Last Updated on August 28, 2020
One of the great things about the Internet is the proliferation of how-to videos has brought DIY projects that once seemed intimidating into everyone’s workshops. For jobs that require that you wire them for electricity, that means you don’t need specialized training, even though they carry inherent risks associated with live current: fire and shock.
That makes a good set of wire cutters a must-have for everyone’s tool inventory. If you’re adding lights to a DIY headboard, you’ll need to take a strand of wire and before you attach it cut it to the right length. You can use things like knives and box cutters for that, certainly, but you get best results by cutting in from above and below.
We wrote reviews of some of the wire cutters you’ll find while shopping for them. Feel free to go by these reviews and buy one, or use it as a springboard to make a more precise choice. If that’s how you want to do it, we’ve included a handy buyers’ guide with tips on how to make a more informed purchase choice.
|Best Overall||Channellock E Series||
|IRWIN VISE-GRIP 2078309||
|Best Value||Hakko Micro Cutter||
The reason why the Channellock E Seris 7-inch diagonal cutting plier is the best diagonal wire cutter is that it makes hard jobs easy. It gets no more complicated than that because that’s the entire purpose for a diagonal cutting plier. They not only have a good blade that stays sharp, but the grips are comfortable and reduce the amount of wear and tear on a user’s wrists.
We should qualify that by saying that these are great for electrical work, which is mostly what people buy these tools for. If you need diagonal cutting pliers for something like farm fencing, hold your breath a bit when using these. The same grips that make these comfortable also make them pretty bulky compared to other wire cutters. And, of course, these are the most expensive wire cutters we looked at.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one tool, the IRWIN VISE-GRIP 2078309 is a great choice. If you’re doing electrical work, this is a great single tool to have for the wires. It can snip the wire easily, strip it and comes with a crimping feature to pick spliced wires together with a terminal. It’s also got a way to snip screws and bolts to size those down to what you need. We also really like the price, which gives you a lot of options for just a few dollars. These are a great value.
Their strength is also their primary drawback. The wire cutting feature is tucked in the back of the jaws, which while intuitive also means that these don’t have a dedicated snipping action that you can get in, apply quickly and get out. When cutting wires with this, you need to make sure they are set back in the jaw. It also means that their application for hard wires is pretty limited. If you’re cutting something hard and it slips, you risk damaging the tool.
The best thing about Hakko’s micro cutters is their price. You can get a 3-pack of these for the same price that you could get one of our other wire cutters. Given the comparative price range, that makesthese dirt cheap.
One thing to also love about these is that they are small and handy. If you have a very fine wire that you need cut, these let you snip it quickly and painlessly. We also like the grips, which make these comfortable to hold, unlike a lot of palm-friendly tools.
Their size is also a drawback. These are designed for thin soft wire. If you’ve got something hard or big, you are likely to damage these while leaving the wire you want to cut more or less intact. If you have difficult wire cutting, you’ll need to invest in something more capable.
We don’t hate the Stanley 84-105. It’s a good, affordable wire cutter capable of snipping things like guitar strings. Considering the price of a pair, they fill a pretty important niche in the market as affordable cutting pliers that can still do quality work on high-grade materials. That’s basic performance at a basic price.
So far, so good.
It turns out that these are pretty specialized tools, actually. They can snip harder wires because the head is pretty bulky. There is nothing subtle about them. The can cut guitar strings, but it’s also hard to see around them when cutting something that requires precision. If you use these, also be prepared to open them manually after each cut. No spring action pops the head back open. That makes them comparatively cumbersome to use.
The Berrylion 8-inch Heavy Duty Wire Cutters are not heavy duty, not well constructed at all, and expensive for what they can do. We’d say what we really feel about these, but we’re also a little afraid the person who designed them will come across this review and feel so sad over it they don’t want to face their children at the end of the day. We don’t want to be responsible for that.
We will say that these are good at cutting single-stranded copper wire. They have the power to do that, comfortable grips and an angled head that allows you to reposition it from multiple angles.
They are also expensive for what they do, easy to damage and if you need to cut braided wire you’re just plain out of luck. You can get better performance out of a well-sharpened utility knife which, for a specialty tool like this, is about as damning an indictment as is possible.
Wire cutters aren’t a terribly complicated tool, so it might seem weird that you’d want specialized information about them before buying. At their heart, they are a specialized form of plier with, instead of a jaw that holds something fast has a pair of diagonal blades to snip wire off at its end. While you can achieve the same thing with a single cut from the top by something like a knife, keep in mind that you’re working with something that will carry live current. You want clean cuts that preserve the integrity of the wire, which is what a wire cutter provides.
The first thing that will guide your wire cutter purchase is knowing what kind of wire you will cut. Most everyone will not have specialized needs, because wires that are good at conducting electricity tend to be soft metals like copper. Every wire cutter on the market is designed to at least cut those.
If you have harder tempered steel wires like piano wires, however, you’ll want to make sure that you get a pair designed to handle it. A good rule to remember is that you can’t cut anything with a metal softer than the material you want to cut. Try that, and you’ll have ruined tools.
Once you know what you need to cut, the biggest thing that should guide your purchase is how comfortable a set of wire cutters is to use. Tools that leave your struggling to cut wires because the blades are dull are fatiguing and frustrating. Getting something that does a better job isn’t so much more expensive that it’d break the bank buying it. The same goes for the grips. The price range of wire cutters isn’t such that it’s a big deal to spend a couple of dollars more and get something that is a bit more comfortable in your hands.
One thing worth looking at is how versatile a specific tool is. The market is full of tools today designed to do multiple things. If you don’t work with wire very often, it is probably worth your time to look at something that allows you to cut wire, strip it and then crimp it into place without finding a different tool. You might want specialized tools if you need to do professional-grade work, but you can save yourself a bit of time and hassle on DIY jobs by finding something that does several things in one unit.
Wire cutters are pretty inexpensive and have a pretty small difference in their price range. Even the best on the market are still pretty affordable compared to other kinds of lines of tools. Price probably isn’t going to figure in as a major factor in which one you buy, but if you prefer getting deals on everything to maximizing your investment then there are a few bucks you can wring out in savings if you look hard.
More wire-tools you should look into:
A good set of wire cutters is a handy tool for everyone’s toolbox. They are affordable and don’t take up any more space than a basic set of pliers, so buying a pair to have on hand offers versatility without hitting your wallet hard or taking up space better devoted to something else.
We liked the Channellock E337CB’s as a great diagonal wire cutter that lets you snip wires with little effort. The IRWIN VISE-GRIP Multi-Tool provides all-in-one wire servicing versatility, which makes it pretty handy. If you’re on a budget, Hakko’s Micro-cutters are a great choice unless you have big wires to cut. We were less impressed by Stanley’s 84-105 and weren’t impressed at how quickly the Berrylion 8-inch wire cutters dulled.
We hope you found value in these reviews or at least found some helpful tips to help guide your purchase. If the last is your chosen route, we hope you gave our buyers’ guide a careful read for more tips. We wish you luck in your wire cutting purchase and hope you keep safety in mind when working with wires.
Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!