This is a job I will do very rarely, so I would prefer to avoid buying a specialty tool, if possible.

Unfortunately I don't own a dremel. Side cutters just mashed everything and did not cut at all. Are there any other methods you can recommend?

EDIT: I think this is different from the brake cable housing question, in that side cutters will get the job done with a little effort on brake cable. They have a much harder time cutting the parallel strands of derailleur cable housing.

EDIT2: I asked the guys at the store where I bought the housing to cut it to length for me and they didn't mind. :)

  • 1
    Quality linesman's wire cutters work but you probably don't have them lying around either. Buy the correct tool.
    – mattnz
    Commented Apr 27, 2019 at 9:39
  • 1
    I’d really recommend getting the correct tools. 10€ which make cable installation so much easier and better. I used to use an angle grinder and it gives subpar results.
    – Michael
    Commented Apr 27, 2019 at 10:34

3 Answers 3


I usually just fix the housing in a vise (very, very little pressure!) and use a saw very carefully (only pushing so that the teeth of the saw cannot really bite into the housing material).

This is definitely not the best method, but it has always worked for me. I have managed to cut brake cable housings with this method which are much more difficult to cut with this method than shifter cable housings.

You may want to finish up the result with a file to get a really smooth cut.

  • 2
    It might be a good idea to put length of left over shift cable into the outer while putting it into the vise and cutting.
    – gschenk
    Commented Apr 27, 2019 at 15:55
  • @gschenk Good idea, I'll try to remember that :-) Commented Apr 27, 2019 at 17:58
  • Selecting this one, since it provides the alternative I requested. Thanks! Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 6:18

I see you don't want to buy the proper tool - do consider that while some are silly expensive, there are also reasonably priced alternatives. Brands like Birzman and X-Tools are a third the cost of a Park or Pedro's tool.

Another option is to use a rotary cutoff disk in a tool like a dremel, or even a full-sized cutoff wheel in a grinder. If you have one already, then this is a no-cost. To buy one would cost more than the right cable cutter tool as already suggested.

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  • 2
    To buy one would cost more than the right cable cutter tool as already suggested. But a cable cutter can only be used to cut cables. And the dremel does a much, much, much better job with a much cleaner cut than all but the best and sharpest and well-maintained cable cutter. Commented Apr 28, 2019 at 21:58
  • @AndrewHenle yep that's what I was alluding to. Its possible OP already has a fine hacksaw, a vise, and a file already which would do the job well enough.
    – Criggie
    Commented Apr 29, 2019 at 1:03
  • You could buy a cutoff wheel to fit an electric drill. Commented Apr 30, 2022 at 21:48

I've got a couple of high-quality cable housing cutters, and they never do a decent job of keeping housing (brake or cable) nice. I cut with them, then Dremel off the end nice and square (bending the housing to match its line on the bike, so the end is square under those conditions) and then, while it's hot, I run a cable back and forth in the plastic inner lining to keep it open.

You did the right thing for someone not wanting to own tools, but in the end, there's no substitute for the right tools.

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