Guide to Bolt Cutters: How to Choose, Use, and Maintain

a bolt cutter against a post

Bolt cutters are a versatile tool that can be used in a variety of settings, from construction to emergency situations. However, choosing the right bolt cutters for your needs can be daunting, especially if you're not familiar with the different types and features available. This guide will cover everything you need to know to make an informed decision when selecting, using, and maintaining bolt cutters.

Bolt cutters are a type of hand-held cutting tool designed to cut through thick, tough materials such as chains, padlocks, and wire mesh. They consist of two long handles that are connected by a pivot point, and sharp, sturdy jaws at the end of the handles that can be used to cut through metal, wood, and other hard materials.

Bolt cutters come in various sizes, from small cutters that can fit in a toolbox to larger cutters that require two hands to operate. They can be used in a variety of settings, from construction sites to emergency situations such as car accidents and natural disasters.

Types of Bolt Cutters

When selecting bolt cutters, it's important to consider the type of material you'll be cutting and the size of the material. This tool comes in different types and sizes, and each type is designed for a specific purpose.

  • Standard Bolt Cutters - These are the most common type of bolt cutters and are designed for cutting through soft to medium-hard materials such as wire, chain link fences, and padlocks. Standard bolt cutters are available in various sizes, ranging from 8 inches to 48 inches.
  • Center Cut Bolt Cutters - Center cut bolt cutters are designed to cut through hard materials such as bolts, screws, and rivets. They have a center-cutting blade that can cut through the material from the center, making it easier to cut through thicker materials.
  • Shear Cut Bolt Cutters - Shear cut bolt cutters are designed to cut through materials such as copper, aluminum, and steel rods. They have a blade that works like a pair of scissors, cutting the material between two blades.
  • Power-Assisted Bolt Cutters - Power-assisted bolt cutters are designed to make cutting through hard materials easier. They use hydraulic or pneumatic power to increase cutting force, allowing you to cut through thicker and harder materials with less effort.

How to Choose the Right Bolt Cutters

When choosing bolt cutters, there are several factors to consider. Here are some key factors to keep in mind:

  • Material - Consider the type of material you'll be cutting. If you'll be cutting soft to medium-hard materials such as wire or chain link fences, standard bolt cutters will work. If you'll be cutting through hard materials such as bolts or screws, center cut bolt cutters are a better choice.
  • Size - Consider the size of the material you'll be cutting. If you'll be cutting smaller materials, such as wires or cables, smaller bolt cutters will work. If you'll be cutting larger materials such as chains or padlocks, larger bolt cutters are needed.
  • Handle Length - Consider the handle length of the bolt cutters. Longer handles provide greater leverage and cutting force, making it easier to cut through tougher materials. However, longer handles also make the bolt cutters heavier and more difficult to maneuver.
  • Cutting Capacity - Consider the cutting capacity of the bolt cutters. Cutting capacity refers to the maximum size of the material that the bolt cutters can cut through. Make sure that the bolt cutters you choose can handle the size of the material you'll be cutting.
  • Quality - Consider the quality of the bolt cutters. Look for bolt cutters made of high-quality materials that are durable and long-lasting. Cheap bolt cutters may break easily or wear out quickly, making them a poor investment.
  • Brand - Consider the brand of the bolt cutters. Choose a reputable brand that has a good reputation for producing high-quality cutting tools.

How to Use Bolt Cutters

Using bolt cutters is fairly straightforward, but there are a few key things to keep in mind to ensure safe and effective use.

  1. Position the material - Position the material you want to cut in the jaws of the bolt cutters, making sure that it is properly aligned with the cutting edge.
  2. Apply pressure - Apply pressure to the handles of the bolt cutters, using both hands if necessary. The cutting edge should grip the material and begin to cut through it.
  3. Repeat as necessary - If the material is too thick to cut through in one pass, release the pressure on the handles and reposition the bolt cutters slightly to make another cut. Repeat as necessary until the material is completely cut.

Maintaining Bolt Cutters

To keep your bolt cutters in good working condition, it's important to maintain them properly.

  • Clean after use - After using the bolt cutters, wipe them down with a clean, dry cloth to remove any debris or residue.
  • Oil the pivot point - Apply a small amount of oil to the pivot point of the bolt cutters to keep them operating smoothly.
  • Sharpen the blades - If the blades become dull over time, you can sharpen them using a sharpening stone or file.
  • Store properly - Store the bolt cutters in a dry, safe place, away from moisture and extreme temperatures. Also make sure they are kept out of reach from children and pets.


1. What materials can bolt cutters cut through?
Bolt cutters can cut through a variety of materials, including chains, padlocks, wire, bolts, and screws.

2. Are bolt cutters dangerous to use?
Bolt cutters can be dangerous if not used properly. Always wear protective gear such as gloves and eye protection when using bolt cutters, and make sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for safe use.

3. Can bolt cutters be repaired if they break?
Depending on the type and severity of the damage, bolt cutters may be repairable. Contact the manufacturer or a professional repair service for advice on repairing broken bolt cutters.

Bolt cutters are a versatile and essential tool for cutting through tough materials in a variety of settings. When choosing bolt cutters, consider the type and size of the materials you'll be cutting, as well as the quality and brand of the bolt cutters. When using and maintaining bolt cutters, be sure to follow proper safety protocols and take care to keep the tool in good working condition. With the information and tips provided in this guide, you can make an informed decision when selecting, using, and maintaining this valuable cutting tool.

    The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.


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    Author: Herbert Post

    Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston by a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations. He is married with two children and a St Bernard named Jose. Herb is a self-described compliance geek. When he isn’t studying safety reports and regulatory interpretations he enjoys racquetball and watching his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.