I have been putting some time in with Gearwrench Pitbull pliers, and I found myself thinking about comfort vs. more basic dip-style handle grips.
Here’s what happened – I needed to use stainless steel wire to secure overlapping panels of stainless mesh. I’m using the mesh to line raised garden beds, to help prevent any creatures from burrowing in there and destroying my hard work. I really needed any gripping pliers and a good pair of cutters, and grabbed these Gearwrench out of my tool box.
In case you’re wondering, these Gearwrench Pitbulls are proving to be fantastic, and I’ll have more on them soon. (Thank you Geawrench for the test samples and also for being a ToolGuyd sponsor!) It seems I’m not the only one thinking this – there are quite a few user reviews on Amazon already, but I digress.
Now, here’s the interesting part – I have grown accustomed to treating basic-grip pliers as being more value-oriented.
Isn’t this a a fair perception, that dipped-style pliers are more value-oriented because they’re less expensive?
Dual-material, comfort, or cushion-handled pliers are better, right? They handles are more complex and ergonomically shaped – doesn’t that make them better? They also usually cost more.
Gearwrench sent me both, and I consciously chose the more basic handled pliers. Why?
It was an almost subconscious decision, but there were two reasons.
First, the dipped handle grips will be easier to clean. I’m working in the dirty. Dual-material or comfort pliers grips usually have a soft rubbery component that can be harder to wipe clean.
Second, pliers with dipped handle grips are easier to slip into a pocket. I don’t tend to do this often, but I’ve found that if I know I’ll be going back and forth with pliers, I tend to reach for dipped-handle models.
So now I find myself a bit confused. In theory, if presented with dipped-handle and comfort-handle pliers, or if I’m shopping for my own use, give me the better ones! But here in this situation, I chose the more basic-gripped tools?
I suppose this is also why I keep different versions of adjustable wrenches and some other tools – sometimes I know one particular tool will better fit the usage environment.
Here’s what I want to know:
You need to buy new pliers, today. Which style would you buy, and why? Dual-material/comfort-style or dipped-handle grips?
Would your answer change if pricing were a factor?
Pricing has certainly factored into some of my past pliers purchasing decisions. If the dipped-style pliers were say $12, and the comfort-grip $14, I’d probably pay a little more for the “upgraded” version, but if the difference was say $12 vs. $22, I’d go for the more basic handle grips.
But what if I could only choose one style? I’d still lean towards dual-material/comfort grips unless there were pricing influences. I don’t often carry pliers in a pocket, and for the really dirty work that prompt me to clean my tools, I’m using a liquid-based cleanser anyway, rather than a dry-wipe.
Comfort vs. basic handle grips – what’s your take on this? Does it come down to pricing or preference?
Comfort grips are way better and they last longer
I’m with you – I go for comfort/dual material because I’m a hobbyist, and that fits my usage models well. My car kit has dipped handles, and I tend to give dipped handles in starter sets mostly due to price points. It’s rare for the need to slip comfort models into a pocket to be an issue for me since they go into a tool bag or tote when I need to go work on something.
Dipped or bare metal unless they need to have massive amounts of torque applied. If it’s a high torque application the extra drip diameter is better on the hands. Otherwise dipped. My strong preference is to a dip with texture like Knipex uses.
One interesting thing to note is that a lot of vintage pliers used much thicker metal handles, knurled with texture, and no coverings whatsoever. Sometimes just painted. Much more comfortable in the hand, and they can last nearly forever.
Agreed, that’s my preference.
The dip or plastic covering is only good until it begins to deteriorate.
I’ve collected a lot of old bare-metal pliers, etc., and even with the patterned handles, I find they’re too often slippery. That’s why I like the dip, to curb the slippage.
And a lot of people dump on Plasti Dip, but it doesn’t take much skill or effort to put a pretty good covering on with that stuff.
Though, I haven’t had reason to really lean hard on any of my tools with Plasti Dip on them, so maybe they’ll tear up sooner. Just fine for small/precision tools, in my book.
