rounded, while the lower blade features serrations and comes to a sharp point at the tip. The pointy tip is used to make a starter hole in the metal, while the serrations help advance the tool through the cut. Like other aviation snips, the Malco double-cut snips feature a double-pivot handle design to reduce the needed cutting pressure. The blades are made of hardened alloy steel. 

A specialty tool that makes work easier and cleaner, if not faster, the Malco 10-inch double-cut snips did a great job cutting light gauge tubular metal and left superclean edges behind. The cushioned grips were quite comfortable, and the wraparound lock tab made it extremely easy to open or close the cutters with either hand. We used it to cut a section of rigid round duct and were pleased with the self-starting tip and clean cut, if not the cutting speed. Using a reciprocating saw for that task is faster but may not always be practical.

Get the Malco tin snips at Amazon.

Best Straight-Cut

Irwin Utility Snips

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Our Ratings: Ergonomics 4/5; Performance 4.7/5; Cut Quality 5/5; Durability 4/5; Value 4.7/5

Product Specs 

  • Type: Multipurpose snip
  • Gauge: 24
  • Blade length: 3 inches

What We Like

  • Long blade for easy straight cuts in lightweight materials
  • Spring washer holds blades tightly together for smooth cutting action
  • Molded grips and one-handed release latch for comfort and control

What We Don’t Like

  • Difficult to cut sheet metal thicker than 28 gauge

If you’ll be using your tin cutter for wire mesh, vinyl siding, or corrugated roofing, this straight-cut tool is worth a look. Long, drop-forged steel blades are ideal for straight cuts in large pieces of lightweight sheet metal, and precision-sharpened blade edges bite into the material as you cut, reducing the chance of the blades slipping.

These tin snips also have an easy-closing latch to keep them secure when not being used. The compound cutting action increases the power you can put into the cut. The grips are padded and textured for a comfortable feel without sacrificing control.

The extra-long blades on the Irwin utility snips made straight cuts easy, even with its in-line handles. In our tests, this configuration worked best for thin sheet metal (and some scrap metal mesh we had on hand) since it was hard to keep hands away from cut edges when working with thicker, more rigid materials. These long-nosed tin snips are worth having around for fast, short, straight cuts on stiff sheet metal or general work with hardware cloth and pliable sheet metals.

Get the Irwin tin snips at Amazon, Ace Hardware, The Tool Nut, or Grainger.

Most Versatile

Stanley Fatmax Straight Cut Aviation Snips

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Our Ratings: Ergonomics 4.5/5; Performance 4.7/5; Cut Quality 5/5; Durability 5/5; Value 5/5 

Product Specs 

  • Type: Aviation snips
  • Gauge: 18
  • Blade length: 1⅝ inches

What We Like

  • Cuts straight, clockwise, or counterclockwise for a variety of uses
  • Made of chrome molybdenum steel for toughness and durability
  • Serrated blade prevents metal from slipping while cutting
  • Slip-resistant bi-material handles for operating comfort and stability

What We Don’t Like

  • Harder to make long cuts in rigid materials

Color-coded yellow “straight” aviation snips can cut in a straight line or make cuts that curve to the right or left. Stanley Fatmax straight-cut tin snips are easy and comfortable to use with a variety of materials. They feature serrated cutting edges on the blades, allowing you to quickly cut through sheet metal while maintaining a high degree of control. The slip-resistant grip on the snips furthers your control while also providing your hands with a cushioned surface to help reduce fatigue. 

These tin shears feature a latch mechanism to keep them closed when not in use, though the latch can be released with one hand when the snips are needed. Just squeeze the handles together, and the latch will be released, allowing you to use them freely. Use these snips with aluminum, vinyl siding, screening, copper, leather, cardboard, or up to 18-gauge steel to work on a variety of home renovation projects.

