You may be facing a terrible knot or twist in the steel cable, or have the intention to replace it or re-use it for something else. Whatever is your motive, it’s really important to do it right in order to make your cutting process clean and safe.

First of all, we must make sure that we are working with is steel cable and not another type of wire, so it is important to get the basics and being able to recognize it.


What is a steel cable

Also known as wire rope, the steel cable is formed by twisting metal strands into a helix form, usually holding a central strand and creating tight spirals around it, until the mixture of strands becomes a compact rope-like pattern.

This shape is known as “laid rope” and once it’s formed, whether built with just one or several layers of metal strands made of stainless or carbon steel, it ends up looking like a single piece. The number of strands and layers will determine the size of the cable in terms of weight and thickness, leading to many different classifications for wire rope.


Properties and benefits of steel cable

Properties of the wire rope have been studied and known for over a century, as showed in the Technologic Papers of the Bureau of Standards published by the Department of Commerce in 1919. The study claims that certain arrangements of the strands while constructing wire rope could produce more stable combinations to suit a different kind of technical applications.


No matter the amount of strands or thickness, the steel cable is one of the strongest ropes in the industry and its compact construction makes it more resistant to corrosion than other materials. It is the most suitable kind of rope to perform heavy duty lifting and other hard jobs, which is why it is widely used in the construction sector. Its helix-formed core allows it to carry the weight that regular ropes could not handle, and its ability to endure high levels of tension explains why most military and mining machines use it.


It’s not only a material designed to endure outdoors. It can also be used in interiors and could even be treated with different coating applications or galvanization to endure exposure to chemicals and other elements, such as strong vibrations or demanding movements.


The strength and durability of steel cable, as well as its resistance to crushing and rotation, put it at the top of the chain in heavy-duty ropes. And its complex and flexible structure allows it to perform quality lifting, supporting, and carrying in many applications.


A study published recently by Applied Sciences, where several scientists from recognized Lithuanian universities and labs analyzed the steel wire applying multi-criteria methods, showed that steel cable can resist vibration at various frequencies and that is strong enough to endure normal industrial operations without breaking.


 Top 3 most important considerations to cut steel cable

It’s obvious that this kind of rope is designed mostly for heavy-duty activities and industrial applications, so handling or reshaping it in any way may be as dangerous as performing an industrial task. We do recommend consulting with an expert if you are dealing with steel cable with heavy terminations, such as big hooks or heavy-duty grips since the weight added in the ends can significantly affect the cut.

So whatever the task, it is important to remember the following considerations and act responsibly to avoid any mistake or unwanted situation:


1. Protect yourself

Protecting yourself during the process is what matters the most. Leather gloves or of similar materials are essential, as well as safety glasses, since cutting the metal strands can produce harmful residues. We recommend you to ask for help in order to hold the cable when needed.


2. Work with the proper tools

Since you are dealing with metal, you must rely on proper metal-cutting tools. Each one was designed for a particular thickness, so we recommend measuring your cable in order to recognize how thick it is and find the right tool.

It is highly important to never attempt using regular scissors or gardening tools to cut wire rope. Despite that diagonal cutters may work well for the thinnest cables, the wrong tool can ruin an entire section of the rope to even become useless. It is better to protect both the rope and the tool.

Please consider asking for advice to an expert if you are too confused with the cable cutters.  Also, check the sharpness of the blades before using it, since poor sharpness in the blades can make you apply too much friction in the cable.

3. Stay firm and apply strength

Once you have the proper cable cutter and checked its sharpness, the key is to apply not only strength but steadiness. Consistent pressure will make the cut cleaner than applying a lot of tension. A single movement should be enough for most steel cables if you are using the right tool. Even really thick ropes will get a clean cut in the first attempt with proper and sharp blades.

Consider that the very structure of steel cable makes it different than other ropes. The layers of strands can split if the tool does not “trap” or grip the entire cable, so make sure that your cutter has the right jaws’ shape in order to hold the metal strands so that the ends cannot spread once the cut is done. If your ends split a little bit, you may need to install a grip-like termination.


Buying guide about steel cable

So, after learning all about steel cable and how to handle it and cut it right, buying it also requires a bit of thinking. It depends highly on the use that it will be given. Will, it is used outdoors or is it for an indoors application? Do you need it resistant to vibration, extreme temperatures or weight? The type and size of the steel cable will vary according to its aim.

Different applications demand resistance to corrosion, abrasion, or tension. If the cable is meant for industrial use, an expert in mechanical engineering should determine the adequate type of cable. For domestic use, we suggest you check the specifications and properties of the different sizes in order to find one suitable for your project.


No matter what kind of cable you are considering, you can feel confident that it will perform outstanding resistance and durability, but make sure to choose the right type and size and to cut it properly. You, your rope, and your tools will appreciate it!


Robert P. has been a DIY, woodworking enthusiast for 5 years, and in that time has written huge resources on woodworking and tools. He loves solving problems and crafting ideas from scratch.

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