Shopping for high-quality pliers may seem like a simple task. If you’re an experienced electrician, you probably already have your go-to favorites. However, if you’re just starting out in the industry or need more than just a fancy app, we can assist you. In this article, we will not only cover individual pliers but also recommend the best plier sets to help you excel in your work. Whether you’re a beginner or replacing some commonly misplaced tools, these tips will prove invaluable.
Our recommendations are not arbitrary but based on extensive hands-on testing and real-world use. We even consulted professional tradesmen who provided us with additional insights and feedback. However, it’s important to note that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to pliers. With so many options available, it’s essential to find the right model that suits your specific needs and applications.
Best Wire Strippers
Klein Kurve Heavy Duty Wire Strippers
We have tested numerous wire strippers, and the Klein Kurve Dual NM Wire Strippers consistently rank high. They are ergonomic, fast, and versatile. However, when Klein introduced their heavy-duty model, we were blown away. The Klein Kurve Heavy Duty Wire Stripper takes things to a whole new level. Once we started using them, they quickly became our top pick for wire strippers. Not only can they handle heavier wire gauges than previous models, but the knurled jaws also allow for easy grabbing and twisting of wires. It’s like a combination of lineman pliers and a Klein Kurve stripper.
These pliers, made in the USA, possess all the great features of the first-generation Kurves, but with added upgrades. If you haven’t tried them yet, we highly recommend giving them a go. These pliers retail for around $35, and we guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Other wire strippers that we also highly recommend include:
- Southwire 8-16AWG Solid Forged Wire Strippers – priced at $32
- Milwaukee Combo Wire Cutters – priced at $27.50
Klein Apprentice Tool Set of 6
Believe it or not, there aren’t many plier sets available on the market. In most cases, these tools can only be purchased individually. However, there are a few options out there, and after extensive research, we have found the Klein 6-Piece Apprentice Tool Set to be the best plier set currently available. This set includes 9-inch high-leverage lineman’s pliers, angled-tip diagonal pliers, 8-inch long needle-nose pliers, and a basic compact wire stripper. Additionally, you get a couple of screwdrivers with cushioned handles in the combo, just in case. Although these tools may not be our absolute favorites individually, when combined, they create a highly effective toolset.
The pliers and cutters in this set have induction-hardened knives on their blades, ensuring durability and longevity. Furthermore, every tool in this kit is made in the USA, adding to its credibility. The Klein 6-Piece Apprentice Tool Set retails for about $97, making it a worthwhile investment for any apprentice looking for reliable, long-lasting tools.
Another honorable mention in this category includes:
- Klein 1000V Insulated Tool Kit, Set of 5 (94130) – priced at $100
Best Lineman’s Pliers
Crescent 9-1/2″ Z2 Dual Material Lineman’s Pliers (Z20509CG)
Now, we understand that many people swear by Klein Tools for their lineman’s pliers. However, we wanted to explore other options, which led us to the Crescent 9-1/2″ Z2 Dual Material Lineman’s Pliers. These pliers offer a smooth opening and closing action, along with an integrated crimper and fish tape puller. We particularly appreciate their one-handed operation, allowing for effortless use. The crosshatched heads ensure a secure grip on the material.
Although we award our Best Lineman’s Pliers accolade to Crescent, we must stress that Klein and other brands also produce excellent products. In fact, we use several of them and believe you can’t really go wrong with any reputable brand. The Crescent 9-1/2″ Z2 Dual Material Lineman’s Pliers are available for a modest price of $25.
Other notable options for lineman’s pliers include:
- Irwin High Leverage Lineman’s Pliers (1902415) – priced at $36
- Klein Tools Lineman’s Pliers (D213-8NE) – priced at $33.49
- SATA Insulator Pliers (ST70333ST) – priced at $17
Best Needle Nose Pliers (aka Long Nose Pliers)
Knipex Long (Needle) Needle Nose Pliers
When it comes to needle nose pliers, simplicity is key. Manufacturers often overthink the design, but what truly matters is access. You don’t need to spend a fortune to find a good pair of needle nose pliers. The Knipex Long (Needle) Needle Nose Pliers are a perfect fit for our needs. Priced at $36, they offer excellent value for money and are built to last a lifetime.
