The 5 Best Wire Strippers for Electronics

The 5 Best Wire Strippers for Electronics

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TLDR; In my opinion, the best wire stripper is the Hakko CHP CSP-30-1 Wire Stripper. If you don’t need to work with really small wires such as ribbon cable or wire wrap, you can also get the ZOTO Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper (or get both!).

You’ll want the best wire stripper you can afford to build your projects, from the breadboard to a working prototype. A bad wire stripping tool will have you swearing multiple times when it cuts off or mangle your wire, usually at the worst time when you don’t have a lot of wire length to spare.

In this article, we’ll review the following wire strippers:

What to look for in a good wire stripper?

Kinds of wire strippers

Most people will already have come across a “regular” wire splitter, with a series of holes along the jaws. You select the hole according to the size of the wire you have to strip, put it in the stripper, close it and pull. If you selected the right size and have a good tool, the plastic insulation will be cut cleanly, leaving only an exposed wire length.

A more sophistical tool is the self-adjusting wire splitter, which means that you don’t have to choose the size of the wire. You just put the wire in the jaws, select the desired exposed length and squeeze. This eliminates trial and error when you’re not sure what kind of wire you have on hand for that component you just pulled from the spare parts box. On the other hand, they usually don’t work for really small wire sizes.

Common Wire Size in Electronics

Regardless of the kind of wire stripper you purchase, all of them are meant to work on a specific range of wire sizes. Fortunately, there are wire strippers available for the full range of wire sizes, from large wire for electrical work to tiny wires for wire wrap. Wire size is most often measured in AWG, for American Wire Gauge and can range from 0000 (4/0) to 40 according to the standard. The bigger the number, the small the wire.

Also, wires at those sizes can be solid or contain many strands: you need to check if the wire stripper you wish to purchase will work fine for both. In general, solid wire is easier to skin, to solder and to insert in a breadboard. On the other hand, stranded wire is more flexible, so it’s easier to solder different parts of a project together.

Here are the most common sizes you’ll encounter for small robots and electronics. If you’re not sure about the size, you can start stripping at the bigger size and go down until it works.

Gauge (AWG)Size (inch/mm)Common Usages
30 AWG 0.0100/0.255 Wire wrap board
26 AWG 0.0159/0.405 Standard ribbon cable
24 AWG 0.0201/0.511 CAT5 Networking cable,
Standard ribbon cable
22 AWG0.0253/0.644 Breadboard jumper wire,
Hook-up wire
18 AWG 0.0403/1.024 General small electronics project

Wire Strippers Reviews

IRWIN VISE-GRIP Wire Strippers

A good pair of standard wire stripper, but it’s a bit limited for precision projects since it’s built more for electrical work.

Pros

  • Sturdy, quality build.
  • Strong rubber grip that educes hand fatigue.
  • Lifetime guarantee.

Cons

  • Works for stripping wires from 10 to 24 AWG, so it’s a bit too big for some projects.

Klein-Kurve Wire Stripper

A very good manual stripper for the most common sizes of wire you’ll encounter in electronics: it will work for 20 to 30 AWG solid wire and 22 to 32 AWG stranded wire.

Pros

  • Works with most of the useful wire sizes for electronics.
  • Strong grip.
  • Easy to see the gauge on the jaws of the stripper.
  • Made in the USA.

Cons

  • If you have 16 AWG or 18 AWG wire in your project, you’ll need another tool.

Hakko CHP CSP-30-1 Wire Stripper

Not the top of the line, but a reasonable manual stripper to have in your toolbox or to keep around for emergencies for sizes 20 to 30 AWG (stranded and solid wire).

Pros´╗┐

  • Does a decent job for the price.

Cons

  • Cheap built.
  • Wire sizes are only etched on the jaws of the plier so they are harder to see and they’re not always very accurate.
  • If you have 16 AWG or 18 AWG wire in your project you’ll need another tool.

IRWIN VISE-GRIP Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper

A decent self-adjusting wire stripper. Like the IRWIN standard wire stripper it’s made more with electrical jobs than electronics in mind.

Pros

  • Like the standard stripper, the quality of the tool is very good.
  • Strong rubber grip that educes hand fatigue.
  • Lifetime guarantee.

Cons

  • Still need some tuning with the swivel knob for small-sized wire (less than 20 AWG) before getting started stripping.

ZOTO Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper

A good self-adjusting wire stripper for wire sizes 10 to 24 AWG (can go smaller with a manual adjustment).

Pros´╗┐

  • Works with the most common wire sizes in electronics.
  • Strong no slip handle to reduce hand fatigue.
  • Can self-adjust for wire sizes 24 AWG wires before needing to adjust with the swivel knob.

Cons

  • Still need some tuning with the swivel knob for very small wire size such as ribbon cable (26 AWG to 30 AWG).

Conclusion

In my opinion, the best wire stripper is for electronics is the Hakko CHP CSP-30-1 Wire Stripper given its wide range of useful wire gauge supported. If you don’t need to work with really small wire and appreciate the convenience of a self-adjusting wire stripper, the ZOTO Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper is also a good choice.

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