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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?]


5 Responses to Bolt Cutters For Household Use

  1. TL says:

    I bought mine at a state police siezed and surplus property auction. They were in a lot which also included a duffel bag, crowbar, two screwdrivers, and couple car stereos. The auctioneer called it a “home business starter kit.”

  2. Teacher says:

    I have a Companion brand(Sears cheap line) pair and they work ok for small cable. I got the 14″ pair and the cutters are fine but the handles are to short. I used them to cut the bar on a small padlock and had to brace one handle against my chest and pull the other handle with both hands. A 24″ pair is on my “To get” list.

  3. Teacher, for those really tough cuts, it sometimes helps to brace one handle against the floor and transfer your body weight to the other handle.

  4. How about drawn-wire cutters, used for music wire and steel cable and stuff? I guess they’re a bit more specialized but they look like they’d make a much cleaner cut through most types of wire.

    For soft copper, I’ve got a set of loppers that would quite easily take off my hand at the wrist. They make tearout jobs hilariously fun.

  5. Mr. Stelth says:

    I have hade the H.K. Porter bolt cutters for about 10 years and they are a great tool. I’ve used them for cutting Rubbermaid wire shelving and padlocks from my own utility box because the locks were rusted solid.

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