How to Strip the Shielding Off of a Small Wire

Big projects are made up of small processes. Until you master those small processes, the big projects can seem like an unreachable dream. Hopefully this instructable will help those of you who are beginning your paths to big things!

When wiring up projects at TechShop, I find myself using wires that are much to small for my wire stripping tool. Through trial and error and many damaged wires, I think I've come up with a great method for removing the shielding without damaging those delicate metal strands inside.

Step 1: Nick the Shielding

The trickiest part is to nick the shielding deeply enough that you significantly weaken it, but not so deeply that you cut the wires inside. I've found that the best combination is a sharp knife, very little pressure, and a very slow slice perpendicular to the wire. I usually support the wire on the pad of my left index finger as I cut, which provides more textile feedback when I break through the shielding and touch a wire inside. If you feel the telltale grind of metal on metal, stop immediately. The higher your ratio of slicing motion to downward cutting, the less damage you'll do. Don't just push down with the blade to cut!

Some shielding will yield in the next step without having to cut all the way to the core, which is better for the conductive wires, but some stubborn shielding won't give unless you cut all the way through in at least one spot. Whenever possible, I try to stop before I break all the way through the shielding to avoid nicking the wires inside.

After nicking the shield, if you bend the wire away from the nick you can get a better idea of how much of the shielding you've cut, and it opens up a bigger gap for you to grab in the next step.

Normally two nicks in the shielding on opposite sides of the wire is sufficient.

Step 2: Grip the Notches in the Shielding

Grab the wire by putting your thumbnail and middle finger nail into the notches and the tip of the wire pointing towards your palm.
Having short nails helps a lot here as you can really get some good leverage when you start to pull. Longer nails tend to bend, and if they bend at the nail bed, it's not a pain-free experience. Short nails, people.

Step 3: Pull the Shielding Off

Angle your hand so your thumb is pointing more towards the tip of the wire. Your middle finger's nail will mostly just be used to hold the wire against the thumbnail. Pull the standing end of the wire away from your thumb at the lowest angle possible. That will give your thumbnail a lot of support as it pushes the shielding towards the end of the wire.

If the shielding is properly nicked, it will tear neatly between the two nicks and pop off the end of the wire without much trouble. If you are unable to pull the shielding off, go back to step 1 and either deepen existing nicks that have not yet made it to the metal core, or add additional nicks around the shielding.



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    7 Discussions


    4 years ago

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


    4 years ago on Introduction

    welp, guess I got a reason to stop biting my fingernails now


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Good instruction on starting the process. As my electronics teacher always told me, once you've separated the bit of insulation on the end, twist it as you pull it off so it twists the strands of wire together, they are less likely to fray and it makes it easier to solder.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Actually, this is how I do most of my wire-stripping, whatever the thickness. I usually use a penknife and my thumb, though, rather than a craft knife and a mat.

    I find they're more portable...


    5 years ago on Introduction

    mmm using a knife is not a good idea as you can easily break some of the conductors. It is always better to use the correct tool for the job..... wire strippers.

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    The point of the project is stripping wires that are too thin for your usual wire strippers.