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The Best Bolt Cutters

Halfpoint/Shutterstock.com
🕚 Updated October 2021

Bolt cutters are utility tools designed to cut items like bolts, chains, padlocks, and wire mesh. They're known for their long handles and short blades. Despite the small blade size, bolt cutters are quite powerful, thanks to the compound hinges that allow them to multiply leverage and force to cut through solid metals.

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  Best Overall Most Compact Best Heavy-Duty Best Set Also Consider
 
  WORKPRO
WORKPRO Bolt Cutter, Bi-Material Handle with Soft Rubber Grip
TEKTON
TEKTON 8-Inch Bolt Cutter
Neiko
Neiko Heavy-Duty 30-Inch Bolt Cutter
KOTTO
KOTTO Bolt Cutter Pliers Set
KNIPEX
KNIPEX CoBolt Compact Bolt Cutter
 
Our SummaryAn efficient set of bolt cutters that offers great precision, comfort, and control.Bolt cutters available in seven different size options for cutting items large and small, thick and thin.Powerful bolt cutters with stronger-than-average steel jaws for cutting through even the toughest materials.This set comes with three high-quality bolt cutters and a carrying case.A sturdy pair of precision bolt cutters that weighs less than a pound for easy portability.
ProsCutting capacity of up to 6 millimeters, blades made of tough, drop-forged molybdenum chrome steel and power-coated for added durability, ergonomic handles, blades are aligned for more precise cutting.Compound cutting hinge allows you to cut through chains, threaded rods, bolts, and wires up to 3/16 inches with less effort and energy. Blades made from forged and hardened steel alloy, steel handles covered with a soft rubber grip, available in seven sizes.Premium blades are sharpened and heat-treated for strength, higher cutting power, available in six different sizes, ergonomically designed handles.Cutting blades on all three tools made of heat-treated T8 steel, comprehensive set of 3, carrying case.Professional quality, compact, weighs less than a pound, 20 times more force and leverage without extra effort.
ConsNot recommended for use on locks, handles might slip a bit or feel unsteady.Slight compromise in performance. Heavier than many bolt cutters, you could struggle to get the right angle when cutting.Could be more tools than you need.May find price point too high, may encounter problems with the short handle length.
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The Best Bolt Cutters

A person uses a large red pair of bolt cutters.
Halfpoint/Shutterstock.com

You may not think of bolt cutters as household tools, but they can be handy to have around the house for specific DIY projects or even routine tasks. Besides the typical chains, bolts, and locks, you can use them to remove old exposed nails and screws, cut wires in arts and crafts projects, trim shelving units, cut chicken wiring for your garden, or cut down scrap metal for easier disposal or recycling. You might also use them to cut off old bike chains, cables, threaded rods, and other similar items. If you want to buy a pair of bolt cutters for home projects and household tasks, here are a few we recommend.

Buying Guide for Bolt Cutters

A person holds bolt cutters open and close to the camera.
Andrei Metelev/Shutterstock.com

Why should you buy a bolt cutter?

Bolt cutters come in handy in various situations. In addition to the aforementioned uses, a good pair of bolt cutters can cut through thick and rusty locks, locks on old storage units, gates, or fencing. For heavy-duty work, bolt cutters are a safer option than power tools. Aren’t power tools, like a handsaw, the first thing most of us reach for to cut through metals, like fences or locks? There’s also the reciprocating saw to get through deadbolts. Power tools make tough work easier, right? Well, maybe to a point. But they’re more difficult to control, and therefore, dangerous for most users. Plus, they’re not as precise as a pair of bolt cutters! They cut right where you place the jaws without vibrating or recoiling.

What should you look for in a bolt cutter?

  • Size: Even though most people think of bolt cutters as big, bulky, two-handed tools, they actually come in a wide range of sizes. They can be as small as 6 or 8 inches and as large as 42 inches. Miniature bolt cutters are great for small chains, bolts, nails, and thin wires, ideal for smaller household tasks or arts and crafts. They won’t be able to cut through large, thicker objects. Bigger, bulkier bolt cutters are better suited for cutting through locks, padlocks, and thick, heavy chains. Consider the types of jobs you plan to use your bolt cutters for and pick the size accordingly.
  • Durability: You want to ensure that your tools are strong enough for long-lasting use, and bolt cutters are no exception. In general, the harder the metal the blades are made of, the better the cut. Also, keep an eye on the bolt cutters’ composition, as high-quality and premium materials will last you for longer. Steel is the metal of choice for blades, as it’s a strong, durable, and hard material. Forged steel makes for an excellent choice as well since it gives the blades an even harder edge.
  • Grip and Handles: As is the case with many heavy-duty tools, the grip is an important part of a bolt cutter’s design. You want to ensure that the grip is as nonslip and comfortable as possible. This not only helps to ensure your safety while you’re using the bolt cutters but also prevents them from putting a strain on your hands, wrists, fingers, and arms as you work. It also allows you to make more precise cuts. Look for handles with an ergonomic design and nonslip plastic, soft rubber, or silicone coverings. Angled handles may also help with precision cutting and comfort as well. Also note that the longer the handles, the better leverage a set of bolt cutters provides.

