In this answer to this question on stripping wires pliers are mentioned as a tool suitable for that job. I guess it can be done, but I feel quite paranoid about damaging the conductor which is made of rather soft metal and effectively reducing the conductor cross-section which can lead to overheating and possibly fire.

What's the procedure for stripping a wire with pliers without damaging the conductor?

  • One of the biggest issues with nicking the wire, is that it becomes more likely to break if the wire is moved around too much (like when stuffing it back into the box). – Tester101 Nov 17 '11 at 16:30

Striping wire with pliers is a technique that takes a lot of practice, and is one of those things best left to the pros. For the average homeowner, it's going to be easier (and safer) to stick with using the proper tools. In this case, you'll want to pick yourself up some Wire Strippers. No need to get a fancy $50.00 pair that does more than it should, a simple ~$10.00 pair will do just fine for what you need.

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If you're dead set on stripping wire with pliers, it's all about pressure control. The first thing you'll want is a good pair of Lineman's Pliers like this.

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Now the whole idea here is to ring the sheathing, Without cutting into the core. Place the wire into the cutting portion of the pliers, Gently squeeze, and rotate the pliers around the wire. If done correctly, you should end up with a cut all the way around the sheathing. Now grab hold of the sheathing (that is now separated from the rest of the sheathing) with the griping portion of the pliers, and pull the sheathing off the wire core. Now go practice this about a million times, and you should just about have the hang of it.


Use your pliers to open the packaging on a 6$ pair of strippers. This is the ONLY correct answer.

  • Mmmkay, will that 6$ pair have handles insulated for 1kV? – sharptooth Nov 17 '11 at 12:27
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    Unless you're a licensed electrician, you shouldn't be messing with that voltage. If you are a licensed electrician, then you already have the appropriate tool. Golden rule of home wiring: there is no reason to work on wires with a voltage !=0. – Chris Cudmore Nov 17 '11 at 12:31
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    For working on live 1kV lines? The appropriate tool is a certified electrician. – Chris Cudmore Nov 17 '11 at 13:25
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    LOL, I mentioned 1kV only because it's the minimal rating I've seen, so it's the only choice even for working on 110V. – sharptooth Nov 17 '11 at 13:40
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    Guess I have to give a +1, since you have the ONLY correct answer. – Tester101 Nov 17 '11 at 18:01

Your question in terms of technicality is very good! Changing the original structure of a wire always causes some sort of alteration to the outcome. But thanks to laws that are in place- there alterations are well within deviation limits!

So if you squeeze a wire a bit while removing the shield its within electrical safety guides lines of 10% !!(Because if you look at scientific properties of copper and the limit of how much current it can handle and the home builders guide/electrical reference for home building.. there is a considerable tolerance in place to avoid problems!)

IF you literally nearly chop the cable off- then its in your own interest not to use that piece and shorten the wire- because that will definitely cause an issue down the line.

If you are however working with electronics that are sensitive to 0.5% tolerance changes then the slightest notch/cut/scratch on a copper wire will affect target performance. Somehting that each DIY-er comes across is CAT5/CAT5e/CAT6 and allot just strip the wires, crimp the end and the network is fine and dandy. Then comes along Mr IT and tests the network and wonders why the flippen heck a 100Mbps network only works at 60% capacity?!

Something i have learnt over year of crimping/stripping.

These crimping tools are good as long as you use it for the exact wire it is designed. If you do not have or want to purchase one, then a simple procedure will keep you safe, even during wiring of 1Gbit CAT6 networks.

1: Cut the end of the wire insulation- don't worry about damging the wire.

2: Pull back the insulation so its reveals some more copper wire. About 3cm.

3: Cur the insulation without touching the wire.

4: Cut the last 2cm of the wire off

5: You have a perfect end!

6: Wire in/Crimp

These steps are overkill in home electrical circuits because when you screw them into plugs/junctions it changes the shape any way. But this is the preferred way to strip wires in the professional electronics world.

  • I'd just like to point out that 10% of a 16 gauge wire is 0.005". If you are precise enough with your pliers to gauge 200th of an inch...I'm impressed. – Alex Feinman Nov 17 '11 at 17:51
  • @AlexFeinman - Im not sure what you mean- If using a knife to remove insulation, a small scratch on the wire can be in these limits.. and can produce electromagentic disturbance in twisted pairs that use high frequencies. In terms of that 10% is un acceptable disformation. Since you are talking about 16Gauge(metric) that is not likely used in home building (unless for wiring you home theatre system) - The smallest gauge normally used is 15/16(metric) for lighting (1.5AMP@220V) – Piotr Kula Nov 17 '11 at 19:14
  • I do a lot of electronics and signal wires routinely are 16-20ga (English). You mentioned CAT5 for example. Even 12ga wires, the tolerances are VERY fine. Just use the right tool. I spent years screwing up circuits due to impatience/laziness. – Alex Feinman Nov 17 '11 at 19:48

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