Yup. Usually for me the handle coating gets damaged and my first preference is bare, followed by dipped. I have several pairs of pliers that USED to have coated handles until the coating got damaged and fell off or got uncomfortable enough I cut them off.
I’d echo the comfort grip for high torque. Cutters especially- I think comfort grip adds a performance advantage.
However, I oscillate. If there’s a big price jump, dipped is just fine. I also go with dipped for mechanics pliers for the ease of cleanup or when a smaller grip is better (don’t put comfort grips on fencing pliers for example – the grip is already wide).
But I too perceive comfort grips as the upgrade option.
Assuming they’re done well, I prefer the ergonomic grip to basic dipped grips. I have many Knipex pliers with the yellow-and-red electrically insulating grips. I bought these not because I work on live circuits but because the handles are just so comfortable.
But I do agree with Stuart that the dipped handles are easy to drop in a pocket. For pocket-size tools dipped is the way to go.
I prefer the dip handles because they’re tacky, maybe I’m just old school. I also agree with others that stated comfort grip are more durable. I have both, but always reach for the dipped.
comfort handles all the way. Once I started to get a set I haven’t ever gone back.
I won’t even look at a set for the relative small price difference I don’t even consider them.
I genuinely don’t know. I have some fine-detail Jewellery tools that have a dipped-style, but ergonomically textured, grip to them, and they’re absolutely perfection for that particular tool. I have other tools that have a comfort grip, and for that tool, the comfort grip is utter perfection for that tool.
Which would you qualify Leatherman tools under? Those seem to be the only outliers here. The “Scales” on a Leatherman are often shaped, grips as well, and the ergonomics actually function as ergonomics on these… I think that might be the only real iffy decision for me. I mean, they’re still Multi-Tools, but I do prefer the ones with Scales over their traditional all-inside opening designs. In which case that would be Scales or No-Scales.
Dipped versus Ergonomics? I think it depends on size, texture, and whether they’re pliers or snips/cutters for me.
How about the foam/dip/dunno what that Erem tools have? For small tools, that’s Rolls-Royce to me.
I only have one Erem pliers I picked up at a liquidator, and while cushiony, I don’t see it lasting very long on larger pliers. If not physical damage, chemical damage will do it in.
One of my Erem tools was in contact with a soldering iron, so it’s got a smooth dent in the foam. No chemicals around them, either. (They’re all Swiss palm precision tools). For the work they’re used for, I don’t see them accumulating much damage.
And I agree, on big tools applying bigger leverage, that stuff would not last long. But that foam covering is very nice where it’s appropriate: A light touch remains precise.
Yeah, I’ve had foam-dipped tools in the past, they don’t hold up at all. Let them sit for any amount of time, and they’re subject to room temperature changes, and all forms of randomness.
As comfortable as they are, they don’t remain foam-dipped for very long. A lot less Rolls-Royce, and a lot more Street-Racer Nitrous Fuel. Feels good for a while, until it blows up.
I see the comfort grip styles as being important for repetitive use, to reduce repetitive stress injuries.
I like dipped handles. But they have to be done right. I personally really like the snap on handles. The perfect amount of texture and squish they just feel so comfortable to use. I like the old usa made craftsman handles but they’re just a bit too firm.
Comfort grip handles, although yeah they can be comfortable, are just way to big and bulky.
I totally agree with this comment. I was a dipped-handle guy until I bought my first set of Snap-on pliers, and they’re my favorite. Just the right amount of grip, cushion, and texture – and they clean right up with some WD-40. I’ve been slowly converting all my pliers to Snap-on ever since… As for “comfort grip” handles, I find them neither comfortable nor grippy.
Depends on the tool and the application. Cutting tools I tend to prefer comfort grips but things like needlenose or linesman pliers I prefer dipped. But even with cutting tools I like the smaller ones to be dipped because they’re lower profile.
If I’m using them all the time I’ll get comfort grips to prevent repetitive use injuries. Like my screwdrivers all have “fat” grips because using screwdriver with slimmer grips frankly hurts at the end of the day
Comfort-grip for sure. The dipped ones will get sticky and disgusting over time as the plastic breaks down.