If we had to buy a single set of snips for the widest range of DIY metal cutting projects, it might be the Stanley Fatmax straight aviation snips. They are one of the most affordable individual pairs of tin snips we tested, but they include premium steel blades, extremely comfortable handles, and one of the group’s easiest-to-use latch mechanisms. They operated smoothly before and after testing. The handle spread was comfortable for average hand sizes and both right- and left-handed use. 

Get the Stanley tin snips at Amazon, Ace Hardware, or The Home Depot.

Best Aviation Snips

Wiss Compound Action Aviation Snip Set

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Our Ratings: Ergonomics 5/5; Performance 5/5; Cut Quality 5/5; Durability 5/5; Value 5/5 

Product Specs 

  • Type: Aviation snips
  • Gauge: 18
  • Blade length: 1⅜ inches

What We Like

  • Narrower handle spread is good for smaller hands
  • Pivot bolt with positive stops for quick spring action
  • Double-serrated precision-cast blades for toughness and security
  • Ergonomic nonslip grips for user comfort and control

What We Don’t Like

  • Shorter blades than our top overall pick

Our top aviation snips, the Crescent Wiss Compound Action aviation snip set, include 9¾-inch straight, right, and left snips. The set of three 9¾-inch snips have ¼ inch shorter blades than the Lenox and Craftsman sets we reviewed. The cushioned hand grips were super comfortable, with a slip-resistant textured surface that made them easy to control.

These snips weighed an average of 14.8 ounces each, making them some of the lightest snips in the test group. The blades include micro serrations to grip the material for control while cutting. They have a free-floating pivot bolt designed to provide a long working life without adjustments. The closure latches can be easily operated one-handed or with either hand.

The Wiss aviation snips had springy action and a consistent opening width that allowed for a smooth, effortless feed. They moved through the cuts better than most of the other snips we tested and made the most intricate cuts with ease. The cuts were clean and precise. The reason we placed them lower on our list than Best Overall pick was because of the cast steel instead of forged construction. In our short-term test, the cast steel performed extremely well, but it may not hold up as long as the forged steel in our top pick. 

Get the Wiss tin snips at Amazon, The Home Depot, or MSC.

Craftsman All-Purpose 10" Tin Snips

Best Tin Snips

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Our Ratings: Ergonomics 4/5; Performance 4.7/5; Cut Quality 5/5; Durability 5/5; Value 4.7/5 

Product Specs 

  • Type: Tin snips
  • Gauge: 22
  • Blade length: 2½ inches

What We Like

  • Straight pattern snips for straight cuts and gentle curves
  • Precision ground blade edges for greater control through the cut
  • Large loop handles for easy operation with gloved hands
  • Smooth scissor action for clean cuts in thin sheet metal 
  • Simple, durable design with fewer moving parts than aviation snips

What We Don’t Like

  • Bulkier than aviation snips; not ideal for all-day use

While aviation snips have become the most popular type due to their compact size and increased leverage, simpler single-pivot sheet metal scissors are still handy for working with lighter metals up to 22 gauge. The Craftsman all-purpose tin snips have a straight pattern design for straight and gently curved cuts. 

These snips measure just over 10 inches in total length, with 2½-inch-long blades. The bottom blade has an upward curve that helps to retain and control the workpiece while cutting. The large loop handles easily accommodate gloved hands. With a simple and secure single pivot point and no spring or lock mechanism, they operate like other types of scissors.

We liked these basic tin snips because of their simplicity, general-purpose functionality, and overall convenience. They easily fit into any setting where broad tool functionality is valued over specialization. They were one of the largest and heaviest snips among the test group, with snug but smooth scissor action. The wide loop handles made it easy to hang them on a pegboard behind the workbench for quick access. 

The Craftsman snips’ blades were longer than most yellow aviation snips, so they excelled at short, straight cuts in sheet metal, up to 6 inches or so. They also did a nice job cutting aluminum gutter, corrugated roofing, and hardware cloth. With more cutting came more hand fatigue, though, so they are probably best for quick one-off cuts or piecework rather than production jobs.

