Workman or electrician repairing an electrical cable with a pair of pliers to restore supply to the house, close up view of his hands in blue overalls on grey with copyspace

Definition of pliers

 a small pincers for holding small objects or for bending and cutting wire.

Workman or electrician repairing an electrical cable with a pair of pliers to restore supply to the house, close up view of his hands in blue overalls on grey with copyspace

Pliers are a multi-purpose hand tool with opposing jaws for gripping, bending and cutting. The two cross metal limbs provide tough leverage for multiplying the strength of the user’s hand. Pliers are an essential part of every toolbox, as they have multiple uses about the home. While you can usually get by with an all-purpose pliers, there are other varieties of the tool that cater to a specific task. Choosing the right pliers for the right job will improve efficiency and safety.


The primary use of pliers is for gripping. You can put them to work at loosening or tightening bolts, holding objects for stabilization, or removing pins, nails or other fasteners. Standard utility pliers, formally called slip-joint pliers, have relatively flat jaws with teeth for gripping small objects, plus a round, toothed opening for gripping larger items, such as bolt heads and nuts. Many also have a small scissor like section for cutting wire. Tongue-and-groove pliers work on a similar principle as utility pliers but have long handles and offset, or angled, jaws for greater leverage. The jaws are highly adjustable and can open wide for gripping pipes and large nuts.


Pliers can also be used for bending or straightening. The cross braces of the pliers allow for superior torque power to bend and twist objects such as sheet metal, nails and wires. All pliers can help at bending things, so the kind you choose will depend largely upon the specific object you need to bend. Long-nosed or needle-nose pliers help you to grip small objects that may be difficult to reach. Linesman pliers are commonly used by electricians for bending wire and cable.


Some pliers are also able to cut wire and nails. Diagonal-cutting and side-cutting pliers, commonly referred to as wire cutters, are primarily designed for clipping and severing wires. In most cases, their jaw structure makes wire cutters less suitable for gripping large objects such as bolts. However, because they are effective at gripping and removing nails, they are still considered pliers.

Splicing Wires/Stripping Insulation

Electricians use a variety of special pliers for splicing wires and stripping insulation. For this task, linesman pliers are the popular choice. With the wire cutting feature, you can cut through an electrical cable’s insulation and strip off a short segment to expose the bare wire within. If you do the same to another electrical cable, you can then use the pliers to help attach or splice the two wires together.

Woodworkers, cabinetmakers, shopkeepers, builders, electricians and construction workers often refer to edge cutters. They’re typically asking for a tool with two knife-like edges at the ends, joined by an axle. With two handles to provide leverage, the cutting edges pinch together to cut wires, plastic, wood, nails, staples or just about anything else you can imagine.

Diagonal Pliers

Diagonal pliers and scissors are among the most well-known edge cutting tools. Because of the position of their jaws, they’re sometimes referred to as “edge-cutters” or “side-cutters.” With steep, angled jaws that resist damage, diagonal pliers cut through wires, staples, nails and other materials with relative ease. Diagonal pliers have jaws that meet each other directly to form the cutting edge — as opposed to snips or scissors that have jaws that pass each other. Diagonal plier jaws curve, and are also used for prying.

Linesman’s Pliers

Linesman’s pliers are heavy-duty cutting tools. These side-cutting tools have a flat, crinkled end on the jaws that allow you to use them as standard pliers to grip, twist and pull. The cutting edges are just like diagonal pliers, but smaller. The handles allow you to apply more force than diagonal pliers deliver.

End Cutters

End cutters are similar to diagonal pliers with the steep, shallow cutting edge that can take punishment. Diagonal pliers cut from the side, but the jaws of end-cutters come together at the tip of the tool. The jaws of end cutters are perpendicular to the length, as opposed to the jaws of diagonal pliers that are parallel with the length. End cutters are handy for fence-building, and cutting through heavier strands of wire that diagonal cutters can’t handle.

Electrician’s Pliers

Wire strippers, or electrician’s pliers, are edge cutters. With razor sharp edges that meet in the middle like diagonal pliers, they cut wires more precisely than other types of cutters. The cutting edges are delicate, and you shouldn’t use wire stripping cutters to cut staples or nails because of possible damage to the sharp jaws. Additionally, electrician’s pliers have an assortment of crescent-shaped cutters for cutting insulation from wires without damaging the core of the wire.

Slip-Joint Pliers

Almost everyone has a pair of all-purpose, slip-joint pliers around the house, and most of them come equipped with cutting edges. The two, block-like edges located just under the jaws serve as cutters, mostly reserved for wires, staples and nails. Needle-nose, long-nose, long-reach, flat nose and insulated pliers typically also have side-cutters just below the jaws.


Snips come in different sizes and shapes for various materials and tasks. The handles resemble scissors with finger and thumb holes, or have handles similar to pliers. Some models cut straight lines, others are reserved for curves. Left-cutter snips cut straight lines and curves to the left. Right-cut snips cut straight lines and curves to the right. Universal snips cut straight lines and curves in both directions. Offset snips come in any variety. The handle of the offset snip tilts upward to keep your fingers above the material to keep them safe. Snips, depending on their design, cut leather, tin, plastics, thicker fabrics or other mediums.

Scissors and Shears

Scissors and shears are used interchangeably as edge-cutting tools, and perform similar tasks. The difference is size and design. Scissors are typically smaller in length, with more customized finger holes than shears. Shears are typically longer, with bigger handles and thicker blades. Scissors and shears share two types of blades. Convex blades are rounded to cut smooth and delicately. Bevel-edge blades have a square edge, are less delicate and can be used with more force.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *