Master How to Use Wire Strippers in 7 Steps or Less
Whether you need to replace, install or repair electrical wiring, a wire stripper will be your new best friend. With so many different sizes and features on the market, ensuring you come prepared with the right tool for the job is half the battle. If it helps, most houses use 12 to 14 gauge wires, so if you’re working within this medium, this can give you a rough idea of what to expect. So let's get to it and learn how to use wire strippers in 7 intuitive steps!
Things You’ll Need
- Electrical wire cutters
- Electrician gloves & boots
- Rubber insulated boots
- Safety goggles
How Do You Strip Wires: Step By Step
Want to know how to use wire strippers? We’ve narrowed down the process into 7 easy-to-follow steps made so simple even those who’ve never touched a wire will find themselves a pro by the end of this guide.
Note: If you’re stripping wires not connected to a power source, you can ignore steps 1-3.
- Step 1. Put on your electrical PPE – If you’re working with wires that have even the slightest chance of being energized, it’s important to don electrician grade gloves and boots. Always wear safety glasses or goggles when using wire strippers to protect your eyes in case of flying debris.
- Step 2. Turn off the circuit breaker – Turn off all power leading to the wires you intend to strip.
- Step 3. Test wires for voltage – Never assume that wires are safe to touch, even after turning off the power. Use a multimeter to test all the wires for voltage, including the ones that you’re not working on.
Choosing the Right Tools
- Step 4. Determine the wire gauge – If you don’t know the size there’s three ways to find out:
- Look at the outer sheath. The wire gauge should be printed on the outside of the insulation. It’s a number usually followed by the abbreviation “AWG” for American Wire Gauge.
- If you can’t determine the wire size from the insulation, you can use a wire gauge tool. All you have to do is size the wire to the appropriate hole.
- If you don’t have a wire gauge tool, you can place the wire in the largest hole and descend in size until the wire fits comfortably.
Note: It’s critical not to size down too far, as this could nick or sever the conductor. If this happens, replace the wire completely, as a nick can disrupt the connection and cause a dangerous short.
Stripping the Wire
- Step 5. Place the wire at an angle within the hole – Make sure you insert the wire on the side that’s labeled, as there is a slight upward slant that isn’t present on the backside. The angle is designed to cut the insulation without snipping the wire.
- Step 6. Twist the wire cutter 360° around the wire – The easiest way to strip wire is to turn the tool fully around the insulation. The outer sheath should pull away with little resistance. If you feel like you’re having to apply a lot of force, your wire strippers might not be sharp enough. You can try repeating the twisting motion, but if you’re still having trouble removing the insulation, you might have to go down a gauge size.
- Step 7. Strip the wire – If you’re working with a wire in circuit, use rubber insulated pliers to avoid touching the wires with your hands. Otherwise, you can proceed with removing the outer sheath. And that’s how to use wire strippers in 7 steps or less!
How to Use an Automatic Wire Stripping Tool
The nice thing about automatic wire strippers is they’re self adjusting, so you don’t need to know the wire gauge before using the tool. There is a caveat to this, of course. These types of wire strippers usually have range sizes they can safely handle. However, you can usually tell by eyeballing the wire if it will fit between the jaws. Another benefit is they’re typically easier to use with cleaner results for safer installation–not to mention they require a whole lot less effort.
Note: If you’re using an automatic stripping tool to cut the insulation on a wire connected to a power source, please observe steps 1-3 from the above section before continuing.
- Step 4. Place the wire between the jaws – Place the length of wire you want stripped between the grooved aperture.
- Step 5. Squeeze the handles – Watch in fascination as the automatic wire strippers pull apart, stripping your wire with it. And that’s how to use an automatic wire stripping tool!