That’s got to depend on what kind of “dipped” handles you’re talking about. The dipped handles on my Channellock, Knipex and Klein pliers have held up great and show no signs of stickiness.
I’ve got some old Channellocks I rescued from an abusive relationship that were all rusty and gross – yet the handles were fine (and so was the rest of it once I cleaned them up). I also have a pair of Klein’s that are well over 20 years old and the handles still look great.
You should be fine with most pro-grade pliers with dipped handles.
Cheap comfort grip break off, pull off, etc. I have some very old Diamond brand dipped that have seen decades of use in a everyday shop and are still good.
The thick, plastic “comfort grip” are CHEAP. I have a set of husky like that at a vacation home that only get very occasional use and they are missing handles, have other handles that are split, etc.
Comfort grip is cheap CRAP if used hard. Junk.
All other things equal, comfort grips.
I like dipped handles for my tool belt, so it fits in the pocket. I did opt for comfort grips on the ones I purchased for general use around the garage, and they’ve been good. I don’t tend to use them enough to have a strong preference either way.
It seems to me that established companies (Channellock, Klein, Knipex) use dipped while the newcomers use overmolded plastic. Same with those T-handled allen wrenches. I think plastic feels better in the hand, but dipped fits in tight quarters and is easier to carry.
Channellock, Klein and Knipex all have comfort grips – they just have dipped as an option.
I particularly like Chanellock’s “Code Blue” comfort grips – but I do have to put extra effort into cleaning them when using them for dirty mechanics tasks. They wipe clean easily enough with some Simple Green, but the dipped handles practically wipe off with nothing.
For me it depends on the pliers and application. For some miniature pliers – I prefer the pliers to have bare steel polished handles. They just seem t feel better and provide better control. I notice that some jewelers seem to agree with this and/o their pliers are so old that they were sourced before covered handles were a thing,
Otherwise – I tend to agree with Mike.
The other issue may be hand size impact on what you like. My fat fingers may comport better with what I like than would the long skinny fingers of some pianist or the small hands of my wife. Finally – an auto mechanic that is using pliers around lubricants or solvents might have a different opinion versus a plumber – and a plumber might think differently than an electrician and an electrician would have a different perspective compared to an optician etc.
I’ll echo what almost everyone else has said and say that it really does depend on the application. I remember as a teenage cutting hundreds of small sections of wire and how much better comfort handles were for that sort of repetitive work. Now though working in cable I’d rather have the dipped handles for cutting for cutting coax. Partly because they’re less bulky to carry and partly because it feels like I’ve got more control for a precision cut. That makes it hard to say which I’d choose if buying a new pair for around the house–something I just did last month. In the end I went for the dipped just because of the price difference.
The thicker coverings on “Comfort” plier handles reduce the working opening, right? (Given the same hand, anyway.) I think that’s the main reason I prefer dipped is that I’m sure I’m wasting less of my hand-span on padding, leaving more for opening & working the tool.
Adam S Cosper
Aside from the cost, the reason that I tend to prefer dipped handles is that they easily fit into the pockets of my tool bag/pouch. Comfort grips make it harder to load my toolbag to the level required to ensure a back injury.
I cut an 8” piece of thick 3/4” black rubber automotive hose and connected each bare end of the handles with it. It forces the pliers to stay open but works like a spring action. Also super easy to grab when you have to carry them in your pockets. Also easy to hang them on a hook.
Snap-On only come in double dipped.
Knipex I do comfort grip except for pliers wrench, cobras and snap ring.
^^^^ These are my go tos.
Gedore I do dipped. I have not tried the newest comfort grips from them.
I used to love the 3 component handles from NWS, but no longer like them at all.
VBW hard to come by here.
Haven’t owned Facom for a long time to comment.
IDEAL/SK/CRAFTSMANPRO/WF only dipped.
Fujiwa and Tsunoda – prefer dipped by a longshot.
Klein I prefered dipped but I have been coming around to the Journeyman handles.
