Stripping wires is an essential exercise for ensuring successful electrical connections (Source). However, if you’re sick of using flimsy wire strippers, a thermal wire stripper might be a worthy investment. The best thermal wire strippers can help you easily and safely strip wires without damaging the wire itself.
As the name might suggest, thermal wire strippers or hotweezers use heat to strip away insulation from the conductor. This leaves the conductor exposed so you can establish a connection. Sometimes referred to as a hot wire stripper, thermal strippers are capable of stripping a wide range of wire gauges. Thermal wire strippers sometimes allow you to adjust the temperature based on your needs.
Thermal wire strippers vary in design, but typically have metal jaws that heat up. You then close the jaws of the thermal wire strippers on your wire to burn off the wire’s plastic. When you slide the wire out, the result is a clean-cut and a conductor that’s left undamaged (Source).
Thermal wire strippers are easy to use and ensure a safe and durable connection. If you’re an electrician, engineer, or mechanic, a thermal wire stripper can help you strip wires efficiently without compromising the exposed wire.
Prior to purchasing a thermal wire stripper, you’ll need to consider if its temperature range can handle the type of insulation you’re stripping. You’ll also need to consider the material of the stripper, and if the handle has an ergonomic design.
Don’t strip another wire without one of these top-rated thermal wire strippers.
What is a Thermal Wire Stripper?
Table of Contents
- 1 What is a Thermal Wire Stripper?
- 2 Comparing the Best Thermal Stripper Machines
- 3 1. PATCO Thermal Wire Stripper PTS-10 Series – Best Overall
- 4 2. Teledyne Strip all TW-2 Thermal Wire Stripper – The Most Lightweight Hand-held Thermal Wire Stripper
- 5 3. Pace TS-15 – Strip Tweez Thermal Wire Stripper – The Most Versatile Thermal Wire Stripper
- 6 4. Hakko Blades, Metal, Thermal Wire Stripper, PK2 – The Most Affordable Thermal Wire Stripping Tool
- 7 5. Hakko FT-802 Thermal Wire Stripper – The Most Ergonomic
- 8 Factors to Consider Before Buying a Thermal Wire Stripper
- 9 How to Use a Thermal Wire Stripper
- 10 Using a Wire Stripping Machine
- 11 Ready to Use a Thermal Wire Stripper?
Wire stopping is the removal of the covering or insulation from a wire, cable or an electrical string. A thermal wire stripper is a machine that uses heat to burn off this insulating layer without fraying, scratching or nicking the wire strands.
Most custom wiring projects, such as the wiring up of a recording studio, have most of the wires fabricated on site. The best thermal stripping machines allow for fast, precise and convenient stripping of such cables.
In some cables, the outer layer is almost like a garden hose and can be relatively difficult to remove using a conventional wire stripper.
Comparing the Best Thermal Stripper Machines
|PATCO Thermal Wire Stripper PTS-10 Series|
|Teledyne StripAll TW-2 Thermal Wire Stripper|
|Pace TS-15 – Strip Tweez Thermal Wire Stripper|
|Hakko Blades, Metal, Thermal Wire Stripper, PK2|
|Hakko FT-802 Thermal Wire Stripper|
1. PATCO Thermal Wire Stripper PTS-10 Series – Best Overall
The patented design incorporates a uniquely shaped nichrome heating element by the manufacturer. This element is designed to heat up in less than five seconds, reaching an optimal temperature of 450° F.
The device may be used to strip thermoplastic insulation from solid, stranded or shielded wires of gauges #14 to #30 AWG. The smooth design heating element eliminates nicks and broken strands of conductors and reduces lead pull on the sensitive components.
You will find the hand-held design of the tool to be lightweight and comfortable to hold for extended hours. It is ideal for use in hard to reach places and can be mounted for convenient one-hand operation.
