Tools That Make A Trade Wire Strippers

TN-Electrical 20-2741




Making Conductive Connections: Wire Strippers at a Glance


Possibly one of the most-used tools in an electrician’s bag is that trusty pair of wire strippers. With a variety of styles and brands to choose from, each sparky arrives at their own conclusion as to what is the best suited for their role on the job site.


Each electrician deals with their own set of challenges on the job site. A lineman may be able to get away with a simple pair of beefy linesman pliers for cutting and crimping, due to the fact they’re only working with heavy gauged cable.


A commercial electrician may want something that works equally well for solid and stranded wire, with a focus on both durability and precision. Maybe they’re working almost solely with Romex™, or specifically with datacom and its fine gauge wire—and there are strippers for each of those particular use cases.


Without delving into specialty tools, the wire stripper comes in a few standard variants, recognizable by any electrician worth their salt:






The most commonly used for both novice DIYers and electricians alike, simply because they’re almost foolproof. These pliers have a range of individual gauge cutouts for each type of wire. Place the wire in the correct cutout and it’ll slice through without a problem, creating a clean strip.


When chatting with a seasoned pro, you’ll find that it’s worth spending some money on a nicer stripper here: a well-built tool ensures a proper, clean strip each time, without compromising durability. Cheaper options are plagued with issues like gouging stranded wire and not fully cutting through the jacket. More spendy ones can be manufactured out of forged metals, feature heat-treated cutting surfaces, and precision-cut teeth, ensuring a perfect strip or cut each time.





This type of stripper is a do-it-all tool, utilizing the typical plier-style handles. These handles slide to adjust the opening of the pliers, accommodating a wide variety of wire gauges. Some electricians swear by the adjustable stripper, but others insist they’re fussy and difficult to use. 


The downfall is they are very bulky and many professionals don’t trust them for long-term use – with springs and many independently moving parts, some may argue they’re just not durable enough for demanding everyday use on the job site. Additionaly, some electricians state that it’s easier to get an incomplete cut through the jacket of the wire without proper technique. This all boils down to personal preference.





These strippers are a combination of a traditional stripper that features the automatic insulation removal of a self-adjusting stripper. Automatic strippers have the additional benefit of pulling off the jacket after the insulation has been cut, saving a step. Match the wire gauge with the corresponding hole, squeeze the handle, and the stripper does the rest. This also makes this stripper convenient as a one-handed tool. 


The automatic stripper is a fantastic time-saving option, but make sure to go with a trusted brand. Although they're a bit more bulky than your average strip tool, they make up for it with their ease of use. If you're in the market for one, this is one stripper you shouldn't skimp on - as most professionals insist, you get what you pay for, so make sure buy a quality one so it’s guaranteed to last.





Linesman Pliers


Die-hard electricians and purists may use the old-school method of stripping: their touch is so accurate and light, they’re able to score the wire’s insulation and pull it off without dedicated gauge reference holes or automatic jacket separators.


While this may be by far the simplest and cheapest method, there’s also a lot of room for error—especially with stranded wire, it’s much easier to accidentally damage or even sever your conductor. However, many seasoned electricians swear up and down by their trusty linesman pliers.






Precision strippers are used for finer, more delicate cables (22 AWG and up) that may be in datacom applications and small machine work. They’re a particularly specialized tool, but necessary for these applications.


New to the game are non-metallic sheathed cable strippers. This dedicated pair of strippers is for those who work with Romex™ cable so much they can justify the extra cost for this specific tool.


Also worth consideration is coaxial cable strippers - these strippers simplify the process of getting a perfect strip on the jacket and conductor of these finicky cables. 





Choosing Your Tool



Tool construction is obviously an extremely decisive factor when determining which you’ll purchase, so it’s worth considering what features will be used regularly. Some strippers include threaded screw cutters, hardened/heat-treaded cutting surfaces, a pulling/looping hole, and ergonomic handles.



The printing on the tool itself can be a wear point, making visibility frustrating - so buying a stripper with printing/etching that has staying power is just as important as the cutting edge itself. Some even come with laser etching for that extra visibility. Many of us work in spaces with low light so it’s important that the tool remains useable in these situations.



Personal preference remains the biggest consideration, especially since the market seems to be moving toward hybrid tools: heavy duty strippers may take the place of both a lineman plier and a stripping tool. This allows each electrician to carry fewer tools, and even spend a bit more to get a quality tool if they’re only buying one instead of several.