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Pliers are the type of tool that you don’t realize how much you need until you don’t have them. Pliers have actually been around for around 5,000 years, with the first sets being made of wood. As time went on and different materials were discovered, they were fashioned from metals like bronze and iron which made them a lot more versatile and long-lasting in comparison to their wooden predecessors. These days there are loads of different types of pliers which are used in various industries and applications all over the world. This being said, let’s have a look at some of the different types of pliers you could come across.
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Anatomy of Pliers
Just as there are different types of pliers, there are many different parts of pliers too. Understanding the parts of pliers will ensure that you know how to operate them correctly and how to repair them should they break. Pliers are actually pretty simple, so here is a quick breakdown of the basic anatomy of pliers:
- Pip grip
The anatomy of pliers is similar to that of scissors or hand-operated clamps. You have the handles that you use to compress and release the grip of the pliers. You then have the fulcrum or pivot point which the jaws and handle of the pliers are connected to. The jaws of the pliers can vary considerably – they can be long, short, robust, small, bladed, or blunt.
Most pliers have a combination of cutters and a pipe grip section, which can be used to cut and grip various materials respectively. The tip of the pliers is what most people use the most, as it can be used to grip, twist, and even close a number of things. Pliers are a must-have if you’re a DIY enthusiast, or don’t like calling a repair person for every little thing around the home. Some types of pliers have more intricate anatomies than the ones described above. This can be to produce a greater gripping force on your workpiece, to lock the pliers in place, or to alter the amount of force the pliers produce in a given scenario.
Always check the instructions provided by the manufacturer to ensure that you know how to operate your pliers correctly.
General-Use and Special-Use Pliers
As with most hand tools, there are some commonly used pliers and ones that are used for more specialized applications. While general use pliers can be found in your local hardware store, special-use pliers might need to be ordered directly from manufacturers or online. Types of pliers and uses can vary considerably, this being said, let’s have a look at a few of each.
There are loads of pliers types out there for all means of applications. Different pliers types are operated differently, can be locked in place, and some even have more than one function. Here are some of the most commonly used pliers types out there and some of the less common ones that you might not find at your local hardware store.
Keep in mind that you should always use pliers for their intended application to avoid damaging your workpiece and/or causing harm to yourself.
Slip-joint pliers are one of the most versatile tools on the planet. They’re capable of a wide variety of tasks and they’re useful in both professional environments and they tend to be pretty helpful around the home. These pliers have been around for a long time and have received various modifications and innovations over the years. What are slip-joint pliers used for? They can be used to hold or bend a material, stamp or grip pieces of sheet metal, make a piece of wire into a loop, cut small or soft types of wiring, remove nailing, and even pry loose varying types of fasteners.
What are slip-joint pliers used for beside gripping things? If you find yourself lacking a wrench or screwdriver you also have the option of using this type of plier to drive or remove bolts and nuts! These pliers can be found in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, which makes them arguably the most versatile pliers on the face of the planet. They are also available in a narrow nose and bent nose configuration for applications where the conventional nose configurations are too big. The handles can also differ considerably for electrical or submerged usage.
As the name suggests, this type of plier has been designed for the express purpose of gripping various pipers and cylinders while they are being worked on. They are available in different sizes to accommodate various cylindrical objects, and even their grips can be different to compensate for environmental factors, or when working with piping that could be electrically charged. Water-pump pliers can be used to remove piping or tighten/loosen nuts and other fastening devices that are used to hold piping together.
The jaws of these pliers are able to move freely, and their pivot point can be moved up and down to increase the distance between the jaws. This allows you to grip piping or locking mechanisms of varying sizes, which makes this tool a must-have for those in the plumbing trade.
Needle nose pliers are one that is used almost exclusively by electricians. This type of plier starts off wide near the fulcrum and then slowly tapers off to a sharp point at the tip. It’s a great tool for handling small wiring in spaces that might be too much of a squeeze to use other types of pliers in. It’s operated like other types of conventional pliers by gripping the workpiece between the jaws and squeezing the handles together.
They usually don’t have much of a serrated grip, but they do have a cutting face near the fulcrum, which can be used to cut wiring and other malleable materials. The petite nose of these pliers can be used to handle small bolts and nuts after they have been removed or when they are being positioned. There are different types of needle nose pliers that can be used for a wide variety of applications. Different types of needle-nose pliers can vary in size, color, and shape depending on the application they were intended for. Keep in mind that needle-nose pliers aren’t particularly robust, so care should be taken when you’re working with them.
When most of us picture pliers, this is the type of plier that usually comes to mind. Previously known as bell pliers, these pliers are used for a number of applications where a robust and reliable tool is needed. It is used for those in the metallurgy trade to bend and twist different types of metal, and in the electrical trade, they are usually used to twist particularly thick wiring for joining and installation. The jaws of these pliers are slightly serrated which makes them a great tool to grip and twist material with. They also have a bladed section located closer to the fulcrum which allows them to cut and trim wires or malleable metals.
