Jimmie wrote in with a problem. Every now and then he needs to cut wire rope, but all the common hand tools he’s tried don’t work all that well. He’s not looking for dedicated wire cutters, because those cost big bucks and aren’t really needed for rare occasional use.
Once every couple years I find myself needing to cut stranded wire rope and it seems to be one of those tasks for which nothing in my garage is really suitable.
Side cutters? Works okay on small diameter stuff. Good luck above 1/8″. Bolt cutters? Nope (unless there’s a trick that I’m not using). Battery cable cutters? These work great on stranded copper cable. Terrible on steel cable. Hacksaw? Works but leaves the ends really messy. Chewing through it? Can’t be any less effective than some of these other methods. I inevitably wind up using my Dremel when I need to make a clean cut.
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Perhaps you or your readers might have some suggestions for manual cutters that’ll cut steel rope up to, say, 3/16″ that won’t break the bank? Since I only need to do this maybe once a year so it’s hard to justify spending a lot.
Honestly, I think that dedicated wire cutters might be best. Buy once, and be done with it. Small gauge wire cutters, such as the Greenlee 722 ($30 via Amazon), will often work better than small bolt cutters. Inexpensive heavy duty bolt cutters, like Tekton’s ($10 via Amazon) work kind of well at times, but stranded cable tends to slide along straight cutter blades.
Side cutters and diagonal cutters might work for smaller diameter wire rope, but unless the jaws are rated for use on hardened wire or wire rope specifically, this would be a sure way to damage the cutter blades. Cutters designed for cutting copper or even aluminum wires aren’t suitable for cutting even smaller diameter hardened wire.
However, small-gauge wire rope cutters are often limited to diameters 1/8″ or smaller. Others, like this Knipex multi-functional model ($52 via Amazon) can cut wire rope up to around 1/4″ in diameter.
But when working with harder stranded wire rope or larger diameter rope, such as 3/16″ rope, smaller hand tools might not cut it (both literally and figuratively).
For a 3/16″ hard wire rope cutter, prepare to spend big bucks for a longer and heavier duty tool. But, as Jimmie wrote, it’s possible to use other tools, such a Dremel with cut-off wheel, but these aren’t ideal solutions.
I cut wire rope every now and then too, but I haven’t yet needed to go out and buy specialized cutters. But then again, I don’t use large diameter wire ropes. For the size of wire rope I work with, small handheld bolt cutters are good enough. If in Jimmie’s position, I would probably go with the Knipex cutters, which could also be used for some crimping applications.
For those of you that work with wire rope on a regular basis, do you use specialized cutters that won’t break the bank? And if you use other types of general-purpose tools, such as bolt cutters, how well do they work for you?