Best Snap Ring Pliers
Sunex 4-Piece Snap Ring Pliers Set (3614V)
If you require snap ring pliers, getting a set is your best bet. Our top pick for the best snap ring pliers set is the Sunex 4-Piece Snap Ring Pliers Set (3614V). This comprehensive set includes four 7″ snap ring pliers, encompassing both internal curved and straight nose pliers, as well as external curved and straight nose pliers. Additionally, these pliers come with a lifetime warranty, providing further peace of mind. With self-opening spring handles for easy one-handed use, this set retails for under $45.
Best Insulating Pliers
Klein Tools 5-Piece 1000V Insulated Tool Set (94130)
Choosing the best insulating pliers can be a daunting task due to the wide array of options available. Trust becomes paramount, as you want to ensure the brand, warranty, and certifications are reliable. With that said, we strongly advise against opting for cheap or knock-off brands when it comes to insulated tools. While it’s true that you can spend a small fortune on insulated hand tools, shopping around can help you find the right balance. For our top pick, we recommend the Klein Tools 5-Piece 1000V Insulated Tool Set.
This set provides you with the essentials, including a side cutter, diagonal cutter, wire strippers, and two screwdrivers. Priced at less than $100, this set offers great value for a high-quality product. Each tool is made in the USA and meets or exceeds ASTM F1505 and IEC 60900 standards for insulated tools.
Other notable options in the insulated pliers category include:
- WIHA Insulated Industrial Pliers/Cutter and Screwdriver Set (32985W) – priced at $116
- SATA 3-Pack VDE Insulated Pliers Set (ST09261SJ) – priced at $42
- Knipex 7-Piece 1000V Insulated Commercial Tool Set (989825US) – priced at $182
Best Locking Pliers
Milwaukee 10″ Torque Lock Curved Jaw Pliers
When it comes to locking pliers, Milwaukee Tool takes the crown. Their 10″ Torque Lock Curved Jaw Pliers are simply unmatched. We particularly appreciate their smooth opening and closing action, along with the ability to easily grip and manipulate materials with precision. These pliers offer incredible convenience, thanks to their instant release feature. Even compared to other top contenders like the Irwin Vice Grips, the Milwaukee Torque Lock pliers surpass expectations. At just $16, these pliers offer tremendous value for money.
Another notable option worth considering is:
- Irwin 2-Pack Quick Release 10CR Locking Pliers (11T) – priced at $35
Best Hose Clamps
ARES 78005 Hose Clamp
There’s no denying that you need a variety of hose clamps to cover different scenarios. However, the best hose clamp we’ve come across is the ARES 71100 Flexible Hose Clamp. These clamps excel at removing spring clips in tight or awkward spaces, making them a must-have tool. We appreciate the rubberized handle and the automatic locking mechanism, which keeps the clip open until you’re ready to release it back onto the hose. While it’s recommended to have straight hose clamps as well, if you only own one pair, the ARES 78005 Hose Clamp will cover a wide range of hose sizes from 18-54mm. This clamp set retails for approximately $35 online.
Best Long Nose Pliers
Channellock 317 8″ Long Nose Pliers
The best long nose pliers don’t have to break the bank. These tools allow you to reach into tight areas while still providing a secure grip. Unlike needle-nose pliers, which lack sufficient gripping power, a good pair of long-nose pliers offers the perfect balance between reach and grip. Our top pick is the Channellock 317 8″ Long Nose Pliers. These pliers have a narrow profile and provide exceptional reach for various applications. They are also made in the USA and priced at around $25.
