With the amount of wiring found in arcade cabinets, the chances are good that you will need to strip the end of a wire at some point during your time repairing arcade games. There are so many scenarios that can occur (such as a wire coming out of a connector, a frayed wire coming apart, etc.) that make stripping a wire a necessary skill. So the question is, “What is the best way to accomplish this?” In this post, we will discuss various methods that you can use to strip the end of a wire so that you can reattach or reconnect it back to it’s proper location.
Methods For Stripping A Wire
There’s an old saying that goes, “The best tool to use for the job is the one you have on you.” If you believe this is the case then the pocket knife would be the best tool for stripping wires. While it may be true that the pocket knife is the most “available” tool for the job, it is definitely not the most effective. Unlike the rest of the methods we will be discussing in this post, stripping a wire with the pocket knife is slow. It usually takes several attempts to completely remove the covering from the bare wire when using the pocket knife. There is also a good possibility that you could cut yourself or damage the wire that you are trying to strip during the process. Please exercise caution if you are going to use the pocket knife to strip a wire so that you can avoid these mishaps. With that said, if the pocket knife is the only tool you have available to you and you’re in a pinch for time, then by all means, use it.
In our opinion, the best tool for the job is the one that’s designed to accomplish it. That’s exactly why wire strippers were invented. There are two different types of wire strippers: manual and automatic. Let’s start by discussing manual wire strippers. Manual wire strippers look similar to a set of pliers except that they have various holes for different gauge (or size) wires. Manual wire strippers work by inserting the wire into the correct gauge hole, closing the strippers around the wire, and pulling the wire apart from the tool while firmly holding on to both. This process removes the covering from the wire while keeping the bare wire intact. Most manual wire strippers will also allow you to cut the wire by sliding it down below the gauge holes and closing the tool. Some perform other additional functions as well including crimping connectors, cutting bolts, etc. While manual wire strippers are more physically demanding than their automatic wire stripping counterparts, they are better on older wiring especially the type found in arcade games manufactured during the 1980s.
While manual wire strippers are pretty good at accomplishing their intended purpose, our favorite wire strippers to use in most cases will be the automatic kind. Automatic wire strippers do not require the physical pulling apart of the wire and the tool. The tool itself takes care of this action, all you need to do is put the wire in the tool and squeeze. There are different variations of automatic wire strippers but for the purposes of this post we are only going to talk about two: “click” and self-adjusting. The “click” style of automatic wire strippers kind of look like a two-legged dinosaur. All you have to do is place the wire inside the “dinosaur head,” squeeze the two “legs” at the bottom of the tool, and it should remove the cover from the wire. We’ve found that these work great for a while but tend to wear out over time. If you are going to purchase a pair of “click” strippers, make sure that you get the ones with the pressure adjustment. These will allow you to adjust them as they degrade from use.
Now, it’s time to discuss our recommended tool when it comes to stripping wires: the self-adjusting wire stripper. Just like the “click” wire strippers discussed earlier, the self-adjusting wire strippers are automatic so no physical “pull apart” is required by the operator. All you need to do is insert the wire into a place specified on the tool and squeeze the handle. When you squeeze, the tool places the wire against a plier-like wall, cuts the covering with a blade, and removes it exposing the bare wire. The process is extremely fast and has a high rate of success with several different types of wire. The only time when we’ve had issues with self-adjusting wire strippers is when we are using them on old, brittle wires. As we mentioned before, manual wire strippers tend to do better with this type of wiring. Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with self-adjusting wire strippers. They definitely get the Arcade Repair Tips seal of approval.
We should mention that we use a name brand of self-adjusting wire strippers in the video but we’ve also had pretty good success with several generic brands so you might look into that if you want to save a few dollars.
While a pocket knife might be handy in a pinch, it is definitely not the most effective tool when it comes to stripping wires. Wire strippers, whether manual or automatic, will do a far faster and better job in the vast majority of cases. Self-adjusting wire strippers are definitely our preferred method for stripping wires but it’s always good to have a pair of manual wire strippers around especially when working with older wiring. Sticking to this methodology should serve you well during your arcade repair escapades. Please leave any questions or suggestions in the comments section below.