Removing a cable jacket or insulation without damaging the wires can be tricky if you don’t use the right tools and techniques. Cutting into the wires can reduce performance and even cause a fire. Not good! We’ll show you how to save time and get the best results with special cable stripping tools. And, we’ll show you how to use the OLFA 18mm Heavy-Duty Utility Knife to safely remove a cable jacket for those times where you don’t have the right tool with you.
CAUTION: If wires are attached to a power source, make sure the circuit breaker and power are turned off before beginning any project.
Fastest ways to strip Romex(1)
- Use a gauged stripper(2). To use the tool on flat 12/2 & 14/2 NM (non-metallic) cable, just slide the cable into the correct gap on the tool and squeeze the handles. Then push the jacket right off the end of the cable. Done.
- Use a ripper(3) on round or flat NM cable. Locate the jacket in the “seam ripper” cutter and push the tool up the length of the cable. Then flip the tool and rotate the sheath-cutting blade around the cable to slice off the jacket.
Fastest ways to strip coaxial and twisted pair (UTP) communications cable
- Use a ringing tool(4). Adjust the blade depth using scrap cable. Open the jaws and place the cable in the “V” notch. Then release the jaws and rotate the tool around the cable several times. Pull off the jacket and foam (when using a coaxial ringing tool).
Fastest way to remove the jacket from a round power cord
- Use a slit and ring tool(5). Load the cable in the “V” notch and slide the tool down the length of the jacket. Then use the ringing blade or notch to finish the cut. Pull the jacket off.
How to safely use the OLFA 18mm Heavy-Duty utility knife on all cables
- Make sure you’re using a fresh cutting edge on your blade. Simply snap off your OLFA blade tip at the perforation for a fresh edge. Many contractors use the OLFA® 18mm Black Ultra-Sharp Snap-Off Blades where precision is a premium. Made from high-quality carbon tool steel, the ultra-sharp black blade has a 25% sharper edge for less cutting resistance.
- Lightly drag the knife edge around the cable to form a “ring score.” Place the blade slightly above the ring score and use light pressure to score down the cable. As you approach the last 1/2″, apply more pressure to cut through the jacket.
- Pull the jacket edges apart at the cable end and tear upward along the scored line.
- Finish by tearing the jacket off around the ring score. If the jacket won’t tear at the ring, touch the blade to it. Then unwrap the jacket.
- Finally, examine the wires at the cable end. If the insulation is cut or the wire is nicked, just snip off of that 1/2″ section.
That’s it…you are ready to finish your wire job. Onward!
(1) Romex is a registered trademark of Southwire Company LLC.
(2) The Ideal #45-621 Dual NM Reflex Super T-Stripper (around $25 from home center stores) works on most brands of flat 12-gauge or 14-gauge NM cable. In addition to quickly removing the jackets on cables, the tool also has gauged slots for stripping insulation off the individual wires.
(3) The Ideal #45-025 Lil’ ripper Stripper (around $5 from home center stores) works on flat and round cable. The tool removes the jacket and strips individual wires.
(4) Greenlee 0252-11 Cutter/Stripper (around $30 from home center stores) rings coaxial and twisted pair communications cables without damaging the wires.
(5) Jonard Industries CSR-1575 Cable Slit and Ring Tool ($30 from electrical and cable suppliers) cuts and slits round cables.