Generally with Linesmans I prefer dipped; but the Knipex I do comfort grip.
Most importantly, needle nose – I only use Klein and Snap-On
Currently only have some old Facom and Schmitz in service for precision pliers. The Facom came dipped (except one has a push on white handle) and Schmitz comes with the large push on handles.
I have small hands so I pretty much always have to go for dipped as opposed to comfort grips unless they are low profile comfort grips like Milwaukee does on some of their pliers.
Now, I only buy comfort grip. I no longer buy dipped. 100% avoid, regardless of brand. Simple. You make dip, I no buy.
Mike (the other one)
Comfort grips for electrical pliers/cutters. Dipped for automotive or plumbing…
I have occasionally dipped my own. 😉
Although I prefer good comfort grip handles for most uses, I don’t mind dipped handle and even prefer them to poorly designed comfort grips. Some companies miss the point of comfort grips and seem to spend more time making them look cool over getting the ergonomics and feel right. I seem to recall that Channellock’s earlier code blue products had some rather hard corners at the ends of the grips, looking a pictures of their current offering it seems that they have improved on this.
Honestly I have a stronger preference that I can get the style I want in a chrome plated version than what type of handle grips it has. I can’t think of any US manufacturer that has a full or significant offering of properly chrome plated pliers.
The excessively styled GearWrench pliers will never make it on my list to be considered. The various design elements solely for the purpose of making a tool look cool rather than improve is function or quality do not appeal to me.
Bottom line I want quality pliers that will last, the type grips are secondary to that. If I can only get a specific style in dipped handles I am OK with that. I use pliers more than most people and therefore much more picky about them.
Joel Likes Tools
I agree. I would rather a good dipped, than a bad comfort.
Honestly for my work now stainless steel diagonal cutters would come in handy.
Am I the only one where the dipped handles slide off or all over so they are anything but comfortable?
As to cleaning, have to 100% disagree there. Just took apart an old generator where my Irwin branded adjustable 14” pliers were totally saturated in grease. I pulled out a blue shop towel to wipe the heavy grease off the tools and my hands, then two of the wet wipe type towels then another blue to dry/wipe off and the tools and me were clean.
The dipped handles tend to swell more from grease exposure. So not oil resistant.
And at age 50+ comfort matters no matter what it is. Nice metal handles are nice and I even learned how to do good knurled in machine shop class but I think the horse left the barn 20 years ago.
I tend to have the same issue eventually where dipped handles slip after a while. Even on decent tools. Possibly I occasionally expose these tools to solvents and oils which weaken the plastic. I’ve had a couple pair of channelocks where the dipped handles got torn up/split and I believe some started slipping. In My toolbag currently are some milwaukee slip joint(channelock) pliers with a semi dip, textured handle. Not sure if its a rubber sleeve or dip, doesnt cover the tips of handles. Its been slipping for a while, ive been using them for 3 years or so and theyre a main goto tool.
Working out of a tool box, comfort grip. Working out of a tool bag, dipped. Comfort grip is more comfortable to use but it takes up a lot of space.
The only exception is insulated pliers for obvious reasons.
Quality, will always be my first choice, but it really depends on what im using the tool for, i do a lot of PVC pipe line repairs, so I use slip joint pliers while installing compression couples. Typically I use a 16in and a 14in. Set of pliers to do the job, but its my 14 inch that I use the most, i dont know the name or where to find more of them, my 16 inch pliers are channel lock, both are dipped. My newest purchase was the Milwaukee 12,10, and 6 in slip joint pliers, due to the fact they all have knock out ends on them for opening new pores in electrical boxes. I use the formed pliers when working in oil based jobs.
I only do dipped for the easier cleanup. All my pliers get greasy. It’s much easier to get dipped pliers clean after use than comfort handled ones.
Years ago Craftsman came out with a set of pliers, (Channel, slip joint and Dikes) under their “professional” label that had textured dipped handles. I still have them and they’re great. Not slippery when wet not bulky. I have had a few “comfort grip” handles come loose, which was quite disappointing, one pair was the Milwaukee 6 in 1 wire strippers. So I’m definitely not sold on one over the other, generally it’s a case by case decision for me.
