Back to Basics:
Types of Pliers

We talk about pliers and how to remove a stripped screw with pliers, but sometimes the most basic of questions come first: just what are pliers?

What Are Pliers?

Pliers, as we know them, were invented in the last two hundred years, yet the concept is an ancient one. Pliers are possibly developed from tongs used to handle hot metal in Bronze Age Europe. They are basically just two pieces of shaped metal joined at a hinge near their center. When the handle side is squeezed, the nose (jaws) side closes. Pliers are used for grabbing and holding items for manipulation or stability. They have superior gripping power.

Pliers are used in an array of endeavors:

  • Holding small objects
  • Holding a screw or nail in place for screwing, drilling, or hammering
  • Bending thin objects
  • Soldering
  • Wiring electronics
  • Damaged screw extraction
  • Wire stripping

Pliers Components

  • Jaws - come in various patterns and designs that provide the tool's functionality, such as pulling, cutting, holding and stripping. The tip of the jaw (nose) can be flat (combination pliers), half round (long nose) and round (electronics pliers), and provide functionalities such as bending, gripping, and holding various objects.
  • Cutter is designed to cut nails, bolts, wire of different thicknesses and other materials.
  • Handles - provide the means by which the operator can use the pliers. There are a variety of materials used to cover the handles, providing different levels of comfort. Some of the most common materials include molded material, vinyl dipping, and insulated handles that protect the users against electrical shocks.
  • Pivot point/Fulcrum - holds the jaws and handle together. The closer the pivot point to the jaws the more leverage and cutting power the pliers have.

Types of Pliers

Water pump (Tongue-and-Groove) pliers 

Although not considered a "precision" tool, water pump pliers are another must-have tool. This type of pliers allows users to hold objects of various sizes as result of the 2 jaws being joined by a pivot joint that slides inside a slot. The most common design feature is set of curved serrated jaws. The slot might be grooved to allow jaws to be positioned a certain width apart, or have a smooth surface to allow the jaw to quickly adjust to the size of the objects being worked on. Water pump pliers are used to bend wires and hold objects of various shapes and sizes. A variation of the groove joint pliers features smooth jaws that prevent damaging or marring of the object being handled. These pliers are popular in the aerospace industry, or whenever handling soft materials, such as plastics.

Combination (linesman's) pliers

As the name suggests these are must-haves for those who do electrical work. Because of their multi-functionality, combination pliers are also one of the most popular pliers style in any professional or homeowner toolbox. The ridged nose can be used for pulling, grabbing, straightening, bending, and twisting wires together. A less-known feature is that the outside edges of the nose can be used to rim off the end of a piece of cut conduit. The round cavity can be used to hold round objects, such as nuts and bolts, while the double cutter near the joint is ideal for cutting wires and threaded bolts.

Long nose pliers 

Also known as needle-nose pliers, these are similar in functionality to linesman pliers, with the added bonus of allowing the user to reach into tight spots due to the long, tapered jaws. Depending on the design, long nose pliers may feature various jaw configurations that allow users to perform various tasks. Additionally, more specialized pliers include crimping pliers (ideal for crimping terminals and connectors for stranded cables with vinyl and rubber insulation), seamers (used in HVAC for bending and flattening sheet metal), fencing pliers, and as well as high leverage and spring loaded models which make opening and closing handles easier.

Slip Joint Pliers

The key to the versatility of this tool is the slipjoint that gives the pliers their name. Like most pliers, they are operated by opening and closing the handles, which produces an opening and closing action of the jaws. But slip-joint pliers have the added advantage of an adjustable pivot point, which allows the two parts of the jaws to be shifted with respect to one another. So a pair of slip-joint pliers can be used to grip securely objects ranging in thickness from a single sheet of paper to a half inch or more, depending upon the size of the pliers. Most slip joint pliers have two or three options for positioning the pivot point. At its mouth, the pliers’jaws are flat and serrated, but they curve at the back of the jaw near the pivot. This curved area, once known as the burner grip because it was originally used for removing the jets from gas lamps, will grip rounded objects like pipes or rods. Many slip-joint pliers also have a wire cutter built into the neck of the pliers, just behind the curved serrations.

Safety Measures When Using Pliers

  • Choose the appropriate pliers for the application. Take the time to educate yourself on the different pliers and their features, such as the types of wires a plier is able to cut, cutting capacity, etc. Failing to do so can result in premature wearing of the tool, inability to perform the job, jaw damage, and even personal injury.
  • Pliers with insulated handles should always be used when working near live wires. Non - insulated handles can easily be confused with insulated ones. A plier with insulated handles features the double triangle symbol or the VDE logo.
  • Always cut at right angles for a clean, effective cut. Avoid bending the wire back and forth; instead, use a bigger size or a model with a bigger cutting capacity.
  • Wear safety glasses when you operate pliers as pieces of material fly unexpectedly.
  • Do not expose pliers to excessive heat, as the tool's properties might change.
  • Clean and maintain your pliers regularly; cleaning the jaws and adding a drop of oil on the rivet will ensure years of dependable use.

If you have broken your pliers or you don’t have one, don’t worry. Deko can help you find pliers that you are looking for. Start by visiting our online shop for tool sets with pliers!