Picture of Homemade Wire Stripper Device
I came up with this when I had some wire to strip and found that using a utility knife to hand slit the insulation just wasn't going to work. I needed something to hold the knife and the wire in a consistent position while I ran the blade along the length of the wire. The materials you'll need can be just about anything. To do it well you'll need several thicknesses of metal. I had some aluminum plates that were used as shims in a large format scanner. You can buy similar pieces of metal at any hardware or hobby store in many thicknesses. You will then need a cutting blade. I used the blade out of my utility knife. One of those blades that is already scored so when the tip gets dull you just snap it off and you have a new, sharp tip. You will also need some way of holding the device that can withstand a significant amount of force. I used a bench vise. You'll want to wear gloves for sure and possibly eye protection. It is possible for the end of one of your wires to fling up and smack you in the face. Using the device this way prevents you from getting cut on the blade, if you set it as I describe below. It also keeps the wire straight as it's being slit.

This is a modification of a device I made to slit plastic trim down in width. It works the same way, just doesn't cut clear through the material being cut, in this case insulated wire. You can see all of the pictures on my Flickr site. I will only have a few in this instructable.


Once you've seen the Flickr photos you can see how the setup needs to be changed a little to strip wire. The main differences are the cutting depth and angle of the blade and the depth of the slot.

In this picture I illustrate four variables. A+B equals the diameter of the wire you are trying to slit. Adding the blade between them later on will provide enough play for the wire to pull through easily. C is the blade height. For trim, the height can be big because you are cutting clean through the trim. For wire the height is very low, the thickness of the insulation you are slitting. D is the slot depth. For trim slitting the slot shoud be deep to help hold the down force device in place and to protect your hands from the blade. For wire, the slot should be slightly less than the wire diameter. This way your down force device will make contact with the wire as you pull it through the slot.

I want to make something similar to this to strip a box of junk cables for the copper.
They're standard power cables so all the same size.
This is a good idea for large cables but for the three smaller cables within a power cable then it would get a bit fiddly.

Any suggestions for a smaller cable?
bmwbykrydr (author)  nodnodwinkwink4 years ago
I have to assume that your power cord is made with stranded wires, rather than solid core. Stranded wire is a bit more difficult to strip because the knife can grab and cut into the copper easier due to the smaller strands. Also, the insulation on stranded wire is usually softer and more rubber like. This insulation moves around and is harder to keep the knife depth steady. This softer insulation can also be harder to pull through the slot if your slot is a bit too tight and then the catch 22 is that if the slot is too loose then the slit won't stay in the center of the wire.

However, I have used my rig to strip stranded wire. To make it easier to pull the wire through the slot I used a plastic block to press the wire down over the blade and used plastic side blocks. The plastic tends to be more naturally slick. I also used a small can of WD-40, or any cheap spray lube, to keep the blocks lubed up and the wire pulled through pretty well.

As for the slitting and keeping it consistent, I had to get creative again. This instructable shows a flat pressing block, the block in my left hand in the lat picture. For solid wire or for slitting trim the flat block works great if your slot is exactly the width you need and the wire can't shift any side to side. For the soft stranded wire I took the plastic block I made and cut a "V" in the bottom. With the "V" in the block, as I pulled the wire through and pressed it down against the blade, the wire was held in the center of the slot, therefor centered on the blade. You could also bevel the lower blocks to make a "V" with the blade in the middle of the "V". I didn't do this, but it would help keep the wire centered even more. I drew a picture of the beveled slot and beveled pressing block.

This all took some more experimenting with block pressure and such, but I got it to work. You won't be able to pull as hard because stranded wire will break easier than solid core once the insulation is cut.

Far more important with stranded wire is your cut depth. You may want to set your blade to just barely miss cutting all the way through to the copper. I mean just barely, so you can still pull the copper through the slit when you are done. This will help you keep from cutting into the copper, which will dull your blade fast and will likely cut some strands making the wire weaker and more likely to break as you pull.

Let me know if this all clear as mud or if it makes any sense to you. A little experimentation will go along way here.

Beveled Cut Block.bmp
Hi Don,

Thanks for the reply. This is far from mud!

The V shape block and siding for the blade looks like the way to go

I think ill give it a shot this weekend.

bmwbykrydr (author)  nodnodwinkwink4 years ago
Did you have any luck with your wire stripper?
I tried your way but it was slipping too often so i drilled a hole in a block of wood the width of the wire and used a metal saw to cut in to the hole from the corner.
I'm probably not making a clear picture what i did so heres a clearer pic.
It took a couple of tries to get it right and i found a bit of grease let the wire slip through easily.

Its pretty basic but it works and theres little room for the blade to slip off the wire.
bmwbykrydr (author) 4 years ago
I had another thought on the beveled blocks. The pressure block may need to be double beveled to allow it to close tightly on the small diameter wire. As I drew it yesterday you would be limited to a pretty large diameter wire with both surfaces single beveles. See picture. Don