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Vise-Grip Wire Stripper

Vice-Grip Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper Review

Review Summary

Heavy-duty tool works better on heavier gauge wires.

Slightly difficult to adjust and probably better suited for industrial use.

The Vise-Grip brand is probably one of the most recognized trade names in the world.

I’ll bet that there are as many pairs of the familiar Vise-Grip locking pliers stashed in every home as there are toolboxes and junk drawers.

But I’d also bet that very few people would be able to name a product made by the Irwin company.

In addition to the Vise-Grip, Irwin has been making tools since 1885.

Fewer still would know that Irwin is owned by the same corporate parent that owns familiar names such as Rubbermaid, Calphalon (cookware), Waterman, Parker, Paper Mate, Sharpie and Levelor, among others.

Well, I suppose that’s neither here nor there, but the point to remember from this little history lesson is that Vise-Grip is much more that a simple pair of locking pliers.

Irwin Vise-Grip Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper

The Vise-Grip Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper

The Vise-Grip Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper is one of the newest in this family of Irwin products. It’s classified as one of their “professional” tools, which are characterized by the “ProTouch” soft(ish) grips and robust build quality.

Do you need a professional wire stripper?  Well, if you’re planning on adding any type of electrical accessory to a motorcycle, you’ll definitely need two things: a good pair of wire strippers and an assortment of Posi-Lock connectors (review).

Don’t even bother with those cheesy buck-fifty “wire strippers” with the stamped metal holes for each size wire. Your bike is worthy of much better.

We’ve been using the Quik Strip wire stripper (review) since we first reviewed them several years ago, and the smaller size Quik Strip actually works OK on thin wires of about 14 to 20 gauge.

But these are not “professional” tools by any stretch of the imagination.

The plastic grips and stamped metal teeth don’t provide much confidence and the tool works by more or less ripping the vinyl insulation off the copper wire, sometimes with less-than-desired (e.g., messy) results.

Vise-Grip Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper - Jaws Open

Difference Between the Quik Strip and the Vise-Grip

The Quik Strip is usually sold for the same price as the Vise-Grip Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper, about $18.00.

Believe me — there is absolutely no comparison between these tools; the Vise-Grip brand wire stripper is light-years beyond the quality of the Quik Strip, period.

Whoever priced the Quik Strip at the same level as the Vise-Grip stripper must be a coupla’ fries short of a Happy Meal.

Weighing in at 305g (10.75 oz.) and made entirely (well, almost) of metal, the Vise-Grip stripper definitely feels like something that will still be in your toolbox when the grand-kids collect the inheritance.

The tool even has replaceable jaws, which is amazing, because I can’t remember the last time I came across a hand tool that wasn’t designed with the built-in obsolescence so often found in products today.

wBW Video: Vice-Grip Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper

Using the Vise-Grip Wire Stripper

The only problem is that the tool doesn’t come with instructions, believe it or not. Nor could I find any instructions on the Irwin Tools website.

Now you wouldn’t think that instructions would be required to run a pair of wire strippers, but there are a couple of adjustments on the tool that could benefit by some guidance to the owner.

I eventually figured out that the brass knurled knob (red arrow in photo below) can be adjusted in and out to increase or decrease the “pull”, or force of the jaws as they separate the insulation from the wire.

Screw it out to decrease the force and screw it in to increase the force. This is necessary when stripping thin wires of less than about 18-20 gauge, so that the force of the jaws doesn’t cut through the wire along with the insulation.

The right-hand jaw (just below the red arrow in the photo below) has a sharp edge, which is designed to grab and remove the wire insulating casing. The left-hand jaw is knurled and it is designed to hold the wire as the tool handles are squeezed and the wire is stripped.

The packaging that came with the Vise-Grip Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper says that the stop can be adjusted, which means that the stop can be moved in and out to adjust the amount of insulation that can be stripped from the wire.

The yellow arrow in the photo below indicates a plastic stop, designed to allow a standard length of insulation to be stripped from the wire.

The stop has hash marks molded on it at 1/16″ intervals and there’s a corresponding ruler underneath, etched on the black handle.

Vise-Grip Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper - Closeup View
Vise-Grip Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper - Adjustable Stop
Finally figured it out! Push the yellow rod in and out to adjust the stop; the short ruler underneath is a guide.

Push the rod in and out to adjust how much of the wire you’d like to have stripped, from about 1/4″ to 1/2″ or longer if the stop is removed (the stop is set at 1/4″ from the factory).

The entire stop can be removed by unscrewing the #2 Phillips head stainless steel screw (visible near the tip of the yellow arrow).

The 1/4″ is usually a good length for the tip of the stripped wire, and the wire can also be placed over the top of the yellow stop if longer stripped lengths are desired.

The “Self-Adjusting” in the tool’s name must refer to the fact that the jaws self-adjust over any diameter wire from 10 to 24 gauge (American Wire Gauge or AWG).

The tool also includes a crude wire crimper in the handle, which can crimp wires from 10 to 22 (AWG) insulated and 10 to 22 (AWG) non-insulated or 7 to 9mm ignition terminals.

I never use crimped connections if I can possibly avoid it, and have only used Posi-Lock connectors on motorcycle electrical projects ever since we first discovered them several years ago. They’re the only way to fly…

The “ProTouch” soft grips help to make the tool easier to use, not so much because they’re soft (they aren’t), but mostly because they provide some mass under the hands.

The plastic material is pretty hard and the grips would probably feel and work better if they were softer.

I will say one thing — stick a wire in the jaws and this tool will strip it faster than you can blink!  The first couple of times I stripped some 18 gauge wire, it happened so fast I didn’t even realize the job was done.

I had to slow down my hand movements and watch carefully to see how it worked. Pretty amazing and like I said, this is a tool that should last forever and a day.

The best part about the Irwin Vise-Grip Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper is that it can be found for around $18.00, which I think is a certified steal. The list price is $27.99, and worth it even at that price. And guess what?  Irwin guarantees them for life!


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If you’re planning on doing any electrical work at all on your motorcycle, get this tool. You won’t regret it and it will provide years of use and satisfaction.

More: Quik Strip Wire Stripper Review

More webBikeWorld:
wBW Review: Vise Grip Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper
Manufacturer: Irwin Tools List Price (2006?): $27.99
Colors: Blue/yellow. Made In: Taiwan
Review Date: December 2006
Note: For informational use only. All material and photographs are Copyright © webWorld International, LLC since 2000. All rights reserved. See the webBikeWorld® Site Info page. Product specifications, features and details may change or differ from our descriptions. Always check before purchasing. Read the Terms and Conditions!

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