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I need to patch a couple of cables. Normally I'd work with cat5 cable which contains a ripcord. The ripcord is used to pull outer insulation off without accidentally cutting the individual strands of cable.

The cables I have to patch cannot be replaced, and don't contain ripcords. What is the best way to strip the insulation off, to avoid accidentally cutting the individual strands?

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Adding a bunch of answers with images of variations on essentially the same tool, saying essentially the same thing, really doesn't add any value... I think this question is quite thoroughly answered at this point :-) – voretaq7 May 3 '12 at 14:51
@voretaq7 - agreed. Mine was more for using scissors if needed. I figure the OP wants a cable done prior to waiting for a cable stripper to arrive. – TheCleaner May 3 '12 at 15:05
@TheCleaner There's always stripping the wire the manly way too. (Any excuse to post a BOFH story!) – voretaq7 May 3 '12 at 17:52
@voretaq7 - Indeed! I should post a pic of teeth as an answer. – TheCleaner May 3 '12 at 17:57
Seven nearly identical answers, and one that's different. – Bryce May 2 '13 at 23:19
up vote 7 down vote accepted

In a pinch you can use scissors. Just slide the cable into the groove of the scissors and slow twist the cable completely around to get a nice nick in the insulation. Then pull on the insulation and it should break free.

See here:

But my long term recommendation is to grab this from Fluke:

enter image description here

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+1, best tool I've found for the job. – Jeff Ferland May 3 '12 at 14:58

Normally a crimping tool will have a section specially for stripping the outer sheath of a cat 5 cable. It looks like a notch that would accomodate the cable cut into one side with a blade on the other side.

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Cable jacket stripping tools exist. I've always used something like this:

enter image description here

It's got a screw that allows you to set the minimum diameter, so you don't cut past the sheathing.

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Seven answers, and nobody mentions the Easy Safe Way that will Never Nick the Wires:

  • Using wire cutters, cut a small slit in the sheath starting at the exposed end.
  • Pull the sheath apart, it will tear quite neatly in most cases.
  • You're done. You don't even have to check the wires for nicks.

enter image description here

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Although there's a comment that says this question is already thoroughly answered, I don't think it's complete without at least one dangerous tool:

enter image description here

This puppy is not only highly likely to nick (or completely cut) the inner wires of the cable, if you put your thumb on the cable to hold it steady there's a good chance you'll give yourself a nice deep slash, which will give your cables an awesome urban warfare look.

That said, in a pinch you can use a box cutter carefully.

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When using a blade, just score the insulation, don't actually try to cut through it. If done properly, you don't go through the insulation, you just weaken it enough, that you can tear it off cleanly. – Zoredache May 3 '12 at 18:27

I would get a Wire-stripping plier, they are ment for this type of job and good ones will be able to just cut the coat of the cable.

Stripper pliers

On most network pliers you have a special hole for this too.

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You should use a stripping tool for stripping cables.

They have normally have different size holes, so use the right one and simply look at the cable after you are done stripping it. Any physical damage should be obvious.

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You want a radial stripper. Here's a quick demo:

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