Back in the misty days of my youth, when I lived in apartments and had no need for home remodeling, the method I used for stripping the occasional wire was with a jackknife or by gently nibbling away at the wire with a wire cutter. After I owned my first house, I discovered the wire stripper.
What It’s Used For
It’s used for cutting away the plastic coating on Romex electrical wires, leaving the wire core intact and undamaged. The end portions of wires need to be stripped during electrical work so that those bare ends can contact with terminals or other wires. A wire stripper is not the same as what is commonly called a cable ripper–which is used to rip away the outer casing binding all the wires together.
The wire stripper has holes sized to the gauge of the wire. Since the holes are smaller than the diameter of the plastic coating, the cutting edge on the inner part of the holes will slice away the coating.
The holes accommodate a mid-range of wire gauges. Wire too thick or too thin cannot be cut with the wire stripper.
Wire strippers also come equipped with a wire cutter.
How to Use It
One of the great things about electrical work is predictability. Nothing is left to chance. It’s the same idea with using a wire stripper:
Identify the gauge of your wire (usually printed on the side).
Match the gauge with the appropriate hole on the wire stripper. The hole will be marked.
Open the wire stripper handles. “Seat” the wire into one side of the hole.
Slowly press the handles together until they can go no farther.
Very important: Gently rotate the wire within the hole (or the wire stripper around the wire, whichever is easier). You do not have to rotate far: just a quarter turn in one direction and back.
Pull off the “cut” end of the wire casing, like you would pull a sock off of a foot!