My hands tend to cramp easily and so I appreciate the padding of comfort grips. If it’s a tool that I don’t need to put a lot of pressure on and I don’t use it much, the dipped tools are ok.
I prefer comfort grip, definitely, but I don’t turn my nose up at dipped handles, either. I think comfort grip lasts much longer, I’ve seen too many shredded or missing dipped tool handles to think otherwise. I wish I could get my hands on the industrial latex dipping compound tool manufacturers use, Plasti-Dip just doesn’t feel or perform as good as the original coating. I’m thinking about giving Flex-Seal a try, but don’t need any tools re-handled at the moment. Comfort grip is the way to go, if you can afford the minor price markup., and if the manufacturer offers it (most don’t).
I prefer dipped. Just seems easier to work with one handed without all the extra grip.
I prefer dipped, sometimes the grips can get to bulky on the comfort grip ones. The comfort grip ones are more prone to breaking free and slipping off too.
Dipped. Always (except for electrical work… )
Also don’t like “ergonomic” screwdriver heads” – and slim my hammer handles down to very thin tear drop shapes.
I have big hands but find that thick, soft handles lessen control and lead to more hand fatigue over the day (I prefer to focus on keeping an appropriate grip strength rather than looking for a solution to counteract a “death-grip”.
Of course, vibrating tools should have some protection. But then I look for anti-vibration mounts or counter-weights. Even with chainsaws – the grip should allow for multiple positions, for a clear, even transmission of force from hand to grip and for the tool to swing freely in your hand when you relax your grip. That’s my philosophy, anyway. So I am always on the lookout for vintage tools made from thicker or stiffer stock rather than a bi-component coating.
Dipped. Always. On the tools I use on my car, the tools I use for plumbing around the house, the tools I use for electrical work around the house and shop, the tools I use in making guitars and the tools I use in model making. Always dipped.
In the past when I’ve decided to splurge on what I perceived as the good stuff with the overmold, bi-material handles I’ve always regretted it. Now if I need, or just want, a new tool I don’t even consider the overmold versions. In my personal experience they are, ironically enough, more uncomfortable to use. They make the tool bulkier and harder to handle. The situations where others have mentioned the overmold may come in handy for applying higher torque I have not found them to be at all helpful.
When trying to apply higher torque, like when cutting thick electrical cable or a small machine screw, I have the overmold tends to try and slip off the metal. I’m then trying to apply pressure where there is no tool to put pressure on and then I have to stop and slide the stupid overmold back up the handle again. I have had that problem with the Harbor Freight stuff as well as the more expensive Milwaukee and Klein stuff. I have never had that problem with dipped handles.
Any comfort benefit that might be claimed by the overmold handles I have never found couldn’t be matched by wearing a good pair of padded work gloves.
I find the argument, seen in some of the comments here and other places, to make the exception to get the thicker handles on electrical tools to be meritless. I trained in vocational in high school as an apprentice electrician and worked for six years as an electrician gaining my Journeyman license. The normal overmold handles provide absolutely zero protection against current. I mean they provide as much as the dipped handles do which means anything more than ambient static and you’re in trouble.
When a back injury made me hang up my tool belt professionally I made the conscious decision to NEVER replace any worn out electrical tool with an insulated version. The insulated version of electrical tools, for those that don’t know, are basically the same sized handles as the normal overmold but the pliers for instance have a horn on each handle to prevent your hand sliding up and contacting the bare metal. The overmold is also actually two pieces and made of special material to insulate the tools up to 1000V. These are stupid for a homeowner to own. When actual electricians have to work on live lines there is much more PPE besides insulated tools required to do the job safely. The tool is only insulated as long as that insulation is 100% intact and normal wear and tear can nick that and ruin the insulation. Having those tools around is not only much more expensive. It is also dangerous in that it puts the seed in the back of many people’s minds that they don’t have to worry about whether the line is live or not that they’re working on. I would rather avoid that possibility and just kill the breaker.