The other day I posted about a Tekton Tools and Amazon deal, where you can get 25% off one of their USA-made slip joint pliers. Some of their other pliers are included in the deal, but I emphasized the USA-made ones because I reviewed them in the past, and because they’re genuinely a great bargain.
In a comment, Pete asked: What do people even use these for any more? He’s not the first person who has questioned the purpose of slip joint pliers in today’s day and age, and he won’t be the last.
There are so many pliers that do a better job at specific tasks than slip joint pliers, but I still think they’re still useful as general purpose gripping pliers. It’s a very subjective topic – some people still use slip joint pliers, others have abandoned them and never looked back.
What do you think about slip joint pliers?
Right now I have flush-joint Craftsman Professional slip joint pliers in my toolbox, but since I already took photos of Wilde’s flush-joint pliers, I’ll just show those.
It’s not relevant to the discussion, but I sent the Wilde pliers off to somewhere else during my last toolbox decluttering session, maybe a year ago, in favor of keeping my Craftsman Pro’s at hand. Both are great pliers, but I just need one in my main toolbox and the Craftsmans had nicer handles. You can catch a glimpse of them in the first image of the post, all the way to the left, or at the end of the post.
I don’t think I ever reviewed the Craftsman Pro slip joint pliers, but it’s a moot point now, since you can’t buy them anymore. (Here’s my open letter to Craftsman and Sears complaining of this.)
Here’s my review of the Wilde pliers, in case you’re on the “slip joint pliers are still useful!” side of the fence and looking for something new:
So this is what I like about slip joint pliers:
They can open a little bit, or very wide, and often have multiple gripping zones with different jaw shapes and groove patterns. This means they can grip a wide range of materials.
I don’t really use slip joint pliers for turning anything, maybe only sometimes. These pliers are often short, and so you can’t get a lot of leverage or a lot of torque out of them, compared to combination pliers, lineman’s pliers, and other pliers styles. I much more often use them to hold something steady, or for pulling tasks.
That they’re often short also makes them compact and portable. I’d rather pack slip joint pliers in a portable tool kit than lineman’s pliers or other larger and bulkier pliers, at least if I don’t have any specific tasks or applications in mind for the kit.
They can grip flat-ish materials without slipping.
And also small diameter materials.
They are just as good at gripping medium diameter materials and non-uniform materials. Shift the pivot over and it’s like you’ve got whole new pliers that are much wider.
I’m not saying that slip joint pliers are going to be the crown jewel of your pliers section of your toolbox or bag. But they’re pretty useful. Some people point out the age of slip joint pliers, and how the same general design has been around for many decades. Who says that’s a bad thing?
Does their functionality and their capabilities overlap with other pliers styles and designs? Of course. The same is also true for many other types of pliers, cutters, and hand tools in general.
There are so many pliers that I like more than any of the slip joint pliers I’ve come across. But when it comes to replacing the pliers in my seldom-used travel tool kit, or adding one to the kitchen junk drawer, I’ll sooner throw in slip joint pliers than anything more premium.
It’s not my intent to sway you into liking slip joint pliers; it’s my intent to tell you enough of why I like them so that you’ll feel more compelled to share your own views.
Back to the question – what’s your take in slip joint pliers?
Buy Now(via Amazon)
A quick Amazon search didn’t turn up any new or surprising designs. You can buy brand name slip joint pliers for as low as $5, and there are even a couple of USA-made offerings for under $10. At over $10, you’re paying more for special features (such as Wilde’s user-serviceable flush pivot) or better cushioned handles (as opposed to dipped handle grips).
Shown here are Craftsman Professional pliers, Wilde pliers, and Stanley “MaxSteel” pliers that I might have given away to a family member.
Still practical. An essential part of any minimalist tool kit.
Even if you have a complete set of wrenches handy, sometimes just lining up the parts to be fastened together requires the pliers to hold the material.
A channel lock or a ViseGrip pliers makes a two position slip joint pliers obsolete. Either one will do anything a slip joint can do and much more. Minimalist tool kit to me means fewer tools whenever possible.
Definitely practical. It is the only tool that has seem as much action as my hammer! It never seems like the little bit of extra opening will make a difference, but when you need the extra room, the pliers shine!
I keep a set in the car and I doubt they’d be too useful but I could make do – oddly I also keep a leatherman in the car too. different reasons.
