how to strip really small wires

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how to strip really small wires

Post by joninc » Thu Dec 12, 2019 4:02 pm

I am attempting to repair the output jack and not wanting to shorten the very thin wires any more than I have to...

Is this a bad idea for audio stuff - like the output xlr connector on a mic?

seems smart but maybe it reduces conductivity??
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Re: how to strip really small wires

Post by vvv » Thu Dec 12, 2019 5:47 pm

I don't think that's a problem but lemme say, as long as you can get a grip, yer thumb nail is often enough to peel it. It's how I do it, YMMV.
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Re: how to strip really small wires

Post by losthighway » Thu Dec 12, 2019 9:06 pm

This might be obvious, and useless.... my proper electrical engineering skills are limited, as are my bench hours....

Anyhow, they make wire cutter tools for electricians and such with graduated gauges of wire stripping holes. Once you dial in the right number to use it's pretty dummy proof. Not the old fashioned standard wire cutters where you're pinching and twisting and trying to have the right feel for the tension so you score around the tubing and can peel it off without squeezing to hard an lopping off the whole wire.

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Re: how to strip really small wires

Post by asterisk » Fri Dec 13, 2019 12:15 am

In the past I've placed small wires inside my wirecutters with the jaws set almost but not quite all of the way closed--just so they are sitting close to the wire you're trying to strip but not putting any pressure on it. Holding the cutters firmly in my non-dominant hand, I then take hold of the wire in the fingers of my dominant hand and use them to just press the insulation against the sharp part of the cutters. You can make a kind of circular motion from both sides of the jaws. This scored the wire and mostly cut through the insulation. After that I just had to take my thumbnail and work it off, and if I got stuck I just nicked the stubborn part of the insulation with a box cutter (w/a brand new blade). Frankly I think you could do it just using the razor/box cutter blade. As VVT said, you don't have to have a perfect or complete cut to get it off (at least not with PVC).

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Re: how to strip really small wires

Post by digitaldrummer » Fri Dec 13, 2019 7:16 am

You want to avoid scoring or cutting into the copper wire. if you do that, then it weakens the wire at that spot and makes it more likely to break off (guaranteeing you have a problem later). The gauged strippers are good if you have one small enough. the lighter is ok if you have an isolated wire (meaning not attached to anything yet), but I wouldn't want to get it too close to anything important just in case the insulation decides to burn quickly.... some older plastics can really go.
Last edited by digitaldrummer on Fri Dec 13, 2019 9:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: how to strip really small wires

Post by Nick Sevilla » Fri Dec 13, 2019 8:31 am

I recommend you buy two of these, which should cover most wire gauges. ... erscutters

I own two, which covered any wire gauge I have yet encountered.

For extremely small gauges (which you only find in some products), I recommend you use a straight razor against a flat surface,
and magnifying glasses.

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Re: how to strip really small wires

Post by The Scum » Fri Dec 13, 2019 10:43 am

The flame thing works in a pinch...but it can be unpredictable and hard to control, and doesn't work well with all types of insulation (teflon would just laugh at you).

I typically want a little more precision - if I need to strip precisely 1/4", I can't risk accidentally stripping 1/2". If you're wiring something like a DB-25, you need to have things come out at exactly the right length, and strip just enough to make contact, and not so much that adjacent wires short.

I wrote a survey of wire strippers a while back (there are also a couple of good recommendations in the comments for self-adjusting strippers):

The gauged-hole type are fine for basic use - at least the reputable brands (Klein, Hakko, Engineer, etc). The cheap ones are junk. You might have to get a set from an electronics vendor to get suitably sized blades, as the hardware store ones will be geared toward household wiring.
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Re: how to strip really small wires

Post by Recycled_Brains » Fri Dec 13, 2019 12:26 pm

Burn it.
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Re: how to strip really small wires

Post by floid » Fri Dec 13, 2019 7:40 pm

I like the kleins. I also have a pair of the adjustable v-notch style that I like for certain smaller stuff but they can be finicky to set up.
Sometimes the easiest way for me is to bend the wire in a tight loop at the point I want to strip, nick the insulation with a utility blade, bend the opposite way, repeat. Bending the wire stresses the insulation, so the nick tends to tear open without risking cutting too deep and messing up the good stuff. And yeah, thumbnails are great.
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Re: how to strip really small wires

Post by alexdingley » Sat Dec 14, 2019 4:07 am

Depending on how thin the insulation is / how likely it seems that I’ll badly knick the wire / and how hard it is to get into the working area around the wires, I will often use a naked razor blade and roll the cable gently between the cutting edge and a callus on my thumb. I’ll just roll it one turn and then back to the original position... for toght situations with very little room to twist, I just do one side for a small turn, then switch sides, if possible.

If it’s too thick for the above suggestion of just pinching it off with tour fingernails, my solution offers me great control, as I’m pressing it with an actual finger, so I can adjust my pressure to even just score the jacket/insulation.

And as other replies had suggested.. heat! Sometimes my iron will melt the jacket back, if I crank it up.

YMMV / be careful

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