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How To Strip A Wire Safely With Wire Cutters And DIY Tools

As a DIY enthusiast, you should know how to strip a wire. If you’ve never used a wire stripping tool, it’s time to change that. You never know what your next DIY electrical project might be. When you need new wires, it would be better and cheaper if you could handle the task yourself. 

Strip A Wire

There isn’t much to wire stripping, but there are a few key techniques you should learn before you work with wires.

If you’ve never fixed an electrical short or know how to strip wires, then your electrical project could have a damaging effect on your home.

Electrical work should be taken seriously, as accidents can easily occur. Before you begin, make sure you have a reliable wire strip tool. 

How To Use Wire Strippers

How To Use Wire Strippers

The easiest way to strip wire is with a wire stripper. The device allows you to remove insulation from small wires. Wire strippers cost less than $10. If you take care of them, they will last a lifetime. 

Standard Wire Size

When stripping wires, you’ll need to find the correct slot. The slot should let the insulated wire fit snugly but not so much because you don’t want to remove the insulation. Wire without insulation might be a little dangerous if you’re new at this.

A slot is known as 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 careful. As long as you’re not in a too-small slot, you should be fine with wire strippers. 

Strip The Wire

After you’re confident with the slot, clamp down and twist. This will cut the outer insulation. After it is loose, you pull up to slide the insulation off of the wire. This works in small areas and for stripping large areas. 

When you strip wires with this method, it’s common to strip a quarter to three-quarters of an inch off the end. This way, you can rewire while retaining more wire that can be insulated. 

How To Strip Stranded Wire 

When working with durable electrical connections begin with shutting your power off. What you want to do is take the entire piece of insulation off instead of the very tip. You can strip one side and the other, but there is another way. Use a utility knife to score the insulation lengthwise. Then, you can peel away the outer sheath and remove the wire from the insulation.

Top 5 Most Accurate Wire Stripping Tools

Top 5 Most Accurate Wire Stripping Tools

Here are the Top 5 most accurate wire stripping tools on the market today.

Each tool is available on Amazon.

Best Price: IRWIN VISE-GRIP Wire Stripping Tool / Wire Cutter

IRWIN VISE-GRIP Wire Stripping Tool / Wire CutterView in gallery

For a wire stripping tool, this is the most affordable option. With a retail price of under $10, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better deal. They have about 20 different stripping and cutting options and feature an ergonomic design. It also includes blade scores.

Pros:

  • Built in screw cutters
  • Great price
  • Strips-on-command
  • Easy to hold

Cons:

  • Too long
  • Hard to grip screws

Best All-Around: Klein Tools – Wire Cutter and Wire Stripper

Klein Tools - Wire Cutter and Wire StripperView in gallery

This compact, lightweight wire stripper and cutter with wire gauge cuts solid and stranded wire and copper wire. If you’re looking for a middle-ground wire stripper then you should consider this one.

Pros:

  • Easy to hold
  • Durable
  • Easy to read markings

Cons:

  • Weak handle covers
  • Blunt edges

Best Lineman’s: Klein 9-Inch Side Cutters

Klein 9-Inch Side CuttersView in gallery

If you want a standard wire cutter, then go with Klein. This model can work with any wire including nicked wires. If you’re a newcomer, you’ll find this tool is easy to use.  

Pros:

  • Firm handle
  • Hot-riveted joint
  • Higher gripping power

Cons:

  • Blunt edges
  • Difficult to cut wires

Best Automatic: Knoweasy Automatic Wire Stripper and Cutter

Knoweasy Automatic Wire StrippeView in gallery

For bigger jobs, an automatic wire stripper is the most useful option. The stripper retails for under $50. So if you prefer an automatic standard cutter, check this tool out. It has a sharp blade and can work through plastic insulation. It’s also good for when you’re working with crimp terminals or fixing a scored line and wire gauge.

Pros:

  • Self-adjusting jaws
  • Suitable for stripping any wire 
  • Stripping diameter automatically adjusted

Cons:

  • Shipping time is too long
  • No adjustment for gauge size

Best Alternate: Klein Tools Wire Cutter and Wire Stripper

Klein Tools Wire Cutter and Wire StripperView in gallery

Last on this list is from Klein. When you want to strip electrical wire, this is considered the go-to standard wire cutter. It can handle most electrical wire tasks. If you want to remove plastic insulation or you’re working with a wire gauge, this tool can help you. 

