Last updated: August 6, 2021

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When you think of crafts, tin snips may not be the first term that comes to mind. Nevertheless, this tool is almost indispensable - especially in drywall construction and in automotive mechatronics. But tin snips also have a lot to offer beginners and do-it-yourselfers.

This guide therefore revolves around the topic of tin snips. From useful info to product suggestions - in this article we will discuss the basics of tin snips.




Summary

  • Tin snips are tools used to cut different types of sheet metal. The maximum thickness of the sheet depends on the material and the thickness of the sheet.
  • There are a variety of types of tin snips. They differ mainly in their application and mechanisms.
  • Plate shears are essential for craftsmen, whether professional or private. Since manual, hand-held tin snips are very easy to use, even beginners can handle this tool well.

The Best Tin Snips: Our Choices

Buying and review criteria for tin snips

To help you buy a new pair of tin snips, we have listed the most important evaluation criteria here:

We will now discuss these buying criteria in detail.

Material

An important purchase criterion is the material. This refers primarily to the material of the sheet you want to cut. The most common materials are steel and non-ferrous metals.

If you are working with VA sheets, i.e. sheets made of corrosion-resistant stainless steel, regular tin snips may not be sufficient, depending on the thickness of the sheet. For this you need special VA shears. There are also tin snips with blades made of HSS or HSS-TiN. These are extremely robust, have a long service life and can also cut stainless steel sheets.

Intended use

There are many different types of tin snips. Which one is suitable for you depends on the area in which you work. Hand-held, manual shears are sufficient for the home workshop. In drywall construction, hand-held shears are also recommended because they offer more freedom of movement than stationary models. Electric tin snips can also be worthwhile here.

In industrial plants, powerful stationary sheet metal shears are often used. However, it is generally advisable to use a set of plate shears consisting of an ideal plate shear and two curved plate shears.

Sheet thickness

Depending on the material and Newton per mm², manual shears can withstand sheet metal between 1 mm and 1.6 mm. Aluminium is relatively easy to cut, while stainless steel sheets are more stable. With V2A sheets, where the steel is alloyed with nickel and chrome, most snips can cut through a maximum of 1.2 mm sheets. You should also not exceed the maximum thickness that a pair of tin snips can withstand, as this can lead to wear and tear on your snips.

So if you are working with thicker or thicker materials, you should go for electric or pneumatic models. Stationary tin snips are not suitable for every craftsman, as they are rather bulky, but they can withstand more than hand-held snips.

Mechanism

There are manual, electric and pneumatic models of tin snips. Which one is right for you depends mainly on the materials you normally work with. Manual shears are sufficient for most do-it-yourselfers.

However, if you want to cut sheet metal with more than 400 Newtons per mm², you should go for electric or pneumatic shears. The latter require a compressor, so they are less suitable for home use.

Electric tin snips have the advantage that they are partly battery-operated and can therefore be used independently of power sockets. They are also relatively easy to handle and are therefore ideal for beginners.

Cutting direction

Hand-held manual tin snips cut either straight, to the left or to the right. Right-hand cutting shears cut curves from left to right. The reverse is true for left-cutting shears. Since tin snips are built to be operated with the right hand, it is also worth considering which curve direction is more comfortable to cut. For left-handers, there are tin snips with specially ground blades.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about tin snips answered in detail

If you still have questions about tin snips, you can take a look at the following section. Here we have answered frequently asked questions.

What is a tin snips?

In a nutshell, a tin snips is a tool used to cut sheet metal. Manual tin snips look more like pliers, but are basically operated in the same way as ordinary snips.

The advantage here is that sheet metal shears cut without chips. So there is hardly any material loss and you don't have to watch out for flying chips. In contrast to saws, tin snips are also easier to use and produce a burr-free cut. The disadvantage is that the sheet metal shifts or curves during cutting. So it has to be straightened more often.