Their grips can vary from metal to wood, to plastic, and even rubber. It’s easy to see why these are a crowd favorite across many professions.
If you work in an engineering or woodworking trade, the chances are that you’ve used one of these at some point. They are one of the most useful types of pliers and their uses vary from gipping a workpiece while painting, to using them as a clamp to secure a workpiece to a flat surface. The distance between the jaws of these pliers can be adjusted using a screw mechanism located in one of the handles. The locking pliers are commonly known as vice grip pliers as they allow you to grip an object and then lock the jaws of the pliers in place while you work on it.
The “lock” is engaged when a certain amount of force is applied to the grips, and they are disengaged when a little lever is flipped inside one of the grips. When discussing types of pliers and uses, this is by far one of the most versatile and easy to use of the bunch. Just because they can be used, doesn’t mean they should be used though. Locking pliers are available in a variety of sizes, all the way up to 12 inches.
They can produce an incredible amount of gripping force, which, in combination with their serrated jaws, is capable of causing serious damage to your workpiece and/or the pliers themselves.
When discussing types of pliers and their uses, special-use pliers are particularly interesting. Special-use pliers are those that you wouldn’t find in everyday applications, and you might not even be able to get your hands on a pair at your local hardware store. Most of these types of pliers have been designed to fulfill a specific need in a particular industry or occupation, so let’s have a look at some of them, what they do, and where they’re used.
Eyelet pliers are designed for one purpose and one purpose only; to insert eyelets. Don’t know what an eyelet is? They’re those little metal rings that you thread a drawstring to, mostly found on sweatpants, hoodies, and laced shoes. The eyelet pliers are quite heavy and robust, using a spring to regulate the pressure applied by the jaws and separate them once the eyelet has been inserted.
If you know what a circlip or snap ring is, then you know that it can be a challenge to insert or remove without the right tool. Many people try using needle nose pliers for this application, but these retaining devices have been designed to only be removed with circlip pliers, or you could risk damaging them. These usually have long handles with a short fulcrum and jaw set. The tips of these jaws have small, flat, needle-like protrusions on their ends, which can comfortably be inserted into the holes of a circlip/snap ring.
These pliers work inversely, as the jaws expand when the handle is squeezed together, allowing you to expand the circlip/snap ring.
This one is pretty straightforward. Canvas pliers have short handles for increased control, and pretty short jaws too. However, the jaws are flat and wide to allow you to grip canvas material and stretch it over a wooden frame. This process is usually a two-person job, but by using these pliers you can safely and securely construct a brand-new canvas all on your own!
Wire Cutters/Diagonal Pliers
The names of pliers tend to give away their intended purpose, and the wire cutters are no different. As the name suggests these pliers are used to cut wires, and they’re pretty good at it too considering that their jaws are bladed. They typically have long handles that are curved toward one another for increased grip, and a short, sharply bladed set of jaws that are used to cut and even trim wires in a pinch.
Nail-puller pliers are the kind of tool you want if wood crafting or fence installation is something you do regularly. These types of pliers are used to dig beneath the surface of a workpiece to grip a nail head that is flush with its surface. The pliers are then closed around the nail head by squeezing the handles together, at which point the nail can be pulled out of the workpiece in question.
Bail-making pliers can be strange to look at, especially if you’ve never seen them before. Bail-making pliers are used for the purpose of making and sizing different types of jewelry. Each jaw has a small cylinder protruding outward, which tapers and steps off into even smaller cylindrical protrusions. The wire is wrapped around these to size up different types of jewelry. These can be used to make a wide variety of jewelry including rings, looped earrings, and the joining links of chains.
There aren’t really any major applications for this type of plier outside of the jewelry-making trade, and as a result, it tends to be one of those obscure tools that not many people know about.
Hose-grip pliers are used to grip little hoses that would otherwise be too slippery or too small to grab by hand or with long-nose pliers. When closed, the tips of the jaws of these pliers have a little circle, which is made of two halves attached to the tip of each jaw. These pliers are opened, their tips positioned around the hose in question and then closed to grip them firmly. These are ideal for removing and installing fuel lines on motorcycles and gas-powered weed eaters.
Where the eyelet pliers are designed to secure inserts for things to be threaded through, the Grommet pliers allow you to insert grommets that block off a hole or recess. They are functionally the same as eyelet pliers with the only difference being that they do not punch holes, which is ideal if you’re trying to seal off a recess.
Another instance where the names of pliers give away their intended application is with the hose clamp pliers. These pliers aren’t quite used to clamp hoses though, they are actually used to grip and expand the clamps used to secure hoses while they’re being positioned. They have a unique formation at the tip of each jaw which allows them to interact with hose clamps, which expand when squeezed by the jaws of these pliers.
