Help Selecting the Right Cutters
In the jewelry trade, unless you’re only doing one task with the same material forever, there is no single cutter for all your needs. Trying to save money by using the wrong cutter can damage your material and shorten the cutter’s life, costing you more in the long run.
The cost of a tool is NOT a gauge of its strength. Here are the essential points to consider when buying a new pair of cutters:
- What type and gauge of material will you be cutting?
- What handle fits your hand best?
- What head type and size do you need?
- What type of cut is required?
When selecting a cutter, you must determine the gauge and type of material you’ll be cutting. Except for hard-wire cutters, cutting capacity ratings are based on soft copper wire. Published cutting capacities are normally for the throat of the cutter, not the tips. The tips most often have a cutting capacity of 4 AWG or less (bigger number/smaller size) than the published cutting capacity. If you’re using precision cutters (like Tronex) and are having to squeeze hard to cut your material, you’re probably cutting beyond the cutter’s capacity.
If you’re going to be cutting 18 AWG soft copper wire all day, every day, I wouldn’t settle for a cutter that is rated up to 18 AWG. Instead, select a cutter that’s rated up to 16 AWG because it will hold its edge longer.
If you need to cut hard, semi-hard, or memory wire, you’ll need a specialty cutter like Xuron’s 2193. The 2193 will cut steel wire up to 12 gauge, and memory wire up to 18 gauge. Trying to cut these materials with a pair of Tronex precision cutters will surely damage them. For even heavier gauge material I would look at the Knipex 71-12-200 Mini Bolt Cutters.
Head Types & Size: There are 3 basic head types: oval, tapered, and tip cutters. There are also many subtypes, such as relieved and angulated. Choose the strongest head that still allows access to the material to be cut.
- Oval head: The most common shape, combining strength and durability, an oval head evenly distributes cutting impact. This is the strongest head type and will provide slightly higher cutting capacities.
- Oval and relieved: Like the oval head above, but with the underside cut away, this head has a smaller profile for better access to limited spaces. This cut away will affect the rated cutting capacity when compared to the same size head that is not relieved.
- Tapered head: The sides taper diagonally, providing improved access in limited space, improved maneuverability, and good durability. With less metal in the head, a taped head’s cutting capacity is slightly less than the oval head.
- Tapered and relieved head: Tapered on both sides with the underside cut away, this head’s minimal profile provides access to very limited spaces. This configuration is one of the most popular in the jewelry trade for its fine finishing cut. With even less metal, this head has an even lower cutting capacity than the above heads.
- Tip cutter: Tip cutters and angulated tip cutters give you the best access to tight places of all the cutters. They also have the lowest cutting capacity. Unlike the other heads, the rated cutting capacity for these cutters is for their tips. The angulated version has the cutting edge at a steeper angle from the handle.
Types of cut:
- Semi-flush: Makes a low-profile cut. This type of cutter handles heavier gauge material than the other two types and holds its edge longer. This is the least popular of the 3 types of cuts in the jewelry trade.
- Flush: Cut result leaves a narrow and short peak along the “pinch” line, decreasing the surface area at the cut. This is the most popular cut of the three types and can normally cut heavier gauge material than razor flush and lighter gauge than the semi-flush.
- Razor flush - The finest cut result available with the smoothest lead-end. This is the second most popular of the three.
When comparing the cutting capacities of cut types, the semi-flush cut gives you the highest cutting capacity. The Flush cut will provide a lower cutting capacity than the semi-flush cut and the razor flush provides the lowest of the three. The head style is not limited to any one type of cut. For example, an oval head cutter can come in any of the three types of cut, but for maximum cutting capacity, an oval head with a semi-flush cut will give you the highest cutting capacity.
Wire Gauge Conversion Chart