Twenty years ago a wiring guy loaned me a tool and reminded me to return it when I was finished because it was his “best flush-cutters” – I had no idea what the hell he was talking about. I’m still surprised at how many of my audio friends do not know about flush-cutters; a necessity for every toolbox. Imagine that you’re jamming your arm behind a rack of gear, there are a fucking ton of cables everywhere, and some of them are strapped together with zip ties. If the end of the zip-tie has a jagged edge on it (because it was not clipped using flush-cutting micro cutters), this almost always cuts the living crap out of your forearm. Flush-cutting micro cutters mean no jagged, flesh-cutting deadly edge hiding from you! Some people use zip-ties to wrap mic or instrument cables, which to me seems like a no-no because the inside of your palms and fingers is just as bad a place as a forearm to get ripped by one of these bastards.

My first purchase (under three dollars) of a generic flush-cutter from Harbor Freight Tools does the job just fine; it’s not a very heavy-duty item. When I left it outside the spring mechanism got rusty and stuck, so I used some WD-40 to loosen it up. Tape Op’s Gear Reviews editor, Scott McChane, said his favorite of the three pairs of flush-cuts he owns is his Hakko – I ordered a CHP-170 micro cutter and did a comparison with some non-audio related (gardening) tasks. He was right; it’s way more solid.

For another comparison, I braved Home Depot – most of the hardware stores that I frequent have narrow aisles, and in all honesty I am not devoted enough to put myself through any anxiety about COVID-19 whilst producing this review. While at the store, I realized I needed more zip ties. Lo and behold, there was exactly one pair of Klein Tools flush-cutters sitting right there! They fall somewhere in between the Hakko and the Harbor Freight Tools model. Something is pleasing about the contour of the grip that might put it a little higher on the rung in the contest between it and the Hakko though.

There’s no doubt that my old-school Chicago friend Marc, the guy from twenty years ago, was loaning me the clippers for cutting zip ties, as I sucked then (and now still!) at soldering. I would, however, be remiss in not mentioning that while this tool is manufactured for soft wire cutting (max cut: 16 AWG), it is also great for crafting, and I am going to give my jewelry-making mom a pair the very next time I see her.

The only gripe I have is that most of these clippers sit open when not in use – I didn’t buy the ones with a safety latch – but my new Hakko flush-cutters are now secured with a fat rubber band from the broccoli I got in my farm box.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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