Introduction: Strip and Tin Wires Like a Pro

Picture of Strip and Tin Wires Like a Pro
Ever need to strip a wire but don't have any wire strippers handy? This instructable shows you how to strip the insulation off wires perfectly every time so that you'll never have to swap between your side cutters and wire strippers ever again.

Once stripped using this method it also lets you twizzle the wires perfectly before soldering them, leaving you with a very neat tinned wire.

These tricks were some of the first things that Steveastrouk taught me when I started working for him after we met on Instructables. I use the wire stripping trick almost every day and has saved me hours.

Read on to find out how!

Step 1: Tools & Materials

Picture of Tools & Materials

- side cutters
- soldering iron
- wet sponge or soldering iron cleaning gumpf of choice

- wire (duh!), single or multi core.
- solder

Step 2: Holding the Wire & Side Cutter

Picture of Holding the Wire & Side Cutter

Grip the wire in one fist or wrapped around your fingers. Leave your thumb free. For shorter or thinner wires it's more important that you wrap it around your fingers so that it doesn't slip out.

Hold the side cutters in your other hand with the beveled edge facing the wire and put light pressure on the insulation with them a short way down the wire. This method works for both multi and single core wires, but for multicore, place the side cutters further down the wire if you want to twist them perfectly.

Step 3: Push Firmly With Thumb

Picture of Push Firmly With Thumb

Place the thumb of the hand holding the wire on the pivot of the side cutters (picture 1), apply light pressure on the insulation of the wire with the side cutters and then push against the pivot with your thumb.

This should cause the blades of the side cutters to dig in to the insulation and push it back along the wire, breaking the insulation but not the core (picture 2).

Definitely the trickiest bit of this Instructable, you just need a little bit of practice at knowing how much pressure to place on the insulation with the side cutters. It's really not hard, it just sounds hard. Give it a try!

Single core wire:
Go ahead and just push the broken insulation off the end of the core then trim the core to the desired length,

Multi core wire:
This is the cool bit. If you strip a length longer than you actually require you can stop stripping before the insulation falls off the end of the cores. This leaves you a "handle" that may be used to twist the cores (picture 3).

Step 4: Multi Core Tricks

Picture of Multi Core Tricks

As described in the previous step, if you're stripping multi core wire, strip it longer than you require but don't push the insulation off the end of the cores.

Now use the remaining separated piece of insulation as a handle. Twist it between your fingers to neatly twist the cores of the wire together. If you don't require the wire tinned, trim the twisted cores to length.

If you require the wire tinned, now tin it, THEN cut the end off. The insulation you used to twist the cores holds them in place while you tin them, leaving you with a very neatly tinned wire

Step 5: Tinning

Hold the wire between your thumb and first finger and the solder between your second and third fingers. There's NO need for a third hand right now, your second and third fingers have plenty enough dexterity to feed the solder onto the heated wire. Try it, it'll help you time and time again if you learn this little trick.

Heat the wire with a clean soldering iron then feed the solder into the wire. Be sure to heat the wire's core first, the multi core wire will wick up the solder, tinning it nicely.

Now trim the excess length off the wire.

Done! These few simple tricks must have saved me dozens of hours over the course of the couple of years since I learned them. Hours saved from having to hunt for wire strippers, from switching between tools, from having to set up wires in helping hands and from having to retin badly tinned wires before soldering them to other components.


Veerava (author)2016-09-28

Can someone say how to stripe a thin single coreTeflon wire. It is very difficult to stripe a Teflon wire using wire cutter

Joker972 (author)2016-04-21

Awesome instructable! I never considered using the cut-off insulation as a winding post or brace for tinning, but will definitely add these techniques to improve my soldering!

larry.rivard (author)2015-01-27

Great tips. I have already used them a few times.

tobywinks (author)2015-01-25

Pretty neat! Check out my diy for a wiring time saver. I bet it would help you, and feel free to vote?

muhammad.abdulhadi (author)2013-10-02

masha Allah a simple and good technique. I have twisted wire like that before but never thought of tinning it before pulling it about another one for joining two or more wires together and also for splicing wires...thanks bro

BigBadgers2001 (author)2013-03-17

Very simple idea that works brilliantly. Thank you for this instructable.

ynze (author)2013-01-11

Wow, did you hire a professional photographer to get the pictures? It's a great I'ble, but I'm really IMPRESSED by the quality of the pics. Can you tell something on how you made them (or make an I'ble about it ;-))?


Jayefuu (author)ynze2013-01-11

Amazing what good lighting and background does eh?! To get these, I think I used a Canon D50 at Instructables HQ. The background is a massive roll of photography paper hanging above a table, there were two large 500W lamps with diffusers around the table. I fiddled with some camera settings as Noah or Randy told me to but I don't remember which now. I think Randofo has a guide on it somewhere, I'll try dig it out, but bascially.... nice clean white background and LOTS of light. I also did some post processing on the images to whiten the background, just adjustments in Picassa I think.