If you prefer long nose pliers with a spring mechanism, we recommend:
- Klein 7″ Long Nose Cutter with Spring (D203-7C) – priced at $25
Best Slip Joint Pliers
Klein Slip Joint Pliers
The best slip joint pliers will have a unique bottom handle design to prevent slipping and improve ergonomics. We particularly prefer pliers with dipped handles for a quick grip in tight spaces. The Klein 8-Inch Slip Joint Pliers are available in three sizes and can even be purchased with an integrated hose clamp feature. Whether you opt for the 6, 8, or 10-inch pliers, prices range from $16 to $25.
Another noteworthy option worth considering is:
- SK Tools Model SKT-7208 8 Inch Combination Slip Joint Pliers – priced at $22.31
Best “Channel Locker”
Irwin Groovelock Pliers
While many people believe that Channellock manufactures the best “Channel Locker” (groove joint pliers), we wanted to explore other options. After careful research, we discovered that the Irwin Groovelock Pliers excel in terms of ease of use. These pliers feature a center button that allows for effortless opening and closing. Additionally, they offer more adjustment points compared to standard groove joint pliers, making them highly versatile. The one-handed adjustment feature is particularly ingenious. You can purchase a set of three common sizes for approximately $50.
Another notable option in this category is:
- Knipex Cobra Pliers — priced at $121
Wait a Minute… What About the Best Actual Channellocks?
Channellock 4pc Pro Select Pack
We understand that some people believe Genuine Channellock pliers are simply the best. To cater to these preferences, we recommend the Channellock 4pc Pro Select Pack. This set includes four Tongue and Groove Channellock Pliers in sizes 4.5, 6.5, 12, and 16 inches. Each pair is designed for heavy-duty use and is made in the USA. This comprehensive set retails for approximately $77 and is an essential addition to any toolbox.
Best Diagonal Pliers
Southwire 8″ High Leverage Diagonal Pliers
Our team relies on diagonal pliers extensively. We can confidently say that the Southwire 8″ High Leverage Diagonal Pliers are the best in their category. These pliers offer the strength of larger tools, exceptional durability, and a comfortable grip. With high-leverage design and precise cutting blades, they effortlessly tackle tasks like cutting Romex, copper wire, tape, and steel cable. For tougher applications, we even used them to cut a braided guide wire by snipping each thread individually. These pliers excel in cutting MC cable, Romex, and up to #6 wire. Available at a price range of $18-35, they are an excellent investment that will not disappoint.
How We Test
At our company, we take pride in our rigorous testing process to ensure we provide accurate and reliable recommendations. Our team consists of professionals, including electricians, plumbers, contractors, auto mechanics, and handymen. With their real-world expertise, we conduct extensive hands-on testing of each tool, cutting through various materials, stripping wires, and evaluating their performance in different scenarios. Our goal is to determine whether a tool lives up to its claims or if it’s just another marketing gimmick.
When evaluating pliers, we pay attention to the handle material and grip, ensuring they are comfortable to hold and provide a secure grip even when covered in oil or grease. We also consider the type and quality of steel used, giving preference to American-made tools and steel due to their consistency and reliability.
For pliers with cutting edges, we examine the quality of the induction-hardened blades and their ability to cut through different materials without leaving nicks. Leverage and jaw opening are also essential factors we consider, ensuring that pliers provide maximum opening width and leverage without requiring huge hands.
Other aspects we evaluate include the feature set of the pliers, such as the ability to cut, peel, shear, pull, and crimp. We also consider unique features, adjustability, locking mechanisms, insulation (if applicable), and any additional certifications or warranties provided by the manufacturer.
Lastly, we consider the overall value of the pliers, taking into account factors like price, performance, functionality, ergonomics, and warranty. Our recommendations are based on objective assessments and extensive real-world professional experience.
When it comes to pliers and plier sets, it’s essential to choose high-quality tools that have been thoroughly tested and proven reliable. Our recommendations cover a wide range of pliers, each excelling in its respective category. Whether you’re an experienced professional or just starting out in the industry, investing in the right pliers will significantly enhance your productivity and efficiency. Take the time to choose the best pliers for your specific needs and enjoy the benefits they bring to your work.