Tin snips are extremely useful, especially for mechanics. (Image source: Malte Luk / Pexels)

You can recognise a quality pair of tin snips by the fact that their cutting edges are cleanly ground and burr-free. They should also be firmly screwed on. In addition, there should be no plastic residue on the handles.

How do you use a pair of tin snips?

Hand-held tin snips basically work like regular snips, with the difference that they do not have handle holes, but are self-opening. However, there are some factors you should be aware of.

For example, the sheet should lie straight on the cutting jaw of the snips, otherwise cutting requires more force and the snips lose their service life. In addition, the sheet can become distorted. In contrast, the deeper you press the sheet between the cutting edges of the shears, the less force is required. The bending of the sheet can be reduced if the shears are not closed completely when cutting, but only about ¾ of the length. The cutting angle itself should be as horizontal as possible and should not exceed an angle of 3°.

As always when working with tools, you should also pay attention to your own safety. For example, the cutting edges in the sheet metal are very sharp, and it is quite possible to cut off your own fingers with a pair of sheet metal shears. It is also always advisable to wear safety goggles when working with tools.

What types of tin snips are there?

Here we have listed different types of tin snips so that you can get a better overview.

  • Curved tin snips: Also called figure shears. These tin snips do not cut straight but, as the name suggests, curves. A distinction is made between left- and right-hand cutting shears. As the cutting edges are rather short, curve shears can only be used on the edge of the sheet.
  • Round hole plate shears: Round hole shears function mechanically in the same way as curve shears. The difference is that the radius of the curve is much smaller, so that holes can also be cut in the sheet. Round hole shears also cut either to the left or to the right.
  • Throughfeed plate shears: Unlike curve shears, continuous shears are ideal for long, straight cuts. Continuous shears are also suitable for cutting sheets in two.
  • Sheet metal nibbler shears: Also called nibblers. These tin snips have relatively short cutting edges make two parallel cuts, which means the sheet is less likely to bend.
  • Ideal tin snips: These tin snips can cut both straight and in curves. In the case of curves, a distinction is also made here between left- and right-cutting shears. One advantage is that you can go directly from a straight cut to a curved cut (and vice versa) without having to change the shears.
  • Slitting shears: The head of these shears has two side bars between which the blade lies. The blade moves up and down, cutting the sheet metal. Since slitting shears make the cut by cutting out a fine strip of the sheet metal (this is where the cutting edge is created), this comes out of the shears as a spiral-shaped chip.
  • Guillotine shears: Also called plate shears. These shears are stationary. Because they are relatively large, they can be used to make long, straight cuts. This is also much faster than with hand-held shears. Because these tin snips are relatively large and cumbersome, they are more commonly used in workshops or industrial plants.

Some manual tin snips have a lever transmission, which reduces the force required for cutting by about 25%.

How much do tin snips cost?

The price of tin snips usually depends more on the mechanism. For example, electric tin snips are more expensive than manually operated ones.

Type Price
Manual tin snips c.a. 10-30 €
Electric sheet metal shears c.a. 50-300 €
Compressed air sheet metal shears c.a. 30-200 €
Plate shears c.a. 200-2000 €

In general, manual guillotine shears are perfectly adequate if you don't work with sheet metal that often. On the other hand, if you use your shears regularly, electric or pneumatic models may be worthwhile.

How do you care for a pair of tin snips?

First of all, tin snips should only be used to cut the materials they are intended for, otherwise they will lose a significant amount of life. To maintain the shears, you should oil the blades and the joint from time to time. An ordinary blade sharpener is sufficient for sharpening the shears.

Conclusion

Whether you are a professional craftsman or just starting out in this field, tin snips are one of the most important parts of a toolbox. Since there are countless variants, you will find the right product for every requirement and user.

Hopefully, this guide will help you understand the basics of tin snips and perhaps even inspire your next project.

(Cover image: Alexei Chizhov / Pixabay)

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