We’ve sung the praises of owning a set of bolt cutters before, but let us re-iterate: from custom-sizing wire shelving to shortening bicycle brake and shifter cables, you’ll find dozens of household uses for bolt cutters — even if you’re not a scofflaw. In additon to their namesake, bolt cutters can be used for any task which is too abusive for ordinary wire cutters and tin snips.
Some less common (but nevertheless appropriate) roles for a bolt cutter include impromptu branch pruning and dowel cutting, openings clamshell packaging, and even surviving a zombie attack.
You can find general-purpose bolt cutters typically in 14″, 18″, and 24″ lengths. Larger cutters mean greater leverage and a quicker cut, so I’d recommend purchasing a 24″ version first, and then snagging smaller sizes as you can afford ’em. You’ll commonly find bolt cutters’ capacity ratings on the cutter heads, and you can assume they’re meant for soft or medium-hardness metals unless otherwise noted. When shopping for a bolt cutter, aim for a capacity a bit greater than your needs, since maxing out a tool will damage the cutter blades and strain your muscles.
Some of our favorites: H. K. Porter’s 24″ bolt cutters. Superb cutter quality aside, the H. K. Porter’s $50 street price is largely justified by the cutter’s aluminum handles. Fabricating the handles out of aluminum makes their cutter over a pound and a half lighter than comparable steel-handled cutters. But for infrequent use, don’t shy away from budget-featured (read: cheap-ass) cutters. Unlike in high-school dating, with bolt cutters some is indeed better than none.
Both Home Depot and Lowe’s offer the H. K. Porter model for $50, and currently either store will ship it to you for free. If that price is a bit too steep, check out the big-box house-branded models for around $20.
H. K. Porter 0190AC [H. K. Porter]
Excellent Usage and Safety Tips [Cooper Hand Tools]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Husky/Work Force 24″ Cutter [Home Depot]
HK Porter Via Amazon [What’s this?]
Fuller Via Amazon [What’s this?]