What do you need to know about leverage when choosing bolt cutters?

It’s important to understand the basic mechanics of the lever and the vocabulary used for describing leverage in product descriptions. The lever itself is basically a rigid rod that can rotate on a point (aka pivot or fulcrum) on itself. With a pair of bolt cutters, you have two levers working in opposite directions. The “load” of these levers is located at the bolt cutters’ grip, the place where the blades move toward each other to cut. The “effort” is at the handles where you do the work. The “fulcrum” is at the nut of the cutters where the blades rotate.

In action, both levers exert force at once, in opposite directions and towards each other. Anything in between the load points (the bolt, for example) on those levers will be squeezed with several times the pressure you apply to the handles of the bolt cutters. Long handles magnify the force you can apply. So, the longer the handle, the more leverage you get, and the less effort is needed. As you browse these bolt cutters we recommend, keep that in mind.

Our Picks for the Best Bolt Cutters

Best Overall

WORKPRO Bolt Cutter, Bi-Material Handle with Soft Rubber Grip

An efficient set of bolt cutters that offers great precision, comfort, and control.

Pros: This 14-inch pair of bolt cutters by WORKPRO is efficient and powerful. The tool can be used on soft metals, bolts, rods, rivets, and chains and has a cutting capacity of up to 6 millimeters. Made from tough, drop-forged molybdenum chrome steel, the jaws are powder-coated to increase their lifespan and make them more efficient at cutting. The ergonomic handles have anti-slip grips for great comfort, control, and safety during use. The blades are aligned for more precise cutting, while the classic lever-fulcrum design allows you to increase the leverage during use without expending extra effort or energy. They’re available in 18-, 24-, and 30-inch sizes if you need a wider cutting capacity for thicker material.

Cons: Unfortunately, it’s not recommended that you use the WORKPRO cutters on locks. You may find that the handles slip a bit or feel unsteady.

Bottom Line: As our Best Overall recommended bolt cutters, this pair does what it promises very well. The powder-coated drop-forged molybdenum chrome steel jaws cut cleanly through whatever objects you need. It offers compact cutting action and ergonomic handles. Be sure to browse the other sizes, too, as you may want longer handles. We hope you like the WORKPRO bolt cutters; they’ll be around for a while.

 

Most Compact

TEKTON 8-Inch Bolt Cutter

Bolt cutters available in seven different size options for cutting items large and small, thick and thin.

Pros: Whether you need to cut items large or small, thin or thick, or require precision or power, the 8-inch mini bolt and wire cutter by TEKTON has you covered. The compound cutting hinge allows you to cut through chains, threaded rods, bolts, and wires up to 3/16 of an inch with less effort and energy. The jaws are made from forged and hardened steel alloy to provide toughness, durability, and strength in one. The tubular rolled steel handles are covered with a soft rubber grip that provides cushioning and comfort as you work and helps to prevent them from slipping out of your grip during use. The TEKTON bolt cutters come in seven different size options: the smallest is the 8-inch, while the largest is 36 inches and designed to cut objects up to 1/2 an inch diameter.

Cons: The TEKTON mini cutter is a highly affordable product, and with that low price, there’s a slight compromise in performance.

Bottom Line: These mini bolt cutters are a great buy. They’re well built, comfortable to hold, lightweight, and easy to use, and they do an impressive job cutting through relatively thick metal things like wires and bolts, of course. While you probably can’t fit them in your pants pocket comfortably, you could throw them in a purse or backpack if you regularly use bolt cutters and want to have them available on the go. As you size up, you may need to store them elsewhere.

 

Best Heavy-Duty

Neiko Heavy-Duty 30-Inch Bolt Cutter

Powerful bolt cutters with stronger-than-average steel jaws for cutting through even the toughest materials.

Pros: These are bolt cutters with a pair of blades that offer greater power and strength. The premium chrome molybdenum steel blades can cut through harder objects than those made of normal chrome steel. They’ve also been sharpened and heat-treated to better resist damage for increased durability, higher frequency, and the ability to cut through and dent tougher applications. From bolts to chains, padlocks to threaded rods, these bolt cutters can snip through just about any sort of wire or metal you need. Available in six different sizes for a great range of cutting capacity options, each set of bolt cutters is made with a lever-fulcrum design and precision-aligned blades to exert greater force and leverage without expending extra energy. The angled, ergonomically designed handles are covered with nonslip, textured plastic to offer a more comfortable and controlled grip during use.

