There are many reasons that you may need to strip wires. The main reason is usually that you need to rewire something. Stripping wires allows you to rewire them back together in order to let the current flow back through.
There’s not much you need to know about stripping wires, but there is quite a bit you should learn about working with wires in general. If done wrong, you could be seriously injured. So always do so educated and with caution.
How To Strip Wires With A Wire Stripper
The easiest and most efficient way to strip wires is to use a wire stripper. If you’re not familiar with a wire stripper, a wire stripper is a one-handed tool that allows you to easily remove the insulation from small wires.
The tool can be purchased for $10 or less and can last you a lifetime if you take care of them. Keep them indoors and away from water and your wire strippers will likely never need to be replaced.
Finding The Wire Size
The first thing you need to do with wire strippers is finding the correct slot to use. The slot should let the insulated wire fit snugly but not so much that it endangers the wire beneath the insulation.
The slots are called a gauge and can be used on any wire strippers. When using a different tool there won’t be a gauge, so you have to be even more careful. As long as you’re not in a too-small slot, you should be fine with wire strippers.
Stripping The Wire
After you’re confident with the slot you choose, clamp down and twist. This will cut the outer insulation. Then, once it is loose, you pull up to slide the insulation off of the wire. This works in small areas and for stripping large areas.
Though, when stripping wires this way, it’s most common to strip a quarter to three-quarters of an inch off the end. This way, you can rewire while keeping as much wire as you can be insulated properly.
How To Strip Wires By Other Means
There are a few other things you can use to strip wires. Some are expensive while others are simply not as effective if you’re not a professional. Most of them you probably already have lying around the house.
Scissors can work fine. You clamp down slightly to cut the wire and twist. Believe it or not, it’s better if the scissors are sharp so you don’t squeeze too hard and damage the wire, which is always a possibility.
A utility knife is a cheap and easy way to remove insulation from wires to strip them. You simply cut the insulation and pull it off. The reason you use a utility knife instead of a kitchen knife is that you get more control with a utility knife.
You can score all the way around the insulation to make it really easy to strip. A utility knife with a good blade is the biggest staple for most construction workers or home repair people. So keep one on hand.
Lineman’s pliers are a staple in every tool kit around, no matter how small. They come with built-in wire cutters, which can be used as wire strippers if you’re careful. Just don’t clamp down all the way and use them normally.
Keep in mind that there are many different types of pliers and that you can’t use them all the same way. Lineman’s pliers are for electricians but can be used for many things.
For most of these methods, you can use sandpaper to give you a better grip and pull the insulation off of the wire after you cut it. If it’s too hard to pull, then stop and evaluate because it might be tearing the wire.
Wire Stripping Machine
A wire stripping machine is always a viable option. They are more expensive than any other option but if you have a lot of wires to strip then it will save you a lot of time. If this is your professional, your time is money.
You can buy one for $50 that is quite decent or invest in a really nice one for $200 or more. It all depends on how much you’re planning on using it.
Stripping Entire Wire
If what you want to do is take the entire piece of insulation off instead of just the ends, then you probably need to go about it differently. You can just strip one side and then the other, but there is another way.
Simply use a utility knife to score the insulation at the way down, lengthwise. Then, you can simply remove the wire from the insulation like it’s a hotdog in a bun. Just be careful not to cut the wire if you’re preserving it.
Reinsulating The Wire
If you’re simply rewiring something and only strip the ends of the wires, the best way to reinsulate the wires is to use electrical tape. That is what electrical tape was made for. To use on electrical wires like this.
To use electrical tape, simply wrap the tape around the exposed wire, preferably while it’s not hot. Wrap it like you’re wrapping it with medical tape. Make sure that you overlap the exposed wire a half an inch on each side.
You do this so that there will be no chance of exposed wire electrocuting someone. It’s best to wrap it in two layers as well for the same reason. You want to do it one way and the second layer should offset the first.
Another option that is easy to do and perfect for projects that need to be redone a lot is wire nuts. Wire nuts are plastic nuts that can secure wires that have been twisted together. They are used when wiring houses.
Types Of Wires
There are many different types of wires you may need to strip. Identifying them is one thing, but knowing how to strip them is another. The thinner the wire, the easier it will be to cut, but you should always be careful.
This is used in its simplest form. The colored wires that are easily stripped with a wire stripper are what we’re referring to. They are singularly insulated with copper wire inside in a thread-like manner.
A plastic-sheathed cable has multiple smaller cables inside. It usually contains three electrical wires inside of the sheathing. In order to access them, you need to strip the plastic sheathing with wire strippers.
Then, you can start stripping the smaller internal cables.
An underground table is more difficult to strip. It is well, and tightly, insulated. This type of cable can’t be stripped with wire strippers initially. You will need to use a utility knife to skim the edge of the insulation.
Then you can start accessing the smaller cables that the outer layer was protecting.
Stripping coax is different than stripper other cables. There are multiple layers to coax. The outer layer is the outer insulator. It is usually black. Underneath that is a silver shielding. After that, you can find the second insulator.
The second insulator is small but thick like plastic. After you cut through that, you will find the inner copper wire.
Best Wire Strippers
If you’re in the market for some wire strippers then look no further. These are the top five best wire strippers you can buy online. Though there are many other amazing options, these are tried and true.
These wire strippers can be purchased for less than $10, which is ridiculously cheap for wire strippers of their caliber. They have about twenty different stripping/cutting options and are about as ergonomic as you can get.
Best All-Around: Klein Tools – 11055KLE 11055 Wire Cutter and Wire Stripper
If you’re looking for a good middle-ground set of wire strippers then this is a good option. They are easy-to-use, come in multiple options, and are offered at a great price. This is a safe bet if you’re unsure what to get or are looking for a gift.
Best Lineman’s: Klein Tools D213-9NE Pliers, 9-Inch Side Cutters
If you want something really simple but really high-end, then this option by Klein is a winner. This is a set of Lineman’s pliers that work for any job. From wire stripper to wire cutting and other construction needs.
Best Automatic: Knoweasy Automatic Wire Stripper and Cutter
This may be the best set of automatic wire strippers you can buy for under $50. And no, they aren’t $40, they are less than $20. So if you prefer a more automatic approach in stripping wires, check this tool out.
Best Alternate Option: Klein Tools K12055 Wire Cutter and Wire Stripper
Finally, our last option is another one from Klein. This is simply a middle-ground option. It has fewer options but it is more solid and sturdy. It is high-quality, slightly higher priced than others, but is also quite reliable.