A reader asked if I had come across Irwin Vise-Grip’s locking wrench tools, shown above, which feature uniquely shaped jaws that lock onto 3 sides of hex-shaped fasteners.
These locking pliers are kind of like a cross between standard Vise-Grip locking pliers and strong fastener-gripping tools, such as Knipex Raptor pliers or the Channellock Nutbuster.
I actually purchased the 7-inch version a little over 15 years ago, model 7LW, with cushion-grip handles.
It has been several years since I’ve seen my Vise-Grip locking wrench, and I cannot say I have missed it at all.
I’m not even sure if I still have it, or if I gave it away. I kept it in my locking pliers drawer for a couple of years, but it rarely saw any use.
In my opinion, this is really a very specialized deliberate-use tool. Even without the handle grips, it’s kind of bulky, although no bulkier than other locking pliers.
In theory, it won’t mar fasteners as much as curved jaw pliers with sharp teeth. But in practice, I have yet to come across suitable tasks where it’s more helpful than cumbersome.
Don’t get me wrong, there were no real faults to it, I just found it to be redundant anytime I also had strong pliers, breaker bars, or curved jaw locking pliers available.
It could be a great tool for specific applications, but it turned out I thought I needed far more than I actually did or do.
There are other variations, such as by Gedore – but they’re all still very specialized in nature.
It’s an interesting tool, but not one I would advise anyone to buy unless they know exactly how and where they would use it.
I think that problem for me is that I tend to jump straight from standard drive tools to pliers and then aggressive pliers such as more common straight or curved jaw locking pliers.
Maybe some users will find this style of locking pliers handy, but it didn’t work out that way for me. I thought this would be a great addition to my toolbox, but it never quite fit in.
There are 3 sizes:
- 4″ – 4LW, also described as “item no. 8”
- 9/16″ max jaw capacity
- 7″ – 7LW, also described as “item no. 4”
- 3/4″ max jaw capacity
- 10″ – 10LW, also described as “item no. 2”
- 1-1/8″ max jaw capacity
Online listings can be confusing, as the number 4 tool has a 7″ length, and the number 8 tool has a 4″ length.
Price: $12 and up
If you’ve used this style of locking pliers, have your experiences been different from mine?
I’ve got a 7″ pair from Westward. I agree that they aren’t as useful as I imagined. That doesn’t mean they’re useless either – just that it’s not often I reach for them.
Usually a pliers wrench is a better tool when you don’t want to mar the surface and V jaw pliers work well when you don’t care about damage.
When I do use them it’s often for fabrication related tasks. I’d buy them again at the right price – but it would be way down the priority list.
Hi to you bloke. I use the duckbill or sheetmetal folding vise grips regularly for sheetmetal work but none of the others ever really
That style locking pliers was perfect for the jam nut on automobile tierods when I was an alignment mechanic. I used them the other day as a matter of fact.
Clearly, for the average person, they do not represent a worthwhile purchase. But in the last week I have seen so many comments of people using them for specific tasks and how good they are for said task.
So be it a task that they do often and it is a great or even essential tool, or be it the person that likes to have it in their tool box for those rare occasion, where having it makes it worth the purchase, it is a tool that has a good reason for existing…even if not for everybody.
A vice grip is the exact opposite of a specialty tool; read that again, the exact opposite.
Off of the top of my head, the following is how we’ve used vice grips in the last week or so.
1) As welding clamps (daily)
2) temporarily tightened up a wore-out/loose battery cable and got a disabled vehicle back to the shop
3) As a ground clamp (the spring-loaded one broke) on one of my wire welders
4) As a crimping tool (pretty much daily)
5) As a wire cutters
6 Pinching 2 wires together (they were too short to wrap together) for soldering
7 For pulling a brake shoe spring over a fulcrum
8) Loosening a rounded fastener
9) Bending sheet metal
10) Helped with pulling a new track over the front idler on a mini-excavator
11)as a temporary knob
12), bending, clamping, dozens of times daily
And this is just the past few days.
