Bolt Cutters - Who knows about 'em?

Discussion in 'Gadgets & Gear' started by tortoise, Sep 7, 2003.

  1. tortoise


    Jul 1, 2000
    I'm shopping for a set of general purpose bolt cutters for fence, chains, locks, what-have-you. These will be carried in my vehicle at work. Naturally, I'd like to be able to cut through the Great Wall of China, "just in case" -though as with everything else (like knives) I really don't "need" a portable plasma torch.

    Now here's the question: I've used lots of bolt cutters, but never paid attention to brand. Some worked well, some not, but who kept track, and who remembers what was being cut and how it affected the performance. As I search, I'm finding some for around $15 and some for literally ten times that. What's the difference?

  2. Toro


    Jul 17, 1999
    Find out what brand your local fire department uses.They will be the best.
  3. rdangerer


    May 26, 2000
    I've got a pair of 18" cheapies (old, 10 yrs?... probably spent $15 or $25, don't remember). After cutting off a bunch of old nails during demolition, the blades are shot. They were too soft. Bend, won't cut small items or cut cleanly now.

    On my next pair, I'll be looking for quality, hardened, replaceable jaw blades.

    Past that, I'll be subscribing to this thread to see what you get for advice also.
  4. mwerner


    Apr 23, 2002
    Hehe- we've siezed a number of them at our department, mostly used by bike thieves. The cheap ones have chewed-up, misaligned blades.

    With most tools, you get what you pay for...The local discount places sell a lot of the "buffalo" brand (chinese) junk. Good for a couple of cuts.

    The local rescue guys have nice hydraulic numbers, similar to the "jaws of life", but smaller.
  5. smokinbasser


    Jul 21, 2003
    Determine just how much use they are going to get used and buy with that in mind if they are for just occasional use I would buy the cheaper ones if the cutters get burred your not out too much money.But if your going to be using them on a regular basis buy a better set of bolt cutters with replaceable cutters or make sure it has a good warranty. Just a word to the wise if your pulled over the LEO might consider them to be burgler tools so have your reason for having them ready
  6. rdangerer


    May 26, 2000
    "Harbor Freight" comes to mind.

    I think I got my cheapies at a Home Depot.

    Sears carries H.K. Porter and "Companion" brands. HK Porter priced a bit higher, 24" models are $45 vs. $40.
    H.K. Porter opinion anyone?

    I also see a "HIT" brand, supposedly a quality Japanese brand.

    Harbor Freight has "Pittsburgh" brand to help set the low end of a 24" for price/cheapness at $16. You can be sure this is not Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, but Pittsburgh China. ;)

    So it looks like you better spend $40 on 24" bolt cutters to stay away from "cheap", not to be confused with "inexpensive".
  7. tortoise


    Jul 1, 2000

    Yeah, HK Porter is a name that I'm seeing frequently, seems like they'll likely be the one based on the price/availability/quality ratio. They come across like the "Craftsman" of bolt cutters, maybe not Snap-On, but real tools for regular people.

    -As you mentioned, replacement jaws are an important feature. HKP does offer them, but I'm not sure if so for the less expensive models. The cutters I've seen have been near a hundred bucks, with a set of replacement blades alone selling for seventy.

    Finding out what the FD uses is a good idea, except that to them money is no object, whereas I'll be buying these myself. On the job's dime, I've seen a couple of two-hundred-plus-dollar cutters I'd get in a heartbeat, but when my name's on the bill... And as Smokin' rightly points out, how much use will they really get? This is more just something I'd like on board, "-Better to have and not need" so I'm looking for a quality tool that doesn't have to be the world's best. -A Delica will do, a Strider's not necessary kind of thing.

    Sage words too about the burglar's tools, thank you; for that I'm covered.
  8. Geraldo


    Dec 16, 2000
    Not in my deptarment. I honestly don't know what brand we buy, and I've been the guy that ordered some of them. I also don't know if ours have replaceable cutters, as we really don't use them that often. I will tell you we buy the ones that have about 3 foot handles (you need some leverage) and I have never seen them fail to cut. I'll check for a brand name on my next duty day.