I don’t go for them in day to day – I have various pliers as I’m sure most people do so I grab something a touch more specific when I need to do so.
or a vice grip often enough.
I had some Channellock slip joint pliers and tongue and groove pliers and I replaced them both with the Irwin 10″ Groovelock pliers which accomplish the job of both pliers but a better more minimalist friendly package for me. I keep all my tools in a big Milwaukee tool box so I’m not necessarily space constrained but I can see the benefit of regular slip joint pliers if someone is looking to keep a small tool set. But for me, I have moved on.
About the only things that I use a slip-joint pliers for are spring type hose clamps and holding hot metal for repositioning or quenching. mainly applications where a strong grip is not really needed.
If I want to grip something to turn it I use a Knipex Cobra or similar style pliers, which are far superior in gripping power.
If I want to squeeze something Knipex pliers-wrench is my go to.
Otherwise for tasks that a slip-joint may be good for I usually use a Duckbill style pliers. I find that a Duckbill style like Chanellocks 718 is a very good all around pliers, its unfortunate that most people are unaware of them due to poor local availability.
Ugh, I have a love/hate relationship with spring clamps. When I started using dedicated house clamp pliers (Gearwrench?), I stopped minding then as much. I tried using regular pliers, but that made everything more frustrating. I don’t thing I gave slip joints a try.
Use mine daily. I feel pliers are a tool that’s become needlessly over complicated.
While I do have about 40 different styles of pliers that each serve a purpose a simple pair of slip joint pliers will do almost every job almost as well.
I also work on alot of machinery with rods that need to be turned with pliers and slip joint pliers do the least amount of damage to the outside surface of the rod.
I’ve worked outside most of my life and almost always carried slip-joint pliers in my pocket or on my belt. For years CeeTees but now Wilde flush-joint. I use them to turn, bend, hold, pry, cut, twist, and to bang on stubborn things. If I NEED a more appropriate tool I can go get it, but most of the time I get by with the few things I carry around.
Things would be different if I worked at a bench or in a shop, but when the toolbox is a long walk away you want versatile tools. And good ones.
I use a pair of snap-on talon grip pliers more than any other tool. I reach for them more times during a day than for my smart phone. Here in the midwest, almost every rancher or farmer has a pair hanging off their belt in a leather holster.
Agreed! The Snap On’s are my favorite, they will grip almost anything I task them to. My craftsman pro’s can’t touch them (and the molded handles constantly slide off) – the worst pliers in the drawer.
mike aka Fazzman
I use my slip joints all the time too. cant imagine not having at least one.
I also carry a pair in a holster on my belt. I am positive I use them 20x a day.
I cut, bend, and twist many sizes of wire.
I twist open stubborn lids on all kinds of jugs, and then pull off the inner seal.
As previously mentioned, I use them to bang and whack on anything that needs persuading.
I used the handles to jab open all kinds of sacks, bags, etc.
I use the handles as a rough ruler
They work as a small makeshift pry bar surprisingly well.
I’ve opened them WAY open, and used them as a punch or a large nail set ( place one handle on the item you need to punch or set, and hit the other handle with a hammer, or maybe even a rock).
Almost daily they’re a makeshift medical instrument such as forceps or tweezers.
They save my fingers by holding a short nail in a hard-to-reach spot for tack-hammering.
They pick up stuff I’d just as soon not grab bare-handed.
They’ll open up a box fastened shut about any way possible- pull the cardboard staples, slit the strapping tape, or poke a nice hole to get started tearing the box open if all else fails.
One handle will work quite well as a light-duty temporary hitch pin when moving a small trailer with a garden tractor or an ATV.
They’re a pretty good battery tester (kids, don’t try this at home)
They make a pretty good garden tool- the handles will dig up exponentially more than your figures alone can uncover.
They will pick up a small item at almost absolute zero or boiling, it doesn’t matter which.
Oh, sometimes I even tighten a small nut with them
I have t same Craftsman Pro pliers and they are great! I wish Milwaukee would add slip joint (with flush pivot) to their pliers lineup, but I’m still waiting….
I prefer the jaw shape pictured above on the yellow Stanley pliers pictured above. I wouldn’t want to be without mine. It’ interesting to note that Knipex and other and other European tool brands don’t make slip joint pliers as pictured above. I wonder why?
Gedore makes one 6″ and one 8″ steel handled, angled head slip-joint pliers they call Universal pliers. They sell for $39 and $44 respectively!
