5 Types of Wire Cutters Explained (and 9 other Electrical Tools)

wire cutters and electrical tools

Wire cutters are truly the essential tool for electricians, but they're a lot more complicated than many people may think. Along with multiple types of wire cutters, there are many other electrical tools that every electrician needs in their toolkit.

Different Types of Wire Cutters

Wire cutters are considered to be a standard tool, but the truth is, there are different types of wire cutters, and each one has its own unique purpose and function. Knowing how to use wire cutters will help electricians get the job done the right way every single time.

They say there’s a correct tool for every job. Well, that’s true with wire cutters, where there’s a perfect type of cutter for the specific electrical job you’ve taken on.

Linemen's Wire Cutters

wire cutters

Linemen's are the most widely used wire cutters worldwide. They are also known as combination wire cutters because they can perform so many jobs.

The fact that these wire cutters have a sharp cutting edge, along with a firm surface to grip, is why they're known as "combination" cutters. The secret behind its universal use lies in the fact that these wire cutters have insulated handles.

It's the insulation that makes linemen's wire cutters such a practical tool for electrical work. Thanks to these insulated handles, you will be protected from moderate shocks while using linemen's wire cutters.

These are great all-around cutters to keep handy because they can be used to cut all types of wires, and they’re versatile and easy to use. Start with a really good pair of linemen’s wire cutters and begin building the rest of your wire cutter toolkit from there.

Locking Wire Cutters

Carpenters use a lot of locking wire cutters, but they have plenty of applications for electricians as well. These wire cutters have a unique safety feature that can be very useful during specific electrical work.

As the name rightly suggests, these wire cutters have an edge over other options. These cutters come with a unique feature, a knob situated on the handle, which acts like a lock of sorts.

This knob can be tightened and loosened as needed. This is a user-friendly feature, as users get a better grip on the wire or metal sheet thanks to this wire cutter lock.

Locking wire cutters are generally available in two kinds: needle nose and linemen's. The locking feature adds a little extra safety, allowing you to essentially “lock” the tool in place while working on a particularly tricky wire.

Needle Nose Wire Cutter

needlenose pliers

Needle nose wire cutters get their name from the way the cutter is shaped. This is a sharp edged cutter that is long, thin, and narrow.

This tool is perfect for cutting fine wires. The long, thin design makes it easier to work in tight spaces as well.

Needle nose wire cutters also have insulated grips to protect against minor shocks. Electricians should always look for wire cutters that have insulated handles in all styles because this adds a measure of safety, and it just makes good sense to protect oneself from shock.

When other wire cutters are just too big and awkward, needle nose wire cutters are the answer.

Diagonal Cutting Wire Cutters

As the name suggests, diagonal wire cutters have diagonal edges. They are most often used by both carpenters as well as electricians because of the built-in safety feature they have: insulated handles.

The diagonal edges of the cutter are used for very specific electrical work. You won't reach for these cutters often, but it is nice to have this tool handy in your toolkit for those jobs when they're needed.

Every electrician runs into one of those jobs where only one tool can get the work done. There are going to be jobs where diagonal cutting wire cutters are just that tool.

Round Nose Wire Cutters

Round nose wire cutters do something many other cutters can't do: they can bend wire as well as cut it. These wire cutters have round shaped edges that taper towards the point where both edges meet.

Wires and thin strips of metal can be cut or bent using round nose wire cutters. No other tool really performs the job that round nose wire cutters perform, so this is a must-have for the electrician's tool bag.

The distinct shape of these cutters makes them easy to recognize, so you can identify round nose wire cutters immediately.

Lots of Other Tools You'll Need

Wire cutters may be the electrician's best friend, but there are many other tools that electricians will need in the course of a normal workday...and a few that might be needed a little less often, but you still want to have.

Stock your bag with the essential tools and the tools that are frequently useful, and you’ll be ready to take on literally any electrical project. With the right tools, there is no electrical work, simple or complex, that you can’t take on.

Compressed Air

hand holding compressed air spray can

It's not really a standard tool and certainly not the most common addition to the toolbag, but a can of compressed air is an incredibly useful item. In fact, you might be surprised by how often you reach for compressed air while doing electrical work.

You will often encounter wires, electrical boxes, and electrical systems tucked into out-of-the-way areas of homes and businesses. This means they are really never cleaned.

Dust, spider webs, and general dirt and hair are common foes for many an electrician because this stuff can build up rather quickly. A couple of quick blasts with a can of compressed air will quickly clean away some of this stuff to make it a lot easier for you to work and access areas where electrical work needs to be completed.


