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Learn more about the varieties of pliers and the jobs they perform.
- Photo: Channellock
Pliers are used to grip, position, tighten, loosen, and cut certain metal elements. Learn about five types of pliers: slip-joint, water-pump, linesman, locking and needle-nose.
Slip-Joint Pliers. The slip-joint pliers were the tool that I first learned to call pliers. Only later did I discover that there were more kinds of pliers than there were kids in my neighborhood.
A pair of slip-joint pliers isn't exactly a high precision tool, but even as a boy I discovered that pliers could help perform a great many everyday tasks around the house, whether it was fixing my bicycle, the kitchen stool, or a bit of wiring. They are handy for holding or bending flat or round stock, can crimp sheet metal, loop a wire, cut soft wire nails, remove cotter pins, and, if necessary, loosen or tighten a nut.
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.
Slipjoint pliers can be purchased in various sizes, ranging from almost toylike models only a few inches long up to ten inches. A pair of seven-inch slip-joint pliers probably belongs in your kitchen-drawer toolbox (or its equivalent, wherever it is) that contains a handful of small-scale tools that come to hand quickly and easily for minor repair or adjustment tasks in your household.
Slip-joint pliers are also manufactured in bent-nose and narrow- nose configurations, but a standard pair is the most useful for most purposes. Buy a pair with insulated handles for added comfort.
Water-Pump Pliers. This grouping of pliers features several variations on the same theme. Sold in designs known as arc-joint pliers, Channel-Lock Pliers (a proprietary name), and known in conversation simply as pumps (as in, "Hand me those blue-handled pumps, will you, Michael?"), these tools are designed for gripping pipes. The jaws are angled to the length of the handles so that reaching between joists and into awkward spaces is easier.
Water-pump pliers are not the sole province of plumbers, as they have a variety of other applications.
The jaws of water-pump pliers are serrated, with a curved shape. Like slip-joint pliers, they can be adjusted to grasp various sized objects. The pivot point on arc-joint models shifts like that on slip-joint pliers, while on others there are a series of grooves that allow the jaws to be positioned at different openings but that keep the jaws parallel to one another. The varieties with the channel design offer a more positive grasp of the pipe or other object. The jaws may be set
in seven different positions on many varieties of plumber's pumps.
Water-pump pliers come in various sizes, ranging from four to 16 inches in length, and the models in the middle of that range are the most generally useful. On all models, the handles are long in proportion to length of the tool, providing for maximum leverage. Water-pump pliers are made of steel, and the kind with handles sheathed in plastic are the most comfortable to use.
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