Toolipedia: Wire Strippers

Updated: Dec. 03, 2023

Toolipedia: Everything you wanted to know about wire strippers

Wire stripper with labeled parts | Construction Pro Tips

What are wire strippers?

Wire strippers resemble a pair of pliers or scissors. Most wire strippers are capable of performing several different tasks, but their primary purpose is to strip the insulation off of the end of wires. This is accomplished with slotted cutting blades located in the jaws of the stripper. The cutting slots are sized to fit various gauge wires but not the wire’s insulation coating, so when a wire is pulled through the slot its insulation is left behind. Wire strippers are made in many shapes and sizes and are equipped with various additional tool functions. Here are the basic parts:

  1. Tip/nose for holding, twisting or creating a hooks or loops in wire
  2. Various size stripping blade slots
  3. Wire cutter
  4. Small bolt shear (usually 6/32 and 8/32)
  5. Crimpers for crimp connectors
  6. Loop hole to create hook or loop in a wire for screw terminals
  7. Ergonomically shaped handle

How are wire strippers used?

Open the jaws of the strippers and insert the end of the wire into the matching slot. Each slot has two sets of labels indicating the various sizes; that’s because the outside dimension of solid wire is not the same as stranded wire. Clamp the jaws down onto the wire and pull. The insulation should be removed as the wire passes through the slot. If the strippers are dull, they may need to be spun around or back and forth until the insulation is completely severed.

What are the different types of wire strippers?

Some wire strippers can be adjusted to strip one size of wire over and over, which can save time. There are also self-adjusting strippers that will strip almost any sized wire without having to pick a particular slot or make other adjustments.

Coaxial cables require their own unique stripper style. There are power strippers available for extra-large commercial grade wire. For the most part, the variations in wire strippers depends on the size of wire they can handle, and which additional tool functions are attached.

Electricians usually own various wire stripping, cutting and crimping tools, but wire strippers like the one shown above are the most commonly used among pros for stripping wire.

What makes a good pair of wire strippers?

  • Well insulated/comfortable grip
  • Well defined wire gauge markings
  • Some prefer a return spring for the handles
  • Locking handles (for spring models), so they don’t get dull in the tool box/bag
  • Bright colors help prevent losing them

Klein makes a good pair of wire strippers. 

Wire stripper tip

Different color for different gauge sizes on a wire stripper | Construction Pro Tips

Squint-Free Wire Stripper

Ninety percent of the time, you use your wire stripper to strip the same gauge wire. Now, the days of searching your wire stripper for the right size hole are over. Use a Testor’s Enamel Paint Marker (about $3 at a home center) to mark a line across the hole. After a couple of minutes of drying time, you’ll be able to stick the wire in the marked hole with zero eyestrain and work a heck of a lot faster on your latest wiring project. If you’re stripping more than one wire gauge size, mark the holes in different colors.