When it comes to hand tools, pliers are essential for any toolbox. They come in various types, sizes, and designs, each with its specific purpose. In 2023, the market is flooded with options, making it challenging to choose the best pliers that suit your needs. In this comprehensive guide, we'll help you understand the various types of pliers and their uses, key features to look for when buying a pair, and our top picks for the best pliers in 2023.
Types of Pliers and Their Uses
There are several types of pliers available, each designed for specific tasks. Here are some of the most common types:
Combination pliers are versatile, all-purpose tools that can be used for various tasks, including gripping, cutting, and bending wires and other materials. They have serrated jaws for better grip and a cutting edge near the pivot point.
Needle-nose pliers, also known as long-nose pliers, have long, thin jaws that allow them to reach into tight spaces and grip small objects. They're commonly used in electrical work, jewelry making, and other precision tasks.
Diagonal Cutting Pliers
Diagonal cutting pliers, also called side cutters or wire cutters, have a sharp, angled cutting edge designed for cutting wires, pins, and other small materials. They're used for tasks like stripping insulation from wires, trimming leads, and cutting through thin materials.
Slip-joint pliers have an adjustable pivot point, allowing the jaws to open wider for various tasks. They're commonly used for gripping nuts and bolts, as well as for general-purpose applications.
Tongue-and-groove pliers, also known as channel locks or water pump pliers, have an adjustable jaw size and serrated teeth for gripping various-sized objects. They're commonly used in plumbing and automotive work for tasks like tightening and loosening nuts, bolts, and pipe fittings.
Locking pliers, often called Vise-Grips, have a locking mechanism that holds the jaws in place, allowing the user to apply pressure without squeezing the handles. They're used for a variety of tasks, including clamping, holding, and turning stubborn fasteners.
Top Picks for the Best Pliers in 2023
Here are our top picks for the best pliers in 2023, based on quality, performance, and user reviews:
1. KNIPEX Cobra Pliers Set (87 01 250, 87 01 180, and 87 01 125)
- Self-locking feature for a secure grip
- Push-button adjustment mechanism
- Hardened teeth for excellent gripping performance
- Multiple sizes in the set
- Expensive compared to other options
The KNIPEX Cobra Pliers set features three high-quality pliers of different sizes (10-inch, 7-inch, and 5-inch). The pliers are designed with a self-locking mechanism, which ensures a secure grip without requiring constant pressure from the user. The push-button adjustment allows for fast and precise fine-tuning, making them versatile for various applications. Additionally, the hardened teeth on the jaws provide excellent gripping performance and durability. While the price is higher compared to other options, the quality and performance justify the investment.
2. CHANNELLOCK 9.5-Inch Lineman's Pliers (369)
- Durable high-carbon steel construction
- Cross-hatched jaw pattern for enhanced grip
- Laser heat-treated cutting edges for long-lasting sharpness
- Made in the USA
- Not ideal for smaller and more delicate tasks
The CHANNELLOCK 369 Lineman's Pliers are perfect for professionals and DIY enthusiasts alike. These 9.5-inch pliers are made of high-carbon steel, ensuring durability and longevity. The cross-hatched jaw pattern offers an excellent grip on various materials, and the laser heat-treated cutting edges provide long-lasting sharpness. While these pliers excel in heavy-duty tasks, they may not be suitable for smaller and more delicate applications due to their size and design.
3. IRWIN VISE-GRIP 8-Inch Long Nose Pliers (2078218)
- Long and slender design for reaching tight spaces
- Machined jaws for maximum gripping strength
- ProTouch grips for comfortable use
- Built-in wire cutter
- May not provide sufficient leverage for heavy-duty tasks
The IRWIN VISE-GRIP 2078218 Long Nose Pliers are designed for precision tasks that require reaching tight spaces. With an 8-inch length and slender design, these pliers are ideal for electrical work, jewelry making, and other detailed applications. The machined jaws provide maximum gripping strength, and the built-in wire cutter adds to the pliers' versatility. The ProTouch grips ensure comfortable use, even during extended periods. However, these pliers may not provide enough leverage for heavy-duty tasks.
