A good pair of diagonal cutters (also known as wire cutters) can slice through nails, screws and piano wire like soft butter.
On the other hand, a poor-quality set of diagonal cutters can be a frustrating waste of time – unable to slice through even thin pieces of wire.
To make sure the diagonal cutters you’re buying can actually get the job done – we’ve reviewed the Top 8 Diagonal Cutters of 2020.
We’ve chosen the best diagonal cutters based on their build quality, how comfortable their hand grips are, and their cutting power. Rest assured that you’re buying a good quality pair of side cutters.
Top 8 Best Side Cutters
Knipex Diagonal Cutters – Best Overall
- High leverage Diagonal Cutters for very tough, continuous use
- 20% reduction in required force compared to conventional diagonal cutters of the same length
- Precision cutting edges
Our best overall choice is this set of diagonal cutters from Knipex. They are eight inches long, and they feature an angled design that allows you to use them up against a flat surface while still providing enough room for your fingers. These cutters are designed to be as durable as possible, so they’ll be sure to last a long time.
One of the main contributors to this excellent degree of durability is the forged axle rivet, which is fixed in place. The cutting edge is as thin as possible for enhanced precision, and it features a hardness of 64 HRC. The metal parts of the cutters are made out of heavy-duty chrome vanadium steel.
These cutters have been oil-hardened to ensure that they can cut through the toughest of wires. You can even cut through nails using these diagonal cutters, and the angled grip also makes it possible to do so when they’ve already been hammered into place.
To help reduce the amount of cutting force that is required to make it through a wire, these diagonal cutters feature an optimized cutting edge angle coupled with an enhanced transmission ratio. The ergonomic design of these diagonal cutters means that you can work with them all day and your hands won’t get tired.
Another great thing about these diagonal cutters is that they don’t feature the steep price tag that you would expect from such a quality product. If you want to get the best product for your money, these diagonal cutters from Knipex are currently our favorite ones on the market.Check Price
- Angled design
- Made of durable materials
- Ergonomic handle
- Refined cutting edge
- Slightly smaller than other cutters
Irwin Diagonal Cutters – Premium Choice
- Powerful pliers for cutting ACSR, nails, screws, piano wire, and more
- PowerSlot technology delivers 2X more power at half the cutting effort than traditional pliers.
- Induction-hardened cutting edges and anti-rust coating for superior performance and a long life
These diagonal cutters are made by Irwin Tools, and they’re an excellent option for those who don’t mind spending slightly more to get some extra features. These cutters are eight inches long, which makes for a good compromise between portability and leverage for enhanced cutting strength.
Speaking of leverage, these diagonal cutters require slightly less force to cut through wires than the Knipex model, though the difference isn’t usually noticeable. This improved amount of cutting power is achieved through the use of the PowerSlot system, which doubles the cutting force.
The cutting edges on these cutters have been induction-hardened to ensure that they don’t break when cutting through harder materials. All of the metal surfaces on these cutters have also been treated with an anti-rust coating to ensure that they don’t begin to corrode over time. This improves their lifespan and ensures that you get your money’s worth. Irwin is known for making high-quality pliers at a great price, producing some of the best wire strippers on the market.
The grips on these diagonal cutters feature three comfort zones, and this means that your hand will be comfortable no matter how you’re gripping them. The design of the ergonomic handle also means that these can be used ambidextrously without any change in comfort.
With the Irwin Lifetime Guarantee, these diagonal cutters will be replaced if they fail due to the fault of the manufacturer, which helps make them worth their steeper price point. You really get what you pay for when you opt for these diagonal cutters, so if they’re within your budget, we’d highly recommend them.
- Excellent cutting force
- 3-zone ergonomics
- Irwin Lifetime Guarantee
- Anti-rust coating
- Slightly more expensive than other options
Klein Tools Diagonal Cutters – Great Value
- Angled head design for easy work in confined spaces
- High-leverage design. Rivet is closer to the cutting edge for 36-percent greater cutting power than other plier designs
- Short jaws and beveled cutting edges permit close cutting of wire
If you want a pair of diagonal cutters that are simple, reliable, and affordable, then this product from Klein Tools should fulfill your needs. While these diagonal cutters are cheaper than the previous two products, they’re still an excellent choice because they retain quality while giving up some superfluous features.
Much like more expensive cutters, these feature an angled head which makes it easier two work in tight spaces or to cut wires that are flush against a surface. To ensure that you get as much force as possible when you cut with this product, it features a high-leverage design with the rivet close to the cutting edge.
Due to these optimizations, these diagonal cutters feature a 36% increase in cutting force when compared to other products in the same price range. The beveled cutting edges ensure that it will be easier to cut through things because they spread the force over a smaller surface area. Klein has a proven track record for making high-quality pliers at a great price, producing some of the best lineman pliers on the market.
The cutting edges on these cutters have also been induction-hardened, which allows them to slice through other hard materials without shattering. Even the joint has been hot-riveted to ensure that it doesn’t wobble when you’re exerting additional force on it to be able to cut through something particularly tough.
The handles on these diagonal cutters have been plastic-dipped, but this is one of their only weaknesses. Unlike some of the more affordable models, the handles aren’t as comfortable, so if you plan on using your diagonal cutters more than a few times a day, these may get uncomfortable.Check Price
- Great Value Product
- High-leverage rivet placement
- Induction-hardened cutting edges
- Good for beginners
- Handles are slightly uncomfortable
Craftsman Diagonal Cutters
- Compound action design for increased cutting force* (*compared to standard cutting Pliers).
- Multi-zone bi-material grips for comfort and control.
- Induction Hardened cutting edges stay sharper longer.
