From basic electrical maintenance to DIY projects to cutting excess slack on a bicycle brake cable, there are a lot of tasks that wire cutters excel at that you simply wouldn’t want to do with scissors (or even worse, a kitchen knife). But similar to how wires vary tremendously in material, thickness and function, the best wire cutters do as well.
Variation in wire cutters largely comes down to the shape of the edges. As the name suggests, a flush cutter makes the end of a wire clean and flush. Beveled edges can add a spike, or an uneven and pointy surface. This is perfectly fine in a lot of situations. But, if you’re working with more delicate wiring, you may want a flush cutter, which reduces the spike and the amount of force that must be exerted. The tradeoff with flush cutters is durability. They’re less durable and can dull more quickly than bevel cutters. Shear cutters are capable of creating an even smoother cut than flush cutters, but they wear out even more quickly. In general, the more flush the cutter, the more it will need to be sharpened.
Another thing to keep in mind is the thickness of the wire you’re cutting. The standard that most products sold in America adhere to is AWG, or American Wire Gauge. Most of the product listings below will indicate the AWG range. Generally speaking, lower numbers refer to thicker cables.
Many wire cutters also combine crimpers, strippers, and other tools into one. Some wire cutters have insulated handles that will prevent injury in the event of cutting a live wire. Of course, if you primarily use the wire cutters for jewelry or non-electric applications, you may not need insulated handles. Since there are so many potential uses for wire cutters, we rounded up a few different kinds so you can find the one that best suits your needs.
1. Hakko Micro Cutter
If you need an option to precisely cut small wires, this option from Hakko is a good bet. Aptly named the micro cutter, it’s designed to cut copper and other soft wires. The maximum recommended diameter is 16 gauge wire. The angled head is designed to provide a flush cut, ensuring a clean cut each time. The heat-treated carbon construction and precision-ground holes provide accuracy and longevity of the tool. Plus, the spring-loaded grip returns the handle to its original position, easing fatigue on the hands.
Pros: Affordable tool for precision cutting of small, thin wire. Provides a flush cut, reducing sharp ends on wires. Made with high-quality heat-treated carbon.
Cons: Not ideal for thick or hard wires.
2. Klein Tools Wire Cutter & Stripper
If you’re looking for a professional option for dealing with electrical circuitry, this cutter from Klein Tools serves a variety of functions. It can be used to cut and strip 8-20 AWG and 10-22 AWG stranded wires. It can be used to strip up to one inch of wire, and the stripping holes are designed to precisely remove insulation without damaging the wire. The tool allows you to grip the wire and strip it in a single continuous motion. The tool is made out of a cast alloy and coated to resist corrosion.
Pros: Multiple uses, capable of safely removing insulation without damaging the wire.
Cons: Size of the tool may make it harder to work with smaller wires or in tighter spaces.
3. IRWIN VISE-GRIP Wire Stripping Tool
This wire cutting tool from Irwin is capable of performing a multitude of functions. It’s a great pick for those looking for a basic multi-tool to keep in their toolbox, as well as for pros who need a tool for electrical wiring. It can strip and cut 10-22 AWG, and it can be used to crimp insulated and non-insulated terminals. The plier ends make it easy to grip wire and the textured grip is comfortable and protective.
Pros: Affordable tool with multiple built-in components, including a crimper, cutter, bolt-cutter and stripper. Easy-to-read precision markings.
Cons: Can be somewhat stiff.
4. IGAN-170 Wire Cutters
These wire cutters from IGAN are another good option if you’re looking for something to use in precise settings, such as cutting thin copper wires or working with jewelry. The angled head is designed to provide a flush cut on wires up to 18 AWG. The spring-loaded design helps to reduce hand soreness, and the induction hardened surface adds sturdiness. While it won’t be suitable for thick or hard metals, the IGAN cutter is great for soft wire, jewelry or plastic (such as zip ties).
