How to Use Wire Cutters

With the many types, sizes, and uses of wiring in our society wire cutters are an increasingly important tool.

The Tool

Designed much like scissors, wire cutters use two levers attached at a the fulcrum that when pinched together pierce a piece of wire. The amount of force necessary depends on the width of the wire. By using the levels and the specialized blades, wire cutters allow for greater force to be applied in a precise area.

There are three main types of wire cutters: beveled edge, semi flush, and flush. Beveled edge wire cutters are more durable and sever the wires so that each end has a pointed face. Semi flush wire cutters are designed to cut fine wires to an almost flat face. Though this is preferable to a chisel-like point, they can easily be damaged and are not intended for steel wire. Flush cutters can provide a sheer faced cut but are often highly expensive and provide a level of precision which is often unnecessary.

Use wire cutters which have grip span of 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches to avoid pinching palms or fingers. To avoid pinching or unnecessary injury, it is also important that all fingers are kept around the handle grips of the wire cutters and not placed in between the handles.

Make sure the cutting edges on the wire cutters are sharp, clean, and not oily. Dull and dirty blades can result in much more force being needed to not only cut but hold the workpiece in place. In such situations, muscle fatigue and repeated strain injury can result.

Always wear safety goggles when cutting wires to protect your eyes from little pieces of wire or insulation debris.

The Cutting

Before any wire cutting is done to existing wiring, make sure the electronics are either unplugged or the breaker is flipped.  Cutting into live wires can result in fire, electrocution, and blown circuits. The cushion grips on wire cutters are not intended to prevent electrical shock. Specifically insulated wire cutters can be purchased.

Make sure you are cutting a right angles. Rocking the wire cutters or bending the wires back and forth over the cutting tool can cause frayed edges in the wire. Not only are these frayed edges sharp, but they also minimize the conductivity of the wire. Minimize shorts, shocks, and other electrical problems by making swift, firm cuts at right angles.

When cutting, pull on the wire cutters.  By pushing away from the body when applying pressure to the wire cutters, the body's center of gravity is disrupted. If the tool or workbench unexpectedly slips, balance is jeopardized and can result in injury to the hand or body.

Never attempt to cut iron, steel, or other hard wires unless the wire cutters are specifically manufactured for that purpose. In the same way, do no use a hammer or other object to pound on wire cutters in order to sever a wire. If or when the wire breaks harmful debris can be scattered from the force or the wire cutters breaking.