If you need to cut sheet metal, Bessey probably has the best tool for the job!
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Bessey Metal Snips

Handheld metal-cutting power and precision

Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz

Posted – 2-14-2011

All too often we give metal snips little regard until they won’t do what we need. Equally as common and certainly part of the problem is the tendency to buy whatever kind of metal snips the local big box had on sale. It’s only when frustration erupts that the concept of quality snips with a purpose oriented design really sinks in. Fortunately the folks at Bessey have been designing and building Europe’s’ favorite metal snip line for a long time so there is a surprisingly economical answer to our self-inflicted plight. We should have known it would be Bessey.

The Basics

Bessey brings a tremendous load of manufacturing expertise to the table and didn’t skimp on the engineering talent while producing their extensive line of metal snips. The liberal use of high-tech, high-strength steels and often proprietary heat-treating techniques increase performance and long-term durability. Bessey snips are typically made from a much harder steel and have a series of elevations in hardness that exceeds the typical hardness found in common aviation snips (HRC in the mid to high 50 range). Throughout the tough European market Bessey snips are highly regarded. Those same snips are sold in America and not surprisingly the Bessey line starts where other manufacturers top out.

All of the Bessey snips use a unique double-pivot system that dramatically increases the pressure you apply to the handles. That makes cutting easier and enhances accuracy as well. Bessey also applies the power of ergonomics to the handles to make them comfortable while enhancing control. The handles have a special plastic over mold that reduces slipping while making long-term use less tiring.

Bessey also uses subtle angles and precision fit of the blades to improve the performance, productivity and safety of their snips. Bessey’s angled drop forged blades go beyond what others call “offset cutting heads”. The Bessey blade design allows the metal to slip over the blade and underneath the hand - which is conveniently elevated away from the now-sharp edges. This allows continuous cutting without stopping and re-setting the blades while greatly reducing the chances of injury. Bessey’s design and manufacturing is so precise that they often make blades without the serrations other use to enhance performance. That means that these Bessey snips do not leave a marked surface some serration designs may cause.

Aviation Snips are very popular because of their extensive range of uses. The Bessey version uses sophisticated design and manufacturing to make super tough and effective cutting blades. The dual pivot handles makes the much easier to use.
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D27AHL Aviation Snips

Designed for continuous straight and curved cuts the D27AHL Aviation Snips feature comfortable handles that operate the Bessey double-pivot mechanism. That force multiplier allows these snips to cut material up to 1.2 mm thick! The hefty jaws are forged from high-speed steel and the edges casehardened up to a HRC 68 rating. If you look closely you can see the super-hard metal blade inlay that allows BESSEY to produce such a hard edge. This is an excellent example of a BESSEY snip that lives near the top of the cutting tool food chain. Very precise, very hard metal, double pivot design and an ideal offset head design make this snip worthy of any marine, aviation or other precision-dependent environment. Though obviously not low-cost tools you won’t be replacing these Bessey snips because they have stopped cutting effectively. Treated with respect, Bessey snips could very well be an heirloom tool that would compare well against any snip in the world.

The D27AHL Aviation Snips are available in right or left cutting versions

Overall Length - 10-1/4"
Blade Length - 1-5/16"
Street price - $91.50. (2-8-2011)


The D29 snips may have the perfect cutterhead design. They work flawlessly, cut easily and leave a surprisingly clean edge. The long comfortable handles, the dual pivot mechanism and the blade design make these snips very easy to use and effective.
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D29ASSL-BE Snip Set

This set includes a straight-cutting D29SSL and the shape-cutting D29ASSL. Both versions feature drop forged and specially heat-treated cutting edges up to 61 HRC with the double pivot effort-reducing designs. The ‘Ideal’ cutting head design and the double-pivot leverage mean that 25% less effort is required compared to most other compound snips. This snip does not have as hard an edge as the D27 but this material far harder that found in the typical aviation snips. The edges do not have the super-hard inlay but the exceptionally precise alignment (with no serrations on the blade) makes this a remarkable value in a daily-use snip. The folks at BESSEY see this kind of snip as being used by predominantly high-end contractors that need real tools they can count on every day. Both versions cut up to 16-ga sheet metal. To make using these snips more comfortable Bessey adds their Soft touch plastic handles.

Overall Length - 10-1/4”
Blade Length - 1-5/13”
Street price - $22.99. (2-8-2011)


Bessey's D16 snips might be their plain-Jane version but the quality design, manufacturing and materials put them head and shoulders above the rest. Note the tiny serrations in the blades (right) that make them cut even easier.
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D16S & D16L Offset Snips

These snips feature high-grade steel blades that have been heat treated for an edge up to HRC 59 and represent the high-end of the average aviation snip market that North American contractors are used to seeing. They are produced according to European standards which demand tighter tolerances than are typically found in North American offerings. If you are familiar with Bessey products it comes as no surprise that their plain-Jane snips is still considered to be the best in the category! This snip style is popular in shops where tools are purchased for on-the-job use in part because they are a multi-purpose metal cutting tool. The blades have micro-serrations that dramatically reduce the handle pressure needed to cut up 18-gauge materials.

