Types of cutting pliers and their uses

How many types of cutting pliers are there? Find out in this article.

When someone mentions cutting pliers, I know what comes to your mind is either side cutters, end cutter pliers, or perhaps snips. But do you know there are more than half a dozen types of cutting pliers? Well, in this article, I will try to list as many cutting pliers as possible including their uses so that you know them. This will also help you choose the most appropriate cutting pliers the next time you go shopping for them.

Types of cutting pliers and their uses

1. Side cutters/diagonal cutters

Side cutters and dykes are the most common cutting pliers. They are useful for cutting electrical wires and cables. They have many other uses including pulling nail staples from wood, cutting cable ties and plastics, cutting screws flush with the surface, removing cotter pins, and opening food cans among other DIY hacks.

2. Flush cut pliers

Flush cut pliers are a type of miniature diagonal cutters for precision work. They have blades for making accurate flat cuts. You can use them to cut plastic, copper, aluminum, very soft metal wire, and small staples.

Flush cut trimmers are the best for electronic work and jewelry crafts. You can use them to cut electronic wires and trim off solder on wires and circuit boards. The pliers are also great for cutting zip tie ends off. So, after bundling wire cables and with zip ties in your cable management efforts, you can use flush cut pliers to cut the zip ties flush.

In jewelry-making, flush cutters are great for cutting soft jewelry wire cleanly without leaving sharp ends. They can be useful in jewelry wire craft projects.

3. End cutting pliers/end nippers/cross cut pliers

Unlike side cutters whose cutting edges are parallel with the handles, end cutting pliers have cutters that are perpendicular to the handles. The primary use of end cutters is to nip off different materials flat with the surface.

There are different sizes of end cutters. The mini cutters and large cutters. Mini end nippers are common in many applications including trimming plastic parts, nipping off tabs of polymer p80 builds, cutting guitar fret, and cutting small copper rivets and memory wire in jewelry making.

The large end nippers are more suitable for heavy-duty applications such as tying and twisting tie wires and cutting off nails and screws. Both mini and large end cutters cut flush with the surface. This makes them useful for finishing work.

The secondary use of end nippers is to pull nails and staples from a trim. Their slightly round nose profile allows you to bite and roll nails and staples out wood or trim with minimal damage to the surface. They do a neater job than any claw hammer.

4. Carpenter’s pincers

Carpenter’s pincers are a variation of end cutting pliers. They are a lot like end nippers with a more round head and a wider diameter between the jaws. Compared to the end cutters, carpenters’ pincers have slightly blunt edges but you can use them to cut nails and thick wires.

However, because of their perfectly round head, carpenters’ pincers make better nail and stapler pullers than cutters. Their jaws are designed to bite effectively on a nub of a nail or even a nail without a head. Furthermore, their well-rounded jaws provide a better rocking action to allow you to pull nails and staples without leaving marks on the wood or molding.

In a nutshell, carpenters’ pincers don’t cut as cleanly as end cutters but they pull nails and staples better with less effort and minimal or no damage to the surface of the trim.

5. Bolt cutters

Bolt cutters are a type of heavy-duty cutting pliers for large bolts, screws, and thick metal rods. They have super-hardened jaws that offer enormous cutting strength and long handles for increased leverage. Some bolt cutters have compound jaws that make cutting hard materials feel like cutting butter.

Although bolt cutters are meant for cutting bolts and metal rods, people also use them to cut padlocks. A good pair of heavy-duty bolt cutter pliers with long handles (at least 24″) can cut through a hardened lock shackle in a snap. It is all you need to break a lock that is in a tight place where you cannot enter an angle grinder or hack saw.

Bolt cutter pliers are also common in construction sites for cutting narrow rebar wire. They cut faster than a hacksaw but need a bit of hand muscle.

Unlike side cutters, bolt cutters have compound jaws that provide sufficient leverage to cut soft or hardened metal rods of different sizes. Good bolt cutters are tough and can cut most hardened metals without denting the cutters or bending the handles out of shape.

If you would like to learn more about bolt cutters, check out this article: best bolt cutters for soft and hardened metal.

6. Cable cutters/cable shears

Cable cutters or cable shears are a type of cutting pliers that use shearing action to cut cable and other materials. Unlike regular cutters whose cutting edges pinch onto a material to make a cut, the jaws of cable shears glide over each other like scissors to make a cut.

Cable cutters provide high leverage cutting and have exceptional cutting capacity. They are perfect for flush cutting small and large diameter copper and aluminum cables. You can also use them to cut bundles of communication cables.

Cable shears have very sharp jaws to give you a flat cut every time. However, the jaws are quite fragile and can easily become dull if you cut hard materials with them. So, do not use your cable cutters to cut steel or any other hard material unless the manufacturer says it is ok.

7. Wire rope cutters

Wire rope cutters are special types of cable cutters for cutting wire ropes. They have short overlapping blades that are sharp enough to cut wire cable without fraying or smashing the cable ends. The best wire rope cutters have hardened blades for cutting both aluminum and steel wire ropes.

Like cable shears, wire rope cutters use a shearing action to cut. This is what enables them to make very nice clean cuts on wire cables of various sizes. They are a must-have in a repair and manufacturing workshop.

If you run a bike repair shop, you would need these wire rope cutters to cut stainless steel bicycle brake cables and derailleur cables on pedal bikes. If you operate a small engine repair shop, these cutting pliers would be great for cutting lawnmower brake cables and snowblower drive cables.

In a nutshell, you can use wire rope cutters to cut any type of wire rope on just about anything including gym equipment, fishing lines, etc. These pliers are a must-have in the toolbox if you deal with wire ropes regularly. Some have built-in wire rope crimpers for crimping small cable end caps and ferrules.

8. Ratcheting cable cutters

Ratcheting cable cutters are a type of cable cutting pliers with a ratcheting mechanism. Instead of cutting the cable in one go, ratcheting cable cutters cut progressively as you squeeze and release the handles.

Ratchet cutters have a flexible curved cutting jaw that pivots on one end. The jaw has grooves on the outside where the gearing action takes place. As you ratchet the handles, the cutting jaw closes in on the stock one click at a time to cut it.

The good thing about ratchet cutters is that you do not need massive hand strength to cut with them. The gearing action provides a great mechanical advantage that enables you to cut large cables without applying a lot of force like you would with regular cable cutters or side cutters.

Therefore, ratchet cutters are the best cable cutting pliers for women and elderly people who mostly do not have a lot of hand strength to cut cables with regular cutters. Ratchet cable cutters will of course take longer to cut but your hands will not pay for it later.

Like regular cable cutters, ratchet cutters are suitable for cutting soft wires and cables. You can use them to cut thick copper cables, aluminum cables, and coax cables.

9. Tin Snips

Tin snips are a type of cutting pliers for sheet material. You can use them to cut soft sheet metal such as aluminum and copper, corrugated iron, studs, ductwork, and other sheet material products.

Tin snips look and work like shears or scissors but their jaws are designed to cut sheet metal. However, you can still use them to cut plastic sheet materials such as the stubborn clamshell packaging.

There are two major types of tin snips. The regular tin snips with one rivet joint holding the blades and the compound joint tin snips or aviation snips. Aviation snips also come in three types, namely the straight-cut snips (yellows), right-cut (greens), and left-cut snips (reds). For each type, you can also get an offset version with jaws angled at either 90 degrees or 45 degrees.

Check out this article to learn more about tin snips.

Wrap up

Well, as you can see, there are more than half a dozen types of cutting pliers. So, don’t restrict yourself to side cutters and end cutters while there is a variety to choose from. You just need to know which pliers work best for your cutting needs and you could make your life much easier.

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