The 8 Best Side Cutting Pliers
This wiki has been updated 10 times since it was first published in August of 2019. An indispensable part of any electrician's tool collection, side cutters are a common first choice for tradespeople looking to slice through wires and fasteners. With sharp edges that extend to the tips of their jaws, they're well-suited to chopping through materials in hard-to-reach places. Note that this ranking is focused on noninsulated options that are not suitable for live-power work. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
October 08, 2019:
A note on terminology:
The term side cutters is often used interchangeably with diagonal cutting pliers, which can sometimes cause confusion. Though they offer similar functionality (a nod to diagonal cutters for being the better choice to pry out staples with), my basic understanding of the difference between the two is that diagonal cutters have their head cocked to one side, so that if the handles of your pliers are perpendicular with a wire, and you make an incision, the resultant cut should appear diagonally across the conductor. So, while the case could be made that all diagonal cutters are in fact side cutters, labelling straight side cutters as diagonal cutters would be erroneous.
Side cutters are also sometimes called snips, for simplicity’s sake, but that opens a whole new can of worms, now confusing side cutters with tin snips. On occasion, you’ll even hear tradespeople referring the knives on their linesman pliers as a “side-cutting edge.”
It should be noted that these rankings are focused on noninsulated options that are not suitable for live-power work. If you’re looking to work with live power, you should consider an option with 1000-volt rating. In addition to this, if you’re looking to work with live power, and you’re not a licensed electrician – just don’t.
A few things to keep in mind while shopping this category:
What cutting method do the pliers you’re considering use? While many top-end options will use a knife-to-knife cutting method – where two sharpened edges connect with each other, this isn’t always the way to go. With time and wear, all but the best-engineered pliers will come slightly out of alignment, preventing the knives from mating properly and making cutting much more difficult. The knife-and-anvil cutting method, which is favored by several companies including Channellock, involves one sharp edge butting up against a wider, blunt edge. This method is much more forgiving as the rivet on your pliers loosens over time.
Where’s the warranty? It might not be the biggest purchase, but if you’re trying to decide between a $10 pair of pliers that’ll last a few months, and a $30 pair with a lifetime warranty, well… you see where I’m going with this. With a selection of top manufacturers backing all their hand tools with a lifetime warranty, there’s no real reason you need to settle for less.