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What can aviation snips cut?

What can aviation snips cut?

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Different aviation snips will be designed for use with different materials. Aviation snips are designed to cut sheet metal and sheets of other materials, such as cardboard, wire mesh or vinyl.
Aviation snips can be used for cutting many different types of materials Different snips will be intended for use with different materials, so it’s important to check the specifications of individual tools. For example, utility aviation snips are designed for use with lighter materials (e.g. cardboard) than standard aviation snips, whereas bulldog aviation snips can make short cuts in thicker materials, like seams and trims.

Thickness of material

Sheet metal is usually between 0.2 and 6 millimeters thick, thicker metal is plate and thinner is foil or leaf Aviation snips are designed for cutting flat sheets of tough materials. Sheet metal is typically classed as metal thinner than 6mm (0.24 inch); metal thicker than this is referred to as plate. Very thin sheets of metal, usually thinner than 0.02mm (0.0008 inch) are called foil or leaf.
Aviation snips are designed for cutting sheets of metal and other materials The maximum thickness that the snips can cut should be stated in their specifications. Sometimes, this thickness is given in millimetres, and other times it is given as the gauge of the metal or alloy.The gauge of sheet metal is related to its thickness. Typically, aviation snips can cut sheets of material up to 1.2mm (0.05 inch) thickness or up to 18 gauge. This measurement is usually based on mild steel being the toughest metal they can cut. The tougher the material – the thinner it will need to be.
The gauge of metal represents its thickness

Gauge of metals

The thickness of sheet metal can be measured by its gauge. The larger the gauge number, the thinner the metal.

Gauge shouldn’t be confused with the grade of the metal. The grade refers to the quality and specific properties of the metal, such as its toughness and corrosion resistance.

Different metals will have different thicknesses for the same gauge Different metals with the same gauge number may differ in thickness, and lighter metals may be thicker than heavier ones. These differences are slight but may be significant with precision work.
The gauge of sheet metal will tell you how thick it is The gauge of the sheet metal stated in snips specifications will be based on mild sheet steel which is not stainless, galvanised, or hardened – unless it says otherwise. Therefore, they will be able to cut a heavier gauge of softer metals, such as aluminium.
18 gauge steel is a common thickness which most aviation snips can cut 18 gauge steel is commonly the maximum aviation snips are able to cut, this is 1.2mm (0.05 inch) thick. If the snips can cut stainless steel, this will be of a higher gauge number and thinner.Usually, the maximum stainless steel the snips will be able to cut is 24 gauge, which is 0.6mm (0.024 inch).

What materials can aviation snips cut?

Aviation snips are designed for cutting tough materials Aviation snips are designed for cutting sheets of materials which are difficult to cut. They are used for straight cutting and the complex shaping of tough materials. They are commonly used in industries such as heating and cooling installation and car bodywork, as well for crafts and DIY.
Steel is a tough metal, mild steel is a very common metal


Many types of aviation snips will be able to cut sheet steel; this will usually be mild steel unless otherwise stated. Mild steel is a common steel which has a low carbon content. The less carbon there is, the weaker, but more flexible, the steel will be.

Thicker and tougher metal sheet can not be cut with aviation snips and require a stronger tool, such as a bench shear It is likely that you will need a tougher tool, like a bench shear, to cut stronger steels or steel which has been treated or hardened. Some aviation snips can cut stainless steel, but only if the specifications state this.
Non-ferrous metals include lead, aluminium, brass, silver and other, fairly soft, metals

Non-ferrous metals

Metals which are non-ferrous do not contain iron in a significant amount. These metals tend to be softer and easier to shape, as well as lighter and more resistant to corrosion than ferrous metals. All aviation snips should be able to cut these lightweight metals and alloys, in sheet form.

Non-ferrous metals include aluminium, copper, lead, zinc, titanium, nickel, tin, gold, silver, and other more unusual metals.

Aviation snips should be able to cut sheets of vinyl, rubber, plastic, leather, wire mesh and other tough materials

Other sheet materials

Other sheet materials which aviation snips may be able to cut will usually include vinyl, plastic and PVC, as well as rubber, wire mesh, leather and asphalt shingles. You may also be able to use aviation snips for cutting other materials, such as carpet and cardboard.

What materials can’t aviation snips cut?

Aviation snips can cut through tough materials While aviation snips are a durable tool, designed to make cutting tough materials easy, there are some materials they are not suitable to be used with.
Usually aviation snips will not be able to cut any hardened steel, they also may not be able to cut stainless steel without damaging the tool

Stainless or galvanised steel

Unless it states in the specifications that the snips can be used with stainless or treated steel, then they should not be used with it. These steels are likely to blunt or damage the snips, as they are harder than the mild steel that snips are usually designed to cut.

Aviation snips will not be able to cut hardened steel

Hardened steel

Aviation snips are not made to be used with hardened steel. Steel can be hardened by increasing the carbon content or heat treating it. Hardened steel will blunt the snips quickly, and can damage the tool.

Cutting rounded items, such as nails or wire, is likely to damage the blade on aviation snips.

Wire or nails

Aviation snips are designed for cutting sheets of material, not rounded stock. Some can be used with wire mesh or net, but they should not be used with a single wire, nails, or other cylindrical materials. Cutting rounded materials will probably damage the blade, which will mean that the cut made by the snips is no longer clean and smooth.

For these applications, you should use wire or bolt cutters.

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