The coolest pliers I’ve seen a fellow made by cutting a 1/2 and 9/16 box end wrench in half and welding the two on the ends of the pliers handles.
I run into a lot of wing nuts, nothing better than pliers.
Most folks I see don’t use ones with coated handles, at least not outside the shop.
Are the handle grips removed, or bought that way?
There’s only one brand I found that still makes these pliers without dippedv or molded grips: https://toolguyd.com/crescent-cee-tee-pliers/ .
Lobtex (Lobster) and Asahi tools in Japan plus Irwing and many more still make them.
Also the new flush joint Proto and Wilde are available without dipped grips.
I have an old pair of slip joint pliers that became the perfect kitchen tool for debearding mussels prior to cooking. I don’t think that my other more specialty pliers would do as good a job as the slip joints have a wider jaw and the free movement in the gripping motion makes this repetitve task easier. I am sure there are other examples of these pliers being put to “proper” use that capitalize on these characteristics.
I grab slip joints (I have tekton) when I want to open, twist, hold in place, etc. They are more multipurpose.
Ha, ha, I like the idea of using them in the kitchen. I think of using them for corn, when you are trying to get the husk off and it’s hot, I think it might work! We’re in corn season and often cook the corn with husks on. It’s a messy thing to get them off without the corn cooling down.
Just did the spark plugs on my Buick Terraza (the Grey Lemon). Getting to the rear plugs is quite the adventure which I would not wish on my worst enemy. After trying various wrenches designed to remove the boots (blindly), the only thing than worked easily were my trusty old slip joint pliers.
I don’t have a lot of uses for slip-joints these days UNLESS I’m twisting, pulling or grabbing something that I don’t care if I mangle it. I’m usually trying not to scratch or chew up a nut or bolt, so I turn to a plier that has smooth jaws, a wrench or use a socket to do take-aparts and put-togethers. That’s also true with plumbing repairs, as nuts and other parts are soft brass or are chrome-plated; I try to use smooth-jawed pipe wrenches whenever possible.
If I was ridin’ fences out on the range, I would probably use slip-joints more often. My dad used to take yard waste (branches, etc.), bundling it with wire and twisting it with slip-joint pliers; they were great for that. They’re not a relic; they still have their uses, just not as many as before because of all of the specialty pliers now available.
Carry a pair of slip joint pliers in a pouch on my belt almost every day. In the shop, I have access to all sorts of pliers, locking pliers, wrenches, etc. however, when out in the field, where you have to make do with what you have, often only what you have on your person, slip joint pliers are one of those tools that does a lot of things ‘good enough’ to get by. Whether cutting a wire, wiggling a battery post, or just grabbing/holding something, it’s hard to beat the versatility of slip joint pliers. Not the best tool for many tasks, but a very versatile tool. I really have been considering finding a pouch to fit a small pair of Cobra pliers, as they are better ‘pliers’ in almost every way, but they have no wire cutters, and if lost, are quite a bit more expensive to replace than the $7-$9 that my old reliable Cee-Tees cost.
Also, I do not like covered handles on my slip joints. I can almost live with dipped handles, but do not at all like the cusion grip. The handles pull off, they are bulkier, don’t fit a pouch as well, and just wind up getting chewed up to the point you pull or cut them off anyway. Best are comfortable handles, with the burrs smoothed off, and just enough texture not to slip unnecessarily.
I use slip-joint pliers when removing carpet off stairs. The carpet is tacked down a lot and I need a good grip without the risk of catching my fingers on the tacks. I’ve tried other pliers and the only ones that come close are needlenose pliers.
Other then that, I don’t think be ever reached for slip joint pliers to get a job done.
Coincidentally, Harry J Epstein’s just got a supply of the old Craftsman Professional pliers in this week:
It looks like they bought a ton of surplus stuff recently. They have been updating the website continually. If anyone needs a pair of the Craftsman Pros, this may be your last chance!
I use my exclusively for rounding over nuts. Sure, there are lots of tools that can do this job, but I find these are the best when I want to make a nut nearly impossible to remove for someone else. (Tongue firmly in cheek)
I use the slim stanley fatmax almost everyday on plumbing jobs. It is the only piler that i use in really tidy spot.
Love my Knipex Plier Wrenches, but I would offer anyone a tool box or tool bag that didn’t have a pair of slip joint pliers. Extremely useful for gripping things in almost any situation when nothing else will work.
