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Based on a Toolmonger comment we read a while back, we decided to pick up a set of Irwin’s (semi-)new self-adjusting wire strippers, so we thought we’d give you a look at ‘em as well.  In short: They rock.  They’ve quickly become the wire stripper of choice in the TM shop.

Read on past the jump for our hands-on experience and some detail pictures.

Unboxing

Thankfully, these don’t seem to end up in clamshell packaging.  In fact, the packaging was so easy to open that we forgot to photograph it before we already had the tool out and in use.  Then again, we figured that news would impress you more than a photo.

In-Use

You know what’s the best part about using these strippers?  You don’t really think much about ’em.  Just insert your wire and squeeze.  No more trying to find the right little hole to get a good strip — just squeeze.  Sweet.

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Note: Click on small photos to view larger ones. 

Here’s the process in detail:  First, you insert the wire.  We did discover that if you don’t keep the wire relatively close to the bottom of the “jaws,” you might end up with problems.  Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to keep the wire positioned correctly, and after a few times you just do it out of habit.

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As you squeeze the spring-loaded grip, the two top “jaws” clamp down.  The one on the left grips the wire while the one on the right provides the cutting blade.  As you continue to squeeze, the overall jaws open, stripping the wire.

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One other very minor bitch: The piece of stripped wire casing almost always stays in the jaws, and it can be a bit of a trick to get it out.  While it’s tempting to bang the tool on the bench to dislodge it, the easiest way to deal with it is to simply leave the casing in there and flick it out with the next wire you’re going to strip.

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There are a few additional features that you might use as well, most noticably a little “stop” which lets you set how much wire you’d like stripped.  It’s yellow, and you can see it clearly in the photo above.  There’s a scale below it to give you an idea of how much wire you’re stripping before you try out the setting, but we found that most of the time we just adjusted it until we got what we wanted, then used it for the rest of whatever project we were working on.

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Irwin thoughtfully included a few bevels on the inside of the grips to handle basic crimping tasks.  Though we don’t use them much around the shop — we have a couple of good crimpers as well — we did try them out on a 16-gauge insulated blade connector.  While it did the job, it was a bit precarious trying to hold the connector in between the grips while keeping the wire positioned and squeezing.  However, if you were up in the ceiling (or under the hood) and forgot your crimper, this would do the job.

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We also tried the Irwin on a variety of wire gauges with no issues at all.  It’ll even handle 26-gauge, though you have to be very careful and you won’t always get a clean strip.

Read on to page two for our conclusions.

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23 Responses to Hands-On: Irwin’s Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper

  1. Rick says:

    How are these even remotely new?
    I have what appears to be the exact same stripper, but with red handles, and not Irwin branded that I’ve had for at least 5 or 6 years. Can’t recall where I got it though. But the mechanism looks exactly the same.. down to the little plastic flap that you can set to the length of the strip.. Only mine is red, not yellow.

    In any case.. I have to agree.. they rock..

  2. James says:

    I have the Gardner-Bender (red handles) version of this and I love it as well.

    What I hate, however, are the older “automatic” wire strippers. The action is somewhat similar, but it’s worse than useless.

  3. Chuck Cage says:

    Rick: “Irwin’s (semi-)new…” (They’re new for Irwin, not new for the market.) And sadly, they’re new to me as well. I haven’t done a ton of wiring, so I was always using the older type.

  4. Paul says:

    While these are awfully nice I don’t strip enough wires to justify getting it I don’t think. Though if I had them I’d use them over what I got.

  5. nrChris says:

    While I am in the same boat as Paul, the ones previously mentioned will have to do for me at the price point. But damn, these are sturdy looking. I am so sick of using my wire strippers and having to go back with an exacto knife to finish the job, particularly with the smaller wire diameters.

  6. Rick says:

    Ok.. I just took a look at mine.. I bought them at Radio Shack – of all places..
    It’s the Kronus. They still have them there for $16.99 ::link::

  7. I have a functionally similar pair too – no depth stop and no crimper, cheaper handles, but otherwise the same. Mine are at least 10 years old, and still work perfectly; there really doesn’t seem to be much to go wrong in them.

    The ones you review appear to be the current version of my old ones; here they are on sale in Australia.

    Note that these things strip by clamping the insulation and pulling, so on wire with stretchy insulation they don’t work well. Ordinary PVC or silicone rubber insulated wire strips fine, though.

    I agree about the other “T Rex” kind of automatic wire stripper. Those generally work well when new, but they wear out fast.

