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Types of Pliers

There are certain tools that every toolbox should have, and pliers are one of them. Since different types of pliers are designed to handle different jobs, it is likely that you will want to have more than one pair on hand.


While some types provide tremendous versatility, others are used for highly specialized tasks. If you haven't taken a moment to peruse the immense selection of pliers available, you may be surprised at the breadth of options. 

Consider the following questions as you shop to find the right type of pliers to help you handle a wide variety of tasks:
          • What types of fixed pliers are available?
          • What types of adjustable pliers are available?
          • What applications can pliers be used for?
          • What factors do you need to keep in mind when using pliers?
          • Are there any special features you'd like to have?


Fixed vs. Adjustable Pliers, Design

One major difference in the design of pliers is whether they are fixed or adjustable. Fixed pliers open to a set width while adjustable pliers offer the flexibility to accommodate varying widths.
Generally speaking, pliers are designed for holding, turning and cutting tasks. They are often used for working with wire or other electrical applications as well as tightening and loosening nuts and bolts, working with jewelry, removing nails and a host of other functions. As with any tool, knowing how to properly use a pair of pliers will promote both safety and efficiency.
Fixed vs. Adjustable Pliers: All pliers feature a fairly similar design with three main components. Handles are used to grip the pliers, a pivot allows the jaws to open and the head grips or cuts whatever you're working on. Pliers are designed to transfer the power of your grip from your hand to a more precise point.
Fixed, or solid-joint, pliers have a rivet attached to the pivot that allows them to open only to a set width. They may have long, short or curved noses and can be used for a wide range of tasks.
Adjustable pliers, also referred to as slip-joint or channel pliers, offer two or more widths to accommodate a wider range of tasks. Though they feature a few different designs, each of them allows you to lock the pliers in at a given width to match the task at hand.
          • Fixed pliers may feature a spring that opens the jaws
          • Fixed types include electrician's pliers and needle-nose pliers
          • Some adjustable pliers feature up to eight different settings
          • Slip-joint pliers may have regular or thin jaws
          • Adjustable pliers include pipe-gripping, tongue-and-groove and self-adjusting types
Types of Pliers: There's a pair of pliers out there for nearly every task. Consult the chart below to learn about some of the more common types, their main features and typical uses



Features and Points to Consider

Channel • Working on larger objects, such as
• Removing a P-trap
• Also called angle-nose or groove-joint
• Feature an adjustable sliding jaw
• Half of the jaw is curved while the other half
  is straight
• Available in multiple sizes
Crimper/Stripper • Combine the functions of a crimper
  and stripper
• Ideal tool for electrical applications
• May feature sheaving holes for cutting
Cutting • Cutting through a variety of wires, bolts
  and more
• Removing small nails
• Also called wire cutters
• Feature very sharp blades
• Side cutters may have long, curved or short
• End cutters can be used on wire, rivets and
Electrician • Designed especially for use with
  electrical wire
• Double-sided cutting edges allow for use
  with all types of wire
Fence • Cutting and pulling staples from
• Feature two wire cutters
• Possess a heavy head that can be used for
Locking • Function similar to a wrench
• Allow for pulling and twisting without
  risk of losing your grip
• Sometimes called vise grips
• Feature a knurl screw that allows you to lock
  pliers into position
• Feature a release that disengages the lock
• Provide greater torque and leverage
• May have a curved jaw or long nose
• Serrated jaws provide a better grip
Needle-nose • Working in tight spaces
• Handy for a wide range of tasks,
  including cutting small-gauge wire
• Detail, craft and jewelry work
• Feature long, slender jaws
• Pointed tip gets into small areas with ease
• Some types may be used to cut wires
Slip-Joint • Working with smaller objects
• Tightening and gripping applications
• Feature two curved jaws
• Often available in both 6" and 8" lengths
• Joint "slips" to allow jaws to open to two
  different widths
Wire Stripper • Removing the outer covering from
• Feature adjustable stops to prevent wire
  from being damaged during stripping

Usage: While pliers can be used to turn nuts, it's best to use them for this purpose only in an emergency. Some pliers' designs may round off the corner of a nut, which can make it extremely difficult to remove later on. Remember that not all pliers are designed for electrical work. If you plan to use your pliers for such applications, make sure the handles are insulated to protect you from electrical shocks. Protect polished pipes by wrapping a cloth around them prior to gripping with a pair of pliers.

          • Avoid using light pliers for difficult jobs
          • Use wrenches and other more appropriate tools for turning nuts wherever possible
          • Vinyl- and rubber-covered handles provide a more secure grip
          • Turn off the power before working with electrical wiring


Rust-Resistant Finish: If you want your tools to stand the test of time and be in good working condition every time you need them, look for pliers with a rust-resistant finish.
Handle Hole: Pliers with holes on the handles allow you to tether them or hang them up on a hook, making it much easier to keep track of them when they're out of your toolbox.
Built-In Wire Cutter: Some pliers, such as locking pliers, may feature a built-in wire cutter that expands their versatility.
Insulated Handles: If you plan to use your pliers on electrical wiring, make sure the handles are insulated to protect against shocks.