Jayefuu (author)Jayefuu2013-01-11

It was similar to this:

ynze (author)Jayefuu2013-01-11

Did you take the pictures with a remote control (no, because I can see both of your hands in the pics)? Voicecontrol? Smellsoldercontrol? The camera's timerfunction?

Jayefuu (author)ynze2013-01-11

Voice control. I think Mikeasaurus was leaning over my shoulder. :D

Jayefuu (author)Jayefuu2013-01-11

Oh and another popular trick if you're rubbish at photography like me, take 100 photos and use only 5 of them.

ynze (author)Jayefuu2013-01-11

That's no trick for rubbish photographers, that's a pro trick! (and not so much a trick, it's just that getting the right picture is so darn difficult, even for a pro...)

stevenbrenner (author)2012-10-20

I have been soldering for over forty years, and I can tell you that this is extremely poor instruction. If anything works after using these techniques, I would be very surprised!!!!

These are very basic instructions, and should be followed with some technique. Also basic solder techniques dictate that you only heat solder once!!!!

Jayefuu (author)stevenbrenner2012-10-21

Some comments...

"soldering for over forty years"
I was taught this by an equally experienced engineer as you. Stripping wires is something everyone reaches for a pair of wire strippers for when it's unnecessary, especially since most people do more damage to the wire using an incorrectly set stripper than someone taught this would. Re the tinning, I've watched people struggle to tin wires with a helping hand and still get a worse result than this. This method teaches you how to hold them so you a) won't burn yourself b) don't overheat the insulation c) only need two hands.

"extremely poor instruction"
Or perhaps you've just misunderstood? It's an excellent method, it was an eye opener when I was taught it and the people I've shown since have also been impressed with how easy and useful it is.

"Also basic solder techniques dictate that you only heat solder once!!!!"

I've never heard this "basic" technique. Care to explain why? I can only think that you're confusing it with reheating old solder. Perhaps? Since many things require tinning and then soldering to something.


stevenbrenner (author)Jayefuu2012-10-21

I was trained to work to "MIL STANDARD 2000" which among other things States that one touch soldering is the only acceptable practice.

As far as stripping wires, no nicks of any conductor is acceptable. \

And as far as "Only Heat Once", this is because a second heating of the solder introduces oxygen into the solder along with other contaminents that increase resistance, and needlessly reheats components.

Tinnig is nessesary, but then you insert the wire in whatever you are attaching it to, and use fresh solder to complete the joint.

If you will note, I stated that this instruction should be followed with some technique.

As far as my training goes, I was certified as an instructor for various soldering operations, both military and commercial.

Jayefuu (author)stevenbrenner2012-10-21

Thanks, that's interesting. Perhaps I should add a disclaimer at the end... "If you're working to mil standard 2000, ignore this tutorial you found on the internet and follow your training".

stevenbrenner (author)Jayefuu2012-10-22

I did not intend to negate your excellent instructable, but to add that to do a good job you should develop "proper technique" in order to minimize possible damage to the parts and assemblies that you are constructing and or repairing!

Thank Yuo for your response. Steven E Brenner

lbrewer42 (author)2012-08-13

Genius! Another one of those "I should have thought of that" moments has struck :)

bman2011 (author)2012-04-29

Impressive........... Most Impressive!!!!!

Always had trouble soldering my wires, due to the dumb fact I did not TIN the wires! Thanks of the education,dude!

Krayzi99 (author)2012-03-12

Wow. Goodbye, millions of extra hours soldering and tinning wires!

MrMike (author)2012-03-01

I didn't know "twizzle" is the technical term for tightening the manufactured, supplied multi-strand wire before crimping or soldering....

Just do it in the same direction that the base wire was formed with...

Takes quite a bit of practice to develop the muscle memory in applying 'just enough' pressure to cut insulation and not nick wires....

shaggydoo (author)MrMike2012-03-09

Twizzle: verb
spin or cause to spin around.

I don't know as far as twizzle being the technical term but it's a fun word to say and now I have a reason to say it. :)

iceng (author)2012-02-27

Yes, its good to be able to work with a pair of "dykes" side cutters,
I keep the tip edges nice and sharp and only cut wire on the deep inside edge.

But at the cost of stripper, I keep ten on hand, spread about my shop at
various places and on or two anchor tied in place by the wire racks.

May be I will do an ible on the skill of stripping narrow gauge insulated wire
with the most convenient tool in my shop My Teeth !
Works great every time over 69 years and sizzles when tinning.

BTW nice to see you in SF :-)


tkjtkj (author)iceng2012-03-01

thanks for input,really..

i would only mention that those cutter's real
name is: Diagonal Cutters ..

So, i dont really think 'dykes' approaches that spelling and i just never use it .. especially because some women might strongly object ..
"Dikes" seems more fitting, no?

iceng (author)tkjtkj2012-03-01

Sure, but I learned the tool slang long before the unfortunate anatomical
reference changed the meaning of the word, in this my third life language.