Cons: While you may find that the Neiko bolt cutters work well to cut through locks, bolts, chains, and so on, you may find them difficult to handle. At 8.5 pounds, they’re heavier than many bolt cutters, and with the long length of the handles, you could struggle to get the right angle when cutting. The bolt cutters may not live up to the assumed balanced leverage caliber.

Bottom Line: This heavy-duty, 30-inch tool has all the makings of a superior metal-cutting tool. The heat-treated steel blades alone promise impressive cutting capacity. There are some concerns to keep in mind, like the weight and potential unmanageability some users report. It seems, though, that once you position the bolt cutters, they really do cut through almost anything.

 

Best Set

KOTTO Bolt Cutter Pliers Set

This set comes with three high-quality bolt cutters and a carrying case.

Pros: You can get a heavy-duty 14-inch tool, an 8-inch mini tool, an 8-inch high leverage cable cutter, and a carrying case, all for one price. The cutting blades on all three tools feature T8 steel, a tungsten type that contains cobalt high-speed steel; the T8 steel undergoes heat treatment and high-frequency quench hardening for high hardness. Basically, the cutting blades are seriously durable! Now, to dive into the details of the three cutter tools. You could say that the 14-inch one is the toughest of the three, with extremely hardened, high-frequency cutting blades; the 8-inch mini pair is compact and bolstered by rivets; finally, the 8-inch cable cutter tool has optimal leverage and is up to almost any wire or cable-cutting task. The pliers handle aluminum and copper wire of medium and soft strength.

Cons: It’s difficult to point to shortcomings with the KOTO bolt cutters set. The set of three could be more than you need.

Bottom Line: KOTO made fantastic bolt cutters and even threw in a carrying case. The T-8 steel blades were treated specifically for strength against damage that could occur cutting hard metal objects like locks, chains, fences, wires, you name it. Also, the handles on all three tools have soft rubber grips for comfort and to prevent slippage. This is a high-quality product at a reasonable price.

 

Also Consider

KNIPEX CoBolt Compact Bolt Cutter

A sturdy pair of precision bolt cutters that weighs less than a pound for easy portability.

Pros: This pair of bolt cutters isn’t for the average joe, but for tradesmen and women in the field. It’s an all-around quality tool that is compact and lightweight—less than a pound. That means you can easily take it with you to the workshop, home, or on the job. The lever-action design allows you to apply up to 20 times more force and leverage without extra effort on your part. You can use it for auto work, construction, electrical work, landscaping, carpentry, and more. It’s also great for cotter pins and nails, wire fencing, even fishing hooks or floral wire. The jaws grip and cut and are great for pulling out nails and wires and cutting rivets. These bolt cutters are made of chrome vanadium electric steel for a harder edge and better and smoother cutting precision. The plastic-coated handles offer you a nonslip safer grip as you work. They’re available in four different size options.

Cons: If you’re a professional in the trades, you may find that the price point of the 8-inch KNIPEX is comparable to other full-size, premium bolt cutters. However, that may be owing to the steel KNIPEX uses. It’s hardened to a maximum of 0.8% carbon and contains defined parts of chrome and vanadium, stuff that’s more expensive to produce. Also, depending on what job you’re tackling, you may encounter problems with the short handle length.

Bottom Line: Regardless of your professional title, if you’re shopping for a high-grade pair of bolt cutters, this one is worth consideration. Yes, it’s more expensive than some, but sometimes it pays to spend more. The vanadium strengthens the material and lengthens its longevity. In short, these bolt cutters will hang around for as long as you want.

Final Thoughts

Chances are high that you have or need a pair of bolt cutters if you own a home, work in the trades, or enjoy arts and crafts. And because your work matters to you, it makes sense that you want the best possible pair of bolt cutters for your projects. Maybe you need to make an upgrade or need a different type of bolt cutters for a new project. Whatever the case, we hope you find a product you like in our recommendations.

Meghan Herlihy Meghan Herlihy
Meghan Herlihy is a full-time writer for LifeSavvy and has written across a wide variety of topics, genres, and formats, including radio talk shows, local sports journalism, and creative original fiction. She received her bachelor's degree in communications from Ithaca College and a master's in writing from Johns Hopkins University. When she's not writing, you're most likely to find her reading a book, petting every dog within eyesight, and indulging in her love of travel. Read Full Bio »
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