The trusty hammer is never not useful, no matter what job you're doing. Electricians often need to hang up or take down electrical boxes or use brackets to secure wiring, so a hammer is going to come in very handy.

A good hammer is a tool that will last and last. Its companion tools, nails, are relatively inexpensive to buy, and you can keep a selection of them in the bag, so you’re ready to quickly take on any hammering task.


Pliers, which are used to grip things like wires and pieces of metal, are infinitely useful for electricians. There are many jobs that will be easier with pliers, and there are actually multiple types of pliers that electricians might use to get work done.

Tongue and groove pliers, also commonly known as channel locks, may be needed from time to time. They can be used to tighten clamps, among other uses.

Channel locks have a lot of gripping power, and they can be adjusted to securely lock into place around your work. You will use channel locks on larger wiring, metal, and circuits.

But for smaller wires and more detailed work, you want to keep a pair of needle nose pliers handy. These pliers can fit into small spaces, and they’re used on smaller wires and areas where a more fine touch is needed.

A pair of needle nose pliers will be used to bend and twist wires but not to cut them. Their size and shape are similar to needle nose wire cutters, but these are two separate tools.



Screwdrivers are a must-have for even the most casual of electrical projects. Keep at least two, a Phillips head and a flathead, and you can pretty much rise to any screwdriving challenge.

You'll need these tools to screw in face plates, attach lighting fixtures and perform all sorts of other tasks. No toolkit is complete without at least a couple of screwdrivers, no matter what type of work you’re going to be doing.


Tape is essential if you want your work to be finished properly and safely. Tape not only makes your work look cleaner visually, but it can also help protect key components from moisture.

Electrical tape is specifically made to insulate wires, protecting them from temperature changes and moisture. This tape can also be used to secure wires in place.

Fish tape doesn't sound like anything you'd use with electricity, but this is an extremely useful item. You will use this to pull wires through conduits, walls, ceilings, floors, and other tight spaces.

Fish tape functions like a flat, steel wire, so this is a very effective item in any electrician’s toolkit.

Tape measure

There's just no escaping the fact that for every single job you do, you're going to need a tape measure at some point. Keep a good one handy at all times because you will absolutely need a tape measure to do electrical work of all kinds.

You might need to measure the size of a space or the length of a wire or the size of a circuit. There are lots of reasons why you’ll get this tool out often during electrical work.


Keep a few testers handy and use them frequently to ensure that you are always working safely. Electricity is nothing to play with, and one false step can be fatal, so testers are really the first tools any electrician should get.

A voltage tester will show you if electricity is flowing, so you can determine whether a contact is live or not. That's definitely a useful piece of information to know.

A continuity tester will tell you whether or not an electrical component is conducting electricity, so you will use this tool quite often while performing electrical work.

A non-contact tester does not need to be plugged in to work. This tester can be used on almost any device or wire.

A multitester, more properly known as a volt-ohm-milliammeter or VOM, can be used on multiple circuit types to test to see if the circuit is live and determine the amount of voltage it carries.

Wire Crimpers

You'll use wire crimpers to crimp connection terminals and lugs onto wires. This is a tool you'll need to have to make circuit repairs. You can also use wire crimpers to strip wire insulation.

Wire Strippers

Every electrician needs a pair of wire strippers. This tool is literally made to strip wires so obviously, this is a must for any electrician's toolkit.

Electrical Tools FAQ

For even the smallest and simplest of electrical jobs, you will need wire cutters and other electrical tools that are used all the time. Keep these tools handy, and you'll be able to take on any electrical project.

Can You Use a Different Tool When You Haven’t Got the Exact Right Tool?

It's tempting to grab a different tool and try to force whatever you're attempting to do when you haven't got the exact right tool for the job, but don't.

Tools are made to do the jobs they're made to do and to be used the way they were designed. Don't deviate from this, or you may end up damaging your tool and making your project must harder to complete.

Where Can You Find the Best Electrical Tools and Wire Cutters?

Where should you shop for your tools? You have lots of options when you're looking for quality tools for any project. Many well-known brand names have their own websites and their own online storefront, so you can buy directly from the tool manufacturer.

Shop for tools in person at home improvement stores. This way, you can actually get a look at the tools you're shopping for.

How Can You Maintain Your Tools to Keep Them Looking Nice and Functioning Well?

Always clean and dry your tools after every use. Brush off any dirt or debris and wipe tools down with water if needed.

You should also sharpen blades and drill bits to make sure they're all working the right way.

Further Reading

The Best Wire Cutters on the Market

Continuity Tester vs Voltage Tester

How to Use Electrical Wire Connectors

How to Replace a Circuit Breaker Fuse