How to sharpen wire cutters?
Wire cutters are a good, basic tool to have around the home. They can be used in a variety of ways, with some cutters used to both cut and strip wire. Wire cutters are indispensable to many home gardening and craft projects, such as the art of Bonsai which uses wires to grow and shape miniature trees. Over time, your cutters may become dull. There is a simple way to sharpen them if necessary.
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Many people recommend buying new cutters altogether and avoiding buying an expensive pair of cutters because they will eventually become dull. But if you want to keep your cutters for whatever reason, you'll need to buy a fine hand file.
Hand files come in sets in different grades that are either coarse or fine. This means that the texture on the file is either large and will make a significant depletion in what it is rubbed on, or that the texture is small (fine). Fine textured files are for more delicate work and allow for better control.
Because the area of metal to be sharpened on wire cutters is small, you should use a fine hand file. Both sides of the cutter need to be filed. Gently rub the file against each blade, being careful not to rub too much or for too long. Too much activity with the file will result in surface area of the blade is removed, which will prevent the cutters from closing (and working) properly.
What are the different types of wire cutters?
There are probably as many types of wire cutters available, as there are types of wires and there is hardly any trade or profession in the world today that does not use some form of wire cutters.
Jewellers, doctors, electricians, auto mechanics, florists, and even firefighters depend on the quality of their wire cutters to deliver professional results. Although most specialized wire cutters have no application in the DIY market, there are nevertheless several types of wire cutters that should be in every handyman’s toolbox.
Hakko CHP170 Flush Cutter
It is a mini wire cutter, best for cutting wire up to 16 gauges (1.3mm). Non Slip grip makes this cutter a perfect DIY tool for electronics and jewellery work.
In applications such as jewellery making, flower arrangement and electronic work, having a spike on the wire is not desirable. In these cases, the best option would be to use a flush-cutter with reduced bevels.
While the cut faces of the wire may not be perfectly flush, the reduced bevels on the cutting edges mean that less force is required to cut through the wire, which is a definite bonus for people who have to make hundreds of cuts a day. Using a low-quality tool can lead to fatigue and a serious medical condition called Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which often requires surgery to repair.
Xuron Micro Shear Cutter
Shear cutters require the least force of all side-cutters to cut, and they make the smoothest cut possible. However, one must take great care when making cuts, as pressing too hard can dull the blades when the cut is completed.
High-quality tools of this type are fitted with adjustment or set screws that prevent the cutting edges from touching each other after a cut. And this feature should be the first item to look for when you are shopping for shear cutters.
3. Whizzotech Diagonal Pliers (Side Cutter)
As the name suggests, these cutters deliver a diagonal cut and are the most common type in use by tradesmen all over the world. They are known by several different names, such as side-cutters, diagonal cutters, “dikes,” or even “diags.”
In the electrical trade, these cutters are used for cutting soft copper or aluminium electrical conductors. But side-cutters are in used everywhere in the world and in every trade or profession that requires soft, pliable wire to be cut.
However, side-cutters leave a sharp spike on the wire after cutting, which is the result of the jaws forcing the wire to break, rather than cutting through cleanly. In cases where the resulting spike is not an issue, normal side-cutters are the best option since they are relatively cheap, and a good quality tool can last for many years.
Side-cutters should never be used to cut steel wire, nails, screws, fencing wire, or anything harder than copper or aluminium wire. Doing so can damage their jaws to the point of uselessness for any sort of cutting.
Side-cutters are also available for precision cutting that leaves the edges of the cuts smooth.
End Cutting Pliers
The end cutting pliers have jaws that are shaped like half-circles, with the cutting edges at right angles to the body of the tool. This makes it possible to cut nails, screws, and rivets close to the surface of the workpiece without marring the surface.
The rounded shape of the jaws also makes it possible to extract nails and screws from wood by using the radius of the jaws as a prop.
