Bolt cutters are lifesavers when you need to cut a lock, a chain, heavy-gauge wire, hinges, cable, or of course, a bolt. Though many suggest using a hacksaw and file for the least amount of damage to the threading to bolts, bolt cutters will also get the job done. They are the fastest and best way to cut through a piece of solid metal. Having a good pair around the garage will definitely come in handy. Ordering a highly rated one online is much better than having to buy one unexpectedly at a hardware store for a higher price.
How to Use Bolt Cutters
Cutting through thick or dense metals requires longer handles for added leverage. Short handles will require more arm strength to function properly. Cutters with longer handles are generally preferable, but if you need them to be easily portable, you can probably make due with a smaller model. Instead of being able to squeeze right through the material you’re trying to break, you might have to stop and start again several times if using a small pair. As long as you’re lining the blades up with the grooves where you already made progress, it should still work though, even for somewhat tough metals. But it really depends on the thickness of what you’re working with.
Twisting or rotating helps the blades to dig deeper if you’re having trouble. The size of the blades also matters, as larger blades will be much easier to use for heavy duty jobs. Gloves help improve grip and prevent accidental slippage. Also, wearing safety goggles is a good idea to prevent possible splinters from going into your eyes. Marking the spot that you want to pierce through will help guide you and make sure you deliver at even break.
Once you’re ready, squeeze the handles together slowly but forcefully. If you have a lot of resistance, squeeze harder, but make sure you have good footing and are balanced while doing so. If you can’t do it alone, ask someone to help. If they can’t do it either and you absolutely must get the job done, you can use the ground as leverage by placing one of the handles against the ground and pressing down on the other. Be extremely careful if attempting this though, as the pressure applied may be unstable and off balance. Clear the area and be prepared in case your hand slips while doing it.
How to Sharpen Bolt Cutters
After extended use, your tool might develop small dents or chips along the blades. This is a common problem, but can somewhat easily be fixed. You can bring an old pair of bolt cutters back to life if you find some at a yard sale that are dented and dinged up. All it takes is a little bit of finesse. No matter where or how you got them, you can keep them maintained this way, as long as they were a good pair to begin with. First of all, the best quality sets come with an adjustment screw. If they come without that, they probably aren’t worth buying. After trimming the blades down on a bolt cropper and then sharpening them, you can take the slack out of the unit by adjusting the screw. This is why the adjustment screw(s) is essential to longevity.
Stabilize your tool, preferably with a vice grip. Use a grinder with a thin blade. It will apply less pressure than a thicker blade, cause less friction and in turn less heat. The blades are most likely made from tempered steel, so you do not want them to get hot. If they get too hot, they will no longer be tempered and will not cut through hardened steel as well anymore.
Use a light touch with the grinder. Don’t lay into it too much. The blades should be flattened down and even at first, then you’ll grind them at an angle on the sides of each blade to make them somewhat sharp. If they’re too sharp, they’ll warp and end up bent again even faster. Each edge needs to be slightly dulled in order for it to be durable. Once you’re done, tighten the screw to make the blades touch again. The edges don’t need to be perfectly aligned and even when they touch. They should still work just the same if they aren’t.
Which Bolt Cutters to Buy
A set of bolt cutters is a tool that should last a lifetime—if you get a really good pair that is. If you pick the right pair, they will likely outlive you and still be in good working condition. Here are a few great models to choose from. Each one is reasonably priced and highly regarded.
Klein Tools 63124 24-Inch Bolt Cutter – Fiberglass Handles
This tool is rated to cut through materials up to Brinell 300/Rockwell C32. These are two scientific scales for measuring hardness. You can slice right through hardened steel with these with no problem. The unit’s vinyl handles are durable and grippy. Klein has been around since 1857 making tools. It’s one of the best tool brands there is and this pair is no exception. They’re not exactly cheap but you really get what you pay for with this top quality product.
Neiko 00563A Heavy Duty Bolt Cutter, 36-Inch
Blade clearance can be adjusted via the two eccentric bolts at the base of the blades. The Neiko 00563A is heavy weight, heavy duty, and affordably price. It’s an excellent pick for anyone who needs pieces of extremely hard metal cracked open.
HK Porter 0590MC 42″ Industrial Grade, Center Cut Cutter
This HK Porter unit features a lockplate to keep its adjustable screws in place. The distance between the blades can be adjusted with no hassle by simply tightening or loosening the screws. Its design allows 50lbs of arm strength from the grips to translate into 4,000lbs of crushing power in the jaws. HK Porter is well-known for making top of the line tools. This 42 inch model definitely meets par and then some.
TEKTON 3400 18-Inch Bolt Cutter
It has soft rubber grips that ease the pressure on your hands and allow you to apply force comfortably. Due to its size, this pair can’t accommodate extraordinarily thick bolts. If you don’t want to spend a lot but you need a good pair of bolt cutters just in case, the Tekton 3400 is a great choice. Backed by a lifetime replacement guarantee, it’ll prove to be a good purchase for years on.
Olympia Tools 39-118 Power Grip Bolt Cutter, 18-Inch
The Olympia Tools 39-118 is very affordable and offers excellent value considering its features, namely the uncommon ability to fold in half. Its rubber coated grips and wide handle design allow easy and painless cropping of dense metals. This is definitely one of the best 18 inch options if not the best.
Knipex 7101200 8-Inch Lever Action Mini-Bolt Cutter
Due to the Knipex 7101200’s small size, it does take a good amount of hand strength to operate. Bolts and rivets up to 5.2 mm maximum can be effectively snipped through using these. Its rubber coated handles are easy to grip. Knipex claims that the pressure from your hand is multiplied by 20 into the jaws due to the design of the lever. For mini bolt cutters, it doesn’t get much better than these.
RIDGID 14223 Model S24 Bolt Cutter, Heavy-Duty Bolt Cutters
The Ridgid 14223 Model S24 includes a lifetime manufacturer’s warranty, so any problems that could potentially arise due to faulty manufacturing would result in an immediate replacement for free. When it’s all said and done, these Ridgid bolt cutters provide power with durability and longevity. That’s just about all you need when it comes to a cropping tool.