2. Teledyne Strip all TW-2 Thermal Wire Stripper – The Most Lightweight Hand-held Thermal Wire Stripper
The unit is rather versatile, capable of stripping the insulation off 10-36 AWG gauge solid and stranded wire. It may also be used on coaxial cables with a diameter of up to 5/8 inches.
You will find this best wire stripping machine to be fast and Safe, with blades that heat up to 1700°F in 2 seconds. The cooling of the blades after use is equally fast and efficient to prevent injuries, unintentional bench or work area damage.
It allows you to use natural stripping motion, ensuring that heat is only applied when and where it is needed. To use this tool, you only need to squeeze the handle, press the button, rotate, and pull. Features a single button for enhanced productivity.
3. Pace TS-15 – Strip Tweez Thermal Wire Stripper – The Most Versatile Thermal Wire Stripper
The tool comes with several tips that re specifically designed to strip different wire gauges. The manufacturer offers two of these tips free of charge with each purchase.
If you would rather improve the versatility of the tool even further, you need to buy additional tips separately. The strip Depth gauge on this tool is standard to make quick work of repetitive operations.
The stripper also features a numeric scale in millimeters and inches that is laser inscribed on the handpiece. The TS-15 model is cordless and rapidly attaches to a single quick-connect Universal Power Cord. The tool may also be used with the PRC 2000 as well as the SMR Pulse-Heat Rework Station.
4. Hakko Blades, Metal, Thermal Wire Stripper, PK2 – The Most Affordable Thermal Wire Stripping Tool
It is equipped with heated blades that are relatively easy to replace and convenient lead adjusters. With this model, you will be able to preset repeatable strip light between 1/32″ and 1-1/2″.
The power-saving mode of the tool is designed to lower blade temperature by 50 percent whenever the tool is placed in the holder. For enhanced versatility, the tool features variable temperature settings and is equipped with a heat lamp that will continue to flash until the present blade temperature is reached.
With wire stripping length Standard and Reverse Action options, it allows you to choose the appropriate blade opening and closing function.
5. Hakko FT-802 Thermal Wire Stripper – The Most Ergonomic
Furthermore, a lot has changed in this model from the last one, such as robust alignment of the blade, burn-proof protection, Secure blade replacement system, etc. As for the blades, you can now remove the easily without even the need to touch them.
The FT-802 also delivers outstanding performance thanks to the optimized thermal blade system that strips wires much more straightforwardly. And, all this is done through its high-quality setup with a heat-resistant operation.
Although the G4 blades do not accompany this thermal wire stripper, yet you can still buy the FT-802 with its relevant blades at a much affordable price than other models. Investing in this sturdy, portable, and efficient stripping machine is worth it if you want something ergonomic.
Factors to Consider Before Buying a Thermal Wire Stripper
Various electrical wires have different types of insulations, ranging from rubber and PVC insulation coverings to plastic sheaths. Regardless of the wire gauge, you are working with, a thermal wire stripper will always offer the desired precision for professional-grade results.
In order to get the best thermal wire stripper, here are some of the important considerations you need to make for a wire stripping tool:
As mentioned earlier in this guide, thermal wire strippers use a heated element to strip wire insulators off. As such, most of the leading models are equipped with integrated heating elements. When turned on, these elements turn hot, allowing them to soften and strip such coatings and insulations as MYLENE, KAPTON, TEFLON, PVC, and HYTREL.
Different wire stripper tool models are fitted with different temperature settings as per the intended application. Since different insulation materials require different temperatures to strip, adjustable temperature settings with come in handy.
Most of the best thermal wire stripper models are designed to deliver a solid-state controlled-temperature range of 400°F to 1700°F. You should also ensure that the heating elements heat up relatively fast and cool down within a short period after use.
For enhanced versatility, you should consider getting a hotweezer that can strip a wider range of wire gauges. In this regard, some of the leading brands equip their strippers with unique gauge stops, allowing for easy adjusting if the tool.
