How to Cut Wire Shelving

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Wire shelving is a great way to fill your closet or pantry to its true potential.

There are times when you want to limit your wire shelving’s  size. With just a few simple tools, you will soon be able to customize the size of your wire shelving and make it even more perfect for any spot in your house.

What You Need

Before you can get started on the project, you are going to need a few tools. Thankfully, cutting wire shelving doesn’t require the most complex or complicated tools. In fact, most of these are probably already sitting around the house.

To initiate your project, you will need:

Man measuring his project on a work table
  • Bolt Cutters. Any size bolt cutters will do for cutting the shelving unit but the sharper, the better. In fact, if you are using older bolt cutters make sure they are sharp because otherwise you will be wasting your time with a tool that literally won’t cut it.
  • Metal Mill File. A metal mill file will be required to sand down and sharpen or dull edges of the cut wire shelving so you will want one that hasn’t been worn down or used too much.
  • A Tape Measure. Used in so many DIY projects, this will come in handy to make sure all your dimensions are accurate.
  • A Pen. You will need to mark certain spots on your shelf before moving onto the cutting phase.
  • A Hacksaw. This will be needed to do the actual cutting of the shelving unit so you need to make sure that whatever hacksaw you use, it is sharp and efficient but also safe too.
  • Ample workspace. Nobody likes doing their projects in a tight, small spot so make sure you have plenty of space to move around before your project begins.

How Much Shelf Do You Need?

One of the biggest steps that many people miss when undertaking a project like this is determining how much shelving space you need. While cutting a wire shelving unit isn’t one of the most intense procedures you will do at home, it does take up time and effort.

Before you do any cutting or measuring of the wire unit, you should take the time to figure out just how much shelving you want when the task is completed.

  1. Have an idea in your mind of what you are using the shelving unit for and how it will fit in the space you are about to place it in.
  2. Use your tape measure to get every measurement and do it multiple times to make sure your numbers are correct.
  3. Determine the exact amount of space needed and make sure you write down your findings so, moving forward, you know the exact amount of dimensions needed to be filled by your shelving unit. If this step of the process is missed, you will be cutting down your shelving unit improperly and will slice off too much – or too little.
  4. Clear the area that the shelving unit will rest in; you need it completely empty before you reinstall it after the cutting is complete

Make Sure your Work Space is Ready

While the final product you will have after cutting the wire shelving won’t take up too much space, the act of cutting it might. It is important that before you start your project, you lay out enough area for yourself to measure, cut and adjust your shelving unit.

Too many people get themselves into trouble but not cordoning off a proper amount of room for themselves before the actual cutting begins. They will then find themselves with a cramped area as they attempt to measure, cut and dull the edges of their adjusted wire shelving unit.

A good rule of thumb is to give yourself double the space you think you need. Be honest and think about how much area you will need and then double that size. That way you are sure that your elbows won’t be bumping into walls and your personal space will feel plenty. You need to be comfortable while tackling a project like this.

How to Cut Your Wire Shelving

Now that you are ready to begin you can start to follow the easy steps to creating the wire shelving unit you have always wanted. Make sure your work tools and work space is ready and then begin the process.

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1.    Measure your Dimensions

Using your tape measure, you will determine the dimensions for your unit. Make sure you are incredibly accurate when you measure because this is the way you will cut your shelf and whatever dimensions you go with are the ones your unit will end up with.

If you are planning to place you newly-cut shelf in end brackets, take about 1 inch off end measurements. This will allow enough space for the unit to sit properly and snugly in the end brackets.

2.    Make your Measurements

Take your pen and accurately mark the exact spot you have decided to cut based upon your measurements. Make sure the mark you leave is strong, easy to identify and will not rub off.

Also make sure that your pen marking isn’t too thick, otherwise you may cut at the wrong end of the marking and the final dimensions will be thrown off.

A single, thick, straight line made by your permanent marker should get the job done properly.

3.    Hold the Unit Steady

Now is the part when you begin to do the actual cutting of the wire shelving unit. This is obviously the most important part of the process and needs to be truly precise and as exact as possible.

How do you achieve this? You make sure you have a good handle on the shelving unit. There are two ways to do this.

Cable wires stored in wire shelving

Some people want to use a workbench and soft clamps to keep the shelving unit steady when the cutting begins. This will ensure that the unit doesn’t shift or move drastically as you saw off the edges.

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This requires you to have access to soft clamps and a workbench. If you do, you should lay a towel beneath the shelf too.

If you do not have a work bench or soft clamps or don’t want all of that work, you can simply place the shelving unit upright, clamped between your feet.

Pinch the shelf between your ankles and keep it upright and as steady as possible. This is a faster and easier process to begin the cutting.

Whichever approach you take, make sure you are doing it safely with the proper precautions, such as respirator masks, goggles, or gloves.

4.    Use the Bolt Cutters

Now is when you will employ those helpful bolt cutters. Find the markings you made with your pen and line up the bolt cutters.

Securely hold the cutters by the handles and squeeze them firmly to cut straight through the metal wire. If you find that you are having trouble getting through the wire unit, you may need to switch to bolt cutters with longer handles.

The longer handles will provide you more power and should make slicing through the wiring much, much easier.

5.    Use a Hacksaw Instead

This step is optional depending on the sort of unit you are using. If the bolt cutters literally aren’t cutting it, you may need to use a hacksaw to get the job done. A hacksaw requires more space and a bit more strength too but it is typically a more efficient way to get this task accomplished.

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If you decide you want to use a hacksaw instead of bolt cutters, you will simply lay the unit down and secure it to a workbench. From there, you will line up your hacksaw with the marked dimensions and will saw back and forth until you have loosened the desired areas you want taken off. The process is straightforward but also a bit physically intense.

If you can achieve your goals by using a bolt cutter instead of a hacksaw, that is much advised.

6.    Use the Metal Mill File to Dull

After the bolt cutters, you should now have a wire shelving unit that looks exactly like you want.

However, you may find that you still have some sharp, unruly edges that could scratch up walls or, worse yet, cut your fingers. That is why you will need to use the metal mill file tool to sand down the edges of the unit. This will keep the edges of the unit looking and feeling safe.

When using a metal mill file, just apply pressure and file down the edges like you are sanding down any sharp point.


Now you know what it takes to cut a wire shelving unit and to make it fit your home in the exact way you want. It doesn’t require too much work. Instead, all you need is a few tools, an idea of how you want your end product to look and enough space to undertake the project.

The actual process of cutting the wire unit is quite straightforward and easy and could be accomplished within an hour.

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.