How to Cut Metal License Plates

Old license plates can be used to make garden art
Old license plates can be used to make garden art (Image: license plates image by timur1970 from

If you’ve moved several times or if you’ve sold a lot of cars, it is likely that you have a bunch of license plates gathering dust in your garage. With a little creativity and free time, those old plates can be turned into windmills, mailboxes and yard art. However, you will need to use tin snips to cut them. This is the easiest and least expensive way for a beginning craftsman to cut metal. Tin snips, however, can be a frustrating tool for beginners, but it just takes a little practice to make clean and professional-looking cuts.

Things You'll Need

  • Tin snips
  • License plate
  • Marker

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Determine which type of tin snips to use. If you are making straight cuts, choose snips that have long and straight blades. If you are making curved cuts or cuts that have edges or if you are cutting intricate shapes, choose compound snips, which have shorter blades and allow you to maneuver the snips. Hawk’s bill snips have an exaggerated curve on the blades that allows you to make sharp turns without bending the license plate; these snips cannot be used to cut straight lines. You can use compound snips to cut straight lines, but it will take practice to achieve a professional look.

Use a fine felt-tipped marker to mark your cuts in the metal.

When cutting, apply pressure to the bottom blade of the tin snips to pull it up rather than pushing the top blade down. This is counterintuitive but will help keep the license plate from bending.

When closing the jaws of the snips, do not completely snap them shut, this can create perpendicular cracks in the metal.


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