I recently noticed that Irwin has come out with a new line of pliers and cutters.
I was at a Lowes store, and at first I thought that they had incredibly good pricing on Irwin’s NWS-made pliers. Well, I was wrong. These were actually all-new pliers.
These new pliers look a lot like Irwin’s NWS-made pliers, but there are some significant differences. Most importantly, the new pliers are made in Taiwan. There was one style of NWS-made Irwin pliers remaining on the shelf, and they’re still made in Germany.
I’m a HUGE fan of NWS pliers, and of the tools born from Irwin’s collaboration with NWS to produce Irwin Vise-Grip-branded premium pliers and cutters.
Read more about my favored Irwin Vise-Grip (NWS-made) Max-Leverage cutters. And here’s a quick video:
Sorry, back to the point.
From what I can tell, this is a new line that will be sold alongside the NWS-made pliers. There’s no indication that the NWS-made Irwin Vise-Grip pliers, which I am a HUGE fan of, are being discontinued.
I do recall a few mentions of others finding the NWS-made pliers on clearance at some Lowes stores.
It makes sense to me that Irwin would want a less expensive line of pliers. After all, that’s probably what more shoppers are looking for. Does the average Lowes shopper want premium made-in-Germany pliers? Or do they want reasonable quality pliers that are less expensive, more affordable, and more competitive with the other options put in front of them.
Lowes and Irwin seem to have been exploring a deeper partnership lately, with these new pliers likely being a small part of that Irwin tool expansion. I have also seen new Irwin screwdrivers at Lowes, and they’re actually pretty enticing.
Irwin co-developed the handle styling of their NWS-made Vise-Grip pliers, which explains how or why they’re able to carry over similar styling to their new line of pliers.
I’m tempted to describe these new pliers as being NWS-styled, but it was never clear as to how much responsibility was shared between Irwin and NWS in designing Irwin’s handle grips. So I guess they’re Irwin/NWS partnership pliers-inspired designs?
Inspecting the different pliers from off the pegs, the sole NWS-made Irwin pliers and one of the new models, I could see some noticeable differences in the handle grips.
For one, while the handle quality is quite decent, it is clear that the NWS-made handle grips are better. There’s better alignment between the molded halves, and I found the NWS-made handle texture to feel better. Or, potentially better. It’s hard to talk about the “feel” of a tool without actually using it.
The handles have slightly different dimensions to them, and also slightly different handle shapes. The NWS pliers have greater curvature and look simpler in comparison, and are also a little bit wider.
Since Irwin co-developed the handles with NWS, it would be wrong to describe these new pliers as copies or look-alikes. But that’s how I’m leaning towards feeling.
They’re extremely similar pliers, with subtle differences. The handle color is the biggest indicator that these are different pliers. The NWS made-in-Germany pliers have black or dark grey-colored handle sides, the made-in-Taiwan versions are blue.
The curvature of the handles is the other standout indicator, but it requires closer examination and might not be consistent across both product lines.
I’ll need to find a way to do side-by-side comparisons to see how the tools differ apart from just the handles.
Generally, if I don’t know anything about a tool, I prefer made in Taiwan vs. made in China. Fortunately I don’t often have to solely rely on such basic and occasionally unfair assumptions. I own some fantastic tools that were made in Taiwan, and also some great ones made in China.
If I were shopping for new pliers, I would pay a lot of attention to Irwin’s new lineup.
From what I could tell just by handling them at the store, the quality seemed to be a good step above entry-level. The prices were a little higher than average when considering general consumer interest, but I think that they’ll appeal to anyone who wants a step above Stanley or Kobalt quality.
It seems that the NWS-made versions will continue to be sold online, and I did see the Max-Leverage high-power diagonal cutters still on the shelf at Lowes. The situation will be a lot clearer in 6 months or so.
If it turns out that Irwin is replacing their NWS-made pliers with these, I will surely be disappointed, and it might even hurt my feelings towards the company.
I’m left wondering what the full story is. Was Irwin unhappy with sales volumes of their premium quality and premium-priced pliers, leading them to adapt the handle design to a new line of pliers made in Asia instead of Europe? Is NWS in any way tied to these new pliers? Did Irwin carryover the handle design with their cooperation, or did it lead to feelings of betrayal?
Anyways, if you’re near a Lowes, check out these new pliers – I’d be interested to hear what you think about them.
If the prices were a little lower, I would have bought a couple on the spot. As it is, I’ll likely watch your feedback and requests closely, to see how much interest there is for hands-on reviews.
The ones on the shelf were $16 to $23 each. Most of the full-sized ones were $19 and up, with only a smaller cutting being $16.
That’s what I would consider USA-made pliers territory, close to what you’d find Channellock or Klein pliers selling for.
If there’s interest, I’ll buy a couple of these new Irwin Vise-Grip pliers, if only for review and comparison purposes. After that, maybe I’ll keep them in an auxiliary tool kit.
Update: All of the first 11 NWS-made pliers styles that Irwin launched are still available on Amazon, although some are lumped together as “options,” making it only look like there are fewer pliers styles now available.
