A good set of pliers is an indispensable tool that even homeowners who take a mighty casual approach to home repairs probably have in their tool drawers. People who are more serious about home projects probably have a few different sets for different kinds of jobs, and it’s possible that people with specialized hobbies or jobs have pliers that very few people realize exist.
We took a spin through some of the different kinds of pliers there are. Most of us probably already know about some of them. Some might make you think, “Well, I never,” and one or two might perk your interest into thinking, “You know, I could really use a set of those.”
Needle nose pliers are one of the sets of pliers that lots of homeowners tend to collect. They can serve a wide range of functions, all related to their narrow tips that allow access to hard-to-reach places or detailed work. Specialists use them primarily to bend and shape wire and ring mountings. Most come with two snipping jaws so the user can cut wire.
Electricians use linesman pliers to cut, bend, and splice wires together. Many of them can also crimp connections, and, in some cases, even strip wires. In the hands of a person with general purpose needs, they become a more rugged version of the slip-joint pliers used for most day-to-day home repairs. They are better at pulling and even cutting nails or holding fast things you’re working on.
If you only have one set of pliers in your tool inventory, chances are that it’s a set of slip-joint pliers. These adjustable head pliers can perform about 75 percent of basic home maintenance and repairs that require pliers. They normally have curved jaws and pointed teeth for grabbing around pipes and wires, and a toothy nose for grabbing things like nails and staples so you can pull them out.
A standard pair of pliers with a bolt that can adjust the spacing of the jaws and lock them in place. They are more powerful than standard pliers, and the adjusted jaws mean they are also more controlled. In the U.S., these are also commonly called Vise-Grips, which is also the brand name of the first ones available. A common use for specialists is holding two pieces of metal together for welding. For in-home use, they often get used as make-shift temporary handles and knobs.
Cutting pliers come in a number of types, depending on what kind of cutting action you need. Some look a lot like linesman pliers, with blades parallel to the handles. Others have perpendicular blades for a snipping action. All of them are used primarily for cutting wire of things of similar shape.
Combining a hammer to drive in nails and a pliers head to pull out nails, fencing pliers are an invaluable tool for anyone who owns a large spread of land and a herd of livestock that needs to be kept confined. Although they sound like they might be ideal for carpenters or roofers, in reality, they have to be pretty large, and there are more efficient tools for those uses.
A much larger cousin to the common slip-joint pliers, tongue-and-groove pliers are also called water pump pliers by plumbers because they’re most commonly used to grip and turn water pipes. They have serrated, curved jaws intended to grasp pipes and turn them without slipping or damaging them. This is a specialty plier.
As our electronics have gotten much smaller, so have the tools used to work on them. If you need to snip a connection, a set of electronics pliers is designed to let you get right in on what you need to cut. The blade can also be used to pry apart small wire connections inside laptops, and, depending on your ability to magnify and hold your hands steady, even phones.
Although they look like a warped pair of needle nose pliers, bent-nose pliers actually have quite a few uses. Their bent nose allows greater visibility of just what you’re trying to grab. They’re used by electricians and jewelry makers to make loops of wire, and by people who work in electronics where they need to get the nose right in to grab something, say, a nut they’ll need to save to put a laptop back together.
Electricians and jewelers use specialty pliers called round nose pliers to make loops in wire or jewelry mountings. They’ve been known to call these rosary pliers because of it. Because of the precise, intricate nature of the work they’re used for, these pliers are usually pretty small. Most casual tool users will never need this tool.
Bail making pliers have a very similar action to round nose pliers, but are designed for slightly bigger pieces of metal. While round nose pliers are used on thin pieces of wire, bail making pliers are used to fashion pieces of sheet metal and brass pieces into rounds. Like round nose pliers, this is a tool that most homeowners or DIY enthusiasts are never going to need.
If you’ve got a job to do that requires pulling or bending, chances are there is a set of pliers designed specifically for that job. It’s one of the most diverse of tool families, while also being one that’s essential for even the most casual home repair person to have around. We hope you found this overview of 11 different pliers informative and even a little fun.
Header image credit: Mauro Cateb, Wikimedia
Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!