I can find a lot of recommendations for good nippers to use for plastic and resin miniatures (Tamiya, Godhands, DSPIAE and so on). However, when I look at their descriptions, they specifically say that in order not to dull them, you should not use them with metal miniatures.

So, what characteristics are needed for good nippers that can be safely used on metal minis and that will produce good results (i.e. minimum damage to the minis, and cuts as flush as possible)?

  • 2
    I think this is valid as a question about not brands but classes of tools. It could be improved but even as it stands could be answered assuming that's what Victor is looking for. An answer might suggest a tool designed for copper wire, for example (though most of my wire cutters don't leave a flat enough cut). Miniatures are, after all, made of soft metals like pewter.
    – Chris H
    May 12, 2021 at 10:26

1 Answer 1


Products that will do the job are labelled with terms like nippers, snips, sprue cutters/clippers, flush cutters, side cutting nippers/pliers, diagonal cutting pliers, and various other terms, often prefixed with the term "precision" to differentiate it from tools for larger applications. There is a little variation in the design because they're optimized for different purposes. You need to select the exact type of cutting head that you prefer for your task. There are trade-offs between the various designs, like:

  • how easily they fit into where you need to cut
  • angle and position of the blades
  • how flush they cut
  • how much leverage (handle length) and grip comfort you need in order to do the amount of cutting you do at one sitting without fatigue (maybe not too important if you can crack walnuts in your bare hands)
  • service life (I'll discuss below)

Doing an online search on the various tool names will show the variety of designs available. There are some obvious characteristics to filter on initially, like basic design and shape, and the description of what materials they are, and are not, designed to handle. Ones that are designed to handle metal are sold for purposes such as metal sprue cutting, wire cutting, jewelry work, and electronic work like cutting component leads on circuit boards.

There are a few not-so-obvious considerations for the blade design and construction.

  • The cleanest, flushest cuts (and cuts in poorly accessible areas), will come from thin, low-profile, sharp blades. Cuts on small, delicate parts require precision-mating blade edges, and the thinner, sharper, and longer the blades, the more precision is required. There are some ramifications.

    Thin, sharp blades have the least strength, are the most easily nicked, bent, and dulled, and generally experience the fastest wear. They don't stay sharp and useful as long as cutting tools with a heavier-duty cutter that is not razor sharp, but relies somewhat on crushing the metal instead of just cutting it (but those tools leave burrs).

    If the blade edge gets a little deformed spot, you may be able to do some cleanup, and sharpen that spot (although it will usually be weaker). But because the blade edges need precision mating, there is generally little you can do to repair or sharpen them. The tool lasts as long as it lasts and then becomes no longer useful for that purpose.

  • The metal-cutting blades are available in various materials, like carbon steel with various hardening treatments, stainless steel, chrome-vanadium steel alloy, and tungsten carbide. The harder the blade material, the harder the metal they can cut and the slower the blade will wear out. Harder blades may also allow you to cut thicker metal pieces. The material used is generally reflected in the tool price.

    Cutting a small metal piece puts extreme pressure on the blade's cutting edges. Even though the blade is harder than the material being cut, it still gets deformed and stressed, which eventually wears and chips the edge. The hardest (and most expensive), blades also tend to be the most brittle and fragile. So they let you cut harder metals and will stay sharper longer if you're careful and lucky, but they're also easier to damage, less repairable, and for damage that is repairable, it's harder to clean up to prolong the tool's usability.

There is a huge range in price for these tools (more than an order of magnitude), from cheap ones to professional grade. The professional-grade tools will let you cut harder, thicker metals, last longer, and perform well for longer. But you will need to decide whether you can justify the price. If you have a limited use for the tool, it may make sense to go with a cheaper one (that can do the job), that you consider disposable, which you replace as needed. Don't expect that just because you spend a fortune on a professional grade nipper, that it will last a lifetime.

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