This article will cover my favorite wire strippers while I was an electrician.
These wire strippers have a yellow tip on the top by Klein Tools and Greenlee. I have also noticed there’s some other brands with different colors, so I will break down what to look for in Wire Strippers for an enjoyable experience.
We will cover what are wire strippers, different purposes of wire strippers, and how to use wire strippers for electricians.
How to Buy Wire Strippers [Video]
In short, these yellow-tip wire-strippers have a slight curved handle, and can strip wire sizes #18-10 solid, and #20-12 stranded. These were perfect for every day tasks for both residential and commercial electrical work.
I really liked how #14 and #12 were in the center to remember wire size order, which allowed for maximum force from my thumb while stripping wires.
Both Klein Tools and Greenlee make these wire strippers with yellow tips. So either brand is awesome, just get the one that’s best priced at the time (if you like what you see after watching the video & reading this article).
You can click to view them on Amazon.
What We Cover in this Article:
- My Favorite Wire Strippers [Explained]
- What are Wire Strippers
- Different Purposes Wire Strippers Serve
- How to Use Wire Strippers
My Favorite Wire Strippers [Explained]
In the video I talked about my story of wire strippers as an apprentice electrician.
I first started with an Apprentice Starter Kit by Greenlee, which provided these yellow-tip wire strippers. This was an awesome hand tool bundle, and very comparable to Klein Tools screwdrivers and wire strippers. (I personally suggest these Klein Tools Pliers).
One day I dropped my wire strippers on the ground near pee in a porta-potty.. I was grossed out and used tons of hand sanatizer, rubbed them in the sand, and washed them.. they were probably fine, but I was still grossed out.
So.. off to buy new wire strippers, and I saw these white-tip ones.. I thought it’d be cool to try a different wire stripper model. After a year of using them.. I couldn’t get used to the wire size layout (how the wires are ordered from small to big wires).
The white tips are one size bigger, so the #14 and #12 (the most common wire size for commercial electricians) were one notch down, and I just couldn’t get used to it. It slowed me down, and was harder to do the wire double strip (explained below).
I then purchased Klein Tools yellow tips (same as Greenlee ones), and these were the amazing workflow I loved! I missed these yellow-tip wire strippers so much!
Then one day I was quickly helping another journeyman on site.. when they said it was okay to cut a wire. So without testing (as I trusted them), BAM.. these yellow-tip Klein Tools were destroyed for cutting (but still good for stripping wire!).
This is why they say to never trust anyone, always test wires yourself. Even though it was 120V, it was still very loud, and I felt the heat pressure toward my face (I was wearing safety glasses).
So that’s why I left the Greenlee yellow-tip wire strippers for the white tips.. then to the Klein Tools yellow tips (which blew up). At the time of writing, I’m back to my Greenlee Yellow-Tips for my favorite wire size order layout.
Here’s a link for the Yellow-Tip Wire Strippers.
It also looks like Southwire makes a similar model with red-tips. (I have not tried these, but they seem to have the same layout).
What are Wire Strippers
You may think wire strippers are only for stripping wires.. but they actually provide us MANY tools in one.
First, yes, they strip wires of various sizes, depending on the wire stripper model you buy.
It’s impotant to understand that Solid Wire and Stranded Wire are different!
Solid wire is a single conductor, that once we strip the wire, it’s just one single solid copper wire.
Stranded wire has many copper wires that are VERY small. This allows the wire to be very flexible.
Wire strippers will have two different sizes for stripping wire, a solid and stranded. You will notice stranded is always one size bigger so you do not break the fine copper strands.
For example, if you have a #14 stranded wire, you’ll notice you’re using the #12 solid wire stripper size!
Also, there’s many different types of wire strippers, and this is 100% the electrician’s preference.
I just like these yellow-tip ones from my apprentice starter kit. When I tried different wire strippers (as well as other types from co-workers), the yellow-tip wire strippers were the comfiest and performed always great.
Different Purposes Wire Strippers Serve
Let’s cover different uses of wire strippers on the jobsite as an electrician. These tasks include:
- Stripping Single Conductor Insulation
- Cutting Copper (don’t cut anything harder than copper!)
- Wire Hook Maker (for Plugs & Switches)
- Machine Screw Cutter (6-32 & 8-32)
Stripping Single Conductor Insulation
Stripping wire is straight forward, but you must use solid for solid wire, and stranded for stranded wire.
Always make sure you’re not too aggresive on the copper when removing the insulation. Sometimes insulation can get stuck, and it’s really hard to get off.
I showed in the video that you can squeeze your wire stripper to cut the insulation, but then use pliers to pull off the insulation.
If we score the copper wire, it becomes VERY brittle, which I share further in this strip single conductor insulation video.
The safest way to strip wire is just stripping a single wire at a time. Again, if the insulation is hard to remove, you can squeeze the wire stripper to break the insulation, then use pliers to gently twist off the insulation.
Once you get better, you can advance to double-strip wires! This provides a clean and fast way to save time and works great!
Cutting Copper (don’t cut anything harder than copper!)