The best thermal wire stripping tools allow you to adjust the gauge to between #5 and #38 AWG. In such models, the blades will not exert any pressure on the conductor itself.
Such a feature will help prevent deformation and donation and the formation of nicks on the wire. It will also protect the remaining insulation against damage, as the wire itself is not heated.
Such capabilities in your stripping machine will allow you to achieve clean and square cuts every time. A good thermal wire stripper should not melt any sleeving into the wire strands and should only cut at the predetermined points with utmost precision.
Blade Design and Material
In most thermal wire stripper models, it is the blades that are heated to achieve the stripping temperature. As such, you should check to see whether ten blade design and material is suited to your intended application.
A rugged alloy blade construction allows for enhanced durability and optimal performance of the tool, especially under demanding conditions. Such a material also allows the tool to heat to high temperatures, often up to 926°C (1700°F) in a few seconds.
The blade material on your preferred electric wire stripper should also allow for swift cooling after use. You will find such a tool safe to use, even without special racks or holding clips.
As you are aware, cables and wires come in a myriad of types. As such, you need to ensure that you get a machine that is capable of stripping the type of wires you commonly encounter in your line of work.
In addition to being lightweight, and easy to control, the blade should be optimized for stripping that particular type of wires or cable. For instance, there are some models that feature a long nose, capable of stripping longer strips, up to 3.5” in a single stripping action.
Such a design will also make it easier for you to strip wires situated in rather inaccessible areas. In most cases, wire strippers meant for such an application are fitted with comparatively long electrodes.
Then there are other models that are specifically designed to slit and remove the outer covering of a cable. Such models are often capable of stripping PFA coated as well as low- temperature coaxial coverings. If this is your preferred design, it is advisable to get one that is compatible with wire or coax diameters of up to 0.625″.
How to Use a Thermal Wire Stripper
Most of the insulating materials used on conductors are thermoplastics. Different types of insulation require different stripping techniques. For instance, PTFE insulation is easy to strip, because of its low coefficient of friction.
However, it is a very tough material and does not tear easily, hence requiring a complete slug separation. This is why thermal strippers work so well on this type of insulation.
Thermal strippers offer the lowest possible lead pull on the sensitive components, which remains constant throughout the life of the element.
Although the various thermal wire stripper models are designed differently, their mode of operation is almost the same and involves:
- The Set-Up
For the purpose of stripping shorter wire pieces, most models will allow you to hold them by hand. However, high production wire stripping tasks may require you to mount the thermal stripper on a tabletop.
Table-mounted units are known to allow for easier one-handed control and precision. Once the setup is ready, you can plug the unit into a power outlet socket and turn it on.
- Inserting the Wire
Align the wire with the largest opening in the thermal stripper element. Depending on the length of the wire you would like to strip, you should insert the wire as far as required using visual judgment. Now move the wire towards the tapered end of the stripping element, while applying pressure until you feel some resistance.
- Making the Cut
Now rotate the wire about a 1/4 turn maintaining slight pressure into the “V”, such that the insulation is completely cut. You should then pull the wire away from the elements while still maintaining the side pressure. This action is aimed at removing the insulation slug, without causing any damage to the conductor.
Using a Wire Stripping Machine
Ready to Use a Thermal Wire Stripper?
In high-temperature insulation, the element design includes two main sections; a ringing section where the insulation is thermally separated and a pulling section. Within the pulling section, thermally separated insulation slug is wedged between parallel stripping element edges for easy removal.
Without the right electric wire stripper, stripping the rougher wire insulations can be time-consuming and may result in nicking and damage to the wire. Just as is the case with the five wire-stripping tools reviewed above, your preferred model should be versatile and functional.
This guide will help you choose the best thermal wire stripper for an array of cable and wire stripping applications. Interested in woodworking? Read our buying guides and reviews for the best woodworking tools, including this review of the Grizzly G0766 wood lathe.
Wiring specialists often have this tool, along with other electrical tools like tone and probe tracing kits.