How to Strip a Wire

Eventually, the day will come when you have to strip a wire.

Stripping a wire means removing a section of the insulating plastic cover to expose the electrical conductor underneath. It’s not hard, but it does take a little practice.

The process is easy: cut through the insulator and pull it either open or off. 

The practice is a little more complex: how far do you cut? What tools do you use? How do you get the insulator off? 

Wire Stripping Tools

Let’s look at the tools first.  What’s needed is a sharp blade. A knife or a pair of scissors will work in a pinch, but you’ll need a wire cutter. These have angled blades that push the insulation away as you cut it.

While there are specific wire stripping tools, these can be expensive, and are only good for one thing. If you strip a ton of wires, you’re not reading this, because you probably have one of these.

Most of us have a pair of pliers with a built-in wire-stripping blade. It’s inside the circular cutout. When you open the pliers, you can see the cutting edge.

Cut the Wire Insulation

Grab the wire with the wire cutters about a half-inch from the end. 

Gently squeeze the handles. Don’t squeeze it hard or you’ll cut right through the wire. If you do that, start again about a half-inch from the new end.

Squeeze gently. You’ll feel the insulator sort of goosh under the pliers. Rotate the wire to cut the insulation all the way around.

Slide the cut insulation off the end of the wire.

Remove the Wire Insulation

When it seems like you’ve cut through the insulation, slowly pull the pliers towards the end of the wire. The insulation will slide off, too. 

If it doesn’t, the cut probably didn’t go all the way through the insulation. Pull a little harder, twisting the pliers around the wire as you do so. The insulation should come off with a little more force.

If the core of the wire is multi-strand, like on this extension cord, you may see a few strands come off with the insulation. Not to worry – it just means those got cut along with the insulation.  If it seems like too many came off, use the pliers to cut off the end of the cord and strip the new end.

Some cables cannot be stripped this way: audio cables, for example, feature internal jackets and braided conductors that will just come apart. You don’t want to strip those – it’s better to just replace the cable. 

This is also true for coaxial and Ethernet cables.

Expose the the wire, but don't remove the insulation to make a wye-connection.

Strip for a Wye Connection

To make a wye connection, you need to cut through the insulation, but not remove it. 

Use your pliers to cut all the way through the insulation, and then pull it open to expose the conductor underneath. Now you can attach another stripped wire to that exposed conductor to make a wye. Push the insulation back over the cut to trap the new wire in place, and protect it with some electrical tape.

If you don’t have access to a pair of pliers, you can also use a pair of scissors or a sharp knife to cut through the insulation. It’s not good for the scissors or the knife, but you can strip a wire that way. 

That’s it: you’ve stripped your wires and are on your way. You did it!

Please Note:. Do not use this procedure if you are not certain that you can complete it safely, or if it does not seem accurate. Skippity Whistles provides this information as advice, and cannot accept any liability from your usage of it.


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Published by John D Reinhart

Author, technical writer, videographer, actor, and naval historian John D Reinhart is a very busy guy. You can find his novels as

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