what-are-the-different-types-of-bolt-cutters

What are the different types of bolt cutters?

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Close-up of bolt cutter head Bolt cutters come with a variety of heads, with differently bevelled blades that are designed to accommodate slightly different tasks. In most cases, it is the shape of the blades that will define a bolt cutter’s type, although there are some other defining features, which are listed below.
Head of pair of bolt cutters with multiple hinges allowing movement back and forth of blades

Hinges

In most cases, in order for a bolt cutter to be defined as a bolt cutter, it has to have a compound hinge. Most bolt cutters follow this pattern, with one hinge joint on each arm that attaches to a third, central hinge.

A pair of household scissors to illustrate the style of hinge used on shear cut and compact bolt cutters However, shear cut bolt cutters (see below) and bolt cutters with 200m (8″) handles, which are known as compact bolt cutters, have a single hinge similar to a pair of scissors. This does not affect the way that the bolt cutters are used, however, and they are still defined by the types listed below.

Centre cut bolt cutters

Replacement bolt cutter jaws head one - centre cut Bolt cutters with centre cut blades are a popular, multi-purpose option. They are effective because the four slanted faces of the blade edges (the double bevel on each blade) bear down equally on the material being cut, eventually forcing their way through on two sides of the item. They are ideal for the majority of tasks, such as cutting through things like rods, pipes and thick cables.

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Clipper cut and angled bolt cutters

Replacement bolt cutter jaws head on - clipper cut On clipper cut jaws, the upper faces of both blade edges slant down almost all the way to the flat sides of the jaws. The lower edges of the blades are subtly bevelled to create a sufficiently thin edge to allow the tool to apply as high a level of pressure as its centre cut counterpart. This means that the cutting point is lower when the tool is laid flat on a surface, making clipper cut blades ideal for cutting through protruding nails, bolts or screws close to the surface of a workpiece.

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Red and blue compact bolt cutters with angled head

Angled bolt cutters

If, however, the head of the bolt cutters is angled and is designed with no surface plate underneath then the blades are able to make an even lower cut. This sort of tool can snip off bolts or nails almost fully flush to the surface they are in.

An example of Iangled head bolt cutters For cutting things like nails protruding from boards, a pair of bolt cutters with an angled head is very useful. This lifts the handles off the surface being worked on at an angle of 20 or 30 degrees to the head, leaving ample room underneath for a hand to grasp the tool.

Shear cut

Image showing shear cut bolt cutters being used to cut through wire cable Shear cut bolt cutters are the ideal tool for cutting through wire cable. Rather than having blades that are designed to press together during the cutting motion, they are designed to overlap and slide past each other, a little more like scissor blades.

These tools are often used to cut through cables, which they can do cleanly thanks to the fact that they slice rather than cut, the hooked shape of their jaws holding the cable in place during the cutting process.

End cut

Replacement bolt cutter jaws side on - end cut End cut jaws have the end of the blades flattenened and turned in to make a pincer-style head. They are used to grip onto, and then clip off, materials such as bolt heads which are in narrow places that are difficult to access and cannot be approached side-on with centre cut or clipper cut heads.

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Ratchet bolt cutters

The head of a set of powerful bolt cutters which have a ratchet hinge mechanism Some bolt cutters are manufactured with ratchet hinges that allow the user to apply pressure in short bursts rather than having to apply prolonged force. These are generally more expensive than bolt cutters without this feature.

For more information, see: How to use ratchet bolt cutters.

Compact bolt cutters

Pair of 8" (200mm) red compact bolt cutters If  bolt cutters have 200m (8″) handles (or less, although this is the minimum size that you will commonly find), they are referred to as compact bolt cutters. These tools are designed for lighter work than their full-sized counterparts, such as cutting through fencing wire or thin lock hasps. They are lighter than standard bolt cutters and ideal for use in the home and garden.

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Manual and powered tools

DIYer demonstrating how manual bolt cutters are used

Manual

There are types and sizes of bolt cutters to tackle most household DIY tasks and they are also used by construction workers, so their applications are wide.

Red hydraulic bolt cutters with guillotine action blade

Hydraulic bolt cutters

When the cutting task is formidable, however, builders – as well as the emergency services – switch to a powered tool. Hydraulic bolt cutters have powerful motorised engines and, with a rechargeable battery, are often cordless and so convenient to work with.

Man cutting thick steel bar with guillotine-action hydraulic bolt cutter The jaws of hydraulic bolt cutters often work in a guillotine manner, with a flat blade – or blades – slicing powerfully through the material being cut.
Hydraulic bolt cutters with conventional jaws Alternatively, they can have more conventional bolt cutter heads.