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  1. #1
    JayBear480 started this thread.
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    Any advice on how to SOFTEN the Insulation on wire?

    I strip my wires with a razor blade / box cutter / utility knife, which ever name you prefer. I pull the wire and hold the blade steady, using a plastic cooler as a table (and a toolbox with wheels and a handle!), I let the wire slide through the cracks between the cooler and it's lid to keep the blade steady. This is my syatem, and without paying for a wire stripping machine, it is the best and easiest method I've tried, it always works for me.

    I recently got a bucket full of some solid core insulated #1 - a thick enough Guage that, compared to what I'm usually stripping, it is worth nearly any trouble I will encounter to strip. However, the rubber insulation, which doesn't seem to be really any different from the usual, is hard, very hard. It has been almost impossible to strip using a razor blade.

    How can I soften the insulation, so that my blade can slice through it like butter - like how easily a new razor blade will slice the rubber off every other kind of wire I strip?

    Heat? I have both a Heat Gun and an Alcohol Burner (think of an Oil Lamp, but the wick is soaking in Denatured Alcohol instead of Oil.) Or perhaps some kind of chemical that I may be likely to have at home, or can purchase at a low enough cost that I am still coming up positive?

    The going rate for Insulated #1 is about a buck a pound here, if the yard even pays out at 100% of advertised price on it. They seem to always find an excuse to dock the pay rate on wire, saying it isn't properly sorted, sometimes to as low as .50/lb.



    Thanks for any advice or experience on the matter that anyone can share with me.


  2. #2
    afmedic279's Avatar
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    Pictures of wire in question? Being from AZ i would let it sit out side in the sun for a while. How much do you have?

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  4. #3
    saabsw's Avatar
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    Try putting a length of it in boiling water, then pull it out after a minute or two and try to strip it while wearing gloves. Not sure if that would work, but it could be an easy system.

  5. #4
    JayBear480 started this thread.
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    Quote Originally Posted by afmedic279 View Post
    Pictures of wire in question? Being from AZ i would let it sit out side in the sun for a while. How much do you have?
    If it were summer, I wouldn't even need a razor, just a moist towelette and the ****ed stuff would fall right off. It's starting to get cool out, I just spent the night (midnight-5am) scrapping in my backyard wearing sandals and my toes are quite cold. I think the temperature has been dropping to the low 70's, almost sweater weather BRRRRRRRRRRRR! (Irony is that I grew up in New England....my how the blood thins)

    How much? Maybe 5 to 8 pounds, give or take. I strip about 80% of all wire I get ("Communication Wire" excluded, the kind with several tiny, individually insulated wires inside of the main, outer insulation.) The thin #2 wire you find inside of a TV (from inside of TVs and other items I break down) and power cords/similar are the only types of wire I regularly get, so wire like this, while not a big deal to most, is a rare occurrence for me. It's a little thicker than the solid core wire you find behind the control panels/whatever they're called on the front of Water Heaters.

  6. #5
    wayne1956's Avatar
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    I have about half a bucket of the same stuff, very hard to cut through. It is basically very old wire that the plastic has hardened and adhered to the wire itself. Unless I can figure out a way I am just going to turn it in as #1 insulated. Whatever method you use it has to loosen the plastic from the wire as well as soften the plastic.

  7. #6
    TheDude80's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JayBear480 View Post
    If it were summer, I wouldn't even need a razor, just a moist towelette and the ****ed stuff would fall right off. It's starting to get cool out, I just spent the night (midnight-5am) scrapping in my backyard wearing sandals and my toes are quite cold. I think the temperature has been dropping to the low 70's, almost sweater weather BRRRRRRRRRRRR! (Irony is that I grew up in New England....my how the blood thins)

    How much? Maybe 5 to 8 pounds, give or take. I strip about 80% of all wire I get ("Communication Wire" excluded, the kind with several tiny, individually insulated wires inside of the main, outer insulation.) The thin #2 wire you find inside of a TV (from inside of TVs and other items I break down) and power cords/similar are the only types of wire I regularly get, so wire like this, while not a big deal to most, is a rare occurrence for me. It's a little thicker than the solid core wire you find behind the control panels/whatever they're called on the front of Water Heaters.
    Not sure if this would help, but have you tried a hook blade instead of a straight blade? It's what I use to cut roofing shingles which are probably about as thick as the coating on the wire you're referring to. If its 70 out (which you should know is not cold coming from New England ) and the rubber coating is warm a hook blade should work much better. You just have to make sure and pull up on the blade as you slide it down the wire, otherwise it will keep getting caught up. Hope this helps.

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  9. #7
    EcoSafe's Avatar
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    Wire strippers that work are on the forum. google wire strippers.

    If you are low on funds do this. tie one end of the wire to a solid object, hold wire with one hand asnd start cut, walk back wards keeping the wire streched as tight as possible (no kinks or bumps) in most cases the wire will strip in one long piece. Very Quick.
    "anyone who thinks scrappin is easy money ain't doin it right!"

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  11. #8
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    You say it's solid, so can you crush it? A hammer might do it, but that sounds exhausting. I've seen people make an apparatus with 2 rollers that crush/split the insulation.

