A wire stripper boosts productivity for professional electricians, budding apprentices, and DIYers.
Most people think of this device as a way to cut and remove the rubber coating that encases wire, but some of the best ones slice thick cable, cut screws to size, and crimp terminals onto the end of thick cables or wires.
Whether you need a basic or professional-grade wire cutter, there is an array from which to choose.
- BEST OVERALL: Klein Tools 11055 Wire Cutter and Stripper
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: IRWIN VISE-GRIP Wire Stripping Tool
- UPGRADE PICK: KNIPEX Tools Automatic Wire Stripper
- BEST FOR PROS: Klein Tools High Leverage Pliers
- BEST FEATURES: Klein Tools K12055 Wire Cutter and Wire Stripper
- BEST SPRING-LOADED: Greenlee Hand Tools Stainless Steel Wire Stripper Pro
- BEST AUTOMATIC: IRWIN VISE-GRIP Wire Stripper, Self-Adjusting, 8-Inch
- BEST FOR BX CABLE: Klein Tools 53725 BX and Armored Cable Cutter
Types of Wire Strippers
Before you start comparing the best wire strippers for your electrical projects, it’s helpful to learn a bit about the styles of strippers available. While they all can work well, one kind might better fit your workflow or project better than others. Check out the five main types of wire strippers below.
When looking for a basic one-size-fits-all-style tool, you might consider an adjustable wire stripper. These strippers have plier-style handles that slide to adjust the opening of the jaws. After it’s adjusted to the size you need, a quick squeeze will cut the wire’s jacket. You can then slide the stripper to remove the jacket from the end to expose the copper wire. For new users, they can be a bit more finicky than other types, as you have to develop a specific feel for them to avoid cutting into the wire.
Gauged wire strippers are all about choices. These tools have a range of individual teeth meant for specific sizes of wires. As long as you pay attention to the wire size and the teeth you’re using, these tools will cut the jacket without any chance of slicing into the actual wire. For instance, placing an 18-gauge wire in the 18-gauge section will slice the jacket nicely, allowing you to remove it easily. They’re great for beginners, as they’re inexpensive and easy to use.
Self-Adjusting or Automatic
If you’d prefer a less involved approach to wire stripping, an automatic or self-adjusting stripper might be the way to go. They come in pistol-grip or plier-handled styles. As you squeeze the handles together, the spring-loaded teeth in the head sense the wire’s size and slice down into the jacket. These strippers also will remove the jacket so you don’t even have to pull the jacket off of the end of the wire. While they’re easy to use, they’re expensive and bulky in a tool pouch.
Gauged automatic strippers are a combination of the features in a gauged stripper and the automatic jacket removal of a self-adjusting stripper. After you place the wire in the correct gauge, squeezing the handle cuts through the wire’s jacket and separates the jacket from the wire at the same time. They’re expensive and bulky, but compared to a set of gauged strippers, a gauged automatic stripper can save you a bit of time.
Wire Stripper and Cutter
Many old-school electricians never use wire strippers. Instead, they’ll use a trusty pair of linesman pliers to strip wires. These beefy pliers have cutting edges that electricians can use to cut the wire to length. They can then score the outside of the jacket at the proper location by applying light pressure to the handle. Because these pliers are sturdy, electricians also will use them to punch through knockouts on electrical boxes and secure screw-down wire entries.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Wire Strippers
Now that you know a bit more about the types of wire strippers on the market, there are more features to consider. This section shares some of the most important features to keep in mind when shopping for the best wire strippers for your electrical projects.
When it comes to shopping for a great pair of wire strippers, materials matter. The materials of the jaws, handles, and any mechanisms can determine the quality and longevity you can expect from a pair of strippers.
Most wires are copper, which is a soft metal that most other metals can easily cut through. However, when using your wire stripper to cut screws to length or punch through knockouts, a sturdy material is necessary. Steel is a fine material for wire strippers, as it’s durable and affordable, but be sure your strippers have hardened cutting teeth for longevity’s sake.
Not all grip coatings are equal in quality. A high-quality rubber or silicone grip will be comfortable to grab but durable enough to withstand some heavy-duty projects.
Luckily, you don’t need to carry a pair of wire strippers for each wire gauge identified by the wire-standardizing system known as American wire gauge (AWG). Wire strippers can cover a large range of wire sizes.
