How to use tin snips

Making cuts in sheet metal with tin snips can be frustrating if you do not know how to operate the tool. Your drop off or waste are stiff and get in the way, the snips bind up and get sprung or you just can't seem to negotiate the curve just right. These problems are common for the “Average Joe” who is not a sheet metal worker. But you don't have to be a tin knocker to cut sheet metal with ease. With the correct snips and a few good ol’ fashion techniques, you can cut some sheet metal worker like you have been a tinsmith your whole life.

I recommend a pair of tin snips that will get you through 90 percent of the jobs you'll run into. But I can also point you in the right direction for the best tin snips to use in your personal application. Then when the time comes you can decide if it's worth investing in another pair of snips to simplify your job.

One snips can do it all … well, almost.
There are at least a dozen types of tin snips, and choosing just the right one can be confusing. I'd recommend starting your collection with a pair of offsets click here to see. The cutters are offset below the handle so you can keep your cutting hand above the work, and the compound action allows you to cut thicker material with less effort.

Compound snips, also called aviation snips, are color coded. Green snips are designed to cut clockwise curves and red snips to cut counterclockwise curves. You can use the snips with either hand, but if you're right-handed you'll find it easier to use green snips for many types of cuts. If you're left-handed, approach the cut from the opposite direction with red-handed snips. Notice the clockwise and counterclockwise directions of the curved starting cuts. Each pair of snips can do one direction well, but not the other.