A little over a year ago, I reviewed my much-loved Xuron flush cutters over at Make Magazine. Xuron’s USA-made pliers and cutters are quite affordable (Amazon price check), and although I don’t mention the brand here often enough, I use a couple of their products quite often.
One of the things I use my micro-shear flush cutter for is to trim the leads of electrical components. These small leads are flexible, but also stiff and hard. As a commenter brought up recently in a comment to my Make Xuron review, component leads tend to fly off once cut.
There are different ways to prevent this fly-off behavior. Usually I just shield the area so the cut-off part cannot fly far. I once tried clamping something to the lead, but that led to extra steps that I just didn’t want to bother with. So most of the time I either let the leads jump or fly, sometimes I shield them.
After a bit of searching to see if there was a special cutting blade profile designed especially for cutting component leads, I found a notice on Swanstrom’s website that says most of their diagonal cutters can be equipped with an optional lead catcher. I was thinking that perhaps there were cutters with super-sharp ultra-flush bevel blades that might be suited for cutting leads, but a lead catcher seemed like a smarter solution.
After hunting down images of what a lead catcher looks like, I came across the Knipex Super Knips cutters that are designed for electronics work. Several of the models feature built-in lead catchers.
It now makes perfect sense how a lead catcher works. Essentially, there is a spring-steel clamp that traps lead cut-offs between the lead catcher and the inside of cutter blades. Ease pressure on the handles and the lead can then be removed from the cutter’s jaws.
With a lead catcher, there is no need to shield the lead from jumping or flying away, no need to hunt down leads after they fall into an enclosure, and no need to worry about potentially poking a bystander in the eye.
What’s funny is how commenter on Make was thinking about how to solve the problem of flying leads with a compound jaw mechanism that allows for increased control and slower cutting, and I was thinking about how to ease jaw pressure by using super-sharp and easier-cutting jaw blades.
We were both unaware that an ordinary electronics diagonal cutter with simple clamp accessory is a much simpler and already available solution.
In my searching, I also saw a variation of this design where the lead catcher was a wire that is looped around a small screw threaded into the pivot. I suppose that is why some of my higher priced mini cutters have threaded pivots.
I suppose I could make a lead catcher modification to work with the cutters I already use, but for the time being, Knipex’s Super Knips are going on my wishlist. I’m just too curious to see how well they work.