However, wire strippers that can handle burly 2- and 4-gauge wires won’t work for thin 22-gauge wires. Unless you’re a professional electrician, computer technician, or tech hobbyist, you may never deal with wires on either end of this spectrum, so look for a good do-it-all set of strippers that work with the wires you might be most likely to encounter during a home repair or installation. In general, this would be between 10- and 18-gauge.
Computer techs and electronics hobbyists might need a stripper that works with thinner gauge numbers. They might prefer a gauge range of between 20 and 30. These strippers will work with the fine wires you might find in a drone, train set, electronics control boards, and other smaller projects.
Precision and Accuracy
When it comes to a set of gauged wire strippers, they need to be precise and accurate to avoid frustrating mistakes. The teeth on low-quality strippers can be off by quite a bit or break down quickly. These inaccuracies can cause you to unintentionally cut into your wire while stripping, then breaking it off while twisting it to wire a light fixture. Another issue can be struggling just to get through the jacket, forcing you to use a smaller set of teeth that will cut into the wire.
While there are no tests or certifications for precision and accuracy, purchasing a tool from a recognized manufacturer that sells quality tools will help ensure that your strippers will do their job. A stripper that’s used properly can last a lifetime, and a drop of oil every now and then can help maintain a smooth opening and closing.
For such a simple tool, manufacturers can pack a lot of helpful features into wire strippers. Electricians often need to work atop ladders with limited access to their tools on the ground, so the more a pair of strippers can do, the better.
You can find features like threaded bolt cutters, crimps for cable ends, and serrated jaws for gripping wires. You also may find wire strippers with needle-nose jaws, allowing you to reach into a tight junction box or other difficult-to-reach places. Also, spring-loaded handles can be a big help for those still developing their technique, as they’ll allow you to use your wire strippers with one hand while holding the wire with the other.
When wiring only one or two outlets, you might not need to give comfort much thought when it comes to choosing a wire stripper. However, if you have a full day of wiring ahead of you, it’s a good idea to choose a comfortable set of strippers with nicely coated handles.
Most wire strippers have rubber coating over their handles. In most cases, this coating serves as a comfortable, nonslip surface that you can use all day without pain or discomfort. The higher the quality of the tool, however, the better the rubber used for these handles. In many cases, manufacturers use silicone, as it’s soft to the touch and less likely to slip off the end of the handles.
There also are double-layered grips that add even more cushioning. These strippers have an inner rubber layer around the handle for grip on the tool and a softer outer layer for comfort.
When working with tools, safety needs to be a consideration. Choosing the best wire stripper for your electrical project should certainly be no different.
Certain features make wire strippers safer. A nonslip handle can be incredibly important for your projects, as losing grip on your tool could potentially cause a cut or injury, particularly when removing the wire’s jacket. When it comes to prolonged use, spring-loaded handles will help prevent cramping or discomfort. Finally, an AWG range that fits with the wires you work with most often will help you avoid using the wrong tool for the work, which always has the potential to go badly.
Ease of Use
When it comes to ease of use, there’s no beating a set of automatic, self-adjusting wire strippers. These models automatically detect the thickness or gauge of a wire, and they’ll only cut through the jacket. They also remove the jacket for you.
As mentioned earlier, spring-loaded handles do make opening and closing a pair of strippers easier with one hand. While you can develop the technique to open any pair with one-hand, spring-loaded handles are quicker and easier to handle, particularly when working on a ladder or in a tight space.
For gauged wire strippers, clearly legible printing on the teeth will help you line up your wire quickly and accurately. Otherwise, you could be guessing and making mistakes that require you to cut the wire again and start over.
Our Top Picks
Now that you know what to look for when choosing the best pair of wire strippers for your projects, you can start shopping through some of the top products in the industry. The following is a list of the best wire strippers that you can purchase. You can find reliable wire strippers from trusted brands that will make a nice addition to your electrical tool kit. Consider some of the top wire strippers, and choose the one that most reliably suits your needs.
Top electrical tool manufacturer Klein produces the 11055 Wire Cutter and Stripper with spring-loaded action and a cushioned, ergonomic grip—comfortable for all-day use. It features precision ground-cutting holes, which make consistently clean cuts every time a piece of wire is stripped.
The 11055 is designed for stripping and looping 10- to18-gauge wires and can cut 6-32 and 8-32 screws to size.
