And, get this: A wire-stripping tool can also help you make a tidy profit as a side hustle selling copper, an increasingly valuable metal with a current market price near $3 per pound. (Don't go stripping the copper wires from your neighbors; we're talking about legal means.)
I discovered how effective a wire stripper could be when I had to swap out a light switch for a dimmer. This was after being charged $150 a year prior by an electrician for a 15-minute job, which I later discovered I could have done myself. So, armed with decades of DIY experience, tools that included a good wire stripper, and instructions from YouTube, I did the job myself.
Whether you're replacing an old light switch or selling scrap wire for cash, a wire stripper is a good tool to have on hand.
If you can match up a wire to clearly labeled cutout, you can strip a wire with the Klein Tools Katapult Wire Stripper and Cutter. Not sure of the wire gauge at hand? No problem, just gently slip the wire into each slot until you find one where it fits snugly. And what's more, a steady squeeze on the spring-loaded handles will strip both solid and stranded wire, so this tool can be used for most moderate-grade wiring projects.
The Klein Tools Katapult Wire Stripper and Cutter reveals about an inch of wire with that squeeze, which is the perfect length for rewiring light switches, lighting fixtures, or outlets. If the wire is too long, or if you need to cut a section of cable, you can use a unique wire cutter that's built into the Katapult. Unlike most wire cutters, which are set into the base of scissor-like jaws, this one is a circular cutout, through which the wire is fed; the design prevents the cord from slipping out and guarantees a clean cut.
At around $30, this isn't a cheap tool, but it's worth its price if you think you'll use it even a few times a year; botching a wire-stripping job can mean running entire new lengths of wire once you mangle too much of the wiring, so think of it as an investment against future frustration.
With more than 200 reviews posted on The Home Depot's website, the Klein Tools Katapult Wire Stripper and Cutter has a 4.6-star average rating (out of 5) at the time of this review. One buyer loved how it "stripped in one quick movement," while another appreciated that it created "less strain on the hand" than other wire strippers. A few buyers complained about its relative bulk, but that's only really an issue if you're bringing your tools on the road.
Pros: Removes guesswork from wire stripping, works with solid and stranded wire, easy-to-use wire cutter built in
If you're a professional electrician who needs to strip hundreds of wires monthly, then you already have several high-quality wire-stripping tools. If you're like me, do like I did and get a Dowell 10-22 AWG Wire Stripper to help out with those two to three annual wiring projects.
This simple, low-cost wire-stripping tool has clearly marked slots for 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, and 22-gauge wires. If that doesn't mean much to you, no worries: Anyone who is unfamiliar with wire gauges probably won't be dealing with wires outside that range, anyway. The jaws lock shut for safety and have a sturdy spring for ease of use, and there's a decent cutter set into the base of the jaws.
While many wire strippers allow for a perfect stripping of a one-inch section of wire with just a squeeze of the fingers, this lower-priced tool requires you to pull the section of cord to be stripped, through the blades. This can mean less precision and uniformity, but it also means you can strip much longer sections of casing, which can be useful for various projects, such as when you want to splice two wires together and want to ensure maximum surface area.
A product guide from ProductBrowsercalled this Dowell stripper lightweight and useful for "several other functions" beyond stripping, like crimping and cutting.
More than 250 people have reviews the Dowell 10-22 AWG on Amazon, where it has a 4.4-star rating as of this posting. One buyer wrote, "This is a case of 'you get what you pay for'" and "[It's a] good value, but not the best stripper ever," and added that the tool often cuts through far too much of stranded wire, requiring repeated attempts before a successful stripping.
If you cut apart a power cord to a lamp, toaster, hairdryer, or other small household appliance, you will see copper wiring sheathed in the rubber exterior. Cut apart a thicker cable, however, like that of a grounded extension cord or the wiring of a washing machine, and you'll see multiple copper wires sheathed in secondary layers of rubber or vinyl. And in order to work with these thicker types of wiring, both layers must be cleanly removed.
Enter the Irwin Tools Vise-Grip Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper, a useful handheld wire stripper that makes short work of both the outer and inner casings of a cable. And it does so with nothing but a squeeze of the fingers. Just thread the cord to be stripped into its jaws and give a squeeze. The outer sheath will be cleanly removed, exposing the inner casing. Reload the interior wires lined up side-by-side and squeeze again to reveal the metal wiring at the core.
As the name suggests, the jaws of this stripper self-adjust to create the perfect amount of cutting and stripping depth — taking away only the sheath, never cutting the metal itself. The stripper works with wires rated between AWG 10 and AWG 24 (AWG stands for American Wire Gauge), therefore making it suitable for most DIY and many commercial projects.