I just want to clarify this, because it’s important you look after your tools as an apprentice electrician so that your money can be used wisely to grow your income, support your family, or reach your goals.
Some tools are rated to cut stronger metals than others.. and wire strippers are only meant for cutting copper, which is very soft compared to something like steel. For example, some Linesman Pliers are only rated for cutting copper, or nails (also soft).
However, if you want to cut something like screws, if you use soft cutters, you will dent the cutting blade, and ruin the wire strippers (or pliers). This makes them so annoying to use for cutting.. especially twine (which requires the cutting blades to fully touch).
For more information, learn about How to Buy Klein Tools Pliers, where I explain their 2000-Series pliers are hardened steel to cut screws.
In short, just use wire strippers to cut copper wire. (It even says on the wire stripper tool itself, “CUT COPPER ONLY”).
Wire Hook Maker (for Plugs & Switches)
A wire stripper can also make hooks to attach onto plugs and switches! But read close, because this website is aimed at apprentice electricians.
Many homeowners and do-it-yourselfers often use the push-ins (stab-lock) in the back of a plug. This is a big NO for electricians.
We want to create wire hooks for a strong connection. It’s also MUCH easier to remove the wire for maintenance (or if you have to work live!)
Different Ways to Create Wire Hooks Using Wire Strippers
There’s a couple ways to create wire hooks on wire strippers.
I personally like the hole right by “AWG SOLID” (it creates a rounder hook), but some electricians use the tips of their wire strippers, which makes more of a square hook.
To clarify, I like using the hole above the 6-32 machine thread. I’ve found this rounder hook sits more naturally on a plug or switch.
I hope the image clarifies the nice round hook wire strippers can make to attach onto electrical devices like plugs and switches. Remember, do not use the back push-in stab-lock of a plug or switch.. create wire hooks!
Make sure the wire hook goes on CLOCKWISE onto a plug or switch terminal (which is code), so it tightens the wire hook, too!
So, in addition to stripping wire insulation, wire strippers allow us to create hooks to attach onto electrical devices like plugs and switches!
We only need to create these wire hooks when attaching onto electrical devices like plugs and switches, or other similar screw terminals.
For further information, you may like my Wire Splicing Series.
Machine Screw Cutter (6-32 & 8-32)
Another very important feature of a wire stripper is cutting machine screws. We do this often in finishing to get the machine screw the right length.
IMPORTANT: Always enter the machine screw from the top. Never put the machine screw in from the bottom.. If you put the machine screw in from the buttom, the cut end will get stuck in the wire strippers which you need to drill out! I’ve done this before, and have seen journeymen do this, too!
A machine screw is different than a normal screw. It is very similar to a bolt, but a bolt has a hex head (for nut drivers).
A machine screw has fine threads, and we electricians mainly use two types of machine screws: 6-32 (plugs & switches) and 8-32 (lights [octagon boxes]). For ceiling fans, we often use 10-32, which are heavier duty.
Usually you can hand thread a machine screw into the wire stripper, and once it’s started, I’d hold the machine screw, and swing the wire stripper to quickly thread the machine screw into the wire stripper.
This honestly speed me up so much.. just make sure it’s threaded on properly, and you’re not going crazy with it, especially in finishing!
Once the machine screw is threaded to the length you want, simply squeeze the wire stripper handle to cut the machine screw! (6-32’s are much easier to cut than 8-32).
The benefit of using wire strippers to cut machine screws is the thread doesn’t get messed up, and prevents cross-threading!
In other words, the wire stripper shears the machine screw, and it easily threads into the electrical box at your desired length!!
Finally, sometimes it can be hard to remove the machine screw from the wire stripper after cutting, so we use a Robertson screwdriver.
I really like this Klein Tools 11-in-1 multi-bit screwdriver.
The multi-bit screwdriver gives you 6-32 or 8-32 on hand at all times in finishing. If a machine screw gets stripped, you can always use a flathead in a pinch!
In addition, it’s meant for electricians.. so it has various nut driver sizes for every day electrical tasks.. and fits so nice in the pocket!
How to Use Wire Strippers
As shown, wire strippers are a huge part of an electrician’s hand tool box.
Not only do wire strippers strip wire (duh!), but they allow us to create wire hooks for devices, as well as cut machine screws in finishing.
Recap: How to Buy Wire Strippers for Electricians
To clarify, these are the Klein Tools 11055 Wire Cutter and Wire Stripper.
It’s really hard to find Greenlee’s yellow-tip wire strippers if you don’t get them in their apprenticeship electrician starter bundle.
Greenlee has a black handle and green-tip one very similar to these yellow-tips.. but I haven’t used them!
To recap, I really like these yellow-tip wire strippers because they are comfortable, affordable, strip wires smooth (with double stripping!), create perfect wire hooks, AND cut machine screws nice.
There are no best wire strippers for electricians, as it truly comes down to preference, but the yellow-tip wire strippers checked all the boxes for me!
I hope you enjoyed the video and article about how to buy wire strippers.