Shortly after Klein came out with hybrid-style pliers a couple of years ago, a media kit arrived on my doorstep, bundled with their hybrid-style pliers, and a similarly styled multi-tool.
I have been a little conflicted about the tools, as neither tools really align with my electrical tool needs or preferences. I kept putting things off my testing and review, because of my ambiguous feelings about the tools, and here we are, four years later.
Klein pliers are wire strippers are excellent. I own quite a few Klein tools, and greatly value their functionality and quality.
The Klein hybrid tool, J215-8CR, features a wide and aggressively toothed gripping tip, wire stripping holes (10-14 AWG solid, 12-16 AWG stranded), wire cutter, machine screw shears, and non-insulated crimping jaws.
This is from Klein’s Journeyman tool collection, featuring a high-leverage design and dual-material handle grips.
Klein describes this as a multi-purpose tool that saves users time and lessens their tool count.
This is intended as an all-in-one solution for wiring professionals.
Klein had previously launched heavy duty wire strippers, and these were similar in functionality. I wanted to understand the nuances, but never quite got to the bottom of it.
I bought a Klein heavy duty wire stripper ($35 at Amazon) that has a wide gripping zone, more wire stripping holes, a large wire cutter, machine screw shears, a crimper (with a different anvil shape), and “Klein Kurve” handle.
Klein says that the Journeyman tool can cut screws, nails, and most hardened wire. Perhaps this is the differentiating factor, aside from the different handle style.
I typically avoid cutting nails and hardened wire with electrical cutters or combination tools, mostly because I can never remember which are suited for it. Cutting hardened wire with cutters designed strictly for copper and soft wire is not advised, as you’ll usually damage the tool by denting, chipping, or dulling the cutting edges.
The difficulty is that I’m sure this is a great tool, but it’s one I personally don’t have organic use for. And when I do have a wiring project come up, I tend to gravitate towards personal favorites, which includes Klein’s heavy duty strippers.
I kept thinking I’ll get to it, but here we are four years later. There are reasons why I did not pass these along to a local electrician for testing and feedback, but I won’t get into that right now.
I also received Klein’s electrician’s hybrid pliers multi-tool, model 44216.
The multi-tool comes with a similar hybrid pliers head, with gripping jaws, wire stripping holes, and a wire cutter.
And, it also features a 3-inch drop point knife blade, Phillips no. 2 screwdriver, and a slotted screwdriver. There are also slide-out tweezers (shown in the topmost photo) for metal splinter removal.
The tweezers can be hard to remove, and as far as I am aware, they’re not replaceable.
The multi-tool has some good things going for it, such as the full-size Phillips screwdriver, but I never reached for it either; I left both tools in the media kit box, right near my wiring supplies.
At the time of this posting, the multi-tool is no longer available.
I would say that I’m not a fan of wire strippers centered around residential wire gauges, as I tend to work with thinner wire gauges much more frequently, and thicker wires on occasion. But, I own a Klein NM cable stripper ($27 at Amazon) and it quickly became a permanent part of my kit.
I don’t remember what I had against this style of tool to avoid it for so long, but I also know I still wouldn’t reach for either of them today. I suppose these tools are simply incompatible with my personal preferences and the types of wiring tasks I come across.
But if I use Klein heavy duty wire strippers, which aren’t so different in function, shouldn’t I find just as much utility with the Journeyman tool?
So here’s what I want to know – what appeals to you about these tools? I cannot shake the feeling that I’m wrong about the style being redundant.
The multi-tool never gained traction, which is presumably why it was discontinued.
But the Journeyman pliers? Maybe its main point is to provide a lineman’s pliers-type form factor with wire stripper functionality. Or maybe they’re heavy duty wire strippers with a lineman’s pliers-style form factor.
If you’ve tried these, what do you think about them? If you’d like to try them, chime in by 11:59pm ET 4/25/22.
The Journeyman pliers are made in the USA.
It doesn’t matter who makes them, I am not a multi-tool (“leatherman”) guy. That said, the hybrid tool here looks like the 6/7 in one milwaukee electrician pliers and those I use often. But I work in IT and low voltage so more often I need much smaller strippers and an actual snippers.
