Bolt cutters cuing through a padlock attached to a fence

How To Guide

How to Use Bolt Cutters

January 23rd 2024

What Are Bolt Cutters?

Bolt cutters, also known as bolt croppers, can be an indispensable tool for many heavy-duty cutting tasks. With their robust design and powerful cutting ability, you can use them to shear through bolts, chains, and padlocks with relative ease.

They typically feature long handles and short blades, often made using hardened steel. A good pair of bolt cutters will help whether you need to remove a wire fence, barbed wire, a seized or rusted padlock, to cut steel rebar mesh to size, or to crack through bolt seals or container steel seals.

Step-By-Step Guide on How to Use Bolt Cutters

Before you start you need to make sure you have the correct size bolt cutters for the job at hand. Bolt cutters come in various sizes so ensure you check the maximum cut capacity so you don’t try to cut something too thick for the cutters and damage them or cause yourself an injury. Longer handles offer more leverage but might be harder to control, while smaller versions provide less power but better precision.

Step 1: Safety First

Before you begin, ensure you're wearing protective gear. This should include safety goggles to shield your eyes from any flying debris. Consider tough, protective gloves for your hands if the bolt cutters are cutting through tougher materials like bolts or screws to help you get a good grip.

Step 2: Check the Cutters

If you haven’t used your cutters in a while you may want to add some lubricating oil to the hinge joints to make them less stiff. Also make sure the adjustable screw at the head is tightened as appropriate if there is any gap between the blades.

Step 3: Position the Bolt Cutter

Position the material you are cutting deep within the jaws of the cutter as this is where the most force is applied on the blades. If you can, ensure the cutter is at a right angle to the object to maximise leverage. You may need to use end-cut jaw bolt cutters if the material is hard to access and can’t be approached side-on.

Step 4: Apply Pressure

With a firm grip on the handles, apply pressure steadily and smoothly. There's no need to rush; excessive force might cause the tool to slip and could lead to injury. Don’t twist the cutters as this could lead to damage to the blades.

Knipex bolt cutters cutting through metal


Can a Bolt Cutter Cut a Padlock?

This depends on the cutting capacity of the cutters and what the padlock is made from. A top tip is to avoid cutting the shackle if it is made from hardened steel and cut the actual body of the padlock itself if it is made from a softer metal such as brass.

Are Bolt Cutters Easy to Use?

If you take care to position the material as far down the blades as you can then bolt cutters should not take too much effort to cut through your item. Do you need strength to use bolt cutters? Yes, some power has to be applied however not excessive force - be careful not to damage your cutters or cause yourself injury and check you are using the correct size tool.

What Can't be Cut with Bolt Cutters?

You should not use bolt cutters on hardened steel, or thick reinforced steel mesh. Hexagonal chains are difficult to get a suitable grip on with cutters.

Get in Touch

For any questions regarding bolt cutters, get in touch with one of our live chat experts who are happy to help or contact your local HSS branch.

Image of blog author Cat Burke

About the Author

Cat Burke

Cat is a member of the E-commerce team and is passionate about all things product, from power tools and TVs to cushions and curtains. She enjoys tackling basic DIY tasks at home and has taken on jobs such as stripping wallpaper, painting rooms, and upcycling furniture.

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