Sorry, if my poor phonetic spelling offended any one, I tried to stay clear of the
canal wall reference and got into something even less desirable.

tkjtkj (author)iceng2012-03-05

im sure nobody here was offended .. certainly not I ..
and tnx for the reply

lperkins (author)tkjtkj2012-03-02

From listening carefully to the pronunciation of the slang term by the electronics workers I know who are in their late seventies to early eighties, I would have to postulate that the proper spelling of the slang term is probably, "diags." Which also makes logical and linguistic sense given its derivation from the proper name of the tool. :)

Jayefuu (author)iceng2012-02-27

Thanks :) Let me know in you're in the bay area in the next month or so.

riff raff (author)2012-03-01

Good luck using that technique on Teflon wires. :-/

steveastrouk (author)riff raff2012-03-02

Works perfectly. See my caveat. I've done miles of Teflon wires


steveastrouk (author)2012-03-02

Nice Ible !

The only thing Jayefuu's missed about my technique is that he is, and should point out, using Lindstrom cutters. Having VERY sharp cutters that penetrate the insulation is critical to the method, since blunt ones will merely force the insulation all the harder onto the strands, and you are pretty well guaranteed to snap a strand.

Sadly Lindstroms ain't cheap - they'll set you back over 50 bucks a pair or up to 100 for the top range ones. However they'll last a lifetime of copper work. Mine still cut a strand of hair - and they're 30 years old.


MTJimL (author)2012-03-01

Practice, practice, practice, on spare wire of different gauges. Until you're completely confident with the cutters, it's a good idea to do a trial strip before trying to get it right on a wire that's already cut to length ... Oops!

cc0war0 (author)2012-03-01

nice work

The Lightning Stalker (author)2012-03-01

If you can do this without nicking the wires, then good job.

gezer2u (author)2012-03-01

thanks for the tips! I really liked the tip about leaving the insulation on.

I would rate it but couldn't get the stars to come up no matter how many times I refreshed . :(

sconner1 (author)2012-03-01

Here's a cool trick.
Use scrap multistranded wire as de-soldering braid.
Strip a 2-3" length at one end and coat the cores in flux.
I place the fluxed wire against the joint to be de-soldered near the insulation end of the stripped section of wire.
Place the iron tip over it and apply heat on top of the wire.
When the solder flows, drag the wire out from under the iron.
This tins the wire by wicking the solder from the joint.
Clip the tinned wire off, strip and flux farther on and repeat.
Thicker wire soaks more solder, thinner gets into tighter spaces.

f5mando (author)sconner12012-03-01

Very slick - just like this instructable of Jayefuu. My hat's off to you both. Thanks so much for sharing!

ib42 (author)2012-03-01

You have succeeded in demonstrating that words are not necessary to be effective in life! Thanks!

sabr686 (author)2012-03-01

Nicely constructed ible. So many folks struggle (must be more than just me!) with soldering and wire stripping. This is good stuff. Thank you!

sitearm (author)2012-03-01

@Jayefuu; Now I can stop using my teeth (seriously). Thank you! Site :)

SolidRaven (author)2012-03-01

A subject dear to my heart as electronic engineering student.
The fact is that we use just about everything we can find to strip wires. Personally I like using hot air soldering tools to soften up the plastic and then pull at it with flat pliers or my finger nails (only do this if your finger tips don't mind hot plastic). This produces very clean results and doesn't damage the cable.
I know some of my friends use their keys to strip wires. Hold the wire in one of the indents and pull it. If you do it right it'll strip the wire easily.
Others use lighters but this leaves scorch marks on the cable that makes soldering harder. Another common method is to go along the wire with the shaft of a soldering iron. But that generally doesn't smell too well.
My only suggestion is, if you're going to work with cables. Use the proper tools, if you damage one of the conductors you might be in for a surprise.

Jossy92 (author)2012-03-01

I know that beginners (me) can mess up anything, so I appreciate the attention to detail in your instructable. I feel comfortable following your instructions and thank you. ;)

ikarias (author)2012-03-01

The problem with this method lies not with the use displayed here, but in more 'heavy duty' appliances.

It is all to easy to 'dent' the wire, make a small incission on it if you will. When going to larger power consumption (say, 10-16 amps) this means that at the spot of the dent there will be more heat development. Thus risking things from warm wires, to burnt houses.

Personaly, i use strippers (unless it's a small gauge ;))

dorybob (author)2012-03-01

very good instructable. I've been wiring up a solar panel and fighting with wires. Your technique will really help.

Jayefuu (author)dorybob2012-03-01

I was pretty impressed when I was taught it too :)

pculbert (author)2012-03-01

Jayefuu! Thanks so much for sharing this technique. Everytime I strip wires I think that there must be a better way! This is it!!

Jayefuu (author)pculbert2012-03-01

You're welcome. It worked okay for you, not too hard to follow along? Is there anywhere that my instructions weren't clear that I can update?

dasrejver (author)2012-03-01

very nice instructable!

my attempt ended in failure due to a very crappy soldering iron, but very nice instructable nonetheless.

Kryptonite (author)2012-02-29

This is so incredibly useful. I've had an infinite number of issues with stripping multistrand wire and tinning it, thanks!!

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