I am all kinds of insanely salty that you managed to get ahold of the folding multitool. I only found out about it after they were discontinued and it seems that everybody who got one doesn’t want to give them up. I’m bummed af.
I actually got rid of my hybrid pliers, but I did use them for a brief while. I think they’re perfectly functional within their bounds. I was able to strip, cut, crimp, grab, etc to perfection with them.
The problem is that I deal with far more than three wire gauges on a daily basis, and for me, the K12065CR fits the bill perfectly. I don’t think I go a day without using it.
But this is why I liked that folding multitool: sometimes you need a tool but you left the correct tool on the other side of the warehouse roof. My Leatherman is *okay* but that multitool would have been perfect.
The hybrid pliers would be great- I was just looking at something very similar for roughing in electrical. I didn’t need a lot, and realized that something just like that would suit me very well. It’s nice it can cut some hardened things as well! Definitely seems like a good complement to linesman pliers. I’d like to try those out, since they address a need I have.
These seem interesting. They remind me a bit of some of the new electrician’s pliers that Knipex has now–sort of a high quality all-in-one tool.
It’s nice to see alternatives to these pieces of junk:
I think I’d rather have the Knipex but Klein deserves credit for the agressive serrations in their design.
My electrician friend bought the hybrid pliers. I wanted a pair too – but he talked me out of them.
I end up doing quite a bit of residential electrical work and I thought this would cut down on the number of tools I need to pack for simple jobs like swapping outlets, switches and fixtures. My buddy claims his just don’t strip well and the tips aren’t precise enough for lots of tasks.
On the other hand, I’ve seen him using his linesman’s as a hammer, so I’m not sure how seriously to take his opinion. 😛
Then I was going to get the Channellock combos – but Stuart seemed underwhelmed. Now I have no combo pliers and that seems like the worst outcome of all. 😄
Every tool is a hammer…
The hybrid pliers have a very specific solution set for which they excel: roughing in and finish residential electrical. I’ve completely done whole houses with my team using pretty much only the hybrids.
What they don’t do well is replace lineman’s… they don’t get the leverage because the tips are too far from the joint, but if you’re doing residential, you don’t really need lineman’s, you’re just using them because it’s what you have. Also… the tips are like lineman’s, they don’t touch on purpose. So there’s not supposed to be precision there. I get real tired of reading reviews on shopping sites by people who complain how poorly made pliers are when the ends don’t meet and they can’t use them to pluck their eyebrows. Another good one is how combination pliers jaws are “misshapen” because they aren’t mirror images like linesman’s.
Anyhow, almost all residential from the panel to outlets is going to be 10, 12 and (keep in mind that outlet != receptacle), so that’s all the stripper you want. The pliers ends have enough leverage to twist a bunch of grounds together, and the crimper is perfect for a copper ground connector.
If the house is all NM-B, many just use a knife or NM ripper. But then my load out is different to include a Klein Kurve NM stripper and the Southwire BoxJaw. I usually don’t need the machine screw shear function until finish work, where I carry two drivers, one with PH2 bits and another with an adapter and a deep socket to drive hex head wire nuts.
So I do find the hybrids useful for some situations and it can let me carry a smaller tool pouch for some jobs. It’s good to have a good selection of arrows in your quiver. Just like I have multiple snowboards for different terrain, weather, and type of riding.
Electricians are very picky about the tools they carry and use. Many electrical tools are specific, one-use items but still find their way into a tool pouch. If used often enough, nothing can substitute for this type of gear. A four-way Buchanan crimper is a good example.
Specific purpose tools are like medical specialists who are experts in a narrow field of study. They essentially know everything about nothing. Multi-purpose tools are like a medical general practitioners who have a broad but limited knowledge of many things. They know nothing about everything.
The multi-tool pliers described are the 10 in 1 screwdrivers of the pliers world. They work, and will suffice for a casual user, lightweight kit, emergency duty, or DIYer. They are no substitute for the two tool team of a “real” lineman pliers and dedicated stripper.
Jack of all trades, master of none! Unless you find yourself on a desert island and this is your only option, I can’t imagine using it.
Performance Tool® 13-in-1 Electrician Multi-Tool (occasional use only)
Amazonbasics also makes a clone of that tool – or more likely, buys them from the same factory.