Pros: Affordable option for precision cutting. Spring design reduces hand-soreness. Provides a flush cut.
Cons: Could be more durable.
5. DOWELL Hand Tool
This option from Dowell is a good pick if you want something that can perform multiple functions. It can be used for stripping, crimping, and cutting wires. It can crimp insulated, non-insulated, and ignition terminals. As for stripping, it’s suitable for a range of different sizes between 10-22 AWG. The handle has a spring which helps reduce exertion. Plus, it even has a locking mechanism to help keep the tool in place.
Pros: Affordable tool that serves a variety of functions. Capable of crimping, stripping, and cutting. Spring-design features a lock to hold it in place.
Cons: While many of the functions work well, the crimping could be improved.
6. Channellock Cable Cutter
While we’re primarily focused on cutting wires, perhaps you need a tool that’s capable of cutting thicker cables. This basic tool is more expensive than some others and it only performs one function, but it does it well enough to more than justify the cost. It can cut 4/0 AWG aluminum and 2/0 AWG copper, but it is not intended for steel. It uses high-carbon steel, giving it longevity and toughness, and the laser-cut edges will ensure they stay sharp for a long time. Plus, the tool is made in the US by a company that’s been in business since the late 19th century.
Pros: Ideal for soft cables including copper and aluminum. Made in the USA.
Cons: It can be difficult to open the jaws wide enough to cut thicker cables.
7. Crescent Cutting Pliers
Crescent is one of the most dependable makers of hand tools — in fact, adjustable wrenches are often called crescent wrenches. These cutting pliers are a good option to have around the house. The 8″ tool is a good medium size for reaching tight spaces without being too small in the hand. The compound action pliers provide greater cutting power, and the molded grips are comfortable to hold.
Pros: Comfortable grips, compound action for greater cutting power. Grips open extra wide.
Cons: Cutting jaws could be more precise.
8. WGGE Multi-Tool Wire Stripper and Cutter
A tool that can perform a lot of functions can be a great thing to keep in one’s bag, doubly so if it’s this affordable. This basic tool can cut, crimp, and strip. The serrated plier ends make it easy to grip and manipulate wire. It can be used for insulated and non-insulated wires. The tools are sized for a range of wires between 10-22 AWG. As for cutting, there are bladed holes of various sizes as well as a traditional cutter. A textured grip reduces the risk of the tool slipping from your hand, in addition to making it more comfortable to hold.
Pros: Cuts, crimps, and strips a range of wire sizes, between 10-22 AWG. Wide variety of tools built-in. Easy to read precision markings.
Cons: Could be more durable.
9. Knoweasy Automatic Wire Stripper & Cutter
If you’re looking for an automatic tool for stripping and cutting, consider this unique option from Knoweasy. It has a knob on the back for adjusting the pressure of the stripper, and there’s a separate cutting tool. The unique orange and blue design of the tool makes it stand out so it’s easier to keep track of.
Pros: 2-in-1 automatic stripper and cutter. Adjustment knob for precision.
Cons: May not be as effective at stripping wire at the higher or lower ends of the advertised gauge range.
10. Kaisi Flush Cutter
If you’re looking for an option for finer work like jewelry, consider these micro shears from Kaisi. They have a PVC-coated handle with a curved shape, making them more comfortable to hold. The sharp points can be used for extracting small screws. Of course, it can also be used to cut electric or other kinds of wire.
Pros: Good option for cutting finer wire. Comfortable grip.
Cons: Cutting action could be more smooth.
11. Smart RSQ 8″ Steel Cable Cutters
If you need to cut thicker wires, these cutters are a good option. They can cut steel wire up to 5mm and copper cable up to 6mm. The 8″ handle is large enough to get a comfortable grip while cutting. The tool has a simple latch at the base of the handles to secure the cutters in a closed position when not in use.
Pros: Good option for thicker wire. Easy to use safety latch. Designed to be operated one-handed.
Cons: Not ideal for very heavy-duty jobs.