A wire stripper is a dedicated tool for stripping the insulation layer off the ends of wires, but how do you use it properly to get a nice and clean cut?
If you’re using a wire stripper for the first time, you may have accidentally cut the wire instead, or you might have to pull the rest of the insulation off with your hands because it’s still not separated.
Don’t worry. This article will show you how to use a wire stripper the first time so you can focus on the rest of the wiring task.
Quick Summary: When stripping a wire using a manual wire stripper, insert the wire’s end (up to the required length) into the right-sized hole and gently pull. If using an automatic wire stripper, insert the wire’s end into the clamp part and press the handles instead.
Unlike a multipurpose tool, pliers, or a utility knife, which people sometimes use instead, a wire stripper is a proper and dedicated tool for stripping wires.
Wire strippers fall into three categories: manual, automatic, and full. We will only consider the first two, as full wire strippers are for stripping the entire insulation off. Here’s a sample of some wire strippers:
Wire strippers usually also have a few additional related functions, such as a wire cutter and a hole to help form hooks at the ends of conductors.
However, a wire stripper differs from a (dedicated) wire cutter and a wire crimper. A wire stripper may or may not include a wire cutter, but its primary function is to strip wires, and it can strip a range of them with different gauges. A wire crimper is a more specialist tool for using the wire with a specific type of connector or terminal.
The focus here is on using a manual and automatic wire stripper to strip a certain portion of the insulation off of the end of an insulated wire.
Using a Wire Stripper
Whether using a manual or automatic wire stripper, you may first need to cut the wire to the required length.
The next step is to place the wire’s end into the right spot on the wire stripper. Note the difference in the picture below. In a manual wire stripper, it goes into the hole with the required gauge, whereas in an automatic wire stripper, it goes into the clamp part.
The rest of the method of using a wire stripper differs between the two types (manual and automatic), so I’ll cover them separately.
Using a Manual Wire Stripper
When using a manual wire stripper:
Insert the wire into the matching gauge hole (or the single one if there’s only one), and close the stripper, which will cut part of the insulation layer. Then, gently pull away from the useful wire end, which you should hold with your other hand.
Here is the method in detail using a simple (single-hole) manual wire stripper:
Step 1: Insert the Wire’s End
Insert the end of the wire into the hole up to where you want to strip off the insulation layer, i.e., the required length. If the manual wire stripper has multiple holes, find the one that matches the wire’s gauge.
Step 2: Gently Pull
Gently pull the wire stripper when it is inserted through the hole (while holding the other useful end with your other hand), and it will strip up to that point. Don’t press too much that it cuts the wire; only sufficiently to strip off the insulation layer.
To see the wire stripping process in action with a manual wire stripper, here’s a YouTube video showing an electrician stripping the hot and neutral wires before connecting them to an outlet (from 1:20 to 1:50) [Terry Peterman]:
Using an Automatic Wire Stripper
When using a manual wire stripper:
You only need to place the wire into the clamp part of the wire stripper and press it. It will automatically cut to the required depth and strip the insulation layer in that one motion.
Here is the detailed method for using an automatic wire stripper to strip wire.
Step 2: Insert the Wire’s End
Insert the end of the wire into the clamp part of the wire stripper (usually near the top) designed to strip the wire.
Step 3: Press
Press or squeeze the wire stripper’s two handles. This action will pull the clamp or gripper apart, where one end will hold the insulated wire, and the other will pull off the insulation, thus separating the insulated layer.
The End Result
The result of stripping the wire should be a nice and clean cut of the insulation layer, revealing the inside conductor.
See the process of stripping a wire using an automatic wire stripper in action [Klein Tools]:
Automatic wire strippers:
Creative Homeowner. Ultimate guide to wiring: complete home projects. 6th edition. Creative Homeowner. 2007
Manual wire strippers:
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