I’m about to inspect/redo/replace a bunch of switches and outlets after finding unconnected wires in a box from the previous owner. It would be interesting to see how well this would work to minimize tool switching during the process. I’m an advanced homeowner, not an electrician, so my usage/familiarity with using existing tools is periodic, not daily, which probably would affect my take on them.
In my opinion the one big factor holding back the Klein Hybrid pliers here is the tips. The tool would be much better if they were needle nose. Then you could reach in and grab those unused wires crammed in the back of the box, easily bend loops, etc. I am not a pro electrician either, but when I do electrical work on my own home I find needle-nose pliers essential.
I don’t do this kind of work often enough to justify buying a dedicated tool for it, but if I were in the market I think the Knipex 13 96 200 would be at the top of my list. Those are needle nose, plus they have fantastic grips that are not only very comfortable but are also 1000V safe.
Incidentally, I just spotted this listing on Amazon for a pair for $59 which seems like a killer price given they’re normally about $70-75.
I think your conclusion that your needs are different from an electrician’s is spot on.
I’ve rarely seen residential electricians use/carry any needle nose pliers. Grabbing wires can be done with hands or lineman’s, and looping is usually done with a looping-specific part of another tool (stripper, Klein screwdriver). None of my electrical work load outs have any needlenose, but I do have some nice ones for working on cars and my hobby work.
Insulated tools are also not really intended for residential or most commercial use, but I get that a lot of electricians don’t get it either. That along with a lot of off-brand Amazon suppliers perpetuating the “these insulated screwdrivers are perfect for installing receptacles” line has so many people convinced of the superiority of VDE qualification testing that they needlessly spend the extra money when buying things for in/on-home use.
So I suspect these Klein hybrids are primarily intended for professional use. The market may not support their continued sale, but that happens with a lot of products that have poor marketing or where it’s “too soon” for people to change their ways.
I love VDE handles on pliers–not because I work on live wiring, but because I find them much more comfortable than dipped handles or most rigid plastic handles.
How do you feel about the Channellock Code Blue handles, or the Knipex comfort non-VDE? Or even the multimold like on the Klein hybrids in this article? I think that’s the type you might like, but I’m not sure.
p.s. VDE handles aren’t primarily intended to work on live wiring, at least not residential line voltages. I’d even say it’s not primarily intended to protect the worker. 😀
I’ve never tried the Channellock Code Blues. I do own some Channellock tools that I purchased in the 90’s but they are all dipped handle and once I discovered brands like Knipex and NWS I’ve never looked back. I have tried the Knipex comfort (non-VDE) grips–both the modern red and blue design and the older translucent red color, and they are nice, but not as nice as the VDEs. And actually, let me clarify that. They’re not as nice as Knipex’s current VDE with the red and yellow handles. I have a pair of Knipex lineman’s pliers I bought in the mid 90’s. They have insulated handles but they don’t look like the current line. They’re not bad but I don’t like them as much as the current ones because they are slippery. They look like this:
Knipex also has VDE pliers with very fat dipped handles. I don’t like those either, for the same reason: they’re slippery. For example:
I have used other comfort or multi-molded handles here and there. Some are great, others aren’t. I’ve known some to easily slip off the tool, others have had uncomfortably sharp edges or molding seams especially if they are multi-part grips, some are slippery. Many are thin and don’t really offer much of an advantage over bare or dipped handles. What I really like about the Knipex VDE (yellow and red) are:
1) they are a little bit soft which makes for great comfort without being so soft that they come off the tool or get easily damaged knocking around the workshop.
2) they’re thick enough to really pad the handles effectively.
3) never any seams, molding flash, rough spots or anything like that, the quality control is top tier.
4) they aren’t smooth or shiny, they have a micro-textured finish. That’s great if your hands are wet or greasy. Obviously that’s not a concern for electrical work but it’s a godsend if you’re working on mechanic type work.
I’ll check out the Channellock Code Blues next time I’m at a hardware store.
Thanks for your input, I appreciate it! I do think the jaws on the Knipex are far superior to the CL Code Blue. But the main negative of CL is that the jaws aren’t as tough as the Knipex, so that may be a deal breaker.
