If you have an upcoming machine maintenance project, an electrical installation on your hands, or even your own workshop, then you are going to need a set of quality wire strippers.
As you can tell by looking at the design, you can remove insulation easily by inserting the wire through the hole and squeezing the handle. Or at least you can if you get a quality tool built for efficiency.
Stripping the outer layer of insulation without damaging the copper wire inside is essential. That’s why I decided to put together a list of the five best wire strippers that you can find at your local hardware store or online.
Wire Strippers Reviewed
Besides understanding how and why these tools work, it’s also essential to choose a durable, affordable, and built product for your kind of repair project. After researching several top selections, I can say that the following five items were the best in balancing function, price, and comfort. Let’s consider the pros and cons of each one.
- 10-22 AWG
- 3.04 ounces
- 10.63 x 8.94 x 0.34 inches
- Lifetime guarantee, free of defects, and covered for most wear and tear
- Versatile and accurate stripping
- Works all day long, even after repeated use
- You may have to open the handles wider than usual to load the next wire
I highly recommend the Irwin Vise-Grip tool because it combines a comfortable grip and various extras for specific situations. The ergonomically designed soft-grip handles let you strip multiple wires without your hand getting tired.
The jaws of the pliers grip the wire and remove the outer layer sheath with a snap. Slide off the remnants and then place the smaller electric wires inside, and with another automatic grip of the pliers, you can remove the inner layer, leaving only copper.
The design of the pliers can handle smaller cables and automatic performance. I like it because of the stripping and crimping function in one tool. Strip wires off or cut them off using the bottom ends. You can also join insulated pieces together by compressing them using the crimping ends.
Now, the tool cannot cut every single wire you put into it. Some wires are too slick or too tiny to be effectively stripped. For most common wires, however, the Irwin Vise-Grip is loaded with dials, openings, quick release locks, and all the functions for every situation.
- Copper and aluminum stripping, 10-22 AWG
- 3.98 ounces
- 9 x 3.1 x 0.6 inches
- PP+TPR material and ergonomic design works excellently even with oily or wet hands
- Springs ensure stronger performance
- Hardened edges for cutting
- Simple one-handed operation
- Not ideal for crimping, as stripping and cutting
- No manufacturer’s warranty
The Dowell 10-22 AWG cutter/stripper tool is not as expensive as my top selection, but the performance is reliable. Thanks to the soft PP+TPR grip, it can cut and strip wires while going easy on your hand. Cutting and stripping occur fast, as it’s capable of cutting the plastic layer off most 10-22 AWG cables.
Cutters are sharp, and the adjustable spring-loaded mechanism keeps function strong and easy to handle. Even if your hands are oily and wet, you can still grip it with ease. The surface coating prevents accidental finger squeezing between the handle.
The tool performs best with copper and aluminum wires, solid or stranded wire. Cutting blades are flat and precision knife-edge quality for sharpness.
That said, the Dowell 10-22 is sometimes criticized for being called a crimper when some people claim it doesn’t crimp very well. My experience suggests that the grip may feel too flexible to cut through some tougher wire materials. However, for the sizes recommended, it works for me.
- 10 — 18 AWG Solid, 12 — 20 Awg Stranded
- 5.4 ounces
- 9.13 x 5 x 0.63 inches
- Precision stripping holes
- Handles 10-18 AWG solid or 12-20 AWG stranded
- Can shear screws
- The strippers don’t seem to close all the way when stored
- Some problems cutting higher gauge wires
The Klein Tools 11055 cutter/stripper is lightweight and small, yet somehow, also built to cut or strip several solid wire types, from 8 to 26 AWG, using precision shear-type blades.
The strong grip and serrated nose let you cut, bend, shape, or pull the wire for crimping. Despite being compact, the tool has easy-to-read markings and a lock for closing and storing the blades safely.
The product receives high marks from yours truly for the ease in which it cuts wire with just one click and strips them just as easily, far surpassing other cheap wire tools. Cutting fragile and thin wires is made possible by accurate AWG ratings.
The only disadvantage, aside from crimping quality issues, was the higher than average price. There seems to be a discrepancy in the length of the manufacturer’s warranty, which some say is between 1-3 years.
- 30-20 gauge capacity
- 0.16 ounces
- 7 x 2.7 x 0.4 inches
- Four-in-one tool that handles stripping, shearing, cutting, and pliers
- Serrated pliers for a firm grip on the wire
- Made with heat-treated steel for long-term use
- Embossed markings are sometimes difficult to read
- No warranty
The Hakko CHP CSP-30-1 is a precision cutter and stripper tool, ideal for multi-stranded wires. The pliers are also effective at stripping small gauge wires and stripped gauges that it’s rated to hold with no damage to the copper wire.
Thanks to the Hakko unit’s metal stopper, the strippers can be kept half-open, opened all the way, or kept completely closed and locked into position for storing. For electronic projects, particularly smaller units, Hakko wire strippers are durable and can stand the test of time. However, bear in mind there are also CSP-30-2 for larger AWG gauges.
A precision level stripper is ideal for automotive work or electronics, where you have to be precise on a fairly small part. The embossed markings might be the only drawback since they can be hard to read after months and wear and tear.
