Are you wondering if you can use scissors in place of wire cutters? In this article, we’ll delve into the intricacies of the wire cutter and the scissors. We’ll talk about when they can and can’t be interchanged.
In most cases, you shouldn’t use scissors instead of wire cutters. Wire cutters are inexpensive, and they are built to strip and cut metal wires. However, there may be some cases where you can use scissors to strip or cut through smaller wires.
In the next sections, we’ll talk about both sides of this argument. While it’s always best to have the right tool for the job, in the DIY world, there are times when you need to make compromises.
Scissors vs. Wire Cutters: are they interchangeable?
Scissors and wire cutters are not interchangeable. For one, you can’t cut paper with a pair of regular wire cutters. And for two, you cannot use scissors for more wire-cutting tasks.
Some people may be wondering if it’s worth it to buy a pair of dedicated wire cutters, others may have lost their wire cutters or need an extra pair. Whatever the reasons, there are times when you might be tempted to use a pair of scissors to cut wire.
As you’ll see, this is generally a bad idea. We will go over some of the reasons you should avoid using scissors as wire cutters. However, we’ll also talk about some of the exceptions to this rule, and how you can MacGyver scissors as wire cutters in an emergency.
Let’s get into the reasons you should avoid scissors as wire cutters.
Why you shouldn’t cut wire with scissors:
- Dull the scissors
- Break the scissors
- Damage the wire
- Slow and time consuming
Let’s look at these in more depth.
You’ll Dull the Scissors
Even if you have a pair of scissors that is capable of cutting small gauge wire, you can dull the scissors by cutting metal even once. Why does this happen? Two reasons.
First, scissors are most often made of metal, and they are designed to cut materials that are softer. Even copper wire can be too much for the scissors, which may not have the durability and strength to cut the wire.
Second, even if the scissors cut through the wire, it often isn’t without damage. The wire might leave a small bur on the edge of the scissors. This bur will stop the scissors from cutting normal materials smoothly, causing them to constantly get hung up and to tear.
And it can get even worse.
You Could Break the Scissors by Cutting Wire
If you try to cut wire with scissors, you could cause the scissors to completely break. Why? Most scissors are made for relatively low-stress projects, like cutting paper and fabric. Even the cheapest scissors can hold up to those materials, but what happens when you begin trying to cut a metal wire?
The wire can force the scissors apart and cause them to completely snap. This is dangerous and will only make your project take even longer.
You Could Damage the Wire
Since scissors are not made to cut wire, they will not make a clean cut. Instead, the scissors will usually cause an awkward bend. This is not desirable and could hinder the integrity of your project.
For thick wire, scissors will just dent the edge of the wire, without even getting through. One of the reasons wire cutters work so well is that they are designed for high torque – it’s the same principle with bolt cutters, they are designed to put a lot of pressure on the material, allowing them to cut through.
However, scissors are not designed to apply this kind of torque, leading to unsatisfactory results when cutting through wire.
Scissors are Slow when Cutting Wire
Even if you can get through the wire with the scissors, it won’t be as fast as regular cutters. In the end, you would probably be better off taking a break, driving to the hardware store and buying yourself a pair of wire cutters. Otherwise, you’ll just spend a bunch of extra time trying to force the scissors to do something they weren’t designed to do.
Before we move on to better ways to cut through wire, let’s go through a few exceptions.
Times You Could Cut Through Wire with Scissors
There are a few times you might be able to get away with cutting through the wire with a pair of scissors. Before we talk about them keep this in mind – you will need a pair of scissors that you’re not afraid to ruin.
Once you cut wire with scissors, the scissors will likely be unable to cut anything else very well, this is especially true if you’re going to cut a lot of wire.
Here are several times you could cut wire with scissors:
- The wire is really thin. If the wire is especially thin, then the scissors will probably be able to cut through it. Now, this depends on the type of wire. Some wires will have multiple strains, making them stronger. In these cases, even if the wire is really thin, the scissors will have trouble cutting through it.
- The scissors are large and tough. There are some types of scissors, such as the trauma shears used by paramedics, that are made to cut through thick materials and even small wires. If you have a huge pair of scissors, they will do a better job of cutting wire than a small pair of scissors. However, keep in mind that sometimes the wire will just be too tough.
- You can use scissors to strip metal wire. You can strip an electric wire with a pair of scissors. Just place the wire near the back of the scissors and squeeze the scissor lightly, then spin the wire around, taking care to just cut through the outside coating. Note that this is not what scissors are designed to do, so try this at your own risk, and don’t be surprised if it still damages the scissors.
Now that we’ve talked about scissors and wire cutting, let’s talk about some better ways to cut through the wire if you don’t have a true wire cutter.
How to Cut Wire Without a Wire Cutter
Thankfully, there are better ways to cut wire than to revert to using scissors. Most people have a few items in their toolbox that will do a better job of cutting wires than a pair of scissors. In this section, we will list a few tools and techniques for cutting wire when you don’t have a pair of dedicated wire cutters.
Here are some acceptable ways to cut wire without wire cutters:
- Use tin snips
- Bend it back and forth
- Use a wire-cutting hand saw (hacksaw)
- Look at the inside of a pair of pliers
Let’s look at all these ideas in more depth.
Use Tin Snips to Cut Wire
If you have a pair of tin snips, these would be better than scissors for cutting wire. Tin snips are essentially scissors designed to cut through aluminum sheets or thin sheets of other metals. Snips are built to have much more force than regular scissors and are at less risk of being damaged when cutting wire.
Of course, not everyone will have a pair of tin snips (regular bolt cutters can work too). But don’t worry, there are other options.
Bend the Wire Repeatedly
If you bend a thin piece of wire enough times it will eventually snap. This can be time-consuming, and you need to use the right techniques. If you’re going to try cutting the wire by bending it, the first thing you need is a pair of pliers or some way to hold down the wire – otherwise, you won’t be able to bend it cleanly.
While gripping the wire with the pliers, bend the waste end back and forth until it snaps off.
This isn’t ideal, but it’s probably better than ruining a nice pair of scissors.
Use a Wire Cutting Handsaw
If you have a hacksaw, you can use it to cut wire. You need to be careful here as even on a hacksaw, the wire will snag, and it could cause the saw to slip in unpredictable ways. Just like with the bending method, you need to secure the wire before trying to cut it with a hacksaw.
If you have a sharp hacksaw, this is a good technique, particularly if you’re trying to cut through a thick wire (you might find that thin wire is more difficult).
Let’s go over one more option.
Look at the Back of Your Pliers
Some pliers, like regular pliers and needle nose pliers, will have a simple wire cutter built into the back of the pliers. If you don’t have a dedicated wire-cutting tool, then maybe this will work.
Also, folding multitools often have a set of wire cutters built into their pliers. It may not be the best quality, but it will at least get you by.