Taking It Off: The 5 Best Wire Strippers
Everyone knows that you can’t beat a really good stripper. Sadly, if you’re doing electrical work, rewiring, or just trying to add an outlet to your home, you might be forced to settle for a wire stripper rather than the curvaceous kind that accept dollar bills and unwrap themselves. The tool version isn’t as fun, and will suck all the joy out of a bachelor party, but they’re much better for DIY projects.
Choosing a quality tool is about finding one that in comfortable on your hands, strips wires without fraying them or pulling them apart, and get all the way through the insulation without extra pulling or second cuts. They need to be able to handle multiple wire sizes since different gauges abound and changing tools over and over is tiresome. You can choose between those that are adjustable or those that have multiple pre-sets for quicker work. Whether you’re dealing with the littlest lines or colossal cables, one of our 5 best wire strippers will cut them down to size.
Ideal Industries Stripmaster
Pro: Easy on hands
Con: Awkward in tight spaces
Reduced Fatigue: Unless you constantly pump your fists to strengthen them or have forearms like Popeye, grippin’ and strippin’ wires will wear your hands out with a quickness. For old dogs who suffer from arthritis, this problem is compounded many times. Rather than sucking down painkillers all day, investing in these will reduce a lot of the strain. The body of the Stripmaster requires 1/3 less pressure than most other strippers so you can go longer and cut easier.
The head can take wires as large as 7/8″ and has a special holding mechanism that keeps smaller gauges centered in place. They have some adjustment features, but the head is built with pre-sets to offer you the best of both worlds. The only real problem is the side opening makes stripping in cramped quarters difficult, though it does offer excellent leverage. The handles are fairly well padded, though if you have bony digits you might want to slip a little extra rubber or silicone onto them. [Purchase: $42]
Klein Tools Kurve
Pro: Reaches into small spaces
Con: Slick handles
Perfect Reach: Frankly we’re not sure what to say besides “It’s a Klein, why haven’t you bought it yet?” The Kurve is largely considered the flagship of the Klein wire stripper family, though the same could be said about almost anything Klein creates. If the curved handles aren’t for you, or you need a different size, Klein is really all you need to know. These are great for getting into the tight spaces to clip, strip, pull, loop, and move wires already stuck into your wall with ease.
The tilted handle lets you get the leverage you need at just about any angle while retaining visibility to see what you are doing. These can handle your standard 10-18 American Wire Gauge (AWG) sized solid wires as well as stranded wires between 12-20 AWG. They’re built strictly for home use and not able to do much with larger wires or cables. They can shear screws, but not always well. The handles are also a little on the slippery side, making a tight grip tough to accomplish. [Purchase: $18]
Irwin Industrial Tools Self-Adjusting
Pro: Affordable for self-adjusting
Con: Takes trial and error to use correctly
Best Bargain: Self-adjusting options are very hit or miss. Claims that they will never over or under-strip your wires are often exaggerated. Such is not the case with these babies from Irwin. Unlike pre-sets you don’t have to hunt for the proper hole – we all know how troublesome it is when you get the wrong one – nor do you have to be concerned that it will chop up the copper in the wires. The micro-adjustment capability helps you to get as close as you can to perfect. Can handle wires between 10 and 24 AWG, though when you get below 20, expect to take some extra time finding the right setting. Even then you’ll have some troubles.
These do suffer from some of the flaws that always plague self-adjusting strippers. Vinyl or nylon-coated wires will frustrate it. The automatic stop is plastic and not great for going through lots and lots of wire since it tends to shift. The crimpers can handle 10-22 AWG and ignition terminals between 7-9mm, but expect to strain your hands getting them to collapse. To get the most out of these, you’ll need to learn a few tricks, so don’t expect to grab them and go to town. Both Kronus and Neiko make a similar product that you might prefer. Try all three before you buy. [Purchase: $19]
Xcelite SAS3210 Self-Adjusting
Pro: Strips very small gauges
Con: Uncomfortable handle
Professional Grade: If you’re ready to get serious about self-adjusting strippers, then prepare to cough up nearly three times what the amateurs are paying. That kick in the wallet is well worth it if you intend on taking on larger projects like rewiring a boat, a house, or your mad scientist laboratory. These take wires between 10 and 32 AWG making them perfect for the tiniest projects. The grip is textured fiberglass which gives you strength, but very little comfort. The ergonomic design helps with that, as well as reaching wires in difficult locations, but you’ll still need to take breaks when using it so your hands don’t cramp into unusable claws. It has interchangeable cassettes for stripping that help make your job smoother and the cutting feature works quickly and easily. Best of all, these can take on any and every kind of insulation all the way up to PVC and PTFE. [Purchase: $72]
Fluke Networks Cable Stripper
Con: Blade cannot be replaced
Cuts the Cord: The bright yellow wire stripper from fluke looks more like a really tacky cigar cutter rather than a decent tool. The extremely compact design fits in your hand like a set of brass knuckles, which can make it just as useful for dealing with loud drunks after your work day is done. This is built for dealing mostly with UTP/STP telephone and data cables, CAT5 ethernet and data cables, and coax. It can take some smaller wires, but isn’t designed for too much delicacy.
The large, round finger hole and palmable build is for pulling heavy-duty insulation off of serious cords. The blade depth is adjusted via a simple screw that allows you to get the perfect depth for cutting or just scoring without doing damage to shielding or conductors. Can flip just as easily from stripping to slicing and works very well in ducts or crawlspaces when working on the fly. The two drawbacks are the non-replaceable blade and the reinforced plastic construction. [Purchase: $27]