7 Best Diagonal Cutters/Side Cutters Pliers

A good pair of diagonal cutters or side cutters cuts easier and more effectively than any regular pliers with cutting edges. Find out in this article the best diagonal/side cutting pliers for your project.

You can use any type of pliers that have cutting edges to cut wire. But if you need more precision and efficiency, the side cutting pliers or diagonal pliers are the best.

Although the names side cutters and diagonal cutters are used interchangeably, they refer to different types of pliers. However, the difference between the two pliers is so subtle that you might not realize it. And unless you are in the jewelry industry, the small difference does not matter that much. That is why it is easy to call a pair of diagonal wire cutters a side cutter and vice versa. But what is the difference?

Diagonal Cutters vs Side Cutters

Diagonal cutters or Dykes are much the same as side cutters. In fact, the two terms are usually interchangeable. However, there is a slight difference in the design of the two types of cutting pliers.

The cutting head of diagonal pliers is slightly bent inward relative to the handle line while side cutters have a straight cutting end that is parallel to the handles. As a result, the inward angle of diagonal cutters allows you to cut materials flush with the surface better than side cutters.

So, if you need to cut wire flat with the surface, then a pair of dykes is the best. However, diagonal cutters are usually not heavy-duty. This makes them more suitable for cutting soft aluminum and copper wires, cable ties, soft tie wire, and plastic parts. For more heavy-duty cutting, such as cutting hardened wire, Romex MC cable, ASCR, nails, and screws, side cutters would be the better option.

However, most of the time it will be hard to tell the difference between sidees and dikes. In fact, you will find yourself using one type for all the cutting tasks. But when you are into precision cutting, it is not easy to mistake one for the other.

For instance, in jewelry making, the difference between diagonal cutting pliers and side cutting pliers is visible. Diagonal cutters cut straight through the material leaving a flush-cut while side cutters leave a sharp end. This makes dikes more suitable for cutting jewelry because they do not leave sharp ends. Sharp wire ends on jewelry can be injurious. They can poke the skin or catch your clothes, and no one want’s that.

What to consider when choosing the best diagonal or side cutters

Pliersman cutting electrical cable with diagonal  cutters
Plierssman cutting 6 AWG stranded electrical wire with diagonal cutting pliers

There are several factors to consider when shopping for wire cutters. Be it diagonal cutters or side cutters. The following are the most important ones:

Handle design, size, and type

When choosing dykes or angle pliers, consider the design of the handles and the type of grip on them. Ensure that the handles are ergonomically designed to eliminate pinching when you squeeze them together.

Ensure the handles are reasonably long from the pivot to provide a great mechanical advantage. If the handle is too short, you will need to put more effort to cut material. If it is too long, it makes the tool bulky. Also, make sure the handles are not apart when the jaws are open. They should fit in your palm to allow a one-handed operation. Ideally, the handles should open at most 5.5 inches wide but you can choose smaller if you do not have a big palm.

Lastly, pliers have three types of grips: non-slip grip, comfort grip, or insulated grip. If you work around high voltages (not exceeding 1000V), you may want a wire cutter with insulated handles. Otherwise, you can consider comfort-grip handles if you use the cutters regularly or non-slip handles if you seldom cut wires and cables.

Pivot Design

The pivot in hand tools determines how much effort you will need to get work done. In wire cutting pliers, the design of the pivot also determines the quality of cut you get.

If the pivot is loose and wobbly, the cutting blades do not line up well. As a result, you end up with a very inconsistent quality of cuts. A good pair of dyke or angle cutters should have a solid axle with smooth action and no wobble.

Blade quality

No matter how well the pivot is designed if the blades are not sharp and strong, your pair of cutting pliers will not cut as it should. The best cutters are forged from hardened steel or alloys of steel.

Also, the cutting edge on the blades should extend as close to the fulcrum as possible so that you get maximum leverage. Being a first class lever, the closer the load is to the fulcrum the lesser the effort needed. In other words, you get a greater mechanical advantage when the load is close to the pivot and the effort is further.

Tool weight

How heavy or light a pair of pliers is to your hands matters. Pliers that are too heavy will cause fatigue and limit your productivity.

However, the weight of pliers does not matter that much if you don’t use them regulalry. But if they are part of your daily job, then lighter is better.

Light wire cutter pliers are not only safe for your hand but also for your waist if you will put them in your tool belt.