I also use the Knipex comfort-style VDE tools but since at times I need to actually use them for their insulated capabilities, I tend to use the non-insulated comfort grip versions more often… the insulated grip is probably softer as they do wear out and need to be replaced if insulated safety is a necessity. The dipped VDE is similar to what Wiha used to offer before moving production.
Not applicable to the linesman or needle nose pliers, but for water-pump style pliers:
My only negative for the VDE Cobras is that they are only available in 250 size with the quickset adjustment. I can’t remember why I don’t care for the quickset, but it’s not explicit on the Knipex web description that they are all quickset, and the button does not have the red “warning” around it to alert the user. Since the main difference is in the forged handle, it can’t be changed. Since I’m still a fan of the Alligator style, I use those primarily for VDE.
I know you said you will check them out, but I’m just here to repeat that you ought to check out the Code Blue handles. I like them a lot.
Like most pliers, I tend to prefer them on smaller-sized pliers. E.g. I have Code Blue grips on my 6″ needlenose pliers but dipped grips on my 8″. They seem a little gripper than most comfort grips – but the downside is they hold onto dirt and grime a little worse too. Some simple green on a rag always cleans them back up quick though – even when working with grease – so I don’t mind.
On the hybrid 968 pliers, they only come with Code Blue grips – but for whatever reason Channellock doesn’t ID them that way. All the other Code Blue handles are dual color – red and blue. The 968’s are solid blue (same with the “SpeedGrip” pliers). Same material though.
Sounds like you want the Klein J206-C
Yes, I think if I needed a tool like this I’d greatly prefer the J206-C over the J215-8CR. That said, I’d rather have the Knipex I posted. I like the handles better and I prefer a shear-type cutter to the “anvil” type.
Multi-tools rarely save time, other than when they are the only thing on hand and/or for a small task or two. Beyond that it becomes very quixkly a need to switch back and forth which can pose dangers if you need to leave the knife open, or you need two tools on one side. It is like the leatherman, super handy in a pinch. My limited edition switch army computer tech edition … first tool I always reach for, but doesn’t do enough, pliers are too fat for some things, not big enough for others … I still have other sets. The six or eight in one screw drivers … handy as a go to first screw driver, but becomes annoying if you have to switch to and from repeatedly.
A ” perfect ” two function tool can exist if the task set is that limited.
If one is just switching plates, a flat screw driver is fine.
If one is going to inspect all switches and wiring behind it … flat blade screw driver, small drill with philips bit, flashlight, contact tester, insulated item to poke and move something around to get a better view … then if work is needed, pliers, wire strippers, etc … this multi tool could be handy enough for that, flat, philips, stripper all three out. But I’d rather take a mini tote with a dozen tools, a 12v drill, some wire nuts, tape, …
Klein makes decent mid-tier tools but I would never use a hybrid anything from them for that reason. I’ll keep my old Paladin gear (pre-sale) or new Southwire at the very least.
The Klein Electrician’s Hybrid Pliers Multi-Tool (model # 44216), which you describe, would be perfect for a forthcoming project – so it is sad to hear they are discontinued…
…But all is not lost…
Would you consider selling me your (virtually unused and apparently unwanted) example – for a reasonable price of your choosing, including postage to the UK..?
Many thanks and Stay Safe,
I like dedicated tools for everything. “Hybrid” tools always disappoint me because they don’t perform as well. I guess they can be useful if the room in your tool bag is limited.
I can’t stand bulky things in my pocket, so I never got on the multitool bandwagon. They’re cool, they’re high quality, and I guess they can be fun to collect, but I would never use them so I don’t buy them.
I think “multitool” electrical pliers are different though. It’s not just tool bag space but the time it takes to change tools.
E.g. you’re wiring a receptacle and use some pliers to pull out the wire, then put them in your tool belt so you can grab strippers to expose the ends. Back to pliers to bend a loop and then you grab a screwdriver to connect the wire.
If you eliminate some of the back and forth, things go faster. Not a big deal if you’re doing one or three – but if you’re doing twenty, that’s a lot of time!
I think this really depends on which tool in the article we’re talking about. If we’re talking the full-size pliers then I agree with Jared. But as far as the fold-up pocket multi tools like the 44216 then I agree with Bob.