Considering that any bolt connected to the battery terminal can be dangerous, you might find yourself thinking twice about removing them with your hand or metal wrench. It’s for this exact reason that the battery pliers were invented. These pliers allow you to safely secure and loosen the bolts that secure the terminals of car batteries. The handles of these types of pliers are insulted which means that even if the pliers do conduct a charge, you won’t risk getting shocked! To make things even easier for you these pliers are perfectly shaped for the removal of battery bolts that are usually square in shape.
How, you ask? Well, the pliers have short, serrated jaws which can grip these bolts safely and securely.
Oil-filter pliers are one of the most application-specific pliers out there, considering that you literally cannot use them for any other application other than removing oil filters from internal combustion engines. These feature a conventional handle and fulcrum mechanism, which is a set of jaws that are curved. The grips/handles are closed, allowing the jaws to wrap around the oil filter, at which point it can be threaded out of the engine block.
Fencing pliers look like little hammers with a spike on one end instead of a pein. These pliers are used for the installation and removal of fencing wire. The sharp end allows you to remove staples, while the hammer face allows you to drive them in. The jaws of these pliers are bladed to allow you to cut, crimp, and grip fencing wire, while the fulcrum can be adjusted to allow you to cut different sizes of fencing wires with greater ease.
Piston-ring pliers are another type of plier that is completely specific to one application. As the name suggests, this plier is used to install and remove oil and compressing rings from an internal combustion engine’s piston. When the handles are squeezed, their curved jaws spread open (inverted operation) allowing you to separate or install rings.
If you weren’t around when drum brakes were the only option on cars, this type of pliers might seem a bit useless to you. Back in the day, however, they were an indispensable part of any automotive mechanics’ toolbox. They are made entirely of steel, including the handles and jaws of the pliers. Both jaws are curved sharply to the right and have little pins protruding out of their edges. These pins are used to insert and remove the spring that operates the drum brake, which can wear out along with the drum itself.
These tools aren’t used all that much these days are disk brakes are much safer and don’t lock up as easily as the aforementioned drums do.
One of the most annoying problems to encounter in your workplace or at home is when a pushpin becomes nearly impossible to remove by hand. These pliers allow you to close in under the head of the pin and force it upwards. The pin will then be popped out of place, freeing it from the surface and allowing you to continue working.
A pretty unique pair of pliers even by the standards of special use pliers are the chain nose pliers. These pliers, like bail-making pliers, are used exclusively in the jewelry-making trade. They are characterized by their flat inner jaw and rounded outer jaws, which allow them to manipulate metal and squeeze loops together, which is a common operation in jewelry making.
Running pliers are one of the most unique types of pliers out there because of the material that they work with. These pliers are designed to cut glass that has been scored. They have wide, nearly flat jaws with an adjustable distance. They also have a center line that ensures you’re always in contact with the scored line on the glass sheet you’re cutting. The distance between jaws can be adjusted using a crew located on the side of the fulcrum.
These pliers are cool, but they do require a bit of elbow grease to use effectively. They have wide, flat jaws which allow you to grip a piece of sheet metal and bend it back or forth. The handles of these pliers are usually short to ensure the proper application of force during the bending process.
If you bend sheet metal regularly or work in metal fabrication these are must-haves.
If you aren’t an automotive electrician or engineering student, then the chances are that you have never heard of these. They resemble long-nosed pliers but instead of sharp tips, their ends are stubby and insulated to ensure that the removal of spark plugs, coil packs, and other electronic automotive components doesn’t result in nasty shock.
Ring-splitting pliers are also used in jewelry making, and even though they can be used in occupations, their operation and primary function remain largely the same. If you find yourself stuck with tightly coiled rings of metal that you’d like to separate, these are the pliers you want on hand. One jaw is long and flat, and the other has a pin that faces the direction of the other. When the pin is placed between these rings and forced downward by closing the pliers, the rings will split.
Now that you know about the different types of pliers out there, both the common types of pliers and those that are reserved for special use, it’s time to get out there and put your newfound knowledge to the test. Remember to always use pliers for their intended use only to avoid damage and/or injury.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Do Pliers Look Like?
What do pliers look like? If you find yourself wondering what pliers look like, they’re pretty easy to spot. In most cases they resemble scissors with jaws instead of blades. Pliers consist of three primary components including the jaws, fulcrum, and handles, all of which are designed to allow you to grip, cut, twist, pull, and puncture your workpiece. The function of any given set of pliers can vary considerably.
What Type of Tool Are Pliers?
Pliers are classified as a type of hand tool. They are designed to allow you to grip an object or workpiece and are available in various shapes and sizes for a wide array of applications. Other hand tools include hammers, chisels, and files.
What Should Pliers Not Be Used For?
Pliers should only ever be used for their intended application. Most general-use pliers are designed for pulling, twisting, cutting, and turning an object. You should never use your pliers as a hammer, scissors, punch, or file as it could result in damage to your workpiece or injury to yourself.