Buyer’s Guide

While many people consider the bolt cutter a simple machine, very little would claim that it isn’t a very convenient tool to have on-hand. Bolt cutters can be invaluable, but finding the right cutter for the job is important too. In this section of our guide, we’re going to hit on some features that you should consider before you purchase a bolt cutter so you can find the right product that will suit the work that you’re doing.

The Size of Bolt Cutter

bolt cutters

When you need to cut something constructed of harder materials, bolt cutters are exceptional. However before you purchase them, understand that there are different sizing options out there to choose from. Here are three of the most common:

  • Compact: When you need to cut some materials, you don’t always have to go extra-large. For this reason, there are compact bolt cutters that are designed to cut materials that don’t require a long reach.These types of bolt cutters are usually only about eight to 14 inches in length and are able to cut into materials that have a somewhat hardened thickness. If you need to cut through thinner steel chains and bolts, then a compact product should do the job.
  • Medium: Like compact models, most medium bolt cutters will provide about 4,000 pounds of cutting pressure. The chief difference between the two cutter types is that medium-sized cutters have longer arms so you can actually cut into larger objects.If you have a material that’s more than an inch thick with a hardened body to cut into, then this size is best. Usually, these medium-sized units range from 18 to 24 inches in size.
  • Large: If you need to cut thicker steel chain or rods, then there’s no better bolt cutter than one that has a 30 to 48-inch construction. These are specifically designed to tackle hardened materials without much effort. Additionally, these bolt cutters also provide you with a larger amount of reach and leverage.

The Type of Bolt Cutter Head

bolt cutters

In addition to the sizing options, bolt cutters can have different head types. These different heads really affect the job outcome, so before you settle on a product, take a look at the way it cuts so you don’t have any issues down the line.

  • Angle Cuts: When you need to cut nails down so they are flush with the board that they are embedded in, then always try to select a pair of bolt cutters with an angled head. An angle cutting bolt cutter also grants a certain degree of ease of access; you’ll be able to have a high degree of precision, even when you’re cutting a bolt or nail that’s in a fairly hard to reach area. These cutters lift the handle upwards, allowing you to get relatively flush with what you’re cutting. Typically, the angle is about 20 or 30 degrees or so.
  • Center Cuts: With a cutter with blades that are center cut, the blades are an equal distance from each other. As a result, you’ll find that the cuts made by these bolt cutters have a tendency to be more even and clean. These cutters are a multipurpose tool, and as a result, they are very popular. If you need to cut through materials like pipes or thick cabling, choose this type.
  • Clipper Cuts: With center-cut bolt cutters, the cutting point is much lower than other types, which serves to help you make much more flush cuts. To understand this, with a center cut blade, the edge itself rests firmly in the middle of the blade. With clipper cut options, the angle of the blade itself tapers downwards until it reaches the bottom surface, which is almost completely flat. As a result, the cutting edge rests at a much lower point.
  • Shear Cuts: Like traditional shears, the blades on a shear-cut bolt cutter are designed to slide past each other rather than meet in the middle. As a result, shear-cut bolt cutters aren’t the best at cutting hardened materials but are exceptional at cutting through materials that are around 1/8 of an inch thick like cables.
  • End Cuts: If you’re in the need of slicing a small amount off of a bolt head or similar object, then an end cut bolt cutter may be your best bet. Not only does an end cut bolt cutter slice, but it also helps you grip before you start the slicing process. Additionally, as you can approach an item side-on, these cutters are fairly convenient because they allow work in narrower spaces.

The Quality of the Handle

If you’re going to be doing a lot of cutting, it’s a good idea to consider the ergonomics of your bolt cutter because the last thing you need is extended hand fatigue. Additionally, if you’re going to be cutting frequently, a good non-slip handle is amazing because it’ll help you get the job done quicker. For those that will be cutting heavier materials, you should select a longer handle because you’ll be able to cut better with the extra leverage that a longer handle affords.

The Quality of the Bolt Cutter’s Blade

bolt cutters

Most blades on modern bolt cutters are a little less than an inch thick and are usually made from a wide variety of materials. Since you’ll want to use your bolt cutter for years, it’s a good idea to go with top-tier materials. As a result, go with a product that is either made from standard or hardened steel and is at least an inch thick. Forged steel will typically last longer and you won’t need to sharpen and maintain the blades as often.

