Updated: November 2017
Bolt Cutter Reviews:Bolt cutters may not be the first tools to make it into the home toolbox, but once they get in there, you'll find that they are handy little additions. Bolt cutters can cut through bolts, fences, rope, wire, padlocks, cable, and chains. These are the most common applications, but they can also cut anything round, including small tree branches, dowels, pipes, and, according to blog ToolMonger, you can even use them for "surviving a zombie attack." While this last one is (hopefully) not going to be necessary, you can certainly see how they'd be useful hand tools to have around. We'll help you find the right ones.
Choosing Your Bolt CuttersYou may want to cut through wire that is only millimeters thick or you may need to cut through the thickest padlock or chain. Your choice of bolt cutters will depend on what you want to use it for. Do you want to fix your bike's gears and brake cables? Cut wire for shelving? Do you want a pair of bolt cutters on your boat in case you need to cut rigging in an emergency? Make sure to choose a set of cutters that has the capacity to handle the jobs you want to perform. It is a good idea to get bolt cutters that are a little more rugged than what you need: this keeps the strain on them - and you - to a minimum.
Next, look for the quality of the steel used on the blades. Look for forged steel blades and hardened steel edges. You'll need the blades to be sharp in order for them to work optimally, and you need a material that holds an edge. It is also helpful if you can sharpen the blades yourself.
The quality of the parts should also extend to the handles. This is especially important if you are using your blade cutters for heavy duty applications. They need to have the leverage you need to make precise, quick cuts. With many models, you can do this one-handed. Look for comfort-grip, non-slip handles. Some handles are made of aluminum, which is much lighter than the standard steel, but they'll also be more expensive. It's a trade-off: if you need them for work or regular use, opt for the higher quality pair. If you need them around the house, just in case, a less pricy pair will suffice. You can browse the best selling bolt cutters here.
Best Bolt Cutters:The "best" bolt cutters for you will depend on your needs, but let's take a look at some popular, critically-reviewed products so you can get an idea of the brands and features available. One of the biggest names in bolt cutters is HK Porter. They tend to be more expensive than other brands, but the quality makes them worth the expenditure. The 0190AC 24-Inch General Purpose Center Cut Bolt Cutter is a favorite of ToolMonger - "All Tools, All the Time" - says the price is "justified" by the "superb cutter quality" and the sleek aluminum handles. These USA-made 24-inch bolt cutters have alloy tool steel jaws with center cut blades and are drop-forged and precision-ground. There is a lockplate which keeps the jaws from coming loose and an adjustment to realign edges. The General Purpose Bolt Cutters can handle soft material up to 7/16 inch and hard materials up to 3/8 inch with 4000 pounds of cutting power. The aluminum handles are one-piece and attached directly to the jaws. They are covered with high-quality rubber grips, and there is a capacity gauge built in. The HK Porters weigh in at 3.7 pounds and measure 26.25" L x 5" W x 1.50" H.
The HK Porter General Purpose Bolt Cutters are $57 and as one consumer says, "You DO get what you pay for." Less expensive bolt cutters tend to chip and the steel quickly dulls and nicks; if you use bolt cutters frequently, the HK Porters will be a better buy in the long run. Check out top rated bolt cutters here.
If you thought the HK Porter bolt cutters were expensive, you may want to skip this paragraph. Another top name in the industry is Klein, and their 24-inch bolt cutters (model 63124) ring up at $135. What do you get for your money? The Klein cutters can handle hard materials up to 5/16 inch and soft and medium materials up to 7/16 and features precision-ground, forged-alloy tool steel, center-cut jaws that ensure great durability, lockplate for proper alignment, 1-adjustment realignment, and top-of-the-line fiberglass handles. Fifty pounds of exertion on the handles gives you 4000 pounds on the jaws. The Klein bolt cutters are heavier than the HK Porter cutters at 6.13 pounds. This pair also comes with a lifetime warranty on material defects and workmanship for the normal life of the bolt cutters. For the casual homeowner, this will be overkill, but if you want the best of the best, Klein is it (see Klein bolt cutters here).
The next bolt cutters are a more budget-friendly choice and are ideal for those who plan for only casual use. The Black Rhino 24-Inch Bolt Cutters (model 00042) have high-test blades that have undergone industrial strength heat treatment. You will see that they say they are "cro moly" or CRMO bolt cutters - this means that the steel is made with a mixture of chromium and molybdenum. In tool-speak, this means that the steel is harder and stronger than standard 1020 steel. Black Rhino calls these bolt cutters "hard core" and "super duty." Another difference is the "super fat" rhino grip handles for superb comfort and control. You can apply more pressure easily and cut more effectively. The Black Rhinos are $45.
If you really want to go cheap, you can pick up whatever is on sale at your hardware store. This is fine if you are just adding them to your home tool box. If you plan on using them for heavier-duty jobs, then buying a higher quality pair is an excellent idea. $45, $56, or more may seem pricy initially, but it saves you the time, money, and hassle of having to replace a cheaper pair.