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.
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?
I did our railing in aircraft cable and ended up getting these cutters from HF. Cheapest option I could find and they worked great for steel cable.
What model Knipex is shown in the picture?
I haven’t found a cheap reliable hand tool up for the task. I always use my M12 rotary tool with a cutting wheel. It cuts fast and leaves a nice clean cut.
What type rotary can you be more specific👍
I doing my deck in cable stainless steel 3/16
Felco C7! Typical cost is around $50. However, 1/4″ can be a little tough with the C7, so if I had a lot of cutting to do I would want a Felco C9. For 3/16″ the C7 should be perfect.
Felco C7 – Industry standard in my world.
The problem with cutting stranded wore rope is that many cutter tend to deform the bundle before the cut. I use Felco C7 hand cutters for bicycle cable but I’ve used Park Tool CN-2 cutters in the past. Midwest Tool makes a cutter (P-6300)that sell for $38 on Amazon and if you Google “Bike Cable Cutter ” you will find some starting at about $15 – but I would not expect professional quality.
I also have 4 cable cutters made by HIT (HWC6, HWC9, HWC12 and W16) all work well – but may be too pricey for occasional use..
BTW Felco makes great barbed wire cutters (CDO) and left-hand Garden Shears:
Seems like a good job for the m12 bandsaw.
Here are some bicycle cable cutter options:
Unless you have to thread the cable(rope) into position to find the required length before you cut (and in many cases you can follow this method, you just have to disassemble it once), measure the length you need, and use the common metal (abrasive) “chop saw” that many of my friends use everyday to cut common steel shapes…angle, flat, rod, channel, etc. A very useful tool if you do metal work. Don’t know HF version prices, but other name brand tools of this type start around $90 to $110. Come on…you know you want one!
Felco’s C7 or C9. Buy good once.
I use the Park Tool cutters for softer standed wire like brake cable, and the Midwest cutters for small diameter hard steel wire rope.
For anything those won’t cut in one shot, Knipex’s mini bolt cutters will do the trick, or a pair of 14″ bolt cutters if need be.
As mentioned above, depending on what’s being cut, using a bolt cutter instead of a wire cutter can give a deformed, flattened cut. Using cable or wire cutters will give a clean cut and keep the end of the cable circular. They do make bolt-cutter size wire rope cutters, but they are insanely, insanely expensive and hard to get.
I wrap some masking tape around it and hit it with the dewalt grinder. Takes seconds.
Works like a charm
The best way unless you have the expensive proper wire rope cutters. You can also hammer it into an axe with a soft metal hammer but it will crush it obviously.
This, just cut nice and slow. I cut 1/4″ wire rope all the time.
Thanks for all the responses. Sounds like Felco and Knipex cutters have earned a lot of respect. The HIT stuff looks formidable, too, but like you said it’s a little spendy for how frequently I’ll use it.
Seeing how Zoro carries both the Felco C7 and Knipex 9561-190 (which I believe is the model shown in the pic), I guess all I have to do now is wait for their next promotion!
A good pair of Linemans does it for me.
Hammer, cold chisel, anvil (or hefty steel block). Nothing works better or quicker.
I Find my 4″ angle grinder does the job on up to 3/4″ wire rope.
It’s probably too late to help now (just saw this via another article) but fence pliers have shear cutters just like the dedicated cutters shown. Even higher quality ones are less than $20.
What a coincidence! Another Bruce with exactly the same knowledge as me. Learnt this almost 50 years ago . Yes, I’m an old geezer. You don’t need any fancy cutters, just a lump of steel , a cold chisel and a hammer. Lay the cable on the steel,put the point of the chisel on the cable and give it a sharp knock with the hammer. It will cut through clean without any loose strands? It takes seconds and probably without any cost.
I’m an elevator mechanic, and I’ve found the easiest and most cost effective way to cut wire rope is to wrap the 2″ above and below the cut in electrical tape and slice the middle with a grinder and cutting wheel. The tape causes both ends not to unravel on you once the cut is made
I wonder why you couldn’t hit about 1″ of the cable just below the cut with CA glue to keep it from unraveling?
Cut with chop saw werks great!!!
I used a my Sawzall with a “Torch” metal blade and it did the job. Not the prettiest cut, but it was all I had. Problem with this method is one person has to hold the wire rope tight against something like a piece of scrap 2×4 to keep it from moving while the other does the cutting. Not the safest method so I’m ordering the Knipex 9562190 for future use.
Chop saw also werks, just clamp it down n go easy with blade n cut werked great
I’ve had success using a cold chisel and a ball peen hammer. With the striking end of the chisel laid on a hard surface, I lay the wire rope over the cutting end of the chisel and give it a few gentle strikes with the ball peen.
Angle grinder with a thin, metal cutting disc. Goes through wire rope/ cable, even vinyl clad, like a hot chain saw through Velveeta. Just cut some 3/16 smooth off.
Yep! Gorilla tape and angle grinder. Takes only 2 minutes
With no neat tools , just two plain old wire cutters, I bound the cut with electrical tape, and went at it with the wire cutters back-to-back. Far from ideal, but it worked fairly well.
You can use a Knipex but also Felco from Switzerland is a great plier. https://www.staalkabelstunter.com/en/wire-ropecutter-c7.html
Cutting torch, to keep it from unraveling.and if done smartly will melt the 16 strands together in a ball at the burnt end