How to Remove Insulation From Copper Wire

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Most copper wire, whether solid or standard filament, is only available with pre-wrapped rubber insulation. This is to protect the internal wire from damage and also protect users from exposed and potentially dangerous issues. To get to the usable wire, the insulation must be removed to a necessary length for use in residential and business electrical wiring, or in connecting powered electronic devices together. Specific tools are available to aid in the safe and efficient insulation removal.

Things You'll Need

  • Insulated copper wire
  • Wire stripper
  • Electrical tape
  • Determine the amount of wire to be stripped for the task. A good length rule is to strip two times the amount needed to make the required connection. Excess can always be removed if desired after stripping. If the wire is double-strung, meaning two wires are run together, a rubber insulating material around both wires must be removed first. Use a general wire stripper to remove a section of this following the same length guidelines of twice the amount needed.

  • Use a wire-stripping tool with variable gauge cutting holes. These make it a little easier to successfully strip wires when you know the gauge of the wire. Select the wire hole in the tool closest to the gauge wire used.

  • Feed the cable into the hole and close the ends of the stripper firmly against it. When pressure is exerted by hand, the tool will cut through the insulation layer but not through the copper core.

  • Remove the insulation from the wire. Some stripping tools do this automatically after making the cut, while others only cut through and then hold the wire. To dislodge, give the tool a light twist while holding the wire and pulling the tool toward the end of the wire until the insulation comes loose.

Tips & Warnings

  • Practice on a length of scrap wire until you feel confident enough for the main project.
  • Removing too much insulation at one time can damage the wire by stretching it or breaking it inside the insulation. Try to cut at lengths of 1 inch or less.
  • Be careful with strand wire not to break off too many strands when removing, as this can affect the quality of the later connection.
  • Too little wire will not make a good connection, and too much wire may lead to a short circuit. Always do too much over too little and cut it to fit later.
  • Never cut wire insulation with a knife as it is possible for these to slip and injure you.
  • Cut excess unused and exposed wire or wrap it thoroughly with electrical tape.

References

  • "Ultimate Guide to Wiring: Complete Projects for the Home;" Editors of Creative Homeowner; 2007
  • "Wiring Your Digital Home For Dummies;" Dennis C. Brewer and Paul A. Brewer; 2006
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