This is another set of relatively affordable diagonal cutters from Craftsman, and they have a few features which help set them apart from other cheaper models. The most notable design aspect of these cutters is that they feature a compound action design, which is meant to help increase the amount of cutting force you can exert.
One area in which these diagonal cutters are superior to the pair from Klein Tools is in ergonomics. They feature multi-zone grips which are made of two different materials to ensure that you have enough comfort and grip, in equal measure.
These cutting pliers also feature induction-hardened cutting edges, which allows them to cut through harder wires and also ensures that they will last longer before needing to be sharpened. The steel used in these diagonal cutters has been drop-forged to ensure that it’s as strong as possible.
While this may sound like an excellent set of budget diagonal cutters, there was one major issue that held them back from being our top budget choice. When compared to the Klein Tools cutters, the Craftsman model takes more force to cut with, so you may have some trouble getting through thicker wires.Check Price
- Comfortable grips
- PDrop forged steel
- Induction-hardened edges
- Worse cutting performance than the Klein Tools model
- Ten-inch length makes them a little unwieldy
Wiha Insulated Diagonal Cutters
- Made By Wiha from high quality forged CV tool steels
- Induction hardened cutting edges and jaws
- Heavy duty tool steel dynamic high performance joints
Moving back to mid-range diagonal cutters, this set from Wiha prioritizes comfort over everything else, as you can tell by the massive grips. Made with a combination of rubber and plastic, these grips make the cutters comfortable enough to work with all day long without your hands getting sore.
To ensure that these diagonal cutters last as long as possible, they’re made out of forged CV tool steel. The cutting edges have been induction-hardened, making sure that they’ll be able to cut through harder materials. This also ensures that you won’t have to re-sharpen the cutters for a longer time.
The dynamic, high-performance joints used in these diagonal cutters help ensure that the cutting motion is smooth. The joints are also designed to handle additional force so that they don’t fail when you’re trying particularly hard to cut through a thicker wire.
Keep in mind that these cutters are around six inches long, which gives them a little less leverage when compared to eight-inch models. This makes it a little harder to cut through tough materials, and it’s the main issue that holds these cutters back from a top spot. However, if you need a set of compact diagonal cutters, these are an excellent choice.Check Price
- Excellent ergonomics
- Constructed from forged CV tool steel
- High-performance joint
- Cutter length is a bit too short
- No longer made in Switzerland
Crescent Diagonal Cutters
- Crescent PS5429C PRO Series
- 9" crescent pro series diagonal compound action pliers
- Made with co-molded grips for added comfort
Once again, we return to the cheaper side of the price range with the Crescent diagonal cutters. This product is eight inches long, and it includes a few features that make it a strong competitor for our best budget choice. These diagonal cutters use a compound leverage system to exert over 50% more cutting power.
Comfort was another priority in designing these pliers, and they feature co-molded grips which are made of soft material to improve ergonomics. The handles are also wider than on other diagonal cutters so the force can be spread over your fingers more evenly, reducing pain and soreness after extended use.
The self-opening design of these diagonal cutters also makes them easier to use, as it ensures that you won’t have to spread them open yourself after every cut. If you don’t want the cutters to open up on their own, you can use the locking tab to secure the jaws shut.
While everything we’ve had to say about the Crescent cutter so far has been positive, their build quality holds them back from achieving a top spot. These diagonal cutters feel much flimsier than other models in their price range, and we feel like they’re the most likely of the bunch to fail. Long-term durability is essential.
- Self-opening design
- Ergonomic handles
- Poor build quality
- The safety latch is too loose
Xcelite Diagonal Cutters
- Low profile
- Superior blade by-pass shear cutting action
- Greatly reduced mechanical shock delivered to the work
This set of diagonal cutters is a little more specialized than the other options on this list. These cutters are designed for users who need something as compact as possible. At only five inches long, this is the smallest product on our list, and it can fit into a larger pocket without any problems.
Other than being short, the handles and the cutting edges feature a low-profile design to make the tool as thin as possible. These cutters use a blade by-pass shearing action, as opposed to the direct cutting action that is used by other kinds of diagonal cutters.
Shearing the wire ensures that it is exposed to less force than otherwise, which reduces the likelihood of it ending up damaged when it’s cut. If you’re planning on splicing a lot of the wires that you cut, this set of cutters can minimize the damage to them, making the job easier further down the line.
These cutters are also spring-loaded, so they’ll open up automatically after each cut. Unfortunately, the small size of these cutters makes them a niche product, since they sacrifice cutting strength so that they can be small enough to fit in your pocket.Check Price
- Extremely compact
- Less cutting force than larger models
- Inconsistent quality control
Ideal Industries Diagonal Cutters
- Drop-forged, high-carbon steel construction withstands toughest applications
- Knife-to-anvil blades never need resharpening
- Induction-hardened blades for long-term durability
Last, and most certainly least, we have this set of diagonal cutters from Ideal Industries. Compared to the other options on this list, the Ideal Industries cutters feature an insultingly high price point. While they’re just as expensive as our premium choice, these diagonal cutters have none of the features that would potentially justify their price.
This is a basic set of diagonal cutters with vinyl-coated handles, so we can’t possibly comprehend why they’re selling for three times more than products that are exactly the same. To add insult to injury, you don’t even get the same product that is pictured. While the image has yellow handles, the cutters we received were blue.
Another issue is that the body of the pliers is angled, not the head, which is displayed in the image. Avoid these pliers if you want to save yourself money, and you actually want to receive the product that you order.
Keep in mind that there are some redeeming qualities to this product, but none that make it worth the price. These include using drop-forged carbon steel to improve their durability, using knife-to-anvil cutting edges that don’t need to be sharpened, and induction-hardened edgesCheck Price
- No need to sharpen them
- High-quality steel
- Product is not as pictured
- Uncomfortable handles