When I was younger and didn’t know, I hated slip joint pliers, This is because all I had every used were crappy import versions. These had no leverage at all, because they were only around 6″ long, and teeth made of butter, and the joint slipped under minimal pressure.
Then, as I learned about tools, I realized the wonder of the slip joint. A slip joint pliers + a pocket knife IS a Leatherman. I cannot accurately describe what a slip joint is good for, its just one of those tools that comes out when I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to solve a problem. Start with the slip joint, if it works great, if not, its given me insight into what tool might work better.
Now, I love one slip joint the most, and that is the 8″ channellock 548. A duck billed slip joint with a huge grip zone and tons of leverage. Its almost a shame its “just a slip joint”.
I’ve got the 5410, which I like a lot for “mere” slip joint pliers. Can’t honestly say I’ve used it a lot–it was bought along with about 35 other pliers during my Channellock binge a few months ago–but it will be getting plenty of use in the future. The size and heft alone makes the 5410 impressive.
As for slip joints in general, I don’t use them as much as I used to (the aforementioned binge greatly expanded my selection of pliers types, not to mention the ones I already owned), but do find that they come in handy on many occasions. I keep a few different slip joints, including a 10″ Williams, in the truck. They can’t be beat when it comes to holding stuff still, whether it be a piece of flat plastic or a bolt head.
“Now, I love one slip joint the most, and that is the 8″ channellock 548. A duck billed slip joint with a huge grip zone and tons of leverage.”
Thanks Noah, you helped me hit the go button. I have a set of 6 inch Stanley so hoping these are good.
You will probably find a pair in the pocket or on the belt of every farmer
As a kid I wrecked a brake cable for my bike trying to cut it with the cutter portion of my slip joint pliers. I didn’t know any better at the time, but I found good cutters and never went back to slip joints. Sure set me on the track of only using good, appropriate tools.
While I appreciate simplicity, these are on the wrong side of the line.
If all you have are small slip joint pliers, you will be reaching for larger arc joint pliers or similar ones for many jobs,
If you have larger 8″ and 10″ slip joint pliers, they fit in places and hold positions and materials that arc joints and even needle nose pliers won’t.
I just got another set of 8″ Craftsman slip joint pliers yesterday, so they must be good for something.
I never understood the attraction. They are inferior in every way to adjustable wrenches or Knipex plier wrenches. I’d only use them for demolition jobs where I don’t care if it strips fasteners or mars parts, or if the tool itself gets damaged.
Say I want to pull out a staple or small nail, I grab a slip-joint pliers. It seems more natural to pull up with my hand in the same plane than with my hand over to the side rather than use something like cobras or Channel locks.
Maybe a better question would be what would you replace them with? Again for pulling, I want a pliers that is in line with the direction I’m pulling. Needle nose are too thin for some applications. The grooves in the jaws of slip joint pliers can wreck things, yes, but sometimes you don’t care and need the extra gripping power.
Are there better tools to use for holding nuts? you betcha, and I try to use them whenever I can. But I’ve found myself in situations where the only thing that’ll work for some reason is a pair of slip-joint pliers. Maybe it’s my lack of imagination or not having the proper tool. I just don’t know.
It used to be that if I had my pants on, I had a pair of pliers on my belt. Usually a pair of Channellock 5410’s that I’d put the red Klein handles on. Not necessarily the best choice for every job, but if you’re going to take ONE pair of pliers and hang it on your belt, you could do little better. They were just fine for all kinds of quick wiring or pipe or conduit work. I could beat on stuff with them. I could hold and turn bits and tools with them. I could poke a fire with them, and pull hot pots and pans off a flame. I could save my knees reaching down to pick stuff up off the ground, and I could spare my arthritic shoulders reaching up. I opened hundreds of bottles. I was always grabbing things I wouldn’t want to hold onto with my bare hands with them. I even pulled a few teeth with them. If they wouldn’t do at all for a job, I could probably use them to bend, turn or mash out something that would.
I don’t know how many times somebody said to me “What do you carry them big old pliers fer? Can I borry ’em?” If the 5410’s are too much for you to handle, a pair of 548’s or 546’s will do right nicely. I used to use them for dress-up occasions, or when I was traveling light. Even today, the little sparky pouch I have for quick jobs doesn’t have a big pair of Kleins in it– there’s a pair of six-inch Kleins, eight-inch dikes, and a pair of 548’s.
