Stripping Wires in Preparation for Wiring Sockets and Plugs

If you’re using new wire, or had to cut an existing socket or plug off, you’ll need to strip the wire in order to add a new socket or plug. There are a several types of wires used in lighting. They all consist of 2 or 3 wires, covered by insulation (usually a type of plastic), and sometimes surrounded by a jacket or sheath to give a smooth round or flat exterior.

  • If the wire has a jacket on it, you need to cut the jacket off of the wires inside it, without cutting the insulation on the wires inside the jacket. You can use a razor/box cutter, a sharp pair of scissors, or wire cutters. Cut around the circumference of the jacket until you can see the insulation on the wires inside and you can slide the jacket off the end of the wire. How far back from the end of the wire to cut will depend on your specific application. Typically 1.5 to 2 inches should be enough.
  • Once the jacket is removed from the end of the wire, separate the individual wires from inside the jacket. There may be fiber or paper wrapped inside along with the wires. You can cut this off at the end of the jacket.
  • For each wire, you need to remove about 1/2 inch of insulation. The exact measurement may be determined by your application. The best way to do this is with wire strippers, using the appropriate gauge on the tool. In fact, this multi-tool is perfect. Is has the wire strippers as well as crimping and other functions which come in handy. Most wire strippers will have markings in AWG (American Wire Gauge). Most lamp electrical cords will be 12, 14, or 16 AWG. If in doubt, start with the largest stripper setting. If the insulation doesn’t come off cleanly, move to the next smallest until it does. The smaller the AWG, the larger the hole, so start with 12, then 14, then 16. If you know what size the wire is, just use that setting. Here is an example of a multi-use tool which has wire stripping holes marked with AWG sizes.
Wire Stripper

If in doubt start with the smaller numbers and work your way up


  • Each of the wires will consist of several strands of tiny wires. This stranded construction allows the cord to be flexible. Twist the now exposed strands of each wire together so that you can treat them as one wire. You want to be sure no “whiskers”, or stray strands, escape the wire connection you will make because they could cause shorts which could result in harm and/or fire.
    Wire prepared for a socket or plug

    Wire prepared for a socket or plug