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Get to Know Your Hand Tools – Wire Cutters – Helen I. Driggs
by Judy Ellis, Wirejewelry.com
Wire Jewelry Tip for July 25th, 2017
Get to Know Your Hand Tools – Wire Cutters
by Helen I. Driggs
Like metal snips, wire cutters are a bench essential used for the quick removal of metal. Cutters come in dozens of styles and many levels of quality and are manufactured with specifications for different types and gauges of wire. It is important to choose a wire cutter suited to the work at hand, or you risk damaging the tool by using it improperly. Steel wire (like memory wire, braided beading cable or binding wire) will quickly dull cutters made for precious metals, or worse, it will create dents in those cutting edges and render the cutters useless. Read the descriptions for your cutters, and consider handle style as well — cutting takes a lot of hand strength, so choose ergonomic handles if you can.
Wire Cutter Styles
Flush or Side cutters come in many sizes and profiles, and create a V-shaped pinch on the wire end. They require force to use, so choose a set appropriate to the gauge of wire you are cutting, and also consider if a diagonal or straight- jawed tool is right for the job at hand. Double flush cutters create a less-pronounced pinch on the cut wire end; some eliminate pinching entirely.
Memory wire cutters are designed for steel piano, memory and beading wire and are shaped like miniature bolt cutters. Use them for creating clean, flush ends on hard metals.
Sprue cutters do just that. Designed to clip off the metal sprues of castings, they are also great for cutting thick round non-ferrous wire as well.
Tips for choosing cutters
- Always consider the job before reaching for any wire cutter. All are engineered for a range of metal thicknesses, and the cutting edge or type of joint on the cutter may fail if you use them for the wrong purpose.
- Cutters with lap joints will have two overlapped sections of metal that are fastened together to produce a continuous or flush surface. Lap joints will withstand medium force.
- Single joint cutters are constructed with half the thickness of metal on each handle milled away so that they lay into each other. Use this style of cutter for light duty work in thin gauges of wire.
- In a box joint cutter, one handle is slit and the other handle is pushed through the slot. This style of cutter joint can withstand intense pressure and is the most preferred style of join for all heavy-duty cutters and pliers.
HELEN I. DRIGGS is an experienced metalsmith, lapidary and studio jewelry instructor and has appeared in 6 instructional jewelry technique videos. Her book, The Jewelry Maker’s Field Guide was published in 2013.