Compare(NWS-Made Irwin Vise-Grip Pliers via Amazon)
Irwin’s parent company (Newell-Rubbermaid) has lots of experience with “value engineering” products – trimming a bit here and squeezing a bit there. Not to say that the new pliers are lacking in functionality or quality – but the move to Asian production over USA or Europe seems in keeping with what’s happening everywhere. Like you, I had welcomed the Irwin-NWS alliance, hoped it might be the start of a trend – but it did seem to be a bit extraordinary.
I do not want to be an alarmist, but if you like the NWS Irwin pliers I would suggest you buy them now. The history of this sort of product lineup change is not good.
These have been out for a while. Come to think of it, I haven’t been to a Lowes that stocked more than the NWS Fantastico pliers. All of the pliers were the lower quality versions. I know you like to keep things more objective and balanced; but seriously, the asian knockoffs they are selling are a waste of money; and not much cheaper than buying NWS pliers (sans IRWIN printed on them) from a dealer.
Has the trend of macro-sizing really taken over? Everything I’m working on it smaller and smaller, not larger and larger.
Not interested in garish, oversized handled, “premium style”. Maybe they are decent pliers, I don’t know. I couldn’t bring myself to buy the ugly NWS pliers, why should I buy these ugly, clunky things that don’t work in tight spaces.
If it ain’t Klein. It ain’t mine
i am afraid satch is dead on.
I’ll take asian made irwins over the southwire crap any day. But i preffer klien myself.
“Premium-styled made in Taiwan” sounds like a 4 cylinder engine with a V8 bark played back through the speakers.
A tool can either be premium or not premium, same way a woman can’t be pregnant “just a bit”.
Why would you want an inelegant V8 when you can get a highly refined V12?
Yeah, this what Irwin did with Vise-Grip Locking Pliers – “innovate” and make a similar version of the original in another country with lower wages and cheaper manufacturing costs. They are pros at that for sure.
I’m guessing the NWS versions will be gone soon, and the similar looking Taiwan-made versions will be there to take their place, with the similar cosmetics making it so most people don’t notice the COO change, not that they would anyway.
Really sucks the way Newell-Rubbermaid does business and what they’ve been allowed to do with the Vise-Grip brand. It’s good they were able to bring NWS pliers to the big box stores, but whatever they touch seems to end in them making a cheaper product for more profit.
I would rather Vise-Grip return to US production in Dewill, Nebraska, and Newell-Rubbermaid can keep their Irwin brand on the pliers or whatever else. Sucks there is no mechanism to force big corporations to spit out the better, smaller companies they’ve swallowed up.
My Lowe’s stores in the area have carried both Irwin NWS and the new Irwins for probably six months, I don’t think they are discontinuing the NWS versions…BUT they seem to be testing the market. Our stores started with the 45 degree angled linesmen then added the cutters, on an endcap. Later they added the 45 degree angled needlenose on an aisle display hidden near the tool boxes. I like the NWS stuff a lot, I need to pick up the 45 degree needlenose. I use my 45 degree linesmen (NWS branded) all the time.
Although you cannot do a side by side comparison, as Lowes doesn’t sell Klein, inspect Irwin’s long nosed and diagonal cutter pliers. They appear near influenced by the competing Klein models. I noticed this months ago and have been using the Taiwan tools without complaint since.
Who gives a sh__ where they’re made. They ain’t made in America. I know it’s not up to Irwin where they have their tools made. But even worse is the price tag for these tools. They’re not as bad as Klein’s overpriced tools. But if they’re made in Taiwan with inferior quality as opposed to NWS, which makes good tools,then the price should drop significantly. Why the hell did they do this in the first place? Why couldn’t they just continue to let nws make their stuff. I would be weary of any tools from Irwin. Especially if they are pulling shenanigans like this.
oh i protest. it most certainly is irwin’s decision on who makes or where their product is made.
The gripe with where they are made isn’t just about wanting a US made tool, it’s partly because Vise-Grips were originally made in the USA, and the US-made products were far superior in strength and quality to their overseas counterparts – but it is also the price, paying MORE for a sub-par quality tool than the original, better quality USA-made tool sold for. Same goes for Sears with Craftsman – it’s not JUST that the US-made tools were better quality, it’s that the China-made tools are lower quality AND being sold for the same price as the US-made tools were!
And yeah, it IS Irwin’s decision on where the tools are made. They put out statements like “we have to produce overseas to remain competitive”, but that’s obvious BS. Irwin could have kept the Dewitt facility going and just raised the retail prices a bit to cover costs. The real problem is GREED. Newell-Rubbermaid just wants more, more, and MORE money, and to do that, they cut costs to maximize profit, above all else.
I had noticed a while ago that my local Lowe’s did not sell the NWS German made version. Then they started carrying them, or a limited selection the same time the Lowe’s website stopped showing many of the German made pliers. If the website stops showing products that means Lowe’s will no longer be carrying them. I just looked and very few of the original lineup of German made pliers is still on there.
These fantastic NWS German made pliers are being phased out by Lowe’s. So pick them up while you can. I now have the full set and they are fantastic.
