Are you tired of throwing away and re-purchasing snips every few months? Buy the right pair of snips to begin with and you’ll see more value over the long term. Understanding the factors such as cut, hardness, and blade type will make cutting metal easier, which makes the job go smoother, which leads to less frustration.
Cut orientation – Left of Right Cut?
The blade setup will determine if the snips will be able to make curves to the right or left while cutting. Nearly all domestically produced snips have been made with color coded handles to help the user choose which cut orientation. A fail safe method for remembering the cut orientation of snips is as follows, “the snips will always cut a curve in the direction of the lower cutting blade”. In case you are unaware of the color coding handle system, it is described below:
- Red Handles: Snips will cut straight and to the left. Most comfortable for a right handed user.
- Green Handles: Snips will cut straight and to the right. Most comfortable for a left handed user.
- Yellow Handles: Snips were designed for straight cutting
Straight or Off Set?
The angle that the handles are offset from the actual cutting blades will determine which types of cuts are easier to make than others. Handles may even be at 90 degrees to the cutting blades which proves useful for work where access to make cuts may be limited. To decide which pair may be best for your use consider the following:
- Straight aviation snips are useful for dead on cuts of material. Often these will have narrower blades and can manage to cut in tighter curves.
- Slightly offset blades are better for making long, straight cuts. The handles raise the users cutting hand above the metal which avoids running your hand into the material. They are still capable of making curved cuts and can be used upside down if needed to reach an awkward angle.
Blade Hardness / Durability
- The hardness of the snips will determine their life and ability to cut thicker material. The Rockwell HRC scale is typically used to determine the hardness of a steel and snips will generally fall between HRC 56-65. The closer to HRC 65, the more you will be paying for the pair of snips. Keep in mind that it may not be necessary for your purpose to purchase the hardest snips available if you intend on cutting light gauge material and your frequency of use is limited. For the metal roofers and shop workers that rely heavily on snips, try a specially hardened pair and notice the difference in longevity.
- CUTTING STAINLESS STEEL? If you work with various metals in the field, you are probably aware that stainless steel is a tough material to work with and it is extremely strong. Using cheap snips on stainless steel is a waste of time and money considering you will be throwing out the snips quicker than desired. A nice pair of hardened snips for this application is advised (best to use serrated blades. see below)
- Serrated blades – These are ideal for grasping the metal and creating a non-slip situation when cutting hems of multiple layers. They generally require slightly less force to create a cut. Think kitchen knives.
- Smooth blades – This blade type is less typical of aviation snips but is very important when you are cutting up natural metals (ie. Zinc, Copper, Aluminum). The reasoning here is that the tiny serrations on the edge of the material left by the serrated blades will be a weak point over years and the metal can tear from that point. Sounds silly, but if you are taking your work seriously, you are only creating future problems by ignoring this aspect of cutting.
- Pelicans give the user a slight offset and have extra long blades to create long straight cuts. A useful tool for a metal worker.
- Circle snips are a specialty pair of snips that are great for cutting any radius in metal. If you are forming an eave detail on standing seam, circular snips come in handy for cutting a consistent radius. They come in a left and right curve orientation.