From DIY activities to professional operations, the proper use of pliers makes these tasks more efficient. Although pliers are definitely one of the most fundamental tools you should stock in your toolbox, you may fail to accomplish the task if the pliers that you use are the “wrong” ones. For instance, when you attempt to cut a wire, it does not make sense for you to use pliers without a cutting function. Every pair of pliers has its own specific functions, so it is essential to prepare pliers that correspond to the requirements of what you are engaging in.
It is said that there are more than 30 types of pliers, some of which have multiple functions to deal with a broad range of tasks while others are exclusively designed to handle a particular application. In this article, we will introduce 10 of the most commonly-used pliers you should know about when performing all kinds of technical work.
Parts of Pliers – The Absolute Basics You Need to Know About
Before moving on to the main topic, it is vital to understand pliers including their parts and roles, especially if you are a beginner at DIY. While the uses of pliers are various depending on the task, their commonly-mentioned features are cutting, twisting, gripping, positioning, tightening, loosening, and clamping. Pliers normally consist of a metallic working end, a pair of handles, and a center where the working point and handles are connected. Let’s look at each part in detail by seeing the image of typical pliers below.
The working point of the pliers is usually called the jaws or nose (red circle). Pliers have flat and serrated jaws for a more secure and tighter grip, while some types also have blades for cutting objects. Some pliers also have a pipe grip (orange square), a dent on each side of the jaw for gripping round materials like wire or pipes. The tips of the jaws are square in shape or tapered.
The conjunction part of pliers is called the pivot point or the fulcrum (yellow circle): a part that allows jaws and handles to open or close to perform the plier’s intended function. Some pliers have a movable pivot point to adjust the opening range of the jaws.
The handles (blue circle) are the parts you hold. They are either straight or curved in shape, and are often coated with plastic or resin for comfortable handling. It is said that the longer the handles are, the more leveraged structure they have. In other words, pliers with long handles allow you to perform jobs with less strength. Some handles also have insulation to perform electrical engineering with safety.
10 Standard Types of Pliers
Combination Pliers – for Basic DIY or Various Electrical Engineering
If you wish to enter the field of DIY but have no idea which pliers to use, prepare combination pliers first. Combination pliers, also known as linesman pliers, are actually a versatile working tool because they have two of the most fundamental features of pliers: cutting and gripping. They can also handle bending, stripping, and twisting. The jaws are square and serrated and usually have a blade (for some models, also the pipe grip) between the head of the jaws and fulcrum.
Combination pliers and linesman pliers are considered to be synonymous for convenience’s sake, but there are some key differences between them. Linesman pliers tend to have a longer overall size than that combination pliers because high leverage allows users to grip and cut the objects more accurately, which is critical for electrical works. Further, linesman pliers are more likely to have thicker and heavier jaws while combination pliers have narrow and thin jaws, though this varies between brands.
Slip Joint Pliers – for Gripping Various Materials and Multi-purpose Uses
Slip joint pliers are another all-rounder tool that most DIYer and engineers use in their work very often. As the name indicates, this type of pliers features an adjustable pivot point that allows their jaws and pipe grip to open wider according to the object to be gripped. Along with this basic function, slip joint pliers can be useful in holding, bending, crimping, and cutting. With their flat and serrated jaws, you can even use the slip joint pliers to tighten or loosen nuts and bolts.
Water-pump Pliers – for Plumbing Applications
Water-pump pliers, also known as tongue-and-groove pliers and multi-grips, basically have the same core functionality as slip joint pliers. However, the largest difference between water-pump pliers and slip joint pliers is that the former have a wider range of jaw opening than slip joint pliers, so they are suitable for holding thicker objects like a pipe. Also, unlike slip joint pliers, the water-pump pliers have an angled head to facilitate access to the pipe located in a smaller space.
Besides plumbing work, the water-pump pliers can also catch and remove screws. For instance, the PZ-81 Water-pump Pliers from a Japanese tool producer called Engineer not only have a quick adjustment feature but are also able to remove a low-head screw thanks to their Patented serrations.
Needle Nose Pliers – for Works in Tighter Space
Needle nose pliers have similar functions to those of combination pliers, but with their tapered, long, and conical jaws, they are ideal for operations in less accessible areas where other pliers cannot reach. This type of pliers can also handle holding, placing, bending, and cutting when equipped with side cutters. For workers who engage in delicate tasks including jewelry making, electric work, and radio/TV jobs, needle nose pliers are their staple instrument.