When shopping for end cutting pliers, the first thing to look for should be the alignment of the jaws, which should close on one another with no light visible between them, meaning that there should be full contact between the cutting edges over the full width of the jaws. There should also be no free play in the pivot point between the two handles.
Insulated Wire Cutters
Almost all types of wire cutters are available in insulated versions to prevent electrical shocks. However, care must be taken not to confuse the plastic or rubber coating on the handles of the normal tools with proper electrical insulation.
Most wire cutters are supplied with soft-grip handles to make them more comfortable to use, but these coatings offer no protection against accidental electrocution.
If you need properly insulated wire cutters, only buy a pair from a reputable dealer in tools and avoid the cheap, substandard tools that are sold by auto parts stores and other non-specialist dealers.
These tools may look safe to use, but discovering that the thick plastic coating on your new wire cutter is not rated for use with high-voltage electricity after suffering from an electric shock is not what you want, right?
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Lineman’s Wire Cutters
Also known as combination cutter, this is the workhorse of the wire cutting family of tools. Apart from having wide, flat jaws for gripping objects, these tools also incorporate cutting edges similar to those on side-cutters just forward of the pivot point.
They can cut steel fencing wire, thick nails, or even steel screws with no trouble at all, thanks to the levering action of the long handles.
Also, these pliers often incorporate a guillotine-like cutting action. They contain a groove in each handle very close to the pivot point.
Opening the handle aligns the two grooves, and by closing the handles, the cutting edges on the inner side of the grooves perform a shearing action that can cut through almost any nail, screw, or even small-diameter steel rod.
Needle-Nose Wire Cutters
Electricians often use Needle-nose wire cutters because the sharply tapered jaws make it easy to bend and insert a wire into a switch-gear in electrical panels, where there is often not enough space to use any other type of pliers or cutters.
These cutters have almost no bevels on the cutting edges, and thus make perfectly flush cuts, which is particularly important in jewellery making and electronics.
However, while a cutter of this type requires even less force to make a cut than a normal flush cutter, its blades are very fragile, and great care must be taken to protect the blades by only using it for cutting the material it is designed to cut, such as soft copper or aluminium conductors.
XURON 2175 Maxi Shear Flush Cutter
One of the best wire cutters for jewellery making and wire wrapping is this one. You can flush cut fine silver, bronze, gold and platinum wire. This cutter is not designed for titanium, steel or memory wire cutting.
How to take care of your cutters?
Regardless of what you do with them, your cutters will dull over time. You can extend the longevity of the cutters by washing them every time after use. They can be cleaned with soap and water, or with rubbing alcohol and then dried. You can also use bleach to clean and sterilize them. If you have sap from trees or plants or any other sticky substance, you can use WD40 (which is an oil that prevents rust) or lighter fluid to remove it. After you dry your cutters, oil them lightly and then store them until their next use.
You do not have to go to a professional to sharpen your wire cutters. It can be done in a matter of seconds, sitting in the comfort of your homes. Read on to find out how.
Step 1 – Safety Measure
Sharpening the wire cutters involves a lot of knacks. The risk levels are not high; it is fairly easy and does not involve complicated tools. But before you start off, make sure you have your work gloves on. Also wear safety goggles to protect your eyes.
Step 2 – Work Area
You need a good eye to spot the problem areas in a wire cutter. So to facilitate the sharpening process, make sure that your work area has enough light.
Step 3 – Tool
As mentioned earlier, you do not need high performance or a complicated tool to sharpen the wire cutter. A simple hand file will do the trick.
Step 4 – Type of Hand Files
Hand files come in different types. The texture recognizes the types on the hand files. The rougher the texture, the more it will deplete the surface that is being rubbed on it. To sharpen the wire cutter, you should opt for a hand file with a fine texture. If you choose an extremely coarse hand file, it will damage the wire cutter. This is because the areas to be sharpened on the cutter are extremely small.
Step 5 – Rub
Now start with the sharpening process. Tackle one blade at a time. Rub the hand file on the blade. Be swift but do not apply too much force. Gentle rubs will do the trick.
