LAST UPDATED: October 31, 2020
The Best Bolt Cutters (Review & Buying Guide) in 2020
Stop making metal shavings and bust through anything with these bolt cutters
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PUBLISHED ON October 31, 2020
Bolt cutters are incredibly handy. Contrary to the name, a bolt cutter doesn’t have to be used solely for cutting through bolts — it is a multi-purpose tool that helps in several different situations. Sure, power tools are just as quick and require less effort to operate. But think about safety. Power tools are often far too aggressive, and a little accident can have significant consequences. Plus, don’t forget that they’re useless without a power source. That’s precisely why you should invest in a good set of bolt cutters.
Of course, as the name implies, they are great for cutting bolts. This is an excellent function for many occasions. But the powerful jaws can be put to use for many other projects, such as trimming solid core wire, metal shelving, and even steel straps that keep cargo on pallets. No matter what you’re using your bolt cutter for, make sure you invest in one that offers good grips that deliver control and leverage. You also need bolt cutters that can make tough cutting jobs effortless.
8-inch bolt cutters that feature use of quality materials for construction.
- Lightweight and compact
- These cutters are easy to use and carry anywhere
- Narrow jaw opening limits the usefulness of these cutters.
Compact and affordable cutters make quick work of thin materials. Hardened materials and design characteristics provide performance and longevity.
- Very affordable, but still offers plenty of performance
- Hardened cutting edge offers several advantages
- Quality control is subpar and based on user reviews, many faulty models seem to exist
Premium professional-level mini cutters perfect for regular use. The compact design is complemented by the compound function that multiplies force for maximum performance.
- Ultra-hard edges and quality construction promote superior performance and reliability
- Premium price point is equivalent to full-size models with greater capabilities
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Bolt Cutter
- No mess: Many hand tools and power tools that can cut objects will leave behind shavings that are difficult to use. With the exception of collecting half of what’s been cut, bolt cutters require virtually no cleanup.
- Quick work: Hand saws and other tools can do the same thing bolt cutters can, but they take much longer. The simple operation and mechanical advantage of bolt cutters make quick work of anything in its jaws.
- Easy to use: Bolt cutters are designed to provide the user with a mechanical advantage. By multiplying force, little effort is required to cut through bolts and wires. A person of any stature, even a child, can use them as they do not require a substantial amount of force to perform such tasks.
- Safer than power tools: Power tools, such as cut-off tools and a Sawzall, are apparent alternatives to bolt cutters. However, they can be dangerous to the user and other objects. Bolt cutters will only cut what is within the jaws and are not likely to bounce back and hurt the user or cut anything unintentionally.
Types of Bolt Cutters
Traditional bolt cutters feature all the typical design elements you should expect to find. They do not feature any design characteristics they do not need, but still perform their intended task. You will find that this type dominates our list. Even mini or compact models can be lumped into this category as they feature the same design, only scaled down.
Bolt cutters can be hard to store; therefore, some models with folding handles do exist. The handles fold upward onto the jaws to decrease their overall length. While this makes them wider, they are short enough to store in most toolboxes and bags. Integrity is only slightly compromised because the handles are mostly solid materials. The exception being a separation that allows them to fold.
Though none are featured on our list, there are bolt cutters with extendable handles. The handles can be left at the shortest length for use in tight spaces, as they are much easier to handle in this configuration. However, the handles can be extended to increase the mechanical advantage. The only problem with this design is that the handles may lack structural integrity because they are hollow.
Located in Grand Rapids, Mich., Tekton is the proud producer of consumer-level hand tools. Despite its economical pricing, this family-owned operation still manages to incorporate top-tier performance characteristics into their designs. The Tekton 8" Bolt Cutter is an excellent example of this.
Founded in 1882, Knipex remains headquartered in its home city of Wuppertal, Germany. It was initially focused on pincers and blacksmith's tongs but gradually began developing other hand tools. There's no arguing that it is a leading producer of high-quality pieces of equipment, such as the Knipex Tools CoBolt Compact Bolt Cutter.
Bolt Cutter Pricing
- Under $50: Most bolt cutters list for less than $50. The closer they list to $50, the better their quality will be. However, many will still perform as well as premium listings.
- $50 and up: Bolt cutters above $50 are of premium quality. These are top-grade options that are intended for regular use in professional settings.
Bolt cutters are intended to cut through bolts and other pieces of metal. Therefore, they must be of solid construction. Always reference manufacturer specs and customer reviews to ensure that the models you are interested in can withstand what you will subject them to.
It's important to note that the jaws aren't the only component that must rely on a robust design. The handles and various pivoting points must also be built with high-strength components to prevent failure during use.