4. TEKTON 7-Inch Diagonal Cutting Pliers (3400)
- Angled head design for flush cutting
- High-leverage design for increased cutting power
- Heat-treated cutting edges for durability
- Affordable and great value
- Not suitable for cutting very thick and hard materials
The TEKTON 3400 Diagonal Cutting Pliers are an excellent value option for those looking for reliable cutting performance. These 7-inch pliers feature an angled head design that allows for flush cutting. The high-leverage design increases cutting power, while the heat-treated cutting edges ensure durability. Although these pliers are not ideal for cutting very thick and hard materials, they are perfect for most medium-duty tasks at an affordable price.
5. Craftsman Evolve 5-Piece Pliers Set (10047)
- Comprehensive set of pliers for various tasks
- Durable forged alloy steel construction
- Ergonomic grip for comfortable use
- Affordable price for a complete set
- Quality may not be on par with premium brands
The Craftsman Evolve 10047 Pliers Set is an excellent choice for those looking for a comprehensive set of pliers at an affordable price. This 5-piece set includes 6-inch diagonal pliers, 6-inch long nose pliers, 7-inch lineman's pliers, 6-inch slip joint pliers, and 8-inch groove joint pliers. Each plier is made of durable forged alloy steel, with an ergonomic grip for comfortable use. While the quality may not match premium brands, the Craftsman Evolve set offers great value for the price.
Key Features to Look for When Buying Pliers
When choosing pliers, consider the following key features to ensure you get the best tool for your needs:
- Material: Look for pliers made of high-quality materials like high-carbon steel or chrome vanadium steel for durability and long-lasting performance.
- Comfortable Grip: Choose pliers with ergonomic, non-slip handles that provide a comfortable grip and reduce hand fatigue during extended use.
- Jaw Design: Depending on your needs, look for pliers with serrated or smooth jaws, and consider the jaw length and width for the tasks you'll be performing.
- Cutting Capability: If you need pliers with cutting capabilities, look for models with sharp, hardened cutting edges that can handle the materials you'll be working with.
- Adjustability: For versatile pliers that can handle various tasks, consider models with adjustable jaws or slip-joint designs.
How to Maintain and Care for Your Pliers
Proper care and maintenance of your pliers will ensure they remain in good working condition and extend their lifespan. Here are some tips for maintaining your pliers:
- Keep them clean: After each use, wipe your pliers with a clean cloth to remove dirt, grease, and debris. This helps prevent rust and corrosion.
- Lubricate the joints: Apply a small amount of lubricant, such as 3-in-1 oil or WD-40, to the pivot points to keep the jaws moving smoothly and reduce wear.
- Inspect for damage: Regularly check your pliers for signs of wear or damage, such as chipped or dull cutting edges, bent jaws, or loose pivot points. If you notice any issues, consider replacing the pliers to ensure optimal performance and safety.
- Store them properly: When not in use, store your pliers in a dry, cool place to prevent rust and corrosion. Avoid exposing them to extreme temperatures or humidity.
- Sharpen cutting edges: If the cutting edges of your pliers become dull, you can use a fine file or sharpening stone to restore their sharpness. Be sure to maintain the original angle of the cutting edge for the best results.
Selecting the best pliers for your needs can bechallenging, but this in-depth review and guide should help you make an informed decision. Based on our evaluation, the KNIPEX Cobra Pliers Set stands out as the top choice for its self-locking feature, push-button adjustment, and excellent gripping performance. However, if you're looking for a more budget-friendly option, the Craftsman Evolve 5-Piece Pliers Set is an excellent alternative.
Remember to consider factors such as the type of tasks you'll be performing, the required plier size, and your budget when making your decision. With the right pliers in your toolbox, you'll be well-equipped to tackle a wide range of tasks with ease and precision.