Should You Sharpen Your Bolt Cutters?

Should You Sharpen Your Bolt Cutters?

If you use your bolt cutters a lot and cut hard bolts, rebar, or padlocks and chain, you start to get these pits and nicks and dings in the two opposed blades so that when they’re closed you can begin to see holes where they meet. That’s due to cutting a little bit harder stuff than they are designed to cut.


You can tell you have a good quality bolt cutter set because you’ll have an adjustment screw. When you trim down some of the blades, and redefine the edges, you’ll be able to go ahead and take the excess clearance out of the unit. As you tighten this down, it’s going to go ahead and pinch the jaws closer together. What you’ll need is a high speed metal cutting cut off grinder with a thin blade. The thin blade is best simply because what you don’t want to do is generate heat. Heat is going to be the enemy of this project because it’s going to de-temper the steel. This is HR65 hardened tool steel. What you don’t want to do is take the temper out of it, and turn it into mild steel. The reason these cut other steels and locks and chains is because they’re a harder steel. So heat is the enemy. If done properly you can move forward and not overheat it, and you’ll be accomplishing sharpening without damaging it. So the thin blade is preferred because with the thick blade you get too much pressure, and you generate too much heat with it and the mass of the blade retains too much heat.


What we want to do we to get this thing going is  open the jaws up, make sure they’re nice and secure, and go ahead and take about 1/64” off the cutting edge of each jaw. When these jaws were shut it was touching here and here so we’re going to polish this flat. So they’re going to lay parallel again, and then we’ll angle this way and angle that way trying to smooth everything out so we have a beveled edge. You want to see uniform space along the length of both jaws.


There will be no discoloration of the steel because we’re using a light touch as we hone the jaws. You’re not really laying into it and trying to really cut too much material. What you don’t want to do is make too sharp of a point, you want to make it so it’s able to cut, actually pinch. You want to do is bring them together and then just kind of feather the edge. It’s going to give that edge a lot of strength. If you make it too sharp it’s not going to cut properly, and it’s actually going to break and get deformed faster.


You don’t want to make it like a knife edge. You want to make it with kind of a flat spot but so it narrows evenly just like an axe blade. And that’s really what we’ve got right here. If we knife edge that, as soon as we go to cut something it’s going to go ahead and re-ding.


Now you will notice we have this uniform gap, and that’s where the adjustment comes into play. That should begin to close that gap. A really good indicator on whether you’re getting a quality set of bolt cutters is if they have this adjustment bolt. As you turn that adjustment you can see that it still could go little bit more, but you’re just going to leave it right there because you’re just touching at the front, but not quite in the back. That’s just about a perfect setting. That’s the optimum way to have it set. Right now it’ll cut something as soft as brass, but will also cut something as tough as proof coil chain. We didn’t make that too sharp so it won’t make any of those nasty dings like it did before.


If you find a used pair of good Chinese bolt cutters like this at a yard sale, you can salvage them and you can bring them back to life. It just takes a little bit of finesse, and a little bit of care, just don’t make the edge too sharp. You want to polish it to a flat spot and even spot, and then burnish all the damage that’s been done without overheating the blade, and it’s going to cut just about anything that is softer than HRC65. That’s how you can bring an old pair of bolt cutters back to life. The alternative to this is to go online and buy a new pair. Bolt cutters are made by several companies such as Porter Cable, Tekton, Stanley, Craftsman, and Tech Team We like the Tech Team Bolt Cutter (available in 8”, 12”, and 14” sizes) because the quality is excellent and it has a precise locking blade adjustment mechanism.