8 Best Wire Cutters for Electrical and DIY Projects

Personal, courtesy of Klein Tools

A reliable wire cutter is one of the handiest tools you can have in your tool kit, allowing you to easily and safely cut wires with minimal effort. These compact hand tools use extremely sharp jaws, combined with a high-leverage handle design, to cut a variety of types of wiring, as well as other thin metal items like screws and nails. They are also available in a range of sizes, with small heads for accessing and maneuvering tight electrical components, or larger options that provide maximum leverage for cutting particularly thick wires.

What to consider

Make sure your potential wire cutters will be able to handle the type and size of wire you will be working with. Fortunately, most options will clearly state the range of wire sizes they are capable of cutting. This is sometimes indicated by standard AWG (American Wire Gauge) sizes. If you’re not sure what you’re going to cut, it’s probably a good idea to go with a lower AWG rating. Remember, the lower the AWG number, the thicker the wire.

You should also consider whether or not you will be working around any type of live wiring. If so, be sure to use wire cutters that have an insulated handle to protect you from accidental electric shock. These options can sometimes be more expensive than regular cutters, but a few extra dollars are definitely worth the investment. the National Fire Protection Association requires the use of insulated tools when working near electricity greater than 50 volts.

How we selected

We’ve used wire cutters for years to tackle a variety of tasks and have used that experience to put together this list of useful options. Also, while we don’t have a ton of hands-on electrical experience, we understand the importance of cutting and stripping wires, so we’ve included a few options that can do both. We have also done our best to exclude any obscure brands or poor quality models, as we have experienced the frustration that comes with spending unnecessary time and energy struggling with inferior quality knives.

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Ideal for precision tasks

170 wire cutters

Key specs

  • Maximum cutting capacity: 18AWG
  • Cut: 5 inches

The small size and narrow tip of these knives make them ideal for accessing and cutting wires and other components in tight or difficult places, such as in crafts or electronics work. An opening spring also makes the handles easier and more comfortable to use than typical hand cutters, and the rubber coating provides a solid grip while you work.

Even if you don’t have a specific task in mind for them right now, at such a low price, it might be worth picking up a pair and keeping them on hand when you need them.

  • Compact size
  • Spring loaded handles
  • sharp blade
  • Not strong enough for hard or very thick wires

Best multifunctional option

Vise-Grip Wire Stripper / Wire Cutter

Key specs

  • Maximum cutting capacity: 10AWG
  • Cut: 8 inch

If you plan to strip wires and cut them, this Irwin tool could be a great choice. Although its layout can be confusing and intimidating at first, it’s actually simple to use, thanks to simple instructions and labels printed right on the blades and handles.

A series of dials let you easily select the appropriate AWG size you’re working with, and the nose is also designed to be used as a gripper for grabbing and pulling. These wire cutters offer the ability to crimp wires and cut small bolts, making them an extremely versatile choice for a hobby electrician.

  • Can cut bolts
  • Handles provide a solid grip
  • May have too many uses for an amateur user

Best Overall Option

D228-8 Pliers

Key specs

  • Maximum cutting capacity: 12AWG
  • Cut: 8 inch

These Klein Tools pliers offer the ideal balance of convenience and power, and would be well suited for a wide range of wire cutting tasks. Their 8-inch length allows users to generate the leverage needed for heavy-duty projects, while the relatively short jaws make them equally useful for smaller, more precise jobs. Plus, the red plastic-dipped handles make them easy to identify in a cluttered toolbox or workshop.

Klein Tools is well known for the high quality of its products, which is evident in this model’s hot-riveted joint, which allows for smooth operation without wobbly or loose handles.

  • Sustainable construction
  • Smooth Operation
  • Plastic coated handles

Best Insulated Option

High Leverage Diagonal Cutters

Key specs

  • Maximum cutting capacity: 11/64 inch medium hard wire; 1/8 inch hard wire; Piano wire 7/64″
  • Cut: 8 inch

These knives offer both the precision craftsmanship of a Knipex product and the safety of an insulated tool. The handles are rated to withstand up to 1000 volts of electricity and are designed with a ridge near the top to prevent your hands from accidentally slipping forward during use.

Their extra-sharp edge also lets you tackle a wide range of materials, like nails, piano wire, and soft copper. Although these cutters cost significantly more than similar options, they are also extremely durable and, thanks to their chrome vanadium steel construction, will last a very long time.

  • Safe for use around live wiring
  • Very resistant
  • 8 inch length may be too long for some users
  • A little expensive

Best stripper and cutter

Heavy duty automatic wire stripper

Key specs

  • Maximum cutting capacity: 8AWG
  • Cut: 6.6 inches

If you’re serious about electrical work, this Klein Tools utility knife and its handy stripping mechanism might be just what you’re looking for. Its close-fitting teeth and clearly labeled holes allow you to strip a wide range of wiring sizes by simply squeezing the handles together. It can cut wires from 8 to 22 AWG and is coated with a protective finish to prevent damage from corrosion or rust.

While this model is extremely useful, it may be too complex and unnecessary for the casual user who will just cut the occasional thread.

  • Spring operation
  • Sturdy handles
  • Not ideal for those who won’t strip wires
  • A little expensive

Ideal for intensive cutting

Heavy duty cable cutter

Key specs

  • Maximum cutting capacity: Communication cable 24 AWG 4/0 aluminum, 2/0 soft copper, 100 pairs
  • Cut: 13 inches

Although not technically wire cutters, we wanted to add these Klein Tools wire cutters for anyone who wants maximum cutting power in a relatively compact tool. These heavy-duty cutting pliers use their forged steel jaws to shear wire and cable, and their hooked jaw shape makes it easy to keep whatever you’re working on from slipping.

Despite their powerful cutting ability and ability to generate a ton of leverage, these knives are compact in size and at 13 inches long they are still easy to store in your toolbox or backpack. They are also available in an insulated version.

  • Impressive cutting power
  • Shear jaws
  • Easy to use with one hand
  • Not ideal for precision cutting
  • A little expensive

Ideal for crafts

Heavy-duty side cutter

Key specs

  • Maximum cutting capacity: N / A
  • Cut: 6 inches

These Boenfu cookie cutters are designed for cutting hangers, artificial flower stems and plastics, in addition to traditional wiring, making them ideal for craft and decoration enthusiasts. Their orange handles make them easy to identify and also feature a rubber grip that allows you to maintain maximum control while you cut.

Those rubber grips, combined with the manageable weight of 7.6 ounces, make this set comfortable to use for all-day projects. While the 6″ length is convenient for transport and storage, this set is also available in a larger size for heavier tasks.

  • High visibility color
  • Low price
  • May not be durable enough for everyday use

Best Cutting Set

High Leverage Diagonal Cutters

Key specs

  • Maximum cutting capacity: 3/16″ medium hard wire, 9/24″ hard wire, 1/8″ piano wire
  • Cut: 6¼, 8, 10 inches

Whether you’re looking to expand your current wire cutting capabilities or buying a gift for someone just getting started, this set is a great option. It includes three thread cutters, measuring 6¼, 8 and 10 inches long, so you’ll be ready to tackle a wide range of thread sizes and settings.

These Knipex knives all feature plastic handles for a strong and sturdy grip, and the chrome-vanadium steel bodies make them extremely durable. Plus, like all Knipex tools, they’re all backed by a limited lifetime warranty against defects.

  • High quality construction
  • Non-slip handles
  • Expensive
  • May be redundant for some users

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