Step 6 – Test
After you sharpen all the blades on the wire cutter, you need to test its functioning. Try to cut wires with the tool. If it does the job without too much effort on your side, then the sharpening was completed successfully. If not, you will have to sharpen it a tad bit more.
Step 7 – Clean
When you achieve the right amount of sharpness, stop the process. Now you need to clean the blades. Use a wire brush to clean the blades as well as the inner portions of the wire cutter.
Step 8 – Maintenance
Sharpening is a process that can be repeated an endless number of times, but to increase the longevity of the blades, make sure that you clean the cutter after every use. Proper maintenance will reduce the need to sharpen it. In order to maintain the sharpness, follow this tip. You should clean the blades after every use with soap water. Rubbing the blades with alcohol will also help.
Step 9 – WD40
Also before you set out with the sharpening process, if you find that there are any foreign elements on the blade, then clean them. Sticky substances can be cleaned with WD40.
Step 10 – Storage
The final step is to store your cutters properly. Inappropriate storing methods also result in the wire cutter losing its sharpness. Always oil the blade before storing them in a dry place.
Is there an alternative cutter?
Though wire cutters (pliers with sharp side jaws) are very efficient in cutting through different types of wires, you can use other substitute tools to carry out the process quickly and easily. If they are not already in your tool bag, you can find all tools mentioned here from major DIY stores.
A hacksaw has a thin metal blade roughly 12 inches long, supported on each end by a metal frame. You can buy blades with different TPI (teeth per inch), with the higher TPI being better to cut through the wire; 18, 24 and 36 TPI are common saw blade sizes. Holding the hacksaw's handle, rest its blade at a 90-degree angle across the wire, and move the hacksaw backward and forward until it fully cuts through the wire.
Tin snips have two sharp blades, with handles roughly 8 inches long. Designed originally to cut through thin sheets of metal, the snips can slice through softer wire such as copper. Open the tin snips' handles, and position the wire between its blades. Close the handles to cut through the wire.
An angle grinder is an electric tool that rotates a circular disk-shaped metal-cutting blade at high revolutions. You also can attach circular brushes and clean metal surfaces. Wearing eye goggles, turn on the grinder and hold the rotating blade against the wire. Move the blade slowly against the wire until you cut through. This tool works well when cutting through larger-gauge wires that regular wire cutters are too small to handle.
Also an electric tool, a reciprocating saw has a long thin blade (different lengths available) attached to its end that moves forwards and backwards at high speeds. Craftsmen generally use it to cut through materials (wood, pipes) in spaces where other saws do not fit. However, with a metal-cutting blade that has a high TPI number, you can easily cut through all types of wire. Turn on the reciprocating saw, and slowly lower the moving blade against the wire. Push the blade against the wire until you cut through. Wear eye goggles. Like the angle grinder, this saw also cuts through larger-gauge wires.
Should you sharpen your bolt cutters?
If you use your bolt cutters a lot and cut hard bolts, rebar, or padlocks and chains, you start to get these pits and nicks and dings in the two opposed blades so that when they’re closed, you can begin to see holes where they meet. That’s due to cutting a little bit harder stuff than they are designed to cut.
You can tell you have a good quality bolt cutter set because you’ll have an adjustment screw. When you trim down some of the blades and redefine the edges, you’ll be able to go ahead and take the excess clearance out of the unit. As you tighten this down, it’s going to go ahead and pinch the jaws closer together. What you’ll need is a high-speed metal cutting cut off grinder with a thin blade. The thin blade is best simply because what you don’t want to do is generate heat. Heat is going to be the enemy of this project because it’s going to de-temper the steel. This is HR65 hardened tool steel. What you don’t want to do is take the temper out of it, and turn it into mild steel. The reason these cut other steels and locks and chains is because they’re harder steel. So heat is the enemy. If done properly, you can move forward and not overheat it, and you’ll be accomplishing sharpening without damaging it. So the thin blade is preferred because with the thick blade you get too much pressure, and you generate too much heat with it, and the mass of the blade retains too much heat.
