Re: Removing insulation from fine wires

Gwen Patton

For enameled wire such as magnet wire, I use extra fine sandpaper when there's enough length. If it's extra-tough lacquer, I use a lighter. Recently, I tested the electric arc lighter I picked up because it looked nifty (I don't smoke) and could be recharged via USB, and it removed the lacquer right the heck now. Heavier gauge magnet wire is a little harder to de-lacquer using this method, but it does work. Hold the wire with pliers, not your fingers, though.

Other wire, it depends on the thickness and type of insulation. PVC insulation on thin wires I used to strip with my teeth, but given that I'm a lot older now, I don't put my teeth through that lest I loosen them inadvertently. Careful stripping with a pair of diagonal cutters, flush cutters, or the wire-cutter on a pair of needle-nose pliers works most of the time, except when I squeeze it too tightly and clip the end off. Murphy's Law tends to cause this when you just went to a lot of trouble to prepare the wire and you don't have a lot of extra length, such as when soldering thin coax to a connector. If you have lots of extra length, it'll strip perfectly without effort. But when it matters, you'll probably nip off the end at least once.

My pocketknife works for most wire, and I'm used to doing it carefully, so I don't nick the wire, though removing the outer jacket on coax does usually result in a couple of shield braid strands getting nicked.

I have the cheap strippers with little gauge-marked holes that simply never work and shouldn't be purchased as they're a waste of money. Get a good spring-controlled stripper or one with an adjustable gauge on it instead.

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