Pros:

  • Durable
  • Easy to hold

Cons:

  • Difficult to cut with
  • Low cutting power

DIY Wire Strippers

DIY Wire Strippers

There are other tools you can use when you want to strip electrical wire. You don’t need a standard wire cutter or powerful stripper’s jaws, although they would help. If you’re a DIY enthusiast you’ll like the following suggestions. 

Scissors

Who doesn’t have a pair at home? All you do is clamp down to cut the wire at the desired length, and then squeeze and twist. It’s better if they’re sharp so you don’t squeeze too hard and damage the wire. 

Utility Knife

Using a utility knife is a simple way to remove insulation from wires to strip them. You cut the insulation at the desired length and start pulling it off. The reason you use a utility knife instead of a kitchen knife is that you’ll have more control.  

You can score around the insulation to make it 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

Lineman’s pliers are a tool kit staple. They have built-in wire cutters, which makes the process easier. There are different types of pliers and you can’t use them all the same way. 

Sandpaper Helper

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. 

Stripping Machine

A wire stripper machine is more expensive, but if you’re working with a lot of wires, it will save you time. You can buy one for $50 that is quite decent or invest in a nice one for $200 or more. 

Strip Wire Second Insulation 

Pulling wires apart

When rewiring and you need to strip the ends of the wires, the best way to put the insulation back on the wires is with electrical tape.

Electrical Tape

To use electrical tape, simply wrap the tape around the exposed wire while it’s not hot. Wrap it like you’re wrapping it with medical tape. Make sure that you overlap the exposed wire underneath at least half an inch on both sides.

The reason for this is you don’t want the wires underneath to be exposed as they could electrocute someone. It’s best to wrap it in two layers for the same reason. You want to do it one way and the second layer should offset the first. 

Wire Nuts

Another easy technique would be to use wire nuts. Wire nuts are plastic nuts that can secure wires that have been twisted together. 


Electrical Wires

Pulling wires apartView in gallery

There are many different wires that you can strip. Identifying them is one thing, but you need the right information to know how to strip standard wire. The thinner the wire, the easier it is to cut, but you should always be careful. 

Electrical 

What we’re talking about here are the colored wires. They are insulated with copper wire in a thread-like manner. This helps with preserving your wires.

Plastic Sheathing

A plastic-sheathed cable has multiple smaller cables inside. It contains three electrical wires inside of the sheathing. To access them, you need to strip the plastic sheathing with wire strippers. Then, you can start stripping the smaller internal cables. 

Underground

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. 

Coaxial Cable

Stripping coaxial cable is different than stripper other cables. There are multiple layers to coax. The outer layer is the outer insulator. Underneath is a silver shielding and metal conductor. 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. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

What Speaker Wire Is The Positive One With The Stripe?

Sold lines and lines with dashes indicate polarity. When a wire has markings, it’s positive. Unmarked wires are negative. This style is common on speaker wires where the positive ends will bear some sort of markings, and the negative ends won’t have any markings. 

How Much Copper Wire Does It Take To Make A Pound?

It takes about 50 feet of 12 gauge wire to make one pound.

What Is The Best Way To Remove Plastic From Copper Wire?

The best way to remove plastic off of copper wire is to melt it off with a controlled heat source.  

What Can I Use To Strip Wire If I Don't Have Wire Strippers?

If you don’t have wire strippers, then a sharp knife will get the job done. Make sure you place the wire on a flat surface. Slowly cut through the insulation without slicing the copper wire.

What Is The Highest Paying Scrap Metal?

The most lucrative scrap metal is copper. On average, copper scraps can fetch between $2 and $4 per pound.

Strip A Wire Conclusion

Stripping coaxial cable isn’t hard, but you will need to be careful. As you’ve learned here, stripping wires can be dangerous. If you’re a novice, a sharp knife would not be a good idea. When stripping wire, you will need a wire stripper and a steady hand.

A DIY electrical project that involves a wire will require experience, first and foremost. If you’re inexperienced, and you try to complete a project with a sharp knife, then you won’t achieve the results you desire. After you acquire more experience, you can try other tools to strip wire. You can even strip wire with scissors, but again, wait until you acquire more experience.

You only need one tool when stripping wire. The tools are not expensive, and they’re long-lasting. Unless you do a lot of wire stripping, you only need to buy one wire stripper during your lifetime. And if you use a sharp pocket knife, avoid cutting live wires.

You also don’t want to cut through the insulation. If you have plastic sheathing around the wire and you don’t have wire strippers, you could melt it off with a heat source, but this method will require a steady hand, and only you would know if you’re qualified for that task.