May 042014
Best wire strippers for electronics

I needed some new wire strippers as I got fed up damaging my thumb by using a knife. Not knowing which were best, I decided to buy four different types and try them out. The findings are quite interesting.

One wasn’t any good, one was the best budget pair, another was the most flexible, and another was the best for electronics work. Have a look at the video to see the results.

  20 Responses to “Best Wire Strippers for Electronics?”

  1. I’ve got some of the “automatic” strippers. They were from Maplin and work OK. However I suspect there is a range in quality depending on who manufactures them. I paid £12. £3 on eBay means they wholesale for £1 at most. Also use the 4th set, with the thumbscrew and V jaws. They are worth having as they cope with all sizes. The design has been around for a long time. My dad had some when he worked for the GPO. That’s before they became known as British Telecom :)

    General rule is that you don’t need to pay a fortune but £15 from a decent supplier is a good guide price for a decent quality electronics hand tool.

    • I’m sure a good pair of the automatic ones would be OK. Twitter folk recommended that specific brand, but these may have been faulty or a knockoff.

      The Adafruit ones are made by Hakko and seem very nice and easy to use. It’ll be interesting to see which one becomes my favourite for regular use.

      • From your video I think I would go for the Adafruit ones with a cheaper version of the “thumbscrew” pair for occasional chunkier cables. Having a few pairs in your toolbox is no bad thing. Making lots of adjustments is a pain but if 90% of the time you are bread-boarding then a set of fixed holes is going to be fine for most people.

        • I agree. You can never have too many tools, as long as you’ve still got space to use them :)

          • “We’re gonna need a bigger… toolbox!” ;-)

            • Already saving for a larger house. Really could do with a double garage to be able to have some workshop/office studio space away from the house. Or even a large enough garden to build a proper workshop in.

  2. I saw the article title and I assumed it was gong to be another overpriced RS review ;-)

    I used to have a pair of the “automatic” strippers when I was little that I bought from a Sunday market (before the days of ebay and cheap chinese knockoffs!). They worked really well, and the adjustment screw was much longer on mine and IIRC it adjusted the depth of insulation that got cut into. They could even be used (with adjustment) to strip both the outer and inner layers of TV coax cable. I think the spring on mine eventually failed. That was long before the days when I got to using “digital electronics” gauge wires though.

    I’ve currently got a pair similar to the last ones (with thumbscrew) that I think I bought from Maplins, and I always find it really annoying trying to get the adjustment right. I seem to either make the hole too big (so they don’t do a very good job of stripping off the insulation) or I make the hole too small and end up cutting through a bunch of the inner strands as well as the insulation. Maybe it’s just because I have a ‘cheap’ version though.

    Seeing how well the phenoptix ones worked, I’m very tempted to buy a pair :)

    I’ve also got a cable stripper that came bundled as part of a crimp tool set – rather than working in a ‘scissor action’ like all the tools above do, it works by rotating just a single blade all the way around the wire. Again works very smoothly one you’ve got it adjusted right.

    Thanks for the informative video Alex!

    • HaHa. Since you don’t inhabit the twitterverse, you won’t have heard all the banter about this, this week. The plan was hatched on Wednesday, the stuff arrived on Thu/Fri and the video shot last night.

      Glad I still have the ability to surprise you :)

      What you can’t quite tell from the video (although I did my best with the vocals) is that the Phenoptix/Adafruit/Hakko ones cut very cleanly through the insulation and very little force is required to remove the insulation. If you use the correct hole, you really do get a very clean and easy result that doesn’t damage the wire.

  3. I’ve got a pair of the automatic ones and they work really well (certainly not anywhere near the disaster of a pair you had!). But I’m rather tempted to convert to the Adafruit ones now…

    • Many people are reporting that theirs work OK. I think the ones I got must have been a knockoff (or just faulty). But they were so cheap, it’s hard to get too upset about it.

      I’ve never bought four tools just for the sake of a review before. It’s a little bonkers really, but now I have three sets of wirestrippers. I’ll probably take the cheaper CPC ones to Poland in the summer and leave them there for future use.

      • Charity auction, with all proceeds going to the Raspberry Pi Foundation? :)

        Who *wouldn’t* want some wire-strippers pre-used by Alex of RasPi.TV fame?

        • LOL. You’re too funny. ;p

          The truth is, I want to keep the three I liked. Will leave one in Poland and have two for UK use.

          But the idea of an auction might fit in somewhere else, somehow. :)

          • Just make sure you avoid the temptation to use the wire strippers while you’re actually on the plane over to Poland though… ;)

            • You’re not even allowed nail clippers in hand luggage these days. Can you imagine someone trying to hijack a plane with a pair of nail clippers? “Fly into the Eiffel Tower or the stewardess gets a manicure”.

  4. Fine review again, thank you! I still use my faithful wire stripper identical to your most right one, I rarely adjust it.

    One thing I noticed with other wirestrippers is the damage on the copper. Did you check that?

    • Yes. The cheapest ones were the worst for that and the Hakko/phenoptix/adafruit ones the best. They cut cleanly through the insulation, provided you use the right hole. Then removing it is very low force compared to the others.

  5. When I was taught to strip wire by a then Post Office Telephones approved school we had to use the pliers type similar to the more expensive CPC pair in the review. We were taught that stripper and had to adjust them. The same piece of wire was stripped twice – perhaps 1 cm for each. The 1cm point was then checked with a strong magnifying glass to see if there was a notch in the wire or any scrape marks to the wire. If there were you had to readjust the stripper and try again. The reason for this was that wires would crack and fail if there were any notches in them.

    To encourage you to get it right the roving inspectors would check the adjustment of the wiremens strippers – woe betide you if they found notches in the wire.

    Some of the strippers would bend slightly if you squeezed hard so it was difficult to get an adjustment that stripped the insulation cleanly but did not nick the wire.

    The real best way to avoid notches is a thermal stripper but they seem to have gone out of fashion.

  6. Hello Alex,
    This might not be your area of expertise, but do you know why your videos have their right sides cut off when viewed on an iPad. I know I can go to YouTube to watch them, but the embedded versions seem so convenient!
    Thanks for sharing all your great work!

    • It’s probably something to do with the mobile theme. Have you tried rotating the iPad to landscape orientation and pinching to zoom out so that the page is smaller? Then it might fit (not sure though).

  7. Awesome video on using wire strippers to reduce the cuts and damage done to your hands while working with electronics. I just got my StripMeister automatice wire stripping machine in today and it works great!

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