The jaw's width and design will determine what the bolt cutter can actually be used for. A 5/16-inch jaw opening is standard and will suffice for most uses. Most technicians will only use bolt cutters to cut through wire and other thin pieces of metal. Therefore, may want to reference this wire cutter buying guide for superior alternatives.
Much like the jaw design, the handles' length will help determine what the bolt cutters can be used for. While a compound jaw design does help increase the mechanical advantage, leverage is still significant. Longer handles can help make it easier to perform cuts. However, this does make the tool much harder to pack along.
- Comfortable Grips. Grip design is essential to the operation. You will be exerting a considerable amount of force, so you want to make sure you have something that is both comfortable in your hand and easy to hold onto. While it shouldn’t be a driving reason to consider a bolt cutter, it is something to prioritize during selection.
- Foldable Design. If you need to carry bolt cutters in a tool bag, you might want to invest in a set designed with that in mind. This is especially true if you know you will need longer handles for an increased mechanical advantage. Again, this is not a standard design feature, so you will need to search specifically for sets that offer it.
- Adjustable Blade. Most bolt cutters feature an adjustable blade. With this adjustment, you can set the proper cutting depth to fine-tune performance. How this adjustment is made can vary, and it is something to pay careful attention to. You want to make sure that the mechanism is both easy to use and will provide reliable results.
Best Bolt Cutter Reviews & Recommendations 2020
This tool might be small and compact, but it is no slouch when it comes to cutting through tough items like bolts, chain, threaded rods, and heavy-gauge wire. This bolt cutter is made with forged and hardened steel alloy jaws and rolled steel handles covered in cushioned, non-slip rubber grips. It can tackle items up to 3/16 inches in diameter without a problem. It delivers compound cutting action that requires less effort to get the perfect cutting force due to the included compound hinge. Though this bolt cutter will be a small addition to your toolbox, it’ll deliver the power and force you’ll need when you have to cut through wire and other thin pieces of metal.
Of course, it is not ideal for every possible use. The jaw opening is a little too narrow for many uses, but larger configurations are available.
This is an excellent choice for lighter use like cutting through soft metal, small bolts, rods, rivets, and chains. These bolt cutters are made out of drop forged chrome-molybdenum steel with jaws that are powder coated for durability. They deliver compound cutting acting without requiring much effort on your part. This bolt cutter uses a classic lever-fulcrum design and precisely aligned blades for extra leverage. When you grab this bolt cutter, you feel a distinct advantage. The tubular handles feature bi-material anti-slip grips and an ergonomic design that helps you keep your grip even as you’re applying pressure. Despite being quite small, you’ll still be able to quickly cut through whatever is in its jaws.
Keep in mind that this bolt cutter isn’t recommended for cutting locks or thick bolts—it’s a better choice for lighter-use situations. Still, it is an excellent addition to any existing collection.
This premium entry is a perfectly compact bolt cutter that can deliver exceptional cutting power from a small package. Built to be a precision-grade performance tool, this bolt cutter is both comfortable and powerful. Measuring just 8 inches, this tool is capable of easily cutting almost any wire. It can tackle soft wire up to 1/4", medium hardwire up to 13/64", and hardwire up to 5/32". With a lever-action design that can apply 20 times more hand force, you get impressive cutting power. The handle design will also help eliminate any strain or discomfort you would experience with lesser models. Furthermore, the cutting edge has a hardness of 64 HRC.
While any high-grade tool warrants a high price tag, we find it kind of hard to justify due to its size.
With a heavy-duty build, this bolt cutter gives you long, useful life and high cutting capability without dipping too far into your tool fund. The blades are 12 inches and made out of premium Cr-Mo steel, which makes them able to cut through incredibly tough materials. These blades are also heat treated, which helps resist cracks and dings along the cutting edge. A pair of ergonomic handles that are constructed from textured non-slip plastic gives you a comfortable, controlled grip. Believe it or not, these grips contribute to a long life. Even over many uses, it’s unlikely that the edges will dull or the tool will deteriorate.
It seems quality control is a downside of these cutters. While they’re cheap enough to justify spending your money on, many customers report flaws in the edges that simply shouldn’t exist.
With a premium price and a number of premium features, the Cobolt Cutters are impressive. While plenty of bolt cutters are strong, this tool is able to deliver exceptional cutting performance with minimal effort, and they include features that others don’t. This bolt cutter can cut items like bolts, nails, rivets, and more up to 5.2 millimeters in diameter. The lever-action design applies 20 times more hand force than you apply with your hands. A distinct characteristic of this model is the spring-loaded grip. Underneath the locking mechanism is a return spring to operate. In combination with the comfort grips, this action makes for a much more enjoyable user experience than you might be used to.