Extra accessories and features

Some wire cutters have additional features at the back of the pivot or on the handle. For instance, some have a crimper or gripper while others come with a tether split ring.

If you fancy a pair of pliers with extra features, then this might be a factor you can consider when choosing diagonal cutting pliers.

Best Diagonal Cutters/Side Cutters

Klein Tools Diagonal Cutters – Best Overall

klein tools 8-inch dykes

Key Features

  • Induction hardened cutters
  • High leverage design
  • Plastic dipped handles
  • 8 inches long

Klein diagonal cutters are the best snips you can find on the market. They are made in the U.S.A. and conform to the great American standards.

The Klein wire-cutting pliers provide a great mechanical advantage partly due to the short distance from the center of the hot-riveted pivot to where the blades start. The other source of mechanical advantage on the Klein dikes is the long handles and short jaws. This creates a good leverage profile that allows you to apply less effort onto the handle to produce a great force on the jaws.

The jaws of Klein dykes are induction-hardened for increased durability. You can test them by cutting a drill bit and you will be impressed by how easily they cut through without taking a beating.

Also, the jaws are beveled a little bit to make flush cutting possible. If you are a framer, you will find the pliers very useful for cutting flush the nails that protrude above the surface. You can also use them to remove nails from the boards when framing.

The Klein 8 inch cutting pliers are among the lightest side cutters. They weigh under 300g and have very comfortable plastic-dipped handles. This makes them the best side cutters for daily professional use by all tradesmen including electricians, journeymen, and framers.

Lastly, Klein Tools offer a variety of diagonal or side cutting pliers. You will find different sizes, different head designs, and different handle designs. Some varieties even have a hook attachment on the handle for attaching a tether split ring to keep them from falling when working overhead.

Knipex Tools Diagonal/Side Cutters – Most Durable

knipex tools diagonal cutting pliers

Key Features

  • Cushioned grip handles
  • oil-hardened cutting edges
  • Fixed forged axle rivet
  • Cutting capacity: 11/64″ medium hard wire, 1/8″ hard wire

The Knipex 8″ diagonal cutters are the second-best after Klein. However, they are the most durable pair of dikes you would ever own. The diagonal cutters are forged from oil-hardened German chrome vanadium steel and are made to the highest German standards.

German steel is different from other types of steel. It is flexible and you can feel the springiness in the handles of German pliers. So, instead of breaking under extreme load the Knipex handles tend to bend.

The cutting knives of the Knipex diagonal cutters are as hard as diamond and can cut a variety of things without dulling. You can use them to cut electrical wires and cables, piano wire, deck screws, drill bits, staples, and nails among other things. The pliers are a perfect companion for ironworkers for cutting rebar tie wire on a construction site.

The jaws of the Knipex dykes are beveled slightly just like the Klein to allow you to cut nails and wires flush with the surface. You can use them as pincers to cut staples that protrude through your deck and other woodworking projects.

The Knipex is more durable and comfortable than the Klein 8″ dykes. However, they are heavier and require more effort to cut. Also, they are a bit pricier than most of the competition. That being said, the Knipex 8″ diagonal cutting pliers are great for professional use even in industrial sites. Just like any other type of Knipex pliers.

Irwin Diagnoal Cutting Pliers

Irwin side snips

Key Features

  • Induction hardened cutters
  • Made from nickel-chromium steel
  • Molded handles for comfort grip
  • Lifetime guarantee

The Irwin side cutting pliers are another great pair of nippers. Though made in China, their quality is great, and they are among the most indestructible cutters.

The Irwin offers the best leverage profile due to the short distance between the pivot and where the cutters begin. Therefore, you use less effort to cut. Furthermore, there is no gap at the bottom edge of the cutters. So you can cut small wires as effectively as large wires.

The mold on the handles provides a comfortable grip. But some people find the handles a little too fat. However, the comfort-grip handles do a good job of eliminating fatigue when the tool is used extensively.

Although the jaws are tough, the rivet holding them together isn’t. It is the weak point in the Irwin dikes that fail. In fact, if you use the pliers to cut hard material regularly, you will notice a little bit of wobble and the jaws might eventually fall apart.

So, if you are looking for diagonal cutters that will last through a lot of abuse, the Irwin cutters will but the pivot will not. Thus, they are good for electrical works and DIY projects that do not involve cutting very hard material.

