At AboutMechanics, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What are Bolt Cutters?

Bolt cutters are robust tools designed to cut through heavy metal. They have long handles and powerful jaws that apply significant leverage, allowing users to slice through padlocks, wire fences, and chains with relative ease. Their strength and utility make them indispensable in construction and rescue operations. Ever wondered how they've evolved or what makes one pair superior to another? Continue reading to uncover the mechanics behind these mighty tools.
Phil Shepley
Phil Shepley

Bolt cutters are heavy duty cutting tools that are designed to cut through very thick materials. Examples of these materials can be heavy steel wire, thick metal bolts, padlocks, nails, screws, small trees, branches and more. Bolt cutters are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, which are designed for different purposes.

The basic design of bolt cutters usually consists of smaller cutting blades and very long handles that are connected with a series of complex hinges. These hinges are there to maximize the amount of force on the blades by increasing leverage when the handles are compressed. This way, they are able to cut all the way through thick and rigid materials with relative ease to the user of the tool. Many bolt cutters are designed with an adjustable set screw, which will adjust the amount that the handles need to be closed for the blades to make contact with one another.

Various nuts, bolts and screws.
Various nuts, bolts and screws.

The blades and jaws of bolt cutters are typically forged from very hard metal alloys, since the materials that they are made to cut through are also usually very hard. The shapes of the blades can vary as well; for example, shear blades can be flat on one side for the purpose of cutting against flat surfaces. Shear blades are designed like a typical pair of scissors and can be used for cutting softer metal cables and wires.

Padlocks can be cut with bolt cutters.
Padlocks can be cut with bolt cutters.

Cutting manually through heavy materials can be difficult even with these tools. One solution to cutting heavy wire is to twist the handles of the blade back and forth while cutting, which will often help. When this is not enough, it is most likely necessary to use a larger set of bolt cutters to increase the amount of force that is applied. It is never advisable to cut through live electrical wire with bolt cutters, even if they are insulated.

Even though bolt cutters are designed to make the work of cutting heavy materials easier, they still will often require the user to apply quite a bit of force on the handles. The length of the tools typically range from 12 in (.31 m) to 42 in (1.07 m) in length, from the end of the jaw to the end of the handles. Smaller versions are known as mini bolt cutters, and can be used for nails or wires. On the other end of the spectrum are hydraulic bolt cutters, which are designed to cut through heavy or dense materials with motor-driven machines when human strength just won't "cut it."

You might also Like

Discussion Comments


Bolt cutters have helped me trim many branches from my trees and shrubs. The handles are so long that I can reach up high enough to snip those pesky branches that hang down over my driveway and scrape my car as I drive underneath them.

I have also snipped a few that have begun scraping across the tin roof of my house in the wind. This noise scares me at night sometimes, and I was able to eliminate the problem using bolt cutters.

They are also useful for pruning back the dead wood of bushes in spring. I have some tall hibiscus shrubs that shoot up new growth from the ground, so there is no use for the five foot tall dead branches left from the past summer. It is so easy to get rid of them with the bolt cutters.


@StarJo – Bolt cutters are awesome tools for people who lack physical strength. The excellent leverage on my pair makes me feel capable of cutting just about anything!

I had to use them to cut off a padlock once. Padlocks are made super strong to keep intruders out, so I wondered if even my bolt cutters could handle this job.

My great aunt had passed away, leaving me what looked like a treasure chest with a padlock on it. I had no idea what was inside, and I really hoped I could cut through it without assistance.

The bolt cutters took that thing off without too much effort on my part. There were quite a bit of valuables inside the chest, so I'm glad I didn't hire someone else to cut it off.


I used to think that bolt cutters would be pretty difficult to operate. It seemed that anything thick enough to warrant their use would provide so much resistance that only a strong person could make them work.

My dad had a pair of bolt cutters in his shop, but I had never touched them. One day, an emergency arose, and I had to give them a try.

My puppy got his head stuck in between the thick wires of the gate on the dog pen. I tried pushing it back through, but this only made him whine louder. His head wasn't going to budge.

So, I grabbed the bolt cutters and put them to the test. I was amazed at how easy it was for me to cut through the heavy duty wire with those things. My puppy was free in seconds.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Various nuts, bolts and screws.
      Various nuts, bolts and screws.
    • Padlocks can be cut with bolt cutters.
      By: Mark Aplet
      Padlocks can be cut with bolt cutters.