BestToolExpert called the Irwin Tools Vise-Grip Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper "one of the best tools of its kind in terms of effectivity, reliability, and durability."
With more than 2,700 reviews, Amazon shoppers have given the Irwin Tools Vise-Grip Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper a 4.5-star averaged rating. One buyer praised the tool for being able to handle "very large to very small wires" and also noted its "nice cutters and crimpers" built into the body. On the flip-side, a number of people found the stripper not suitable for use with thicker, tougher insulation, and at least one user warned of easily pinched fingers.
Pros: Self-adjusts to correct stripping depth, removes outer and inner casings, works with wide range of wire gauges
If you need to strip and splice a few wires to replace an old outlet or dimmer switch, then buying a StripMeister Automatic Wire Stripping Machine would be like getting a Ferrari for commuting to the train station. But if, on the other hand, you're hoping to make a serious profit selling pound after pound of reclaimed copper wire, then this industrial-grade wire stripper will justify its own cost in no time.
The StripMeister Automatic Wire Stripping Machine works with a huge range of wire thicknesses, and can strip Romex wire – the most common type of wiring found running all throughout homes and commercial properties – with ease and reliability. The device works by connecting a drill to the post that protrudes from its side, securing the wire in a bladed chamber, and then firing up the drill, the action of which rapidly feeds the wire through the unit. You'll get foot after foot of raw copper with sheathing cleanly removed and basically no manpower exerted.
Yes, a StripMeister Automatic Wire Stripping Machine costs $200 and is totally impractical for most people. But with copper selling for close to $3 per pound at present, it wouldn't take long for you to make back your investment if you started collecting scrap wire and sending it barreling through this serious stripping tool.
More than 125 people have reviewed the StripMeister Automatic Wire Stripping Machine on Amazon, giving it a 4.6-star average rating as of this writing. One buyer said it worked with thick, rugged cables and wires "all the wat down to 16 gauge." Another owner claimed to strip "over $1,000 in wire" in less than two months.
A few owners reported that the blade dulls fast, but it comes with one replacement and you can always order more.
Wire gets expensive fast: 2/0 THHN wire, the kind commonly used in buildings, boats, and automotive applications, sells from Home Depot for $2.35 a foot, or for $562 when you buy a 250-foot spool. So you don't want to waste much of this or other larger, lower-gauge wiring (the lower the gauge, the thicker the wire and the larger the load it can carry). Thus, it's a good idea to get a Klein Tools Large Cable Stripper if you're going to be working with a fair amount of fairly pricey cables.
The operation of this heavy-duty wire stripping tool is refreshingly simple: insert the cable into the correct slot on the four-pronged stripped and rotate it. It works much like a pencil sharpener, slicing away the outer layer of casing and revealing the wiring within. Just make sure to get a clean cut before you start the stripping, or the process will be messy at best and totally ineffective at worst.
While easy to use and durable, the Klein Tools Large Cable Stripper does have its limitations. It is only compatible with four sizes of cable: 2/0, 3/0, 4/0, and 250 MCM thickness cords. That said, if you work with those kinds of cables at all, you likely do so often, and thus the $52 price tag is easy to justify. Also, unlike with most stripping tools, there are no moving parts, so a dulled blade is the only issue this stripper faces.
In a video review, TechToolSupply said the Klein Tools Large Cable Stripper could "safely remove insulation" without nicking the wire and allowed for "a precise cut every time."
With each of the wire-stripping tools on this list, you'd likely never meet a wire you couldn't strip cleanly and quickly. But these aren't the only general-purpose wire strippers we considered. We researched a few others that didn't make the cut for one reason or another.
The Klein Tools 2-Level Coaxial Cable Stripper is a must-have if you're working with stubborn coaxial cable, the type of cord that screws into older TVs and monitors to transfer the image signal. The thing is, you're probably not.
A TruePower Heavy Duty Automatic Wire Stripper offers the same self-adjusting operation as the Irwin Tools self-adjusting stripping tool, for much less money and can remove much of the guesswork from the process. But it will also probably fail on you twice as fast.
Milwaukee's 6 in 1 Combination Electricians Wire Strippers start off working great, stripping with ease and with dual cutters robust enough to snip through screws or nails, but the pair I own (and, apparently, that of many other DIY-ers) wore down fast, with the blades sticking together and the handles separating from the blades over time.
Finally, I looked at the super-basic but super-reliable Ideal 45-092 Stripmaster Wire Stripper, a tool you will probably have for life. I passed on it because it's not quite worth its almost $50 price tag, quality notwithstanding.
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