- Strips, cuts, wires, and loops 10-22 AWG
- 7.8 ounces
- 11 x 3.5 x 1 inches
- Small and easy to maneuver
- All in one crimper design lets you handle insulated or non-insulated wires
- Cuts screws
- Screw cutter doesn’t always work
- No warranty
You will immediately notice two things about the WGGE WG-015 — it’s less expensive and heavier than other lightweight tools. However, the design keeps these pliers sturdy and durable, unlike other models that tend to twist or become dull after repeated use.
The wider, softer, and curved grip makes it easy to handle, even if you have arthritis or other issues that make it difficult to use a smaller tool. I’d go so far as to say the grip is more comfortable in this product than the others I have reviewed.
It may have a problem cutting heavier gauge wire or even cut into the wire, but it’s an affordable option for most cutting or stripping projects. I also found that after repeated use, my hand started to get a little bit sore, as this inexpensive model was not necessarily meant for long-term daily use.
Wire Stripper Buyer’s Guide
Here’s what you need to know about choosing the best wire strippers.
How Are Wire Strippers Supposed to Work?
Electricians, DIY repairpersons, and production workers often need wire strippers to strip electrical wires of their plastic insulation. To connect a conductor wire to a terminal or combine two wires into one, you must eliminate the outer layer.
Remember that although many wire strippers perform the same basic tasks, there are differences in performance. Some strippers are designed for repetitive stripping and little else. Others are ideal for more precise repair work, particularly with electronics. Some are better suited to either larger or smaller wires.
The insulation is the next layer, which prevents two conducts from touching. There may also be a screen, which is a semi-conducting layer with copper tape, which covers each “core” of the wire.
Then, there’s a sheath for protecting the innermost layers, and then the armor mechanical protection layer and sheathing. Whenever you hear manual strippers referenced, know that it means the wire must be pulled out with your other hand after the insulation is cut.
Many people prefer using automatic wire strippers since they cut and pull the insulation off in one fluid step. However, automatic strippers are not preferred by everyone since they can break wires that have smaller gauges.
You will notice that more sophisticated strippers have little notches for different gauges of wire. Usually, the more commonly used wire gauges are printed or embossed on the tool. However, larger strippers can fit more gauges and less common sizes.
Practically all modern wire strippers have ergonomic grips that help protect your hand from strain, especially over long periods of time. That said, not all models are comfortable, in my opinion, and you have to find one that works for you.
Needle Nose Tips
A thinner nose is a handy feature because you may need to guide wires or bend them for splicing projects. It’s less complicated than using another tool if you have plier tips for working with in the first place.
Wire Cutters and Crimping
Wire cutters perform a basic function, but why use another tool when you can just send the wire or sheath below and cut pieces of wire off entirely, as needed?
Crimping is not the same thing as stripping, but many units are sold as a multi-function tool. They strip and cut and “crimp” in that you can join two pieces of metal by pinching them and deforming them until they hold together.
What qualities are important when buying wire strippers/cutters online?
Take a look at what kind of material is used in construction. Also, consider what kind of craftsmanship is involved in manufacturing. Some companies, like Klein, have developed a reputation for manufacturing their products in the United States and using quality materials.
On the other hand, a company like Irwin states that some parts and accessories are made overseas, including countries like Taiwan. Yet, Irwin also backs up their quality assurance with a lifetime warranty.
American Hakko Products states that the steel used for their products is heat-treated for durability. Therefore, when shopping for wire cutters or strippers, consider the manufacturing process and quality control, in addition to just the brand name.
Should I buy wire cutters and strippers separately or use a multi-function tool?
The main issue is whether you should buy different strippers/cutters for different gauges and wire sizes. You will notice each tool mentioned has a suggested gauge size, according to American Wire Gauge (AWG) or millimeters.
Some strippers are simply not made to cut wires too far off its suggested gauge capabilities, whether they’re too large or too small. On the other hand, if you want a multi-tool, there are larger and slightly more expensive models to consider, like the Irwin Vise-Grip with a Self-Adjusting Mechanism.
That said, many people prefer buying individual tools rather than multi-tools because the smaller units are easier to grip and hold. As you can see, the much larger Vise-Grip is somewhat bulky and not always user-friendly when you’re working on a weekend project.
Some tools are built for manufacturing plants and large-scale operations. The tools I reviewed work better for smaller auto or electronic projects.
Why not just a utility knife instead of a stripper?
Using wire strippers is a faster and neater way to strip cables than a utility knife. Often, using a knife will damage the copper wire during the hectic process of cutting. Wire strippers are made to remove the insulating sheath from around a wire with just a snap. The mechanism lets you cut the sheath on the outer layer but leaving the copper wire inside, mostly untouched.
My top selection was the Irwin Vise-Grip Stripping Tool and Wire Cutter for its combination of efficient performance, a lifetime warranty, and a brand name you can count on.
Runners-up products also scored high for similar reasons, but the Irwin multi-tool catalog was too impressive to pass up.
The fact that Irwin products can also handle crimping and cutting within the same mechanism — and in my opinion, without compromising quality or the lightweight feel — is another reason I recommend the brand.
Take a look at the visual preview and technical specs the next time you’re shopping online.