Understanding the Aviation Tin Snips Color Code

Color Coded Aviation Snips Handles

Aviation snips are the go-to tool for cutting sheet metal. They can typically handle up to 18 gauge CRS (cold rolled steel) or 22 gauge SS (stainless steel). Since every cut is different, manufacturers have been color-coding the handles on snips for a number of years. You want to use the right snips as those color-coded aviation snips aren’t for show. The color you pick should match the particular cut you need to make.

Color Coded Aviation Snips

Sheet metal has extremely sharp edges when cut. Without the right tools, it also becomes notoriously difficult to maneuver and cut. When trying to make a clockwise cut, the last thing you want is a straight pair of snips. Steel does not bend easily. Using the right tool for the job will save your hands and save you time.

Use the right snips

It goes without saying that you should use cut-resistant gloves to make cuts in sheet metal. Having the right tool makes all the difference. The industry has three basic colors it associates with the various types of snips:

  • Red handles – Used to make “left” or counterclockwise cuts in sheet metal.
  • Green handles – Used to make “right” or clockwise cuts in sheet metal.
  • Yellow handles – Used for straight cuts in sheet metal.

Milwaukee Tool, among others, has also introduced a White color to signify seaming and crimping tools. Some exceptions to the straightforward colors exist, however. You can, for example, use snips with a Yellow handle to cut a nice wide arc in a piece of sheet metal. Similarly, you can grab a pair of Green or Red snips for straight cuts. Some people think the colored snips apply to whether the user is left- or right-handed. That’s incorrect. A pair of Green snips can only cut straight or right curves. The same goes for Red snips with left curves—it doesn’t matter which hand you hold them in.

Final Thoughts on Cracking the Aviation Tin Snips Color Code

Some Yellow straight snips come with an offset. Tools like the 45-degree Milwaukee offset snips place the handle up and out of the way of the cut. These are highly desirable and my preferred type for making lengthier cuts in sheet metal. Everyone should have at least a two-piece set of snips in their shop, shed, or tool bag.

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