I’ve owned ToughBuilt’s compact bolt cutters for quite a few years now (since 2011). They’re uniquely designed with handles that lock into place for use and fold out of the way for storage and transport.
With bolt cutters, longer handles mean greater leverage, but that also means greater bulkiness and size. These bolt cutters have collapsible handles, which make them far more portable than ordinary cutters.
I recently needed to cut some wire shelving, and didn’t want to use power tools. Out came my 18″ compact bolt cutters. I posted about these awesome cutters before now, right? A quick check of the ToolGuyd archives, and all that came up was an old draft. Whoops! It seems that they weren’t easily available for a while, and so I abandoned the draft for a while before forgetting about it.
A quick revealed that ToughBuilt still makes these, and they’re easy to find. But I also discovered that they’re now available under Olympia Tools branding – and for less money too! Olympia isn’t quite a household name, but they’re better known than ToughBuilt. Olympia markets a couple of tools I’d never touch, but also some really innovative ones, such as these compact cutters.
Olympia Tools’ Power Grip bolt cutters are available in the same sizes as ToughBuilt’s – 14″, 18″, 24″, 36″, and 42″.
I have the ToughBuilt/Olympia compact folding bolt cutters in 18″ and 24″ sizes. I passed on the 14″ size as it seemed a little too short to be effective. The 18″ size offers great bang for the buck, and offers a good compromise between size and leverage. The 24″ is beastlier, but when it’s folded down it’s still much more manageable than full-sized 24″ bolt cutters.
The 36″ and 42″ sizes weren’t available when I first learned about these compact cutters, but that doesn’t mean much, as I don’t have any use for cutters this long.
The 18″ is my go-to, and the 24″ is… well, I don’t know where it is right now. Maybe it’s playing hide and seek with my non-folding 24″ WorkForce cutters. As an aside, when I purchased the WorkForce cutter from Home Depot, I really wanted HK Porter bolt cutters, but I couldn’t justify spending $50 to $60 vs. $15 to $20.
At the time, these cutters were only easily ordered from Menards, and even then it was a special order. So what did I do? I doubled up on the sizes to make the most of shipping.
I gave a pair of the cutters to a cousin who works in heavy rescue equipment sales. He’s still a firefighter/rescuer, and is also certified for training. The last time I asked about the compact bolt cutters, he mentioned absolutely LOVING them. I thought that I was a fan of the fold-down handles, but it seems he’s even more enthusiastic.
I don’t know if I would trust these in life-or-death situations, but they hold their own against other bolt cutters for things like cutting bolts, chains, wire rope, rods, and other types of things you would use bolt cutters on.
The grips are comfortable, the jaws are strong, there’s even a jaw gap adjustment knob. In my experience, the handles are extremely rigid when locked into position for use. One of my concerns was that the pivot would be a weak point, but that turned out to be a silly concern.
Although I am hesitant to mention that the bolt cutters can be opened and deployed for use in a butterfly-knife-like flip-out motion, Olympia’s promo video shows this multiple times. If they’re okay showing it, I suppose it’s okay to do. Just be sure to wear safety goggles and don’t swing the bolt cutters open if anyone is in reach.
Pricing (as of the time of this posting): $21 for the 14-inch, $35 for the 18-inch, $50 for the 24-inch, $100+ for the larger sizes.
If you ask me, the 18-inch Power Grip cutter is going to be a good starting point, unless you know you’ll need a shorter or longer model.