The Meaning of Handle Color in Metal Snips

Metal snips are one of the most basic and crucial sheet metal working tools. Whereas other tools enable a craftsmen to form and shape the sheet metal through deformation, shears, also called metal snips, tin snips or aviation snips, enable you to remove a portion of metal by cutting through it, allowing for more precise alterations of the material.

While the basic function of metal shears remains the same – that is, they cut through metal, not all tin snips are created equal. For example, some tin snips have straight handles whereas others have offset handles, where the cutting blades sit at a lower level than the grips. This helps these offset snips keep metal out of the way of a worker’s hands when he or she is making longer cuts through it.

That’s just one example, and there are many others, including the color of the handles. If you’ve ever taken notice of the variability in the handle color but weren’t aware of the reason, it’s not for fashion. There’s a functional purpose to the color.

When cutting through a sheet of metal, you’ll find that some metal shears are easily able to make curved cuts, and effectively all are able to make straight cuts through a sheet of metal. However, you may have noticed that while some shears can easily cut curves to the right, they can’t cut to the left. By the same token, shears that can cut to the left can’t easily cut to the right. Similarly, there are shears that can only effectively make straight cuts.

Tin snips with yellow handles are coded to make it easier for the user to identify them as useful for straight cutting of sheet metal. While yellow handled snips are useful for making long, straight cuts, they’re not particularly effective at cutting curves.

There is also color coding in metal cutting snips designed to cut curves. For example, a pair of snips with a set of green handles are designed to make right curves in a sheet of metal. They can also be used to make straight cuts but would not serve to effectively make cuts to the left. Snips with red handles are designed to make cuts that curve to the left. They can also be used to make straight cuts but not cuts that curve to the right.

If you’re looking at a pair of tin snips and the handles are color coded, there’s one more way you might be able to tell how they’ll interact with a sheet of metal. Look at the lower blade; the cut will tend to skew in that direction.

You can also reach out to those with experience if you want to learn more about how a pair of tin snips will operate. For such a simple piece of equipment, there is a lot to know, but it doesn’t need to overwhelm you. Get in touch with a team of specialists with experience like those at John Stortz & Son at They have an impressive collection of metal snips and other metal working and forming tools and the experience necessary to answer your questions. If there’s anything else you want to know, give them a call at 888-847-3456!

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