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Builders' Tip - Aviation Snips

Aviation snips
Aviation snips

As you probably know, aviation snips are the right tool for most aviation sheet metal cutting, at least at the homebuilding level. There are red left-handed, green right-handed, and yellow straight snips. You can, of course, use them with either hand, and the handedness refers to what curves you can follow. Green snips will allow you to follow a right-handed curve (which is just a left-handed curve started from the other end!). Port/red and starboard/right seem to be the convention here.

Standard aviation snips are designed to be used on metal up to .050 inch (1/20, or approximately 18 gauge). You can cut up to 1/16 inch with tin snips, and for anything thicker you will need a hacksaw or band saw with a metal cutting blade.

Incidentally, in researching this I discovered there is some confusing information out there on which snips are called what, including some conflicting naming-perhaps just errors on websites on what names go with what pictures. Be careful what you choose, and if in doubt, cut a piece of scrap. The metal will curl away on the scrap side of curve if it's not also the stiffer side. If the inside of the curve is what you want to keep and you have to cut the piece from both ends, you'll have to switch snips when you change ends. For cleaning up and deburring the cut edges, there is nothing better or faster than a Scotch-Brite wheel mounted on a bench grinder.

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