You can use many types of tools to trim the small wires and component leads in your electronics projects. Scissors, side cutters, combination wire strippers, and even your favorite pocket knife can get the job done. Whether they produce clean and quick results is a different story.
Back in late-2008, I had searching for new cutters that better suited small circuitry components. All I had in my toolbox at the time were large, bulky, and imprecise cutters primarily designed for household wiring tasks. I came across Xuron’s 170-II Micro-Shear flush cutter, and although I was unfamiliar with the brand, less than $10 for a USA-made cutter seemed like an acceptable risk.
I mainly use these cutters for flush-cutting tasks, such as when trimming wires and component leads close to circuit boards after soldering them in place, but will often use them for other cutting tasks as well, such as trimming small nylon cable ties that are freshly installed inside a tight enclosure.
The difference between this cutter and larger ones, such as the one built into the Klein wire stripper I previously reviewed, is night and day when working with small components. Since this micro-cutter, and others like it, is so small and precise, it can place a cut right where you want it. The cutter’s small size can also reach into confined spaces with greater ease and its angled blades trim components neatly against PCBs.
With soft blue handles and a simple but effective spring mechanism, they are quite comfortable to hold and use. The blades trim thin wires and leads with ease, and even after many uses they feel as sharp as day-one.
When I first received the cutters, I actually thought they were defective since the blades did not line up perfectly. But apparently this “bypass blade effect” is by design and is intended to reduce cutting effort and extend tool life. I mention this not because I agree or disagree with Xuron’s marketing claims, but because uninformed readers may erroneously mistake the feature for a defect as I did.
This model can handle soft wires up to about 18-gauge, and don’t even think of using it to cut wire rope, piano wire, or other hardened or ferrous materials, as this will definitely damage the blades.
Bottom line, Xuron’s 170-II miniature wire cutter are comfortable to use, well suited for electronics work, and produce clean results at a great value. Are there better cutters on the market? Of course, but not at the <$10 price point. If you shop carefully you can find these for about $5.50-$8.00 online.
Xuron also makes a wide range of other mini pliers, cutters, and specialty tools. Some have ESD-safe grips, but the ones shown here do not.
Stuart Deutsch is a tool enthusiast, critic, and collector, and writes more about tools at ToolGuyd.