Bolt Cutter Uses and Applications

Bolt cutters can be used in a myriad of practical ways. Here are the two most common:

  • Around the house: When you need to cut through cabling, trim nails, or cut bolts around the house, you don’t have to spend a lot of cash. Also, for this type of application, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about having a very long handle.
  • Usage in emergency work: Professional bolt cutters can provide a much higher cutting force than at-home models. In fact, it’s impossible to find a product that can provide 16,000 pounds of cutting pressure. These cutters are primarily designed to cut through chain, thick metal, and can even be used to cut into hardened metal locks.

Product Reviews

The Best Bolt Cutter for Durability – Fiskars 740310-1001

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This 14-inch product by Fiskars is in the PowerGear line of tools. It comes with a full lifetime warranty that is enhanced by quality construction that’s designed to last for decades.

The curved design of the PowerGear cutters is very strong for cutting, which takes some getting used to. Also, these aren’t the most budget-friendly bolt cutters on the market; you’re going to pay more for their premium quality.

This product includes adjustable bolts that let you increase the tension so you can still cut as strong as you wish over time. Additionally, the handles use Softgrip tech, which is designed to provide a truly ergonomic experience.


If you need a high level of cutting power with a truly reliable design, then the Fiskars PowerGear 14-inch bolt cutters are a good choice. They are strong, cut deeply, and are also relatively light with a very ergonomic design.


  • The blades are hardened and heat treated.
  • The grips use special technology for comfortable use.
  • Eccentric bolts on the blades let you ensure that the cut performance stays true over time.
  • These bolt cutters are protected by a lifetime warranty.


  • With the PowerGear cutting system, you’ll want to practice first before you cut anything.
  • These are somewhat expensive.

The Best Mini Bolt Cutter – Knipex 71 32 200

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These Knipex bolt cutters are designed to have a very compact design; in fact, the product itself is only eight inches long. Additionally, these relatively small cutters have a high amount of strength and can cut through items with a diameter of up to 5.2mm.

Simply put, these cutters can sometimes be a bit too small for some practical applications as you just might not be able to easily reach what you’re cutting. Also, the cutting jaw is somewhat small.

One of the best features of these Knipex cutters is their locking device on the handles that allow for safer transport. This product also uses a comfort grip handle that is very easy to use and should reduce fatigue.


For closer jobs, these relatively small bolt cutters can provide a high amount of efficiency. While you won’t be using them for cutting through thick chain, they definitely are good for cutting bolts, nails, and rivets.


  • These are some of the best bolt cutters for the money when you work in tight spaces.
  • While they are small, they are still crafted to be heavy-duty.
  • They are great for cutting and slicing bolts that are at close range.
  • When not in use, there is a locking device in the middle of the product.


  • While they are small, they are expensive.
  • If you don’t need a mini tool, these aren’t the best choice.

The Best Bolt Cutter for Power Transmission – HK Porter 00190MCD

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On the other end of the spectrum, these bolt cutters from HK Porter are designed for when you need reach. They are 18 inches long and are typically well-received in many best bolt cutter reviews.

For whatever reason, the action on these bolt cutters is best described as somewhat stiff. You won’t notice it every time, but it will become apparent during lengthy work. Also, the 3/8-inch cutting capacity is also somewhat prone to slippage, so you may struggle with thicker materials.

This product uses PowerLink technology that can reduce cutting effort by as much as 30 percent. Additionally, the product uses computer-generated design in its geometry for better efficiency.


Overall, these H.K. Porter bolt cutters are one of the best options for the money if you’re seeking nice, middle-of-the-road functionality. They have good quality construction, are good for when you need leverage, and aren’t heavy enough to cause fatigue during work.


  • The blades are induction hardened for toughness and sharpness.
  • Their PowerLink tech requires less strength to do cuts.
  • The handles are tubular steel, which will stand up to a lot of punishment.


  • The action on these is a bit stiff.
  • With a 3/8-inch cutter, you won’t be able to cut thicker materials.