Needle nose pliers have two types of head: straight nose and bent nose. The bent nose pliers are another variation of the needle-nose pliers that have their tips bent at an angle between 45° and 90°. With this feature, they can reach into narrow spaces even if there are a large number of obstacles.
Diagonal Pliers – for Cutting Tasks
Usually called a nipper in Japan, diagonal pliers (also termed as cutting pliers) are said to be an essential tool for those who conduct electric works and carpentry. These pliers usually have compact bladed jaws that are angled diagonally and longer handles to get more leverage. As a result, they can cut through copper wires, steel wires, and VA/VFF wires while some can even cut piano wires and thin nails or screws. However, when using diagonal pliers, there are two things you should bear in mind: do not cut objects whose toughness and thickness are beyond the pliers’ capacity; and do not cut a live wire even if it is insulated. For Japanese cutting pliers, Fujiya’s 7700N-200BG High Leverage Diagonal Pliers can effortlessly cut most types of wire thanks to their high leverage structure and special blades.
Locking Pliers – for Hands-free Object Tightening
There may be a case in which you wish to seek additional manpower to hold a certain object while operating other tasks at the same time, and in such a situation, locking pliers (also known as Vise-grip pliers) will be helpful. Locking pliers are designed to firmly lock the object without the assistance of a human hand. There is a screw drive to adjust the jaws’ opening width at the end of the handle, and you need to adjust it by dialing it. Although this requires some practice to achieve the desired adjustment, you can effortlessly lock and hold objects with greater strength once you master it.
There are many multi-functioned locking pliers sold at stores nowadays. One example of a type that is made in Japan is Engineer’s Neji Saurus Locking Pliers: they not only have a material tightening function, but also can remove stubborn screws and cut wires.
Crimping Pliers – for Crimping Complex Electric Applications
The crimping pliers, also called wire crimpers, crimping tools, or crimpers, are unfamiliar to ordinary DIY practitioners, but they are one of the must-have tools for electricians. These are used for handling plugs when installing network connections. They can be used for various types of cables including LAN cables, fiber cables, TV cables, and more, and for this reason, these pliers are often used in the fields of networking and communications. Our favorite Japanese crimping pliers include a set of crimpers from Engineer that also contains patented easy-to-exchange interchangeable dies. With these dies, you can crimp more than 300 types of terminals. You can also cut wires with the cutter attached to the back of the plier’s head.
Snap Ring Pliers – for Vehicle and Mechanical Engineering
A Snap ring is a small metal ring that is set in a bearing: a part that supports rotating shafts in vehicles, generators, household appliances, etc. Snap ring is installed in parts like grooves, bores, and shafts to prevent these from slipping out, so it plays the role of a fastener. To insert or remove the ring, you need to use snap ring pliers.
There are two types of snap ring pliers. One is called internal clip pliers: they are mainly used in bores, their noses close when you grip handles, and the ring attached to the pliers narrows. In contrast, another one is called external clip pliers: they are useful in assembling/disassembling the snap ring in shaft, and when you grip the handles their noses open while the ring widens. Some snap ring pliers have a bent nose to facilitate operation in a narrow space.
Wire Strippers – for Cutting or Removing Insulation of Wire
Mainly used by electricians and some DIYers who often conduct wiring tasks, wire strippers remove insulation, which is a protective coating of an electric wire. They usually look like a combination of needle nose pliers and diagonal pliers. Wire strippers usually have a series of holes with different gauges located between the tip of the jaws and fulcrum, and users should match the size of insulated wires with those described on the jaws. The other functions often added to wire strippers are flat and serrated jaw tips for gripping, twisting, and pulling, and a side cutter for cutting thin objects. If you are looking for wire strippers, try Fujiya’s compact, unique-shaped, and easy-to-use strippers.
Fencing Pliers – for Installation and Maintenance of a Fence
When you find these pliers at the shop, you may at first wonder whether it is in fact a hammer. The answer is both yes and no: they can be used as a hammer but actually are a multi-functional tool to cover all necessary tasks for erecting or maintaining a fence. In general, fencing pliers can be used as a cutter, hammer, and remover for staples (a U-shaped metal loop which is driven in a pole and the like to fix a wire). Unlike most pliers, the pliers for cutting fencing are located on the fulcrum and can cut thick wires. One side of the jaws resembles the head and neck of the hammer, and you can drive staples as if you were using the real hammer. Meanwhile, if you wish to remove staples, use the other side of the jaws, which look similar to a hammer claw.