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What Are Wire Cutters?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Wire cutters are a tool designed specifically for the purpose of cutting wire. There are several variations on the basic design, including versions of varying weights designed for wires of different thicknesses. Many hardware stores carry wire cutters, and they are also available through stores which stock equipment for electricians, jewelers, and other professionals who work with wires. This tool can be very useful to keep around the house, and many generic versions are available to stock home toolboxes.

Also known as snips or diagonal pliers, these cutters are designed in a style similar to pliers, except that instead of grips, the tool has sharpened edges which cut through wire. The bigger and heavier the cutters, the heavier the gauge of wire they can handle. Wire cutters can also have insulated handles, which may be useful in some applications, and some may include a wire stripper so that people can strip and cut wire with the same tool, which is useful for electricians.

Basic wire cutters simply create a blunt cut through the wire. Flush cut wire cutters are designed for situations in which people want to create a cut as close to the edge of something as possible, allowing the cutters to be butted right up against an object to snip the wire. Bezel cutters create a slightly different edge on the end of the snipped wire, and are most commonly see in use by jewelers.

Really tough cutters can be used in industrial settings where heavy gauge wire is used. This type is often included in rescue kits so that first responders have a tool which they can use to quickly cut through wires on the scene of an incident, along with bolt cutters which can handle bolts, padlocks, and so forth. Such cutters often have thick, insulated handles to make them easier to handle, and some physical strength may be required to operate them.

A good pair of wire cutters can sometimes be pricey, but the price is considered worth it for a reliable tool. People can prolong the life of a pair of cutters by making sure that they are stored in a dry location and wiped down after use if they are used in wet or messy environments. It is also a good idea to periodically oil the joint of the cutters, so that they will operate smoothly and without snagging. Snagging can create rough edges which may scratch people.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a About Mechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By orangey03 — On Dec 30, 2011

A pair of wire cutters is a great thing to have around your house in case of emergency. I found that out when my puppy got her head stuck in the fence of her pen.

The howling was terrible. I ran outside to find her trying desperately to pull her head back through the little square of wire she had somehow managed to stick it through.

I was afraid she would cut herself trying to get out. I could see that pushing or pulling her through would not work, so I ran to get the wire cutters.

In seconds, I had snipped through the fence and freed her. I had figured it would have been harder to cut through that tough wire, but it gave way with little effort on my part.

By Oceana — On Dec 30, 2011

I have seen my aunt use wire cutters while making jewelry. She uses wire to secure the beads and stones to each other and to the chain. She frequently has to cut it to just the right size, and wire cutters let her be precise in her measurements.

The blades are very sharp. Since they thin out toward the edge, they cut exactly where you place them.

After she cuts a piece of wire and winds it around the object, she needs to trim it again. With the wire cutters, she can cut off the sharp ends so close to the bead that no one will get scratched by it while wearing the jewelry.

By lighth0se33 — On Dec 29, 2011

@seag47 - I have used wire cutters for pruning plants and weeds. As long as you wipe them down with a dry cloth after using them, they should be fine.

Wire cutters are just the right size for trimming off gangly branches from small bushes. They also come in handy for cutting super tough weeds down even with the grass when you don’t have a pair of shears.

If you don’t wipe them down, they can rust, though. The moisture in the plants you cut will stay on the cutters if you don’t dry them off. I wipe mine as soon as I’m done pruning.

By seag47 — On Dec 29, 2011

My dad has a lot of tools, and wire cutters are a part of his collection. He has two pair, and they slant in opposite directions.

One pair has a yellow insulated handle and slants to the left. The other is green and slants to the right. He told me that they came packaged together, and left-handed people find one pair easier to use.

I have never had to cut any wires with them, but I do use them for cutting flowers to put in vases. Has anyone else ever used wire cutters on plants? I hope I’m not ruining them by doing this!

By TreeMan — On Dec 28, 2011

@Izzy78 - You're right. I never really thought about needing a pair of wire cutters for a guitar, but it's a good point.

As far as power line cables go, that is an interesting thought. Obviously, they would have some sort of insulated wire cutters, but I am betting they would be much bigger than most others. The probably look like bolt cutters or loppers like for trees and bushes. That would give them some extra leverage. To be honest, though, I'm not even really sure how big an power line is up close.

Besides that, does anyone know whether it is possible for wire cutters to get chipped? I accidentally forgot mine out in the rain one day. I found them right afterward and dried them off, but now they are getting some small rust spots. Will they weaken the metal and make them chip when I try to cut something, or will they be fine?

By Izzy78 — On Dec 28, 2011

@JimmyT - I am not positive about this, but I think where regular wire cutters have a slightly notched end, bezel cutters have a more pronounced triangle. That is what I have always though, at least.

I don't know if it really counts as a unique use, but I always use wire cutters to trim my guitar strings after I replace them. Wire cutters are an important tool for any guitar player, even though most people don't immediately associate wire cutters with guitars. I just have a pair of small wire cutters that I can throw in a bag and take with me wherever I go.

I would be interested to know how they cut huge wires like for electrical lines and stuff. Has anyone ever seen people do that?

By JimmyT — On Dec 27, 2011

@cardsfan27 - From the description, it sounds like you are describing the crimpers. In a lot of electrical work, you need to put wires into things called connectors, which are little metal prongs with a plastic base. You just put the wires into the thing and then use the crimper to press down and keep it all in place. I hope that helps.

I wasn't familiar with the bezel cutter that the article mentioned. Has anyone ever used one of these? How is it any different from a normal pair of wire cutters?

Also, I'm curious if anyone has any unique uses for wire cutters that you might not ordinarily think of. It doesn't even have to necessarily be cutting wire. I always like to try to find new uses for my tools.

By cardsfan27 — On Dec 26, 2011

I agree. Wire cutters are a really useful tool to keep around your house. I am not a big DIY person, but I still find quite a few uses for my wire cutters. I didn't realize there so many different types, though.

The thing I was really wondering about, though, is what is the flattened area for below the cutting area? On my tool, I have what I think is a wire stripper and the cutter at the top. The wire stripper is just sort of a little hole without any type of blades on either side of it that is at the base of the cutter. Below the hinge part, though, I also have some flattened section with a bunch of ridges.

The section looks like it was mean to hold something, but I have never been able to figure out what it is for. Does anyone know?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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