We keep a set of 24″ bolt cutters around the shop for all sorts of reasons. Besides cutting bolts, they’ll also cut any kind of rounded material — even very hard cable and such. Of course, you can also use them to cut many locks, so be aware that carrying these around in your car may bring you second looks from members of the law enforcement community. But when you need to cut something big, they’re just the ticket.
The set pictured above is made by H.K. Porter, and comes with three sets of center blades: one each for soft, medium, and hard materials. Their aluminum-alloy handles are quite durable, yet much lighter than their old solid-steel counterparts.
Rubber grips help save your hands when you really need to squeeze ’em hard, but remember that in most such cases you can place one side of the handles on the ground, holding them in place with your foot and applying pressure from the other side. You can create a lot more force this way, and it’s much easier on your back and shoulder muscles.
Home Depot sells this particular model for about $50, but you can find similar models from a variety of manufacturers online in the same price range.