They're one of the least sexy necessary tools around. It's not like a torque wrench, or, better yet, an impact wrench. It resembles a common tool (wire cutters) and functionally seems to do exactly what a wire cutter does. It doesn't work on bike-only things like a bottom bracket tool or a cassette lockring tool. So what's the big deal with cable cutters?
Well, in the world of bike tools, cable cutters are like a super domestique.
You have "star" tools like the Campy tool kit (which would be like rolling up Eddy Merckx, Sir Chris Hoy, and Pete Penseyres into one rider).
Some of the other tools are one shot wonders, like a bottom bracket reaming tool. Super good at what it does but pricey (typically $100+ per cutting edge) and it can't do anything else. Headset presses fit in this category.
You also have some "low end" tools, like the common allen wrench.
At the end of any of my bike builds, after all the star tools have done their work, I still have one thing left - cut and cap the cables.
I read some poorly-researched article a long time ago that stated that one can cut bike cables with a file. You should have seen the cable after my attempt at following the directions in that article. Luckily I tried to "cut" the cable on a piece of scrap wood, else I'd have ruined some furniture too.
For a while I would bring my bike to the shop, usually by riding it, with the extra long cables all coiled up just past the anchor bolt. Then I'd ask one of the guys to cut the cables. I could barely afford $2.95 toe clips so a $12.95 cable cutter (for the "cheap" Suntour cutter) seemed extravagant.
Finally I bought my own set of cutters, a Shimano TL-CT10. It's a lifetime tool unless you cut spokes with it (inevitably we'd ruin cable cutters at the shop when a new guy took the "cut out the hub using cable cutters" shortcut). I've had mine since the early 90s, using it more once the shop closed in late 1997.
Because I remember riding my bike to the shop to get the cables trimmed I got into the bad habit of bringing the cable cutters to friends' houses or to races, to give them a hand cutting and capping their cables.
In the last few months I finally lost track of where I put my beloved cable cutters. After fruitlessly searching for them I caved and decided to order another set.
Unfortunately I couldn't find the Shimano cutters - I usually stick with what I know works, and I know the Shimano cutters work. I chose, purely on a whim, the Park tool - it just looked tough. I knew that if I ordered the tool I'd find the Shimano cutters, but that was fine - one would be the one in the gear bag, the other would stay on the workbench.
Well if a cable cutter is a domestique then the Park CN-10s are the Jens Voight of cable cutters. These things are beefy!
Out of the box - these cutters are big and heavy.
Park CN-10 tool. It says so right there.
Crimping bumps on the inside of the handle.
The business end of things. Cable cutters have very short jaws, for leverage.
So I waited for the cutters to arrive mainly because I figured that I'd find my Shimano cutters at some point of no return. I submitted the order. No Shimano cutters. I got ship notices. No Shimano cutters. The Park arrived. No Shimano cutters. I took pictures of the Park cutter. No Shimano cutters.
I gave up on the Shimano cutters.
I put the Park cutters at the top of the stairs to the basement, where my now-red Tsunami sits, surrounded by a build kit. Part of that build kit is still on the Giant TCR, including a pesky front derailleur cable that I need to pull out (I want the Nokon housing holding it). The problem is I need to cut off the well-crimped end of that cable so I can pull it out of the frame.
Right, you got it. This is why I needed the cutters.
In the meantime I got sick, like really sick. Junior got sick too, yakking regularly, liquid coming out the other end. Exhausted, hungry, he wasn't a happy camper, and his pops (me) had his hands full just taking care of him. We then did a family visit (7 nephews, 1 niece, 4 uncles, 4 aunts, one grandfather) while Junior was running a 102 degree fever (I wasn't too great either) so no bike stuff for a few days.
We got back in the middle of the first of two pretty good sized snow storms. The second one, going on as I type now, has put about a foot of snow on the ground. I went out to detail the driveway - the plow service (we live in a condo type area even though we have our own one-family house) does the major stuff but I like to "reclaim" the edges of the driveway. If I don't then the driveway shrinks by a few inches each storm and ends up a narrow path barely wide enough for the cars.
I finished detailing the driveway, as much as I could while it was still snowing, and headed back in. I stomped my boots to clear the snow, kicking the bottom step to knock snow off the soles of the boots.
On the steps sat the Shimano cutters.
Well now. I grabbed the cutters and brought them inside. Because of my initial take on the Parks (so beefy) I figured I should take the opportunity to take pictures of the cutters side by side.
Holy beefiness Batman!
Another shot to give some idea of the Park tool's heft.
Side by side shot too.
The important question: "Does it cut?" Yes, it cuts.
The Shimano tool feels noticeably lighter than the Park. I know it still works very well - it's set up a few bikes in the last few years. Due to the shorter handle length it's much easier to get the handle open far enough to get the jaws around a cable (and therefore a cable housing). To open the Park handle as far I had to really move my hand near the pivot. The Shimano cutters allow me to hold the cutters normally and still open the jaws wide enough to clear a thick mountain bike cable housing.
Is the Park beefiness necessary? No, it's not. Will it last longer? No, it won't last longer than a lifetime. I haven't cut hundreds or thousands of cables with it so I don't know how it'll go but I figure it should last a normal rider's lifetime. A bike shop? Maybe 5 or 10 years, until a new staff member cuts a spoke or two with it. I didn't track it precisely but it seems that a normally used cable cutter lasted the shop about 7 or 8 years, at least that's what I recall.
What I do know is that the Shimanos are much, much easier to carry. They'll go in my gear bag.
The Park tool seems more of a home workbench tool, and I hung mine on my workbench board.