What we want to do to get this thing going is open the jaws up, make sure they’re nice and secure, and go ahead and take about 1/64” off the cutting edge of each jaw. When these jaws were shut, it was touching here, and here so we’re going to polish this flat. So they’re going to lay parallel again, and then we’ll angle this way and angle that way trying to smooth everything out, so we have a bevelled edge. You want to see uniform space along the length of both jaws.
There will be no discolouration of the steel because we’re using a light touch as we hone the jaws. You’re not really laying into it and trying to cut too much material. What you don’t want to do is make too sharp of a point, you want to make it, so it’s able to cut, actually, pinch. You want to bring them together and then just kind of feather the edge. It’s going to give that edge a lot of strength. If you make it too sharp, it’s not going to cut properly, and it’s going to break and get deformed faster.
You don’t want to make it like a knife-edge. You want to make it with kind of a flat spot, but so it narrows evenly just like an axe blade. And that’s really what we’ve got right here. If we knife-edge that, as soon as we cut something it’s going to go ahead and re-ding.
Now you will notice we have this uniform gap, and that’s where the adjustment comes into play. That should begin to close that gap. A really good indicator on whether you’re getting a quality set of bolt cutters is if they have this adjustment bolt. As you turn that adjustment you can see that it still could go a little bit more, but you’re just going to leave it right there because you’re just touching at the front, but not quite in the back. That’s just about a perfect setting. That’s the optimum way to have it set. Right now it’ll cut something as soft as brass, but will also cut something as tough as proof coil chain. We didn’t make that too sharp, so it won’t make any of those nasty dings as it did before.
How to sharpen bolt cutters?
Bolt cutters look a little bit like long-handled garden shears. They have an extraordinary amount of power that can snip through a thick wire, bolts, fencing, chains and other forms of metallic or iron protection. Technically bolt cutters do not cut. Not in the same way as we recognize that shears and scissors cut, anyway. Bolt cutters actually apply a huge amount of pressure to the item and the power forced through the long handles by the owner exerts the correct pressure needed to snap the bolt. Therefore, bolt cutters do not need any special methods or equipment in order to affect a good sharpening on the blades.
Step 1 – Clean First
Inspect the bolt cutters first and make sure there is no loose debris on or around them. Use the firm bristle brush to scrub off loose mud, dirt or grime that may have accumulated. Also, closely inspect the cutting mechanism for anything that may have become trapped. Use soapy water and a sponge to wipe down the bolt cutters and rejuvenate their appearance. Dab them down with the clean cloth. Make sure you properly dry the cutting blades. Newer models are usually made from an alloy but old models may start oxidizing if left wet.
Step 2 – Setting the Blades
Open the blades of the bolt cutters as far as you can and set them in a stable position. Your lap is a good option, as you can grip them with your knees to keep them from moving. Alternatively, you can set them carefully in a vice grip but be cautious not to cause any damage to them. Hold the cutters with the open blades facing away from you.
Step 3 – Bevels
Each blade will have a bevelled edge, much similar to those of scissors. The bevel on bolt cutters is usually somewhere between 20 and 30 degrees, so take the mill file and hold it at the correct angle. What you will need to do is, slide the mill file at an angle along the blade until you reach the end, then bring the mill file back and repeat. You will need to do this about ten times to achieve an excellently sharpened edge on the blade.
Step 4 – Switching
Turn the bolt cutters over and face the other blade away from you. Again, slide at an angle down the length of the blade for about ten turns and then wipe the blades down with a dry cloth.
Step 5 – Oiling
Take a dry clean cloth and apply a little machining oil or grease to the cloth. Then, smooth the oil over the length of the bolt cutter blades and apply a generous coating of oil to each blade. This will assist in the repellent of rust than can very easily accumulate on the blades.
Step 6 – Storing
Store your bolt cutters in a cool, dry area where they are not susceptible to getting wet or damp.