I recently updated my post about European hand tool brands, and a question popped up – who makes the best pliers, Knipex or NWS?
This is a tough one. I think that I still lean towards NWS for general purpose pliers, but I also own and continue to buy Knipex pliers when new needs or wants arise.
The fact of the matter is that you cannot go wrong with either brand. I also own plenty of recommendable pliers from other brands as well.
I’d say that Knipex vs. NWS is akin to a Coke vs. Pepsi type of debate, or Dewalt vs. Milwaukee, but we all know which brands would win there.
I don’t like improvising with pliers, similar to how I seek to always have the correct screwdriver size or style for a task. Because of this, I’ve expanded my pliers set over the years, and I’m probably not done yet.
In this post are a couple of comparison images, with Knipex on the left, and NWS on the right. These are taken from my office tool kit, where I keep a couple of essential tools, as well as personal favorites that I always need to be able to find quickly.
General Purpose Pliers
I like the NWS pliers so much, I have a couple of duplicates to ensure I have common pliers sizes in different kits and locations.
For “I don’t want to have to think about it” pliers, I’d go with Knipex. Knipex sometimes wins out on value as well, given their availability and sales volume in the USA today.
But I tend to like the feel of NWS a bit more, at least when it comes to smaller pliers styles. I don’t own a lot of larger NWS pliers, simply because I already have those sizes and styles covered by Knipex and other brands.
In other words, there’s not enough benefit for me to buy NWS duplicates for certain general purpose pliers styles and sizes. That’s why I have larger long-nose pliers from Knipex and shorter pliers from NWS in my drawer. There wouldn’t be much benefit in replacing those Knipex pliers.
Would I buy the NWS of those 8″ pliers today? Maybe. Would I buy the Knipex version of those ~7″ NWS “chain nose” pliers? Probably not, especially since the Knipex looks to cost a couple of dollars more.
Mini and Precision Pliers
For precision pliers, I bought myself a set of NWS tools back during a Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale. But I also have Knipex tools in certain sizes.
To be fair, I bought this Knipex for ~75% off, but I do like it. Between the two brands, the Knipex are mini pliers, but the NWS have more “precision pliers” features, such as the spring-action opening.
These NWS have ESD-safe handle grips. Knipex also offers similar, but at much higher pricing. To be fair, I only have one or two true precision pliers from Knipex, due to their super-premium pricing, and so my experiences are a bit skewed.
For example, NWS 4.75″ chain nose pliers retail for ~$27. Knipex’s retails for $38 (non-ESD) or $41+ for the ESD version.
Specialty Pliers and Cutters
Things get messier when comparing specialty pliers.
I own Knipex Pliers Wrenches, Cobra adjustable pliers, and snap ring pliers. NWS has ergonomic right angle pliers, Fantastico compound leverage wire cutters, and a convenient lanyard tether design built into their full-size pliers handles.
Knipex is also well-known for their CoBolt hard wire cutters.
Both brands have specialty tools that stand out in among many other competing brands as well.
All this is to say that, in my experiences thus far, you can’t go wrong with either brand. I haven’t dealt with either brand’s customer service yet.
For Knipex, I like their dipped grips, and they also have a special type of textured dip grip. Their comfort-style handle grips are also very good.
For NWS, most of my tools feature their comfort-style grips, but their dipped grips are also good. I have not had any issues with their chrome plating, but I’ve heard of the chrome chipping off of cutting surfaces. Most of my NWS pliers have their “Titan Finish” treatment, which is a black PTFE (Teflon) coating.
I can’t say one brand is better than the other, and my preferences or favoritism tend to change depending on the tools I’ve been working with.
I tend to use NWS pliers more when it comes to general purpose and precision pliers, simply because I have purchased a broader range of NWS sizes and styles over the years. I tend to use Knipex adjustable pliers (Pliers Wrench, Cobra) exclusively.
If I had to replace all of my pliers today, and I could only look at these two brands, my new kit would likely be 60% NWS and 40% Knipex based on tool count, but my usage frequency would likely be 50:50.
Maybe things will change by the next time I try to compare the two brands against each other again. But for now, while I have my preferences and have made clear purchase decisions on a tool by tool basis, I’d be hard pressed to recommend either brand over the other.
You can’t go wrong with either brand.
Most if not all Felo pliers are rebranded NWS tools. Sometimes a certain style is more affordable with Felo branding than NWS.
This isn’t the first time I’ve tried to tackle the Knipex vs. NWS question and it won’t be the last.