The Best Bolt Cutter for Easy Storage – Olympia Tools 39-118

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This product from Olympia Tools is a good option for those that want a cutter that has a lot of leverage but can fold down to a mini sizing. At its maximum length, this cutter is 18 inches and can cut through standard bolts and some heavy-duty materials.

While it can cut some stronger materials, the jaws may struggle with thicker pieces of metal. Also, the hinges can loosen gradually over time if you do a lot of heavy-duty work.

Simply put, the best feature of these cutters is their ability to be folded and unfolded so you can have an 18-inch cutter or fold it down for easy storage. The process just requires that you press a switch that also locks the cutter into a cutting or folded position.


While some might consider it a gimmick, the foldable nature of this Olympia Tools product makes it very convenient to use, and as a result it has some great reviews. It also has a very ergonomic handle and a heavy-duty construction.


  • It folds down compactly.
  • The cutter provides a lot of leverage.
  • The handles are designed to transfer more power to your cutting.


  • The plastic handles feel a little stiff
  • These aren’t precision machined.

The Best Bolt Cutter for Grip – Knipex 71 01 250

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A good grip is crucial for a pair of cutters, and this product has rubber coated steel handles that provide a grippy surface that makes them easy to use. These 10-inch bolt cutters are some of the highest quality compact cutters on the market.

The jaws could be slightly longer in order for them to be more versatile. They are also too small for hard to reach bolt and material cutting.

These 10-inch bolt cutters are very well-made; the steel construction is protected so it won’t rust or corrode over time. Additionally, the steel itself is German chrome vanadium heavy-duty steel that’ll last for years.


Not only are these 10-inch cutters excellent for most short-range jobs, but they are also some of the most attractive cutters in our reviews. They’ll cut through padlocks, bolts, and many different materials under 0.157 inches in diameter due to the quality steel construction.


  • They have great grip.
  • They are composed of tough materials.
  • An excellent power transmission of 60 percent.


  • They are too small for some jobs.
  • While they can cut a lot of materials, the jaws are a little short.

The Best Bolt Cutter for Leverage – WORKPRO W017007A

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Out of our reviews, this product has by far the most reach and leverage by at least a good 10 inches. As a result, these 30-inch long bolt cutters are perfect for getting extra leverage or accessing hard to reach bolts.

These aren’t the strongest bolt cutters for power transmission; you’ll have to be fairly strong in order to cut deeply.

WorkPro has powder coated the entire body of these steel cutters so they won’t rust. Additionally, the tubular handle has bi-material grips that are very comfortable.


When you need leverage, these bolt cutters are an excellent tool that will cut padlocks, rods, rivets, and chain. Their steel jaws are tough and durable for an even work performance.


  • Powder coated for protection against the elements.
  • These are 30-inches long for extra leverage.
  • These have a dual material grip that’s very comfortable.


  • Despite the leverage, you have to use a lot of strength while cutting.
  • They weigh almost 10 pounds, so they can be fatiguing.


How do you adjust a bolt cutter?

There are jaw adjustment bolts and neck adjustment bolts to adjust a bolt cutter. First clamp your bolts securely to make the jaw adjustment bolts accessible and then turn your bolts clockwise with an openly headed spanner to move the blades closer together.

What is the best material for bolt cutters?

For blades it is steel, and for the handle steel and plastic or aluminum

Can I use bolt cutters in narrow spaces?

End cutter bolts are best suited for this, and the more compact bolt cutters are effective too. But if you’re going to use it regularly, get an end cut tool.

Final Thoughts

When you’re looking for a good bolt cutter to cut through steel or other hardened materials like padlocks, it can be tough to find the right product. Fortunately, the six items that we’ve featured in this guide are all tough, can cut exceptionally well, and are easy to use.

If, for whatever reason, these products don’t quite fit your needs, take a look at our buyer’s guide to find out what features to look for when you make your next bolt cutter purchase.

The world of the bolt cutter is steadily advancing; in fact, there are now models on the market that fold down tightly to give you a fairly small size of a few inches for easy storage. These mini bolt cutters still manage to be strong and will provide over 4,000 pounds of cutting pressure for cutting bolts and padlocks.

Additionally, the required force for using a pair of bolt cutters is steadily decreasing, which is very useful for people that need to cut often.

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