The 8 Best Side Cutting Pliers

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This wiki has been updated 15 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 picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Knipex 7401200SBA

2. Klein Tools J228-8

3. Greenlee 0251-08AM

Editor's Notes

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.

How are those handles? You can definitely save a few bucks by settling for some skinny vinyl coating, but the sacrifice you’ll be making at the same time, in terms of user experience, is tremendous. If your budget allows it, find a pair of handles that feel comfortable in your hand, that you can still grip well with sweaty palms.

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.

4. Ideal Industries 35-3028

5. Irwin Vise-Grip 2078308

6. Newacalox MLNEW03

7. Channellock 338

8. Tekton 34025

Will Rhoda
Last updated by Will Rhoda

After deciding that the pen was mightier than the pliers, Canadian electrical contractor William Rhoda abandoned his career and headed back to college, where he majored in marketing and advertising and won a scholarship along the way to earning a diploma in creative communications. His past career landed him a depth of knowledge in tools and hardware, while his current career schooled him in audio, video and camera equipment. During his leisure time, he’s learned lots about outdoor gear, and years of tiresome backyard maintenance have taught him all about pools and hot tubs. His recreational pursuits include rest, relaxation and revolutionary action, and his roommate’s a hairless cat.

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