How to Use Tin Snips

What You'll Need
Tin snips
Sharp nail
Thick gloves

If you need to cut through thin metal sheets, tin snips are the right tool. The shears resemble scissors although they are much stronger. With the heavy blades, you’ll be able to cut through metal with ease. Several types are available to undertake different tasks. However, the three basic types are right cutting, left cutting and straight cutting tin snips. The former two create curved cuts, while the latter cuts in a straight line. Color coded snips are also known as compound or aviation snips. The handles usually bear either green or red color. Green snips cut clockwise curves and are better for right-handed people. Red snips cut counter clockwise curves and are better if you’re left-handed. Below is a guide on how to cut with tin snips.

Step 1 – Obtain Correct Snips

Determine which snips to purchase. The job you need to do will help you figure out which will work best. You may have to get two or three different sets for greater efficacy.

Step 2 – Mark

Use a sharp nail to mark the cutting line on the metal sheet. Marking before cutting helps you cut with greater ease and accuracy.

Step 3 – Straight Cuts

Open the shears as far apart as possible. Cut with long smooth strokes. With each stroke you should aim to close the jaws together firmly. This will ensure a maximum length for the cut. As you proceed with cutting, the strip being cut will rise above the rest of the metal sheet. Lift this piece. Roll it back and sideways to give you a clear path as you cut.

Step 4 – Circles

Use a screwdriver to punch a hole in the metal sheet. Pound the screwdriver at the back with a hammer to allow the tin snips into the metal sheet. Use green snips to cut clockwise and red snips to cut counterclockwise. Proceed with the cutting until you complete a circular shape. You can then lift out the cut circle and put it aside.

Step 5 – Curves

Either green or red compound snips can be used for cutting curves. Unlike cutting circles, you need not complete a circular shape. You may use a nail to mark out the path of each curved line.

Step 6 – Round Ducts

To cut a round duct in the middle, you may use any type of snips. First mark the duct before you snip with the shears. To cut through thick seams, you’re better off with compound snips.


  • Wear thick gloves when cutting with tin snips. Metal sheets have very sharp edges and can easily cut through your flesh. You should also wear a long-sleeved shirt for extra protection to the arms.
  • Large shears are best for straight cuts. Use compound snips for curved cutting. If you use straight cutting snips for circles you’ll end up with ragged edges. It is best to combine green and red snips for difficult cuts. This will give you greater flexibility.