Southwire Side Cutting pliers – Good Value for Money

southwire dikes

Key Features

  • Induction hardened cutting blades
  • Double dipped moulded grip
  • Forged from 6150 alloy steel
  • High leverage design
  • Hot riveted pivot joint

Southwire is not such a big brand but the Southwire cutters are a force to reckon with. They are among the most inexpensive and indestructible diagonal cutters. The pliers weigh a little over 310g and have a solid design.

The cutters can slice through a variety of things including drill bits without dulling the cutting edges. Furthermore, the hot riveted pivot joint offers a buttery smooth action and a little more leverage. In addition, the distance between the pivot and the opening for the cutters does not exceed 6.5mm, which impacts positively the mechanical advantage of the tool.

The Southwire side cutters are sturdy and provide good value for money. You can choose between straight head and curved head.

Milwaukee Diagonal Cutters – Best of Electricians

milwaukee multifunctional diagonal cutters

Key Features

  • Iron Carbide cutting edge
  • Serrated head for reaming purposes
  • Gripper between the handles
  • Soft comfortable grips

Although Milwaukee leaders in power tools they also make some great hand tools. One of them is the pair of 8 inches Milwaukee diagonal cutters. The wire cutter is light in your hands and very versatile.

Milwaukee dykes are durable and sturdy and you can use them to cut a variety of materials including electrical wires, metal sheets, and cable ties. The outer part of the head is specially designed to ream metal pipes and smooth out their rough edges.

The handles are comfortable and provide a non-slip grip. In addition, they have serrations next to the pivot so that you can use them as grippers for pulling cables. This makes the Milwaukee 8-inch diagonal cutters the most versatile pair of dikes, which is perfect for electricians.

The only downside of the tool is that it does not provide the most leverage. This is partly because of the comparatively bigger gap between the bottom of the cutting edges and the center of the pivot.

Channel Lock Diagonal Cutting Pliers – Best for Cutting Soft Wire

channel lock side cutters

Key Features

  • Laser heat-treated cutting edges
  • Forged from  high carbon C1080 steel
  • Iconic blue handles
  • Dipped handles

Channel Lock pliers score very well against competition but these side cutters trail a number of brands. One of the reasons is that the cutters are not hard enough to cut hard wire or drill bits. The cutting edges are a bit ductile and get dented quite easily.

Also, the rivet used at the pivot is too small and can yield easily under a lot of pressure. The third reason is that you need more hand strength to cut than most of the competition.

Nevertheless, the Channel Lock diagonal cutters are light in your hand. They weigh less than 300g and comfortable in your hands. You can use them to cut soft materials including stranded copper wire and zip ties. They can also cut medium-hard material but not every day.

Thus, the Channel Lock 8 inch dikes are perfect for the home garage or electrical wiring. In my view, they are not built to withstand heavy industrial abuse.

CS Osborne Side Cutters – Best for upholstery

cs osborne side cutting pliers

Key Features

  • Plastic non-slip handles
  • Polished head

CS Osborne is an American brand renowned for making some of the most heavy duty hog ring pliers. The company also makes these great side cutters among other types of pliers.

The CS Osborne 8″ side cutters are sturdy but quite heavy. They weigh slightly more than three-quarter pounds and require more force to cut. Fortunately, the plastic non-slip covers on the handles make the pliers quite comfortable in your hands.

You can use the Osborne dikes to cut both soft wire and medium-hardness wire but they are excellent for cutting hog rings. Together with Osborne hog ring pliers, these Osborne dikes make the perfect pliers set for upholstery.

Best Side/Diagonal Wire Cutters Showdown Video

The ultimate test of 8-inch wire cutters. Includes Knipex, Klein, Milwaukee, Channel Lock, Southwire, Irwin, CS Osborne, Kobalt, and Wiha.

There you have it! Those are the seven best diagonal cutters or side cutters. Although they are outstanding in different applications, they are exceptional for cutting wires.

Frequently Asked Questions

Besides cutting wires, what is another use for diagonal cutters

Diagonal cutters or side cutters are not only good for cutting. You can see them for other tasks such as removing stuck cotter pins when replacing ball joints on a car’s suspension system.

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Julio a.k.a Plierman is the owner and creator of Pliersman, a blog that aims to inform and educate readers about different types of pliers and their uses. He is a handy person and has used several tools over the years including a large collection of pliers; both general-purpose and specialty pliers. Julio holds an electrical engineering degree and has previously worked as an O&M manager for minigrids where his love story with pliers began.