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Cutting steel wire

Christine, my two cents worth about cutting steel wires and rods.

For cutting hot rolled steel rods up to about 1/8 inch (about 3.2mm)
one can use large 16 inch (about 40.6cm) end nippers but for stainless
and cold rolled wire it is best to use a cutoff wheel or a bolt
cutter. (Piano wire is cold rolled to reduce stretch and increase
hardness and so may dent the jaws of the nipper. FWIW I use very light
gauge piano wire to make hatpins with glass beads formed on their ends
and it holds a nice point.)

The small cutoff wheels ones uses in a handpiece will work if one is
careful and uses proper eye and respiratory protection but in the
hardware store larger ones can be bought. For instance I have a 12
inch (about 30.5 cm) cutoff saw which will cut a solid 3 inch (about
7.6 cm) steel rod. Smaller sizes are more popular but nothing larger
than the tiny ones used in jeweler’s handpieces should be used
freehand due to the risk of breakage.

My favorite tool for cutting steel wire of 3/32 (about 2.4mm) inch up
to 1/2 inch (about 12.7mm) is a bolt cutter, bought at the hardware
store. The one I use has 30 inch handles (about 76cm), cost $14
dollars (about 127 Norway Krone) many years ago.

From time to time in the past I have cheated and cut steel wire with
an acetylene torch, but that leaves a blob on the end. The nipper and
bolt cutter leave a flat pointed (bifacial) end and the cutoff wheel
leaves a flat end with angle dependant upon the angle of the cut.


Christine, Two more cents worth. There are end nippers made
specifically for cutting music wire or any hardened steel wire. They
are not cheap but well worth the money and peace of mind. Geo Stanford
is correct, music wire will dent most standard cutting pliers. Try the
"Small Parts Catalogue". Their E-mail address is “parts@small” and their web page is They have
one for about $130. The jaws are removeable for sharpening if ever
needed and therefore they are also replaceable. I got mine at a flea
market for about $5.