    We don't buy them at Home Depot, that I can tell you. We either order through a local non-chain hardware store or buy from a specialty fire tool company like Fire Hooks Unlimited. I also recall that they were very pricey. Made the chief look like this :eek:
    mikescooling likes this.
  9. Frank


    Oct 3, 1998
    We use HK Porters. They seem to be as good as any. I get them at I can call the local store or order them online and have them the next day. I also order them for our small police department. Because they are so readily available and because we have never had a pair fail to cut a lock, we stick with them instead of the $200 models.
  10. Daniel

    Daniel Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 3, 1998
    I have a pair of Rigid bolt cutters alomg with the hardened replacement steel jaws that my dad gave to me when he retired. I ahve no idea what these cost, but my dad never believed in cheap tools!

    I have used these to cut off hardened steel padlocks on trailers at work made by Amercican and Master with 1/4" and 5/8" shanks.As posted previously, leverage is the key. I usually put one handle in my chest and pull on the other handle to cut it. Sometimes the shanks slightly dent the jaws, but I have not had to use the new set yet.

    You may ask, why I am cutting locks off trailers? When my people have the wisdom to break keys off and we cannot retrieve them, the bolt cutters are alot cheaper and quicker than a locksmith, a torch, or a drill!

    I thank my dad every time I use them.

  11. mwerner


    Apr 23, 2002
    Slightly OT, but years ago we had a rash of burglaries involving the change machines we used to have on campus. These were the typical dollar-bill changers, which held about 300 dollars.
    They were secured by those big "American" padlocks; the ones with the massive, chrome-plated bodies and shanks about 1/2 inch thick.

    We wondered what kind of tool the BGs were using to break these impressive-looking locks. We finally caught em' after the company put in the alarms we suggested. The tool- a common lug wrench!
  12. Ed Straker

    Ed Straker

    Dec 17, 2002
    H.K. Porter, made in Statesboro, GA. Used to work security at the plant. It was called 'Cooper Tools H.K. Porter Wiss' at the time, don't know what it might be now. Also did some Boker Tree Brand knives there, too, if I remember correctly.
  13. julianl_simon


    Jul 28, 2001
    The two most common quality brands have been named: H. K. Porter and Ridgid. Both are good tools. Bolt cutters are one of those tools you rarely need, but when you need them - you usually really need them.

    They are also good tools to pick up at a flea market or garage sale. They only have handles and a cutter head with a couple of pivot points. It's easy to appraise their condition. Price a good pair in a McMaster Carr, Grainger, or MSC catalog. So if you see a 30" pair of H. K. Porter's at a flea market for $35.00, you know to buy them
  14. Hotrod


    Mar 19, 2003
    Any bolt cutters success is directly proportonate to the amount of pipe on each handle, and the strength of the user.

  15. AKA Knife Knut

    AKA Knife Knut

    Aug 15, 2002
    Reminds me of some junkyard salvage I did once with a Vise Grip Wrench, the ones with the V cuttout and bump on the jaws so they grip the nut by three sides.
    Some nuts were on pretty tight so I used a piece of handy tubing. To my suprise instead of the nut turning, the bolt neatly sheared off being rust welded to the nut!

    The cutters on vice grips work well for smaller stuff.

    While I am thinking of it, a [/B]high tension Hacksaw w/ bimetal or high alloy blades is another good friend to have.
  16. DaveH


    Dec 2, 1999
    I heard a good way to remove locks is blast them heavy with liquid nitrogen then whack'em with a hammer.
  17. Hotrod


    Mar 19, 2003
    Or air condtioning coolant like any of the r lineups... :cool:
  18. The Towcutter

    The Towcutter

    Jan 16, 2001
    Ridgid bolt cutters are the best in the biz. They have a ton of sizes and have replacement heads. They are very expensive, however. Starting @ $70.00 and up. They have a 60" model that I could barely pick up!!!

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