This is also typical Lowe’s in that they never market their premium products or tout how great this products is over competitors.
Replaced a 20+ year old worn out pair of Klein lineman’s pliers with a pair from Knipex recently. The Klein’s were good but not a match for these new Knipex pliers. Looks like the NWS line from Irwin might be going away in favor of the stuff from Taiwan (cost cutting?). Lately Germany has been getting hammered from all angles and now this. Interesting.
Knipex makes great tools but the prices are a little hard to swallow for non-professional use. On the other hand Irwin is not much better than any other Chinese brand.
I try to find middle level quality and price but it’s not always easy. It seems like the options are mostly expensive pro tools made in Japan/USA/Germany or cheap chinese crap.
Gentlemen if you will take time to look all Irwin hand tools come with a life time
guarantee. look on line under specifications . thank you , granted they are not
USA still better than some of the other brands offered.
hmm……. odd comments.
are they better than some? sure i suppose they are better than some but the point is this.
my contact at irwin sent me some of the newer imported vise grips to use along side of my older us made ones. without a doubt in my mind after a year or so of use, they are inferior to the old ones. they are also more expensive than they used to be. sometimes ace will have them as a loss leader but by and large they are more expensive than the older counterparts.
i buy tools that have proven to be a good value no matter where they come from. i prefer u.s. but it is not the final decision. even so, i refuse to buy imported vise grips.
Me too. I have bought a new pair of Irwin imported duck bill vice grips, and when compared to the U.S. made tool, they are inferior in quality standards. After about a month of regular use on a body shop, the jaws don’t line up when closed. The others in my drawer are old, and still work like new, and they have been used regularly.
I have since tried to contact them, but they dont respond. So I now look closely when buying them. You can still find the Made in U.S. stamped on the bottom clamping arm, but they are hard to find.
I am extremely upset that Vice Grips sold out to Irwin, and even more upset that Irwin is selling out to lower quality, made in Taiwan JUNK and selling at a high price point.
They made these new pliers to look identical to the old (unless you’re carefully comparing them), dropped the price a little to make the customer happier and increased their margins in the process. There is no chance they will continue to sell the NWS versions.
Look for the NWS made Irwins to go on clearance at Lowe’s soon. I picked up several pairs of Irwin Fantasticos some months ago for $10 each but have never seen the linesman or ergo pliers at anything other than retail price. I think that’s going to change…same as they did with their Knipex line. Sad, but inevitable.
Well looks like IRWIN and the other tools group Newell owns are getting sold, just saw it pop up on my Yahoo feed.
I agree with anyone that implied that the NWS versions will not have shelf space much longer.
Lowe’s has recently started selling the new Ideal line ,made by Western Forge in Colorado who they recently acquired. I own a set and they are great. Best I’ve owned.
* I have a few fat-handled tools but I like my plain dipped Klein/Knipex/Channellock handles best.
* Maybe this is NWS’ entry into Taiwanese-produced tools? I always wondered if there was more to the Irwin-branded NWS tools story.
* Stuey, please do consider using new tools first then review them for us.
I didn’t buy them on the spot, and on a second visit to Lowes, I had one in my hand and put it back on the shelf.
I might buy a pair or two on my next visit to Lowes, but I don’t see a lot of appeal in these new pliers. If there’s a lot of interest, I’ll plunk down the cash. But otherwise, I’d rather spend the money elsewhere.
If you look closely at the two side by side, you will see a lot of the differences. For one, the Taiwan made have the same color throughout the handle, and the NWS made have two different colors. The black on the NWS is a different type of rubberized plastic. This gives not only better grip, but also less fatigue when used a long time or repetitively. There was also mention of the tooling/molding lines not being close to one another. This is from lack of quality control at the factory. When the molds go together, they are not properly aligned, poor quality. Not a huge deal, but as time goes by, there will be dirt and oil etc. collecting in those corners, where as on the NWS, it will barely stick in there, and if it does, will be easier to clean out. This helps your tools last longer, and look better as well. As I said before, the monotone blue handles won’t feel, grip or last as long as the blue and black handles.
If you look at the metal in comparison, the NWS have a cleaner look, not only in the color, strength and purity of the metal, but also along the edges. The edges of the Taiwan made tool are rough and ugly. Again, this collects dirt and debris, looks crappy all the time, and can scratch something that you are working on if you accidentally pull the tool across a finish. The smoother, more pure metal on the NWS tool is a lot better, hands down.
Don’t get me wrong, I have seen some decent tools come out of Taiwan, but I will not pay a premium for them, and it looks poorly on a brand when they put their name on them like this, instead of calling it something different. SnapOn has their lower cost Taiwan made tools, but they don’t stamp their name on it, they call it Blue(something stupid).
It looks even worse when the main company does not put high Quality Control Standards and Measures in place when they do put their name on the brand.
Take for example Red Wing boots. There are a few of their boots or boot materials that are not made in the U.S. However, they do have high QCSM in place, and the materials or products that are sold with their name on them are still high quality.
Can anyone confirm are these from NWS?