When you turn your nose up at the humble slip-joint plier, remember Louis Zamperini killed a shark with a pair of slip-joint pliers while he was floating in a lifeboat in the Pacific. I’m sure he’d have rather had something else to do it with, but he didn’t; and they did the job.
EMILIO E GONZALEZ
I use my Snap on slip joint pliers for opening hose clamps, Mubea style hose clamps,. They fit in tight spots. Hold well and are grooved just right.
I can use them for many other applications where I don’t want something locked, like when using grip pliers.
Slip joints can grab, twist, pull and bend stright-ahead.
Slip joints are always right-side-up, does not matter how you grab them.
Slip joints can be easily adjusted wide/small with one hand once broken in.
Slip joints fit well on a belt or in a pocket.
Slip joints have a cutter, some better than others, none great, but better than nothing.
“Channllocks” or groove locks can do none of that.
The only thing channllocks are good at is chewing up nut/bolt heads… they’re truly the wrong tool for almost every job. They dont grip round objects well at all. They dont grip tighter with turning pressure. (see Knipex Cobra or Alligators for that)
Get yourselves a good pair of slip joints, needle nose, side cutter, Knipex Cobra/Alligator pliers, and last-but-not-least.. a Knipex 8603250 or 8603180 Pliers Wrench. You’ll be glad you did, and you can almost stop hauling around wrenches entirely.
My current love (in the slip joint cat) is Channel Lock #5410
I’m with you Jerry. This thread/post opened my eyes to the use of slip joints but I then realised that my Stanley was a bit limp. I’ve since bought the 548 and 5410.
I have an old Mayhew pliers my grandfather gave me, to see if I could/would take care of tools (apparently, the answer is yes, since I still have them). I use them all the time and they look like just an average pliers but they are NOT slip-joint. In fact, I do not like slip joint pliers as they invariably pinch the skin between my finger and thumb; never had it happen with “regular” pliers. Do they even make non-slip joint pliers anymore?
The only real issue with slip-joint pliers is that they cannot cut stranded electric cables or thin steel wire like Bowden cables. Solid cables they cut OK.
Regardless how tight you adjust the nut the stranded cables end up un-cut between the shears.
Slip-joint pliers have earned the name knuckle busters for good reason. You can keep them.
Here in Brazil, our tool factories discontinued slip joint pliers about 30 years ago. Only old stock pieces was available.
I have 4 Brazilian-made slip joint pliers (here, most known as “Ford pliers” or “driver pliers”), all from 80’s. This type of plier is far more useful in emergency auto repairs than standard linesman pliers.
Automobiles had many cylindrical components, like radiator hoses and clamps, battery terminals and door lock cylinders. So, I think that is ideal for a car tool box.
Knipex has jumped on to the slip joint bandwagon.
Even they know how indispensable these pliers can be.
I didn’t know you already wrote about this subject Stuart. I land on the side of “everything slip joint pliers do another style of plier does better” . I’ve never gone out of my way to buy slip-joints (except the new Knipex version, which are really something different anyway), but I’ve ended up with lots over the years.
About a year ago I stumbled onto a pair of large Proto slip joints on clearance (I want to say they were all of $6, or around there) and picked them up on a whim. I’m NOT saying they “revolutionized” my appreciation for slip joints, but they are pretty decent pliers. I presume they are re-branded Wilde pliers, given the flush joint.
Probably because I have little regard for slip-joints and didn’t pay much for them, I’ve somewhat abused them since I bought them. E.g. they’re the pliers I’m most likely to reach for if I’m heating something with a torch, holding a part while I grind (and risk slipping), going to grab something filthy, using them to twist, etc…. and I must admit, I kind of like them.
The joint is neither sloppy nor tight, the teeth have stayed sharp and the handles are comfortable (mine are patterned steel – no coating). If I lost or destroyed them, I might even look for another pair!
To be fair, I wrote this post 7 years ago, and there hasn’t been much reason to revisit it since then.
I think the problem with slip-joint pliers is that there’s a very narrow sweet spot where the pivot is loose enough to adjust easily, yet tight enough to not change positions on its own. Few manufacturers have been able to dial that in perfectly. Most tool users won’t spend above a certain amount for slip-joints, and that could limit how well they can be engineered and built.