  8. Paul says:

    nrChris’ comment about a knife around a wire got me to thinking about one odd stripper I do have. One of those rotating coax strippers. Mine looks a lot like this one:
    http://www.impulseelectronics.com/stripper.htm

    With different dies, and some setup, these can be made to strip a lot of different jacket types. Once you have it setup, these are really faster than the bend it method of knifing through an outer sheath of insulation.

    I’m sure if you shop around better deals can be had on this tool.

  9. Bruce says:

    Looks like a great tool … Irwin makes some great tools!

  10. TimG says:

    I have a ‘non-Irwin’ version and love it! I had a cheapie plastic version before and upgraded to the metal one. Sometimes it has to be adjusted so it doesn’t pull/cut some of the wire along with the insulation.

    Great tool, and DEFENITELY worth the price. This isn’t an overpriced tool here, doing ANY sort of electrical work it’ll save tons of time. The ‘old method’ is terrible.

    Tim

  11. Brian C. says:

    Has anyone tried these on bundled wire? Like telephone or Cat-5? I do a fair amount of wiring for networks and these might be handy, but in standard Cat-5 there is an insulated jacket surrounding 8 insulated wires. When creating patch cables, for example, you strip the outer jacket back but leave the inner insulation on the individual wires alone.

  12. Rick says:

    Brian, it’s been a while, but I believe I have used them to make some Ethernet patch cables. The way the tool works is that it grabs the outer most jacket and strips that, but it should leave the inner pairs intact.

  13. James says:

    D’oh!

    I just made a patch cable last night and I didn’t think to use my auto stripper for the outer jacket. My crimper has a blade for stripping the outer jacket, but since I have cat6 instead of cat5, it always cuts into the wires. I ended up doing it very carefully the hard way.

    I’ll definitely try the auto stripper the next time.

  14. [...] Hands-On: Irwin’s Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper This tool (which is new to the Irwin line, but not new to any old-hand electronics buff) proves to be a winner.  We tried it out on a variety of wire types and posted lots of pictures to help you get a feel for it.  (And if you’re still using a manual stripper — or one that requires you to pick the right hole – you should definitely check out a self-adjusting model.  They rock.) [...]

  15. Brent says:

    I have a similar pair, and I like them. However, they are not easily usable for stripping wires inside a j-box, or other confined enclosure. The space the tool itself takes up interferes with making nice looking terminations.

    For working on wires outside of a wall, they rock.

  16. These are fine for solid wire, but I’ve never found “automatic” strippers that could handle stranded wire without breaking a few strands. Your mileage may vary but I got sick of mine.

  17. Don says:

    I’ve been looking for a good wire stripper. I’ve had two other’s that ended up being total crap. I think I’ll give this one a try. If it’s good I’ll be happy, if it’s crap I’ll come looking for you:p

  18. Wim L says:

    I’ve *used* automatic wire strippers that worked well on stranded wire, but I’ve never managed to *buy* a pair. The good ones I’ve used were always bought somewhere three states away that went out of business last decade. I’ve bought a few pieces of crap, though, and have always given up and gone back to the penknife or choose-a-hole methods of wire stripping. Sigh. Maybe I’ll give these a shot; $20 isn’t too much to risk on another experiment.

  19. Stuey says:

    Thanks James – since I couldn’t find the Irwin stripper on Amazon, I picked up a GB one for $15 and change. I use GB accessories such as cable ties, but haven’t used any of their tools yet.

  20. [...] The one thing I have always hated about rewiring home theater, or running cable for any reason was stripping the cable. The tools I had were a pain in the ass, or I had to manually cut the insulator with a knife and pull off with a pair of pliers. But with Toolmonger’s review, I’ll just spend 20 bucks, and end my problems. [...]

  21. preussenotto says:

    I have used these and several different models for Cat5&6 extensively. In short they dont work well for these kind of cables. The pressure required to strip the outer casing will cause it to score the inner jacketing of the individual wires. It may not seem like much until you are called back several times to fix a “network” problem that turns out to be a damaged wire. It probably works well for electric but for LV data cable its just not there.

  22. Craig Houghton says:

    I have the Radio Shack version of this tool, but both the Irwin and the Kronus feature that little brass set screw on the left jaw that I’ll be damned if I can figure out what it does. Any ideas? Oh.. I think I just figured it out. Putting my finger under the left jaw while operating the tool and varying the set screw seemed to also vary the pressure at which the left jaw comes down. Anyone care to elaborate?

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