Again, this is a premium listing, and its price is a reflection of that. Still, it is quite high for the overall size of the tool and what it can be used for.
Chromoly drop-forged steel offers several advantages. First, it's lighter and stronger than many alternatives. Furthermore, the well thought-out design ensures durability, and it will last for years, even when it regularly faces hard use. Like many other models, it offers a compound function to increase force output in combination with the long handles and comfortable grips that give you the ability to make quick work of anything in its jaws. Longer and shorter versions are also available. That ensures you can use this quality tool for absolutely any cutting task.
One major flaw of this tool is the lack of a jaw adjustment. Not being able to recalibrate the settings will undoubtedly result in a shorter life compared to many other offerings.
These cutters measure just a few inches in length and fit easily in the palm of your hand. Despite being small, they still feature a combination mechanism to multiply force output. The use of Cr-Mo blades only furthers the cutter's ability as it will undoubtedly last a long time, no matter what you expose it to. This material is also much lighter than many other offerings, which compliments the small size. These cutters are super handy and perfect for cutting through nails, screws, metal wire, and small bolts. Because they are small, electricians and other technicians can comfortably keep them on their sides at all times, even in tight crawl spaces.
This is a very cost-effective mini bolt cutter anyone on a budget should consider. Despite being more affordable than its competitors, it still offers all the same qualities the more expensive models can. In fact, it has something many of the others don't. One highlight is the spring-loaded handle. This simple addition makes for a far better user experience. Furthermore, the locking handle prevents accidents when the cutter is in storage. The lock is effortless to operate and is cleverly incorporated into the ergonomic handle design. These handles are another notable design feature as they are very comfortable and slip-resistant.
Unfortunately, these cutters don't have an adjustable blade, and the jaws open only enough to deal with very thin materials. At the price point, you can expect these ailments.
If you are still on the hunt for an affordable option, check out this bolt cutter. We'll start by mentioning there are a total of seven different sizes available, all of which are still far more affordable than most of what's on the market. The chrome vanadium steel and hardened cutting edge are enough to chop through most any material you'll put in its jaws. It also features a compound action in the jaw to reduce the amount of force you need to apply to cut. Slip-resistant vinyl grips help alleviate strain, and longer handles only help the cutting process along. Furthermore, the larger models feature a jaw opening of 1/2-inch, which is far greater than the standard.
The real let down is the fact that more substantial materials could have been used for the jaws. While it does help lower the price point, it's very easy to damage the cutting edge.
What's the best thing about this cutter? The folding handle. This is not a standard feature, and you have to specifically look for a model with a folding handle. These cutters measure 18 inches long with the handles extended. However, they fold up so that they will easily fit in any toolbox or tool bag. While it's still large, it's far easier to transport than a model with fixed handles of a similar length. Conveniently, longer and shorter variations are also available. The use of Cr-Mo steel and a compound action ensure these cutters can perform just as well as any other models on the market.
Despite the initial impression, the folding mechanism is not the weak point of this model. Unfortunately, the adjusting screw and rivets that hold everything together are kind of flimsy and are prone to failure during hard use.
- Wear eye protection. Bolt cutters can send metal pieces flying. Even if they are only being used for a quick task, eye protection is a must.
- Handle objects with care. The cut-ends of bolts and wires may be sharp. It is always safe to be mindful of this and wear gloves while collecting cut pieces.
- Adjust blades before each use. Bolt cutters feature an adjustable cutting head. Before each use, it is wise to double-check this setting and make sure the ends are not in direct contact with one another.
- Avoid diagonal cuts. Bolt cutters are meant to make level cuts. You should always avoid offsetting the jaws to cut diagonally as it can damage the edges during use.
What are bolt cutters used for?
A: As the name suggests, bolt cutters cut bolts. However, they are also useful for cutting wire shelving, nails, and other thin pieces of metal. They can also be used for cutting padlocks, so long as it is done in a legal manner.
How thick can bolt cutters cut?
A: This depends on the design of the cutters. Different designs offer different power and cutting abilities. Both the length of the handles and how wide the blades can open contribute to cutting power.
Can bolt cutters cut through hardened steel?
A: In most cases, they cannot. Cutting through hardened steel typically requires very hard materials that are often found on the blades of hacksaws and power tools.
At the end of the day, the Tekton 8” Bolt Cutter takes our top pick. This set is affordable and safe for professional use. However, an even more affordable option is the Neiko Heavy Duty Bolt Cutter, another perfectly capable set.