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In the Workshop: Pliers

Filed Under: Tools, Know-How

Slip-Joint LiersSlip-Joint pliers. Photo: Getty Images

Say the word 'pliers,' and you're bound to conjure up a bunch of different images. Some people will immediately think of the pointy prongs of a needle-nose; others will default to the compact head of the Linesman; and so on.

Different pliers are necessary for different jobs, but they're tied together by a few shared characteristics. They all consist of two lengths of metal, joined at a central hinge. One side of the hinge acts as a handle and the other as a clamping or cutting jaw. As anyone who has made it through 10th grade physics knows, this kind of set-up amplifies the pressure applied, thus making the jaws of the pliers much stronger than your hands could ever be.

Here are the four most common types of pliers.

Slip-Joint and Groove-Joint Pliers
These pliers are used for clamping; they're marked by an adjustable jaw. Slip-joint pliers have a two position jaw, while groove-joint pliers usually have approximately six positions, allowing them to grab onto much larger objects. Groove-joint pliers are also known by the nickname, Channellocks, after the company that invented the style. Both of these types of pliers are good for tightening down and loosening nuts.


Vise Grips, locking pliers

Locking Pliers
You probably know these pliers by the common term Vise-Grip, which is the name they were sold under when Irwin Tools first invented them. Locking pliers have an adjustable locking mechanism that makes them perfect for grabbing onto and removing stripped nuts and stripped screws. They can grip with fantastic pressure, so they're a popular all-purpose tool for carpenters, plumbers, electricians, metalworkers, and just about any DIYer.


needle nose, combination pliers, LinesmanGetty Images


Needle-Nose Pliers
As the name implies, these pliers have a long, narrow snout and are good for getting into tight spaces or working with small, delicate objects.

Linesman Pliers (a.k.a: Combination Pliers)
Although this style was created to suit the needs of electricians, they have a multitude of uses. The 'combination' is the pairing of a small clamping area with a cutting edge. These features make the tool a natural for working with wires.

Tip: If you're in the market for pliers, make sure that they have a solid, durable feel to them. Stay away from pliers that have a loose hinge. If you're going to be using them a lot, invest in pliers with strong grips.



  • ennui

    wow!...now I can justify my existence!

    Reply
  • ando

    Wow what an excellent article,I don't know where you came up with all this information, but keep up the good work!

    Reply
  • OLE

    YOUR LINESMEN PLIERS ARN'T LINESMEN PLIERS. THEY ARE WIRE CUTTERS. LINESMEN PLIERS HAVE A FLAT GRIPPING SURFACE ON THE TIPS, AND A WIRE CUTTER BETWEEN THE JOINT AND THE GRIPPING END.

    Reply
  • John

    The very bottom one's are side-cutters or dikes, I do not even see a pair of Channel-Locks pictured!

    Reply
  • panhead

    The last pair of pliers pictured and not linesman pliers, they are diagnol cutters.

    Reply
  • Stephen

    Channel locks are also called vice-grips and they are pictured above. In the trade we do not use the word dikes anymore for obvious reasons, however old habits die hard especially when old timers are not PC.

    Reply
  • Joe

    channel lock and vice-grip are two very different animals


  • Pete

    You forgot Channel Locks Tongue & groove pliers. I have 3 and use them all the time (Home,Auto,Plumbing).

    Reply
  • tmktwo

    please go slower i am writing this down. pliers are for gripping.whats next?hammers to hit things!!!

    Reply
  • tcraw10506

    I see most here don't have a clue about tools even the article.

    Reply
  • Blacksmith

    Irwin didn't "INVENT" vise grips, they bought them from Pedersen, a few years ago, Pedersen was the original inventor, and now they get them made in CHINA! Needless to say the quality is not the same. Get your facts straight!

    Reply
  • Bryan Merritt

    Channel locks are not -not Vice grips!!! or locking pliers!! They have channels you so can adjust the jaws into several different grooved positions for gripping small medium or large objects and they are not pictured.but the vice grips are. for instance regular slip joint pliers have 2 positions You also left out snap ring pliers. And I am shure there are many more types not mentioned here.I could not get along very well without them. But obviously some here don't know anything about pliers...

    Reply
  • Rick

    Boy, theres alot of posters that know nothing about tools, I see.

    Reply
  • BTDT

    A remarkable amount of mis-information in this article.

    Reply
  • CONFUSED

    Next they'll be telling us screwdrivers are used to insert and remove screws. Channel Locks are not the same as Vise Grips.

    Reply
  • Michelle

    Thier is not a pair of line pliers pictured, Diagonal cutters pictured are not pliers at all.

    Reply
  • vernie

    How do i apply for a job like Doug Mahoney's ?

    Reply
  • tcraw10506

    Many names we use as Channel Lock is the brand name but we think of Channel locks as being Tougue and Groove pliers which they are. The biggest thing I saw in the article was the statement that the one pliers were linesmen when the photo showed diagonal pliers.

    Reply
  • John C. Salzman Sr.

    Wow I really needed to know all this good info I am only a mechanic and would have never known this thatk you.................lol

    Reply
  • 19 Comments / 1 Pages
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