Get the Craftsman all-purpose tin snips at Amazon, Lowe’s, or Walmart.

Best Aluminum Snips

Malco 12" Andy Aluminum Handled Snips

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Our Ratings: Ergonomics 4/5; Performance 4.7/5; Cut Quality 5/5; Durability 4/5; Value 4.7/5 

Product Specs 

  • Type: Tin snips
  • Gauge: 24
  • Blade length: 3 inches

What We Like

  • Multipurpose snips for thin sheet metal, copper, siding, trim, etc.
  • Straight pattern cut for long straight cuts and gentle curves
  • Lightweight aluminum frame with replaceable blades for extended tool life
  • Large loop handles with multiple grip options

What We Don’t Like

  • Extended blade tips are only moderately helpful in tight corners

For lightweight metals like aluminum and copper, a set of lightweight tin snips is all you need. The Malco 12-inch Andy snips measure 13 inches overall and weigh just 15.75 ounces. They cut thin sheet metal along straight lines and gentle curves, plus they won’t weigh down your tool belt.

These single-pivot tin snips feature large loop handles with multiple grip points. The blade tips extend past the front of the frame for closer cuts in tight spaces. The pressure-fit blades are replaceable, eliminating expensive tool replacement for a lifetime of reliable use. 

In our tests, the Malco Andy snips felt light and comfortable. They fit and moved better than the Craftsman tin snips in smaller hands, although work gloves restricted movement somewhat. The aluminum scissor frame offered multiple grip points in addition to the rear loop handles, giving us grip options that the other snips did not. 

These tin snips were limited to thin materials, like aluminum gutters and thin corrugated steel roofing. They did a really nice, clean job, but the extended blade tips only helped marginally when it came to cutting interior corners or other restricted spaces. They were fast and effective when it came to quick cutoffs as needed for trimming and shaping materials like roofing, siding, and gutters. If we were installing flashing or vinyl siding, these would be our top pick. 

Get the Malco tin snips at Amazon or The Home Depot.

Jump to Our Top Picks

The Best Tin Snips
Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila

What to Consider When Choosing Tin Snips

Before choosing the best tin snips to trim your gutters, fix your roof, or work on the HVAC system, there are some important factors to consider, such as the material you’ll be using them with and whether you prefer a set of straight-cut or offset tin snips.

Type

Tin snips come in a variety of different types that are typically separated by the shape and direction of the blade. The three common types are straight-cut tin snips, offset tin snips, and vertical tin snips.

  • Traditional tin snips are essentially heavy-duty scissors with short, thick blades and long loop handles. The wide loop handles easily accommodate gloved hands. These snips work well for long, straight cuts or gentle curves in thinner metals up to 26 gauge.
  • Aviation snips or compound snips have dual pivot points, straight handles, and relatively short blades to increase cutting force for thicker metals up to 18 gauge. They normally have color-coded handles: yellow indicates a straight cut, red is for counterclockwise curves or left end cuts, and green indicates clockwise curves or right end cuts. 
  • Offset tin snips have blades that are angled in relation to the handle. The ergonomic angled design makes it easier to move the blades through long cuts.
  • Vertical tin snips have blades that sit at a right angle to the handles, which is why they are also known as right-angle tin snips. These tools are ideal for tight spaces where only the blades can fit.

Material

Keep the materials that you normally work with in mind when you are choosing a set of tin snips. If you are using the tin snips to cut metal, then you’ll also want to consider the gauge of the metal you typically use. A set of snips that can only cut 20-gauge steel will be useless if you have 10-gauge steel. Also, keep in mind that the larger the metal gauge number, the thinner the metal.

Some of these tools can also be used on leather, cardboard, aluminum, copper, vinyl siding, and wire mesh. If you have a purpose in mind for your tin snips, check the manufacturer’s recommendations to be sure you get a tool designed for your project.

