Different Types of Pliers & What They're Used For
Which Grabber Should You Grab for Grabbing??
Webster's Dictionary defines “pliers” as “that metal thingy with the handles that grabs stuff and you can twist with it.” Okay, maybe that's just how I define the word pliers. And maybe there's a better definition. So let's look a little more into what makes a plier ply, and what type is best for the specific task you're performing.
Pliers are…is…wait, is it always plural? Like “pants”? Anyway, the P-word refers to a generic tool that can be used for any job that requires gripping, twisting, turning, or cutting. Under that umbrella are many different types of pliers, each with unique physical characteristics that suit them to different tasks and professions.
If you're having a tough time deciding which type of pliers is right for your project, we're here to tell you all about the different categories of pliers, what sets them apart from one another, and the jobs that each kind works best for.
Long Nose Pliers
Just as their name implies, long nose pliers have a very long and lean profile that lets them squeeze easily into tight spaces to grip and manipulate wires. Perfect for making precise bends in wire, long nose pliers are one of those tools that are indispensable to electricians when it comes time to loop wires before connecting them to receptacles and other fixtures. Heard of lineman's and needle-nose pliers? They all belong to the same family.
When to use them: Any time that precision counts. Narrow jaw tips make this type of pliers the right choice for zeroing in on specific points along wires that need to be carefully shaped.
Built with sharp cutting edges and some serious shearing power, these pliers have one main job. Can you guess what it is? No seriously, take a second and think. Here's a hint: they aren't called “cutting” for their biting wit. Intended to shear through materials like heavy-gauge electrical wire and even small metal hardware like nails and screws, cutting pliers find use with everyone from professional contractors to home DIY'ers. Unlike many wire cutters, cutting pliers are often tempered to reduce the jarring "snap" that you feel when a wire is cut, and have extra leverage that enables you to slice through thicker materials with less effort.
When to use them: Times when you need to cut through thick wires that won't yield to a standard household wire cutter. Or if you've gotten bored of your fingers…JUST KIDDING! Be careful when you use these.
While jaw size and shape usually have a lot to do with the classification of a pair of pliers, that's not the case with insulated pliers, which come in just about every style imaginable. The thing that sets insulated pliers apart is the dielectric coating that covers their handles and makes them far less electrically conductive than your average pair of pliers. Should insulated pliers accidentally make contact with live circuitry during use, their handle insulation has the ability to lessen or stop the flow of current into the user's body. In simpler terms, Insulated pliers will keep you from being zapped (and possibly killed) if you happen to touch them to a live electrical surface.
When to use them: Every single time you work in close proximity to live electrical circuits and energized components. Insulated pliers are a must-have for all electricians, or anyone in the habit of doing their own home electrical repairs and installations…unless you want the last thing you hear to be, “Are you SURE those are the right pliers you should be using?” Now, after reading this article, you've got no excuse.