How to Cut Wire

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Without wires, most of the important items and products in your home wouldn’t work. Whether they are providing power or not, wires are vital pieces of your home and your treasured equipment.

But what happens when you need to cut wires? There are times when they are in the way and need to be snipped but how do you do it easily and safely?

Options for How to Cut Wire

As you can imagine, there are multiple different ways that you can cut wire. In fact, if you are strong enough, you could just do it with your hands and sheer might. But if you are using tools (and we recommend that you do), you have various avenues that you can go down to get the job done.

The actual procedure for cutting the wire will be the same no matter which choice you make but let’s first lay the options out plainly so you can choose which is right for you.

Plier
  • Lineman’s pliers. This is the best option for cutting any electrical wires. They are also known as side cutting pliers.
  • Diagonal cutting pliers. This is a basic, straightforward option for cutting all sorts of wires. They are strong, durable pliers that you probably have laying around the house right now.
  • End-cutting pliers. These are very precise pliers that will get the job done, no matter how thin or minor the wires are. This is a terrific plier to use if you are looking to trim, since they are very accurate.
  • Long-nose pliers. Long-nose pliers are another tool you probably have laying around, it seems that every house has some. They are slim and have pointed ends. The ends of the pliers are sometimes straight or bent. This is the best choice if you are making cuts or adjustments on super small wires, or pieces of jewelry.

Learn how to cut wire shelving for your next project!

What you Will Need

Like all do-it-yourself home projects, you are going to need to come with a few select tools before you can start this operation. You would think that the simple act of cutting something, even if it’s a wire, wouldn’t need a lot of preparation.

You’re right, it doesn’t take as much as some other home construction procedures. But you will need a few things before you can get started cutting wire. Here is what you will need to have close by when you are getting ready to make the first cut.

  1. Your Tools. We have listed which sort of pliers you can choose from and now you need to decide which approach you will take to make your cuts. Whichever you decide upon, you will most definitely need them before you take the next steps.
  2. A Clear Workspace. You will need some space to cut the wires. You will not need a huge swath of your home but enough space to place you tools and move your arms ably so you can grab hold of the wires and cut them without fear or knocking something over or feeling cramped.
  3. Safety Goggles and Gloves. These are needed for every DIY project, no matter how small. You can never be too safe and can never be too precautious with your wellbeing. Goggles are especially important when you are attempting any project that could have flyaway pieces that might fling toward your eyes.

Things to Avoid

When it comes to cutting wires, there are a few things you will definitely want to ensure you are not doing, for your own safety and the wellbeing of the items attached to the wires.

  • Make Sure the Power is Off. Wires are almost always attached to electrical items with power flowing through them. It is incredibly important that you make sure the wires are completely unplugged before you make any cuts. If you don’t, you could give yourself a serious injury. Check and then double check to make sure the wire is without power before you attempt any cut.
  • Do Not use Scissors. Always use wire cutters or pliers when you are slicing through wires. Anything else is just not acceptable. Why should you avoid scissors? Because no matter how strong you think your grip is, you could slip when using scissors, they are notorious for not having a high quality support based on their handles. It is best to just completely avoid scissors so you can be assured that you won’t have an accident.

How to Cut Wires

No matter which type of pliers you have decided to go with, the procedure for cutting wires is usually about the same. So the following steps will be universal for any type of plier you are going with.

One of the most crucial steps you should take before making any cuts is to guarantee you are making a cut on the right wire that you are intending to slice. Wires can look a lot alike, it is common to accidentally grab the wrong one. You need to be completely certain that you have your hands on the wire you need to cut before you do anything.

If you haven’t grabbed the right one, the entire project will be for nothing and will be a complete waste of time.

Plier cutting wire
  1. Make Sure Your Tools Are Sharp. The first step is possibly the most important because without it, you won’t be able to cut anything – let alone wires. You need to be certain that your tools are sharp and ready to be used and make a solid, deep cut. This might mean you need to sharpen your tools with a sharpening device or it might mean that you need to buy a brand new pair of pliers instead. Whatever you need to do, make sure your pliers are ready to cut and are not dull or weak.
  2. Unravel New Wire. You are not always cutting wire that is already attached to a device. Sometimes you need to cut new wire that is still spooled together. If that is the case, you need to unravel the wire to the desired length that you are going to cut. Make sure you are very accurate with this step and that you have the exact amount of wire you will need. Then lay the wire out flat, exposed and ready to be sliced.
  3. Apply Your Safety Items and Grip Handles. Make sure you have your safety gloves or goggles on and grab hold of your pliers. You need a strong, solid grip on the handles and need to use your dominant hand as well. Make sure your thumb sits on top of one end of the handle and your other fingers fit snugly around the other hand. Without a proper, solid grip, your cut will not work. Worse still, without a good handle on the pliers, you could slip and have an accident or damage the wire.
  4. Align your Cut. When slicing the wire, you need to open the handle of your pliers all of the way, and then insert the wire to the center of your plier’s mouth. Make sure that the pliers are perfectly aligned to securely snap the wire when you press down.
  5. Squeeze Down. For the best cut, make sure you press down on the wire at a perfectly right angle. If you do not press down at a right angle, you could damage the wire and prevent it from working properly.
  6. Go Slow and Steady. When pressing down, apply pressure slowly and gradually. Squeeze both sides of the handles together and don’t use too much force. Avoid moving your tool at all once the cutting process has begun. If it doesn’t cut completely on the first try, simply open the handle of the pliers and make another cut in the same spot using the same amount of force and speed.

After all of those steps are followed, your wire should be cut cleanly and completely. The most important things to remember are that you want a solid, firm grip when you are making each cut and that you want to try to cut the wire at a right angle.

If you are cutting and the wire isn’t budging, do not simply use more force. Take a second to breathe, realign your pliers at the right angle, and then press promptly again. Thicker wire, such as cutting chain link, can take several passes. Attempting to use more force could result in an accident or damage to the wire and that would be the worst result possible. 

Conclusion

Cutting wires is something that many homeowners will have to do, especially when installing new audio equipment or when doing away with old items that are no longer needed. People who are creating fencing or a new at-home entertainment system may also need to cut wire. The fact of the matter is that many people will need to cut wire at some point but many more are unsure of what to do.

As the steps have shown, the entire process is quite simple as long as you have the proper tools, space, time, and knowledge. While it isn’t as easy as simply making a slice, it isn’t that complicated at all. Following these steps laid out will ensure that your wire is cut easily and properly in no time at all. Cutting wires doesn’t have to be hard!

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.