I am positive that I have 75 pairs, most are all beat up and still work like they should. All of mine were made in Nebraska. The Irwin ones are pure junk. We threw the few we had away.
Anyone who thinks a Vice Grip pliers is a specialty tool sure hasn’t done much wrenching (or welding, or wiring, or clamping, etc).
Respectfully, did you not read the post at all?
This isn’t about Vise-Grip locking pliers, but the very specific “Locking Wrench” style of locking pliers shown above and discussed in the post.
yup, that is a pretty broad brush stroke. i have nearly one of every style of vice grip made, other than the ones you posted . c lamp, swivel pad. wide jaw, sheet metal bending, chain, bent long nose , long nose, etc. they all serve different purposes.
i had some like the ones posted but sold them years ago. i just didn’t use them. unlike all of my others.
To be fair, “locking wrench” could describe just about all styles of vise grips. I was still unsure about your conclusion until reading the article a second time
Perhaps, but that reinforces my point about this particular style being so unfamiliar and for a reason.
Wrenches don’t have aggressive grooves or biting teeth.
In my experience, locking pliers are available in general “bite down on that hard for a strong grip” styles, and also in “specialty, will never be confused with a wrench” styles.
I’ll see if I can make things clearer, but I thought the image selection would have been enough.
I think the problem was it wasnt real clear what you were discussing. At least not for me, but I aint no rocket surgeon so maybe just me
Not picking on you specifically, just looking for somewhere to slide my comment and you were the most recent.
While this apparently confused a few people, the very first sentence seems to make clear we’re talking about a specific flavor of vise grips.
Oh lord, dont even worry about me feeling picked on. LOL I try not to be a horse butt but sometimes it comes across that way.
Koko The Talking Ape
Yep, you’re talking about a different tool.
But I have to say, now that I have a good pliers wrench, I use even regular vise grips a lot less. Vise grips can apply a lot of pressure, and uniquely, they can maintain it without your constantly squeezing the arms. But if you need to apply and then release pressure, then they’re a pain, because the arms open too wide to close easily and quickly. And you can’t open them just a little. It’s either tightly shut or WIDE open.
I have a pair of Grip-On long-nose locking pliers, and they’re pretty nice, but I never use them.
I use normal vise grips for 95% of the same tasks. But what does that have to do with the locking wrench pliers this article focuses on? I’m also curious how vise grips might be useful for crimping. I can’t imagine they’d make the correct shape crimp for any terminal I’ve ever seen. Then again I’ve seen supposedly “professional” welding shop employees “crimp” lugs for ground cable or stingers with a hammer, so I suppose standards aren’t always high.
As for the locking wrench specifically, I’ve never owned one. Just looking at one it appears to fit only a fairly narrow range of fasteners and like others have mentioned the clearance looks to be a huge problem. I can’t imagine I’d ever have a use for one. Now on the other hand, normal vise-grips, the wide sheet metal version, the chain clamp, etc, you bet I use those often.
I us them on a regular basis to clamp on nuts on the back of a bolt. It’s a lot easier then asking a best friend hold one you turn the other side
“The Irwin ones are pure junk”
No, they really aren’t. And you can make up as many stories as you want if you like.
If I’m putting 10 pairs of vise grips on the service truck I’ll gladly go into Menards and walk out with 10 pairs of 10″ standard round jaws for $100-$120. I’ll take that $400 I saved on not buying the somewhat better EagleGrip/Nebraska version and spend it elsewhere. That’s $400 better spent on power tools that will have a much more significant effect on our workflow.
Vise grips are the most ubiquitous tools and that makes them the most prone to getting lost or taken. Either they were used as a handle for something somewhere and forgotten about or mixed up with someone else’s tools. The ones that rusted out from sitting in a mud puddle, beat on with 3 lb hammers and glazed with weld spatter all work just fine years later. I’ve seen maybe one or two broken springs and some lost thumbscrews. That’s about it.
