The Complete Guide to Cutters

In our comprehensive guide, we look at the different types of cutters that are available and examine their uses.

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What is a Cutter?

Cutters are hand tools which are used to cut a variety of materials. An average pair of cutters has two levers fixed together by a fulcrum, which is located closer to one end. The shorter part is the jaws and the longer section comprises the handles.

These tools use levers to extend and increase the strength of grip. By pressing on the handles, holding power is magnified and directed to the point where the pincers meet. They are useful for a variety of applications, as they can be used with materials which are potentially too small to be worked by hand.

There is a wide selection of different types available, each suitable for differing applications. Cutters cancome in various sizes and feature a range of pincers and joints, with the three basic types being locking, adjustable, and non-adjustable.

Different Types of Cutters

The table below shows some of the most common types of cutters and pliers and their uses.

Side/Diagonal Cutters

Side and Diagonal Cutters

These cutters work by indenting and wedging the wire apart and offer a cleaner finish than scissors or knives. They provide a diagonal cut and are commonly used on soft copper or aluminium electrical conductors. This tool should not be used on harder items, such as nails or screws, as these materials can cause damage and might even render the tool unusable.

Ideal for:

  • Holding, splicing or cutting leads
  • Stripping insulation
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Wire Rope Cutters

Wire Rope Cutters

These cutters work by pulling the wire rope into the jaws and trapping it. This makes a clean cut and results in no fanning.

Ideal for:

  • Shearing wire rope
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Bolt Cutters

Bolt Cutters

These tools are designed to create a large amount of torque in order to easily cut through metal. Thanks to their strength and durability, they can be used on many different types of metal, which has led to bolt cutters becoming a commonly used tool in the construction industry.

Ideal for:

  • Snipping bolts off containers
  • Cutting through thick chains and leads
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End Cutters and Nippers

End Cutters and Nippers

End cutters, also known as nippers, have a head that is almost flat. This allows the tool to cut close against the surface of the material without digging into it.

Ideal for working with:

  • Leads
  • Springs
  • Nails
  • Bolts
  • Rivets
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Wire or Cable Cutters

Wire or Cable Cutters

Wire cutters, or cable cutters, are commonly used in electrical applications. Almost all varieties are available in insulated versions to prevent electrical shocks. However, it’s still important not to confuse the plastic or rubber coating on the levers of the normal tools for being electrical insulation.

Ideal for:

  • Electrical applications
  • Industrial applications
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Flush Cutters

Flush Cutters

Flush cutters include pincers that are angled and narrow, while the handles are lifted away so there is enough space to hold them securely. This type of tool is used for regular, soft and semi-hard metals. It’s worth noting that you should only use this tool on flat surfaces.

Ideal for trimming:

  • Eyepins
  • Headpins
  • Beading wire
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Linemans Cutters

Linemans Cutters

Linemans cutters can be easily identified by their pincers, which have a shorter gripping surface at the tip and a cutting surface in the middle. They are a popular tool in electrical and communications tasks, as well as construction.

Ideal for grasping, splicing or chopping:

  • Leads
  • Strip insulation
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Flat Nose Pliers

Flat Nose Pliers

These are a common type of plier used in a variety of applications. They are available with either a short or long nose and are able to easily make sharp bends and right angles in wire, as well as straighten it.

Ideal for:

  • Grasping, turning, bending and twisting wires
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Other Types of Cutters

Hydraulic

Hand held hydraulic cutters can be used on a variety of conductors, wire ropes and even solid bars. They feature a guillotine-style head shear to minimise jams. These tools are mainly used in the power utility and electrical industry for chopping copper/aluminium power cables and overhead conductors. A range of models are available, such as manual, battery or remote hydraulic head, with different styles of tool heads including ratchet, guillotine and scissor type.

Bent Nose

These are a common type of plier used in a variety of applications to grasp, turn and bend wires. The flat jaws are used for gripping and twisting wires and other objects. It’s a common tool in electrical and mechanical industries. They’re available with either short or long noses and are able to easily make sharp bends and right angles in wire, as well straighten it.

Common Cutter Uses

Wires

Side cutters are used on wire and the leads of electronic components, as well as to strip insulation. Stripping wires refers to safely removing the outer layer without damaging the conductors underneath. If they do get nicked, the connection may break or it could cause an electrical short circuit. Although a knife can do this task, this risks damaging the copper by catching or damaging it and it is much safer to use cutters.

Nails and Screws

For this job, use a pair of bolt cutters. Position the tool at the deepest possible position on the shank of the screw or nail. If it’s fastened too tightly to reach the shank, snip the head instead.

How to Use Cutters

Here are some handy tips for using cutters, as well as important safety procedures to follow to avoid injury and complete the task quickly and easily:

  • Wear safety goggles to protect against airborne particles

  • Try to cut at right angles and avoid wiggling the tool or bending wire back and forth against the edges

  • Avoid using cutters on nuts and bolts - use a wrench for this task instead

  • Avoid cutting hardened wire unless the tool is specifically designed for this task – it’s better to use sturdier cutters for this task as thinner types, such as needle nose cutters, could incur damage

  • Oil cutters regularly with a drop of oil on the hinge – this will make the tools easier to use

  • Avoid exposing cutters to excessive heat

  • Do not use cushioned levers when working with electrical wiring as they are not insulated and do not offer a sufficient level of protection

  • Choose tools that have a grip span between 6cm and 9cm to prevent hands or fingers from getting pinched when the tools are closed

  • Make sure the edges of the tool are sharp as blunt or worn edges need a lot more force to make an accurate cut

  • Ensure tools are clean and sharp because greasy or worn down edges can compromise safety and could cause repetitive strain injuries with prolonged use

  • Refrain from hammering on cutters in order to cut objects

  • When using pliers, pull on them instead of pushing away when applying pressure because if the tool accidentally slips, the user could sustain an injury