  12. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheDude80 View Post
    Not sure if this would help, but have you tried a hook blade instead of a straight blade? It's what I use to cut roofing shingles which are probably about as thick as the coating on the wire you're referring to. If its 70 out (which you should know is not cold coming from New England ) and the rubber coating is warm a hook blade should work much better. You just have to make sure and pull up on the blade as you slide it down the wire, otherwise it will keep getting caught up. Hope this helps.
    Omigosh, two weeks ago I spent the day FREAKING out separating this stuff from a mess of KE-RAP that the boss bought at auction because a buyer was coming for it and he was freaking out that it was ready (6 gaylords worth). I used a hook stripper to make sure if it was copper vs AL and it hardly even made a dent in the stuff (pretty sure its what the OP is talking about: #1 heavy and the coating was HARD!!!!!!!). I dulled one blade in like 15 minutes and well, lets just say I learned REAL fast how to tell if it were AL vs copper vs #2 without a blade.

    If I ever found this stuff on the side of the road I'd just negotiate for a better price (if I had enough to make that kind of price difference and say eff it and move on to the next project).

    I'm not sure anything would soften this stuff, not even a nuclear blast lol.
    Scrapper, Scrap Yard Worker, Horse farm worker, Cooler Puller and just plain ''tired''

  13. #10
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    MEK, or methyl ethyl ketone will soften it up. It's been my experience it makes a gummy mess and isn't worth it. YMMV.

  14. #11
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    You could try heating the wire itself and letting the insulation soften from the inside out.

  15. #12
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    You could leave the wire out in the sun to warm up.
    Dishwasher...... Or divert the waste hotwater into a drum full of the wire.

    Or, figure out another sort of wire stripper. I made one from a window stay, the brass handle sort with a row of holes in it, two hose clamps and a scripto (boxcutter) knife blade section. It had two 3 inch sections of the stay with the blade bit sticking out of that, the other two 6 inch sections on either side, stopping the blade from moving, and sticking out past the top end of the first two sections and the blade tip, hose clamp the lot together.
    Wish I could show a pic of it, will strip any size wire almost, depending on the arrangement.
    Last edited by eesakiwi; 10-16-2014 at 05:11 AM.

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  17. #13
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    Any advice on how to SOFTEN the Insulation on wire?

    With the real thick stuff, I usually anchor it between two solid points about waist high. I use a razor blade knife, hold it towards me and walk backwards. We demoed a restaurant a while back and pulled over 700lbs of this stuff out of the ground. It wasn't solid core, but was very large ,diameter braided wire. The largest was about the size of my thumb and the smallest was the size of my pinkie finger. We anchored it between two scissor lifts and backed them up to pull it tight. We were able to do 100ft at a time at about 5-10min each. The trick is to pull it really tight, have a sharp blade, and pull towards you.

  18. #14
    wayne1956's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scrappinlife View Post
    With the real thick stuff, I usually anchor it between two solid points about waist high. I use a razor blade knife, hold it towards me and walk backwards. We demoed a restaurant a while back and pulled over 700lbs of this stuff out of the ground. It wasn't solid core, but was very large ,diameter braided wire. The largest was about the size of my thumb and the smallest was the size of my pinkie finger. We anchored it between two scissor lifts and backed them up to pull it tight. We were able to do 100ft at a time at about 5-10min each. The trick is to pull it really tight, have a sharp blade, and pull towards you.
    That might work with soft insulation, but this stuff he has (and I have about a half bucket) the insulation is VERY hard. In its current state it is like trying to strip concrete insulation off of the wire.

  19. #15
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    Another thought is try freezing it, it may make it brittle and break easier than trying to soften it. Hope this helps. Good luck.

  20. #16
    hobo finds's Avatar
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    In Arizona stripped wire needs to be turned in with a business account! Just wanted to make sure you knew that before you stripped it....

    http://www.azleg.gov/FormatDocument....44&DocType=ARS
    Last edited by hobo finds; 10-16-2014 at 04:29 PM.

  21. #17
    wayne1956's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hobo finds View Post
    In Arizona stripped wire needs to be turned in with a business account! Just wanted to make sure you knew that before you stripped it....

    Format Document
    Wow, sucks to be in Arizona with that kind of regulation. Glad we have not regressed to that level here in TX.

  22. #18
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    freezing it wont work, i am 99% sure that it's a PE grade direct burial jacket. Don't waste your time trying that one. It's designed to withstand the cold. It is thicker and hardened rather than shielded/armored to keep the moles from chewing through it. if it has both the PE jacket and an armor, walk away dude, not worth the time. Get what you can and run.

    Now if it isn't a PE jacket, go ahead and freeze it. if you see the letters "PE" printed on that outer jacket though, it's an exercise in futility trying to freeze that stuff.
    Intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana - Bill Gates

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  24. #19
    phred59's Avatar
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    BTW, the softening point of the polythylene jacket that I suspect is on that wire... 200F

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  26. #20
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    Yeah, if it is underground wire it is really tough skinned. I have run into it several times in my construction business. But it was ok for me because I never stripped it. I have a small amount in my current pile and I intend to try and strip it. Good thing I have a lot of blades...

    Keep us posted as I, for one, am anxiously awaiting a solution.
    Have Fun,
    Harold

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