Professional tool makes light work of your cable woes
Often you can get by nicely with generic tools, but not when it comes to cutting gear and brake cables/housing. For good results, you really need a purpose-built pair of wire rope cutters, and the Park Tool CN10 is a very sturdy, easily adjustable tool.
With a simple pair of side cutters, while you’ll be able to get both inner and outer to the right length, there are a couple problems: the outer housing is likely to be pretty badly crushed, and if the inner isn’t neatly round, it may not be possible to thread through the housing at all.
Wire rope cutters have blades which encircle the cable and so result in a much cleaner cut, one which leaves both inner and housing in usable condition.
As well as the cutting end (!) the Park Tool CN10C has two different crimping notches for crushing end caps onto your brake and gear cables to stop them fraying.
It’s internally-sprung, and strongly enough that it will open easily after every cut so you can work quickly with one hand free to arrange your cable and housing. There’s a simple clasp to hold it shut in storage.
The only nit-pick I have is that the tool doesn’t feature a spike for opening out cable housing (something I found very handy on my cheaper tool). In more fevered moments I’ve often thought a filing surface on one edge to square off brake cable housing would be nice too – but to be fair to Park Tool, they’ve built something that does a particular job, and does it well.
Buy cheap, buy twice…
After a short and unsuccessful experiment with a pair of cheaper generic cutters, I caved in and bought the Park Tool version on offer at my local bike shop.
Counting various re-cablings over the years, I’ve probably used it for the equivalent of around twenty complete bike builds, and it still cuts smoothly first time. Take a look at these photos:
On the left is a brake inner cut with my Park Tool CN10C, on the right one which I cut (with difficulty!) with a pair of side-cutting pliers. Outer is vastly easier to cut with the Park Tool and the result is pretty good:
Averaged out, that’s a cost of around £1.50 per bike (if you replace your housings once a year, £1.50 per annum per bike).
Just try getting your local bike shop to cable a new bike for £1.50 labour.
Little maintenance needed
As long as you maintain it properly (which pretty much means “keep the bolt tight”) the Park Tool cable cutters will give years of faithful service. The lower blade is threaded and the bolt is then backed up by a large locknut:
If you don’t keep the blades tightly aligned, the geometry of the cutting surface breaks down and poor results are all but guaranteed. Strangely, the internet has plenty of negative reviews of this tool (or its predecessors) which makes me wonder how many fail to keep to this simple rule – or are unlucky enough to buy a loose or badly QC’d copy.
Park Tool have a maintenance guide published for this tool, so I won’t repeat it here – needless to say, it’s not rocket science (and you’ll probably get a few years from it before having to worry).
The Park Tool CN10C cable and housing cutter isn’t the cheapest option out there, but it’s comfortable in the hand, accurate and durable – a tool that you can expect to get good use from for many years to come.
A badly crushed cable housing requires plenty of TLC before it will let the inner run freely (possibly hampering smooth shifting or brake lever return) while a mangled inner may not thread properly through the housing at all.
On the other hand, the curved blades of the CN10 all but guarantee a clean finish. Cable isn’t cheap and you won’t regret tackling it with the right tool for the job!