Overall Length - 9-1/2”
Blade Length - 1-5/16”
Street Price - $21.00 (2-8-2011 Both Versions)


Designed for the long straight or large radius cuts the Bessey D22A gives you the control you need. The dual-pivot mechanism combined with the the easy-cutting blades makes the D22A a time and effort saver.
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D22A Long Nose, Multi-Purpose Snips

This snip is designed to make long continuous straight or large radius curved cuts. The blades are 2-1/2”-long and feature heat-treating that produces edges of up to HRC 59! The cutters are angled in relation to the handles to keep the operators hand clear of the material being cut. The D22A is available in left cutting configuration only. What makes this snip design really unique is that that precision machining puts this tool virtually in a category by itself. There are very few manufacturers of a high-end long-nose snips in the world and this is clearly one the best. For light gauge metals that require long clean cuts this is a must-have tool.

Overall Length – 11”
Blade Length – 2-1/2”
Street Price - $25.98 (2-8-2011)


These snips are designed for when things get tough. The heavy-duty blades, dual-pivot system and oversized handles give you the power and control you need. Both the straight and angled head versions are easy to use with work gloves on.
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Bessey Super Power Snips

This group of snips have been specially designed for the tough jobs. Modeled after the American Pattern tin snip design Bessey took the best of the old-world design and brought it into the new-world with their double-pivot compounding design and their engineering and manufacturing capabilities. The handles have large loops that can be used with gloves on and the double-pivot system requires up to 50% less force to operate than other similar designs. These snips can cut up to 19-ga cold rolled steel or 25-ga stainless steel! The jaws are self-opening to further reduce operator effort. The Bessey Super Power Snips are available in two sizes, each in straight and offset versions.

Overall Length (D-SPS8 & D-SPC8) 8-1/2”in
Overall Length (DSPS11 & D-SPC11) 11-1/2”
Street Price - $15-20 (2-8-2011)


The Bessey Strap Cutter makes a once messy job much easier. The unique cutterhead holds the right side of the strap after it is cut so it can't pop up at you. You may not use this cutter all of the time but it is nice to have when you need it!
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D123S-SB Strap Cutter

Every shop that receives pallets or cartons bound with metal strapping should have a good safety strap cutter and not surprisingly BESSEY’s design appears to be head and shoulders over everyone else in that category. Metal strapping can be under surprisingly high-pressure and can leave a nasty cut when it suddenly lets go as when cut with an aviation snip. The BESSEY unit shown here cuts and holds the strap to avoid those potentially dangerous releases. A pair of ergonomic handles use the Bessey double-pivot system to give this strap cutter plenty of cutting power. A specially designed cutter holds the strap while it is cut to prevent it from springing up towards the operator. The D123S-SB can cut steel straps up to 1-1/4”-wide X 20-ga! That makes one-handed operation easy.

Overall Length – 10-1/4”
Blade Length – 1-1/2”
Street Price - $61.99 (2-8-2011)


The Super Nibbler does exactly what it's name suggests. The design of the cutter leaves you with a very clean notch for when you are cutting slots. This is an easy tool to use and very effective.
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Bessey Super Nibbler

The D24-SB Super Nibbler makes distortion-free cuts in up to 18-ga common sheet metal and up to 22-ga in high-quality steels. The D24-SB requires only a 3/8”-diameter hole to get started and can cut circles down to 2”-diameter! The cutter head has an integrated chip separator for making clean notches the first time. Long comfort-covered handles reduce operator effort substantially. This is a great tool for doing custom sheet metal work for automotive or HVAC and need to do some intricate cutting with tight tolerances.

Overall Length – 10-1/2”
Street Price - $29.99 (2-8-2011)


In the Shop

One of the problems Bessey might have with their line of tin snips is that people who have not used them don’t know what they are missing. I have to admit having a couple big-box-specials in my plier’s drawer. Until I tired the Besseys, I thought the bargain models were about as good as snips were going to get. Color me corrected.

It is a bit unsettling to discover how much better a tin snip can work when it is made from high-grade materials that have been properly designed and fabricated. I used to hate having to cut sheet metal but now, armed with my Bessey snips I fear no tin.

Video Tour

You do have to get used to using the Bessey snips but that is more because they work so much better than anything does. The double pivot system gives the Bessey snips far more power than conventional designs with longer handles. The reduced effort is nice but it makes you more accurate because there is no strain. You can focus on snipping along your cut lines rather than trying to get both hands on those old junk snips to force them into cutting some tin. All of the Bessey snips tried for this review kept on working smoothly, cutting cleanly and easily. I actually cut way more sheet metal than was necessary just because I couldn’t believe how nicely these snips snip.

Conclusions

If you cut sheet metal and don’t have Bessey snips I am confident that you are working too hard and getting lower quality results than is possible. When it comes time to replace your current snips (or lunchtime comes around, whichever comes first) you owe it to yourself to get a Bessey snip or two. If you use several types of snips I suggest trying the Bessey you bought before going all the way home to avoid driving all of the way back to the store to fill out your Bessey collection.

Just as surprising as the performance of the Bessey snips is the price you have to pay for them. Sure they are not free and will not be considered a cheapie by any stretch of the imagination. They are however cheaper than I thought and by quite a bit. Between the performance, ease of use and the street prices, it really doesn’t make much sense to use big box snips anymore.

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