Bolt cutters are heavy duty cutting tools that are designed to cut through very thick materials. Examples of these materials can be heavy steel wire, thick metal bolts, padlocks, nails, screws, small trees, branches and more. Bolt cutters are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, which are designed for different purposes.
The basic design of bolt cutters usually consists of smaller cutting blades and very long handles that are connected with a series of complex hinges. These hinges are there to maximize the amount of force on the blades by increasing leverage when the handles are compressed. This way, they are able to cut all the way through thick and rigid materials with relative ease to the user of the tool. Many bolt cutters are designed with an adjustable set screw, which will adjust the amount that the handles need to be closed for the blades to make contact with one another.
The blades and jaws of bolt cutters are typically forged from very hard metal alloys, since the materials that they are made to cut through are also usually very hard. The shapes of the blades can vary as well; for example, shear blades can be flat on one side for the purpose of cutting against flat surfaces. Shear blades are designed like a typical pair of scissors and can be used for cutting softer metal cables and wires.
Cutting manually through heavy materials can be difficult even with these tools. One solution to cutting heavy wire is to twist the handles of the blade back and forth while cutting, which will often help. When this is not enough, it is most likely necessary to use a larger set of bolt cutters to increase the amount of force that is applied. It is never advisable to cut through live electrical wire with bolt cutters, even if they are insulated.
Even though bolt cutters are designed to make the work of cutting heavy materials easier, they still will often require the user to apply quite a bit of force on the handles. The length of the tools typically range from 12 in (.31 m) to 42 in (1.07 m) in length, from the end of the jaw to the end of the handles. Smaller versions are known as mini bolt cutters, and can be used for nails or wires. On the other end of the spectrum are hydraulic bolt cutters, which are designed to cut through heavy or dense materials with motor-driven machines when human strength just won't "cut it."