The only real shortcoming of this tool is that it doesn’t include crimpers, which are often needed for automotive and computer work.
The modestly priced VISE-GRIP Wire Stripping Tool from IRWIN includes handy features such as hardened cutting teeth and electrical screw shears. Of course, this plier-style stripper also handles the basics. Use it to cut and strip wires in the 10- to 22-gauge range and crimp cable ends.
The KNIPEX Tools Automatic Wire Stripper is ideal for use on computers, electrical box retrofits, and other jobs in tight spaces. A squeeze on the grip makes accurate strips on wires from 10- to 24-gauge. Even better, the tool automatically adjusts to the wire, drops the blade, and removes the jacket, with just a squeeze of the handle.
One caveat: This cutter does not cut cable or wire.
Electrical professionals have used the Klein side cutters, also known as linesman pliers, for decades. Although this device doesn’t feature any cutouts for specific-size wires, these pliers, in the hands of professionals, are as capable as any feature-rich tool on this list.
This tool’s hardened cutting blades will cleanly cut through wire with ease, without the time-consuming wire and tooth alignment. In fact, the user needs to exert only a light grip on the handle to produce the cut.
Plus, the knurled plier jaws will twist several wires together at the same time.
While any toolbox benefits from a pair of linesman pliers, they require some practice to correctly use. Inexperienced DIYers are likely to find them heavy and unwieldy.
The Klein K12055 has the strength and heft of a pair of linesman pliers and the specificity of a classic wire stripper. This rugged stripper can cut heavy wires and accurately strip them. Once stripped, several wires can be twisted at the same time with these knurled linesman-style plier jaws.
The size of the K12055 falls somewhere between a pair of linesman pliers and a pair of standard wire strippers. It handles wires in the 10- to 18-gauge range and features a spring-loaded handle.
The K12055 does not excel in one area: wire crimping. Experienced pros may be able to use it for reliable crimps, but DIYers are likely to struggle at first.
Typical pliers without spring-loaded handles require a perfectly orchestrated finger grip for one-handed opening and closing. Most DIYer’s need time to develop that expertise. Greenlee’s wire stripper has spring-loaded handles to overcome this learning curve.
The stripper works with 10- to 20-gauge wire, ideal for most home projects. Plus, the Greenlee sheers 6-32 and 8-32 screws. The slide-on grips also are very comfortable, even when the tool bears down on tough screws and wires.
While these Greenlee’s can crimp (a nice feature not seen in most spring-loaded strippers), it may feel awkward when splicing wires together, unless the spring is removed.
Professionals and DIYers can easily use the IRWIN VISE-GRIP, even with just one hand. Simply slide the wire through the jaws, squeeze the handle, and produce a perfectly stripped wire.
The device works on wires that are between 10- and 24-gauge, features an adjustable stop, and provides consistently accurate stripping with every squeeze of the handle. These strippers also feature built-in crimpers.
DIYers that work with metal-clad, BX, and armored cables will find the 53725 BX and Armored Cable Cutter from Klein quickly and accurately strips armor. This model fits ⅜-inch metal-clad cable, in both standard and small size, and uses a hand crank and rotary wheel to slice the armored jacket quickly. Once cut through, the metal jacket removes easily.
FAQs About Wire Strippers
Even though you know more about the different types of wire strippers, the features to consider, and the top products available, you might still have some questions. The following is a collection of some of the most frequently asked questions about wire strippers. If you still have some queries after reading through it, you may want to reach out to a wire stripper’s manufacturer and speak with a customer service representative.
Q. What is the easiest way to strip wire fast?
Using an automatic, self-adjusting wire stripper is by far the best way to strip wires quickly.
Q. What is the easiest way to remove copper from wire?
The easiest way to strip copper from a wire jacket is to use a utility knife and slice the jacket down the length of the wire. Be sure to place the wire on a tabletop and keep your free hand safely behind the knife.
Q. Can wire strippers crimp terminal connectors onto wires?
Some strippers certainly can crimp terminal connectors onto wire. Some linesman-style pliers and wire strippers have built-in crimping grooves that create strong and secure connections on cable ends.
Q. Should I strip wire before scrapping?
Scrap yards have two prices: dirty and clean. Dirty copper wire includes wire with its jacket, wire nuts, outlets, or anything that the scrapper has to remove before recycling the copper. Clean prices are higher, so it can be worth your time to strip the copper out of the jacket before turning it in.