The Best Tin Snips
Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila

Application

Before choosing a set of tin snips, determine how you want to use them and how robust the snips need to be for your purposes. Typically, tin snips are used for cutting through thin gauge sheet metal for home renovation projects, like replacing ductwork in your HVAC system or installing new drain pipes. These applications require the snips to be able to cut through the gauge of material you are working with, so you’ll want to find a product intended for this application. 

Tin snips with serrated blades usually require less force to cut through the material. They are better equipped for use with very smooth metals because the serrated edges grip the metal as you cut, preventing the snips from slipping during use.

Comfort and Grip

Manually cutting through sheet metal can tire out your hands if you don’t have a set of tin snips with a comfortable grip that is suited to your hand shape and your handedness. Some tin snips are ambidextrous, but offset snips are frequently made for right-handed individuals. This means that a left-handed person would need to use them in reverse, using the clockwise snips for counterclockwise cuts and the counterclockwise snips for clockwise cuts.

The grip should be made of a padded or rubberized material that will both cushion your hand and absorb the impact caused by cutting through the thick metal wire and sheet metal. Some tin snips also feature finger indents on the handle, which are intended to give you better control over the snips while you work.

FAQs 

If you still aren’t certain which tin snips you need, take a look below for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions so that you can make a better-informed decision.

Q. What can you cut with tin snips?

Tin snips can be used to cut a variety of soft thin-gauge metals, including carbon steel, stainless steel, copper, aluminum, and tin.

Q. Why are tin snips colored?

Some tin snips have handles with a color-coding system that indicates whether they should be used for clockwise, counterclockwise, or straight cuts. Green handles indicate a clockwise cut, red handles indicate a counterclockwise cut, and yellow-handled snips are for straight cuts.

Q. How do you use tin snips?

You use tin snips in a similar way to using scissors, though the resistance through metal is much greater than scissor blades cutting through paper. Ensure that you nestle the metal deep into the jaws of the tin snips, opening the cutters as wide as possible at the start of each cut. This should help apply the correct amount of strength to produce clean cuts. 

If you want to make a circular cut, you’ll want to punch a starter hole through the metal with a straight-blade screwdriver or another piercing tool so the blades of the tin snips have a place to start cutting.

Q. How do you sharpen tin snips?

Before trying to sharpen your tin snips, ensure that the blades are not serrated, as serrated edges cannot be sharpened. If the blades are not serrated, follow the steps below to sharpen the tin snips.

1. Clean the tin snips to remove any oils, dirt, or residue that may be on the blades.
2. Open the blades as wide as possible and remove the pivot bolt.
3. Secure one of the blades in a bench vice.
4. Using a diamond sharpening stone, smooth the cutting edge from the pivot to the tip of the blade.
5. Repeat on the second blade.
6. Clean residue from the blades, apply a thin coat of oil, and reassemble the ships.

Q. What’s the difference between tin snips and aviation snips?

Tin snips include both single-pivot and compound-pivot cutters. Single-pivot models look like heavy-duty scissors with short, thick blades and wide loop handles. Compound pivot snips are also known as aviation or aviator snips. They have short, thick blades; two or more pivot points that multiply cutting leverage; and straight handles with spring-action spreaders to help with material feeding.

Q. How thick of metal can tin snips cut?

Single-pivot tin snips can cut thinner material up to about 24-gauge sheet metal, while aviation snips can cut up to 18-gauge sheet metal.

Meet the Tester

Mark Wolfe is a product tester and writer with an extensive background in the nursery and landscaping industries. He kept his tool box well stocked in order to build or repair fences, walls, irrigation systems, and equipment on any given day. Now he tests and writes reviews about the latest hand tools, lawn care products, outdoor power equipment, and other outdoor-living goods.

Additional research provided by Timothy Dale.

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Mark Wolfe

Staff Writer

Mark Wolfe is a second-career freelance writer based in Georgia and has an extensive background in the horticulture industry. Since 2020, he has contributed numerous gardening and home improvement articles to BobVila.com, along with a variety of consumer product reviews.

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