“Mickey, you’re gonna get in there, start stripping wires, and you’re gonna —- everything up!”The Battery (2012)
Choosing the right tool for the job is arguably the most important step in the planning process of any project. While it may not seem like something you really need to plan for, having a good pair of wire strippers at the ready will save you a lot of hassle when the time comes that you actually need them.
There are a few different types of wire strippers on the market, ranging from very basic to pretty ingenious. First, let’s take a look at the most basic of wire strippers- the gauged stripper. These usually come with various sized notches in the blade that are designed to strip the insulation off of wires without damaging the actual wiring inside. The also have a cutting tool built right into them to make clean cuts. These tools are generally the cheapest available, but they are still very handy. You may need to buy multiple tools if you plan on working with different gauged wires, though.
Another helpful type is a radial wire stripper. These usually work by lightly clamping the tool onto your cable and spinning it, allowing a thin blade to score the insulation until you can pop it right off. These types of wire strippers are usually used for specialty cables like CAT-5/6 and coaxial, which contain more sensitive internal workings than standard wires.
The next type of wire stripper we’ll look at is the automatic gauged stripper. While they work on the same basic concept of regular gauged strippers (various sized holes for various gauges), the automatic variety is designed to cut, strip, and remove insulation with one squeeze, then return to its neutral open position when released. Automatic gauged strippers are more costly that manual ones, but make quick work of something that could otherwise prove tedious over multiple repetitions.
The final type of wire stripper is the self-adjusting stripper. These mechanical beauties allow you to place any gauge wire (within its design limits) inside them and they will automatically adjust to the size needed and cut, strip and remove your insulation with one squeeze. These types can be the most expensive depending on the brand, but they are worth the investment. I personally swear by my IRWIN VISE-GRIP 2078300 strippers (pictured above), which I have had for years now with no serious issues. Because of the “automatic” nature of the tool, you can expect that it won’t make perfect cuts 100% of the time. Even when it doesn’t work properly, however, it will usually get it the second time.
There you have it! Depending on the frequency that you will be cutting and stripping cable, you should now be able to choose the tool that’s right for you. If you still can’t, then its probably not wire strippers that you need.