Ha. Fair. I was thinking of tools like the:
– Knipex electrical installation pliers,
– Milwaukee 7-in-1 combination wire strippers pliers,
– Channellock 968 wire stripper pliers,
…and of course the Klein J215-8CR hybrid pliers that were the subject of this post.
I think folding multi-tool electrical tools are more like things you carry in a pocket for impromptu repairs in the field.
I have the cheap craftsman version of these in my electrical pouch. I find I use them instead of my linesman pliers because they can fit in a quad box a lot easier and I use them to strip wires so I don’t have to carry a separate wire stripper. My standard electrical pouch is: crafstman 8″ electrical pliers, non-contact voltage detector, Milwaukee 11-1 with ECX bits, and a Milwaukee 1/4″ flat head with a striking end for knock outs. I’ve also added a Romex stripper for 14/2 and 12/2 to the mix
Which NM stripper do you use? I use the Klein K1412 (well, actually its Armstrong equivalent), since it’s small and fits both my rough and finish load outs with taking much space. Sort of like having the G-B conduit nut wrench instead of having something else.
The stripper is faster for me than using a knife, and if it’s in my hand and I need to cut, strip or loop, there it is.
I’ve tried pretty much all the Leatherman, SOG, etc., tools. Basically what you have is a poor knife and maybe a Phillips screwdriver for a hefty price tag. I’ve also recently bought the Klein hybrid pliers and the Milwaukee one.
What I found is all the Learherman style tooks the pliers are too narrow and flimsy so the jaws roll and it seriously bites into your hand even with gloves. The various accessory tools are either not useful or not well made.
The Klein is an enigma. I mean it should be vastly improved over cheap stripper/crimpers. It’s a little better but not out of the ordinary. And the super wide jaws are just strange. I couldn’t ever get much use.
The Milwaukee is a different story. The strippers are quite good. The pliers gives you needle nose capability without being such a long top, and the bolt and wire cutting do decent. Everything else is just average. It has become my go to for commercial electrical jobs. Not trying to shill for bid red here. I’d give the prize to anyone.
The Irwin automatic strippers do a decent job at stripping. The other functions are just crap. I don’t know what it is but I find I really hate any tool built into the “handle” side of pliers.
I’m an electrician, and I use the Klein Heavy Duty Wire Strippers (K12035SEN) everyday. It is the same as the hybrid, but without the crimper. It handles the wire I use 90% of the time 12 AWG & 14 AWG. The handles are large enough to be comfortable and give a good leverage for stripping. The downside is the pliers. They are supposed to be a replacement for your linesman, but they are a little under sized and don’t cut it. You can twist 2 wires, but anymore than that and it’s just to small.
As wire strippers they’re great, as a hybrid replacement for your linesman they fall short.
I have the multi tool. I normally use Milwaukee strippers. The convience of having this multitool in a pouch on your hip is handy. In saying that, it is clunky. I have big hands and even then, it’s hard to keep a stable grip on them when stripping wire. I didnt know there were tweezers so that should tell you how much I use that. It works in a pinch and I haven’t found a better one, but electrical leatherman have always been lacking.
I also owned the strippers, they are heavy, and clunky. I ended up giving them to my wife who is a low voltage journeymen. She likes them and won’t go back to anything else. It seems like Klein is tired of getting shown up by the ingenuity of Southwire and Milwaukee, but they are falling short in that category. They are still the staple and standard for so many tools, clever multi functional tools is not their strong suit. This has been my Ted Talk.
Professional commercial and industrial electrician of 30 years.
I would NEVER use a multi tool like this. They are just like those combination mill and lathe combos – they don’t do anything GOOD but they do 2 things half assed.
These multi tools do not excel at anything like the dedicated tool, they just do several things OK. My tool bag needs nothing more than the following.
Klein linemans with fishtape puller
Ideal T stripper wire strippers
Klein 10 in 1 screw driver or a dedicated phillips and slotted (used part time as a chisel)
16″ tape measure
420 channel locks and 426 channel locks (or whatever the really small ones are called)
and a sharpie or pencil.
A pair of T strippers are CHEAP and small – if you can’t be bothered to buy and carry a dedicated set of T strippers with your Kleins, just get out of the trade. If it was easy the Girl Scouts would be doing it.