I wanted to point out a tool that I often use, but rarely see on other people’s workbenches: thermal strippers. They aren’t cheap, but once you’ve used them, it is hard to go back to stripping wires with an ordinary tool.
I know, I know. When I first heard of such a thing, I thought what you are probably thinking now: maybe for some exotic coated wire, but for regular wire, I just use a pair of diagonal cutters or a mechanical stripper or a razor blade. You can do that, of course, and for large solid wires, you can even get good results. But for handling any kind of wire, regardless of size, you just can’t beat a thermal stripper.
There are two minor issues. The first is they are pretty pricey, especially new. However, on sites like eBay, you can pick up used ones that are affordable. I have a Teledyne Stripall TW-1 and they are built like tanks. You can also easily get replacement parts for them, so there’s no reason you can’t keep them running for quite a while.
The second problem is that burning various insulation produces fumes. Not much, but probably some nasty stuff. You probably should have some forced air blowing the fumes away from you. I use a simple fan.
How Do They Work?
As you probably expect, a thermal stripper has some sort of jaw that gets hot and melts the insulation. The TW-1 is like a scissor or pair of pliers so you bring two hot blades down until it firmly holds the wire. The blades get hot almost at once. There is an adjustable guide to keep the jaws from getting too close together. You close the jaws, give a twist as you pull the wire out and it is perfectly stripped. No nicks in the wire, no small strands damaged. Just bare wire.
There is another guide that lets you control how much insulation the tool removes along the length of the wire. The idea is you insert the wire until it hits the guide and then close the jaws and twist. Every wire will have exactly the same amount of bare conductor exposed. You can see a video about the TW-1, below.
Teledyne is not the only maker of this type of strippers. Patco has the PTS-10 that is not very expensive new. Hakko makes a version. There’s also a company called Eraser (see video, below) along with many other manufacturers.
I was surprised that a quick search didn’t turn up any homebrew tools. After all, the device isn’t exactly high-tech. About the closest I found was [kl27x’s] “frankenclipper” (see video, below). I’m sure if I missed one, it will show up in the comments.
We’ve talked about improving mechanical strippers in the past. We’ve also seen a fully automated machine for cutting and stripping. However, shop around, get an inexpensive thermal stripper and a fan, and I think you’ll be highly pleased next time you need to strip wires.