Like any tool, premium costs top dollar. Is it worth it? To each their own. Sometimes I spend top dollar for the best and sometimes I go with cheaper that gets the job done. In both instances, I sometimes regret spending more or cheaping it out. An other times I am very happy that I chose to spend the extra money or saving a good chunk of change.
I see your point and if it works for you, perfect. As for Mr. “The Irwin ones are pure junk”…he sounds like a kid making up stories. He probably tells people “my father can beat up your father” or “my hammer is bigger than your hammer” or anyone of 100’s of childish comments.
I have some Irwin plumber’s wrenches (Channellock copies), they are smooth and work great but over the years the sharp teeth are rounded and don’t grip as well. I have some Knipex which I have owned as long and the teeth are as sharp as the day I got them. But Like you say, I can probably buy a second and 3rd pair of the Irwin’s and still be less than the Knipex.
I have some original Peterson’s, over 40 years when I first bought them. I beat the living hell out of them at times, but they still work like new…but don’t look anything close to new.
I have picked up a couple of pairs at flea markets…very cheap to buy and also very easy to find (at least in my area).
I have not tried the Malco’s, but they look like they are very well made. In the past 5-10 years I bought some Grip Ons (Orange with black jaws. Find them to be excellent quality, and also prefer the locking/unlocking mechanism works the opposite.
@xrho7 Respectfully I disagree. Cheap locking pliers all have soft jaws in my experience. Soft steel will deform letting the work piece slip.
The most important part of locking jaw pliers is the hardened jaw. The guys at the old DeWitt, NE plant had some crazy black magic to get the heat treat on the jaws perfect. Irwin was never able to duplicate that. Apparently the new company that manufacturers in Dewitt now figured it out.
That being said if the pliers are a consumable that sees light duty then yes the cheapest chinesium butter soft steel junk might be good enough. But when you really need to get that rusted to hell rounded over nut off that machine reach for a quality pair. Or jump straight to penetrating oil and an oxy torch.
If you want a really good pair of locking pliers buy the malco eagle grips they are made in DeWitt Nebraska in the old vice grip plant. They are better then the old vice grip . I have used them for some stuff I really didint think they would work on but they held . They are worth every penny
I remember when they introduced these and I almost bought a pair, but I just couldn’t see where they’d fill a good hole. True, they will grab better on cheese steel hex flats where toothy pliers may just shred it and force you to go to heat or drilling/ez-out, but that wasn’t something I’d run into much then, or since. We had a customer that loved them for concrete anchors and another who put them to use with some round shaft with a flat that was a part in something they built for the oil field folks. Pretty niche uses.
Never seen those Gedores…neat. Also not something I’d buy, though.
I own one of the 3 lobe jaw ones. Almost useless because the head is too big. A friend of mine uses his to grab shock absorber chrome shafts without marring. Thats the only useful task I have ever heard of for those things.
Slightly different tool, but if you need the locking ability where a normal pliers wrench doesn’t quite cut it, I’ve found these Stanley’s a little more multi-use.
The ones shown are used to pinch off hoses such as those used on auto heater box.
So called Parrot Nose locking pliers may also fill a niche:
OTC also seel pliers similar to the Gedore ones you linked to:
Amazon used to sell these in 2 sizes (7 and 10 inch). They called these “round nose” and they were made by Gong Maw Enterprise Co. Ltd – sold under the “Titan Forge – Hour Loop” name:
the 6lc were probably my favorite stile of jaws for visegrips. unfortunately when they stopped making them in usa they also stopped making that jaw style in the small 6″ pliers but only produce them in the bigger 12″ version.
Koko The Talking Ape
I always wondered why the jaws on these were so crazy bulky.
Knipex raptor has 3,lobes.
I have a couple pairs, they don’t get used very often, but they can save the day in the right situation. Mostly I use mine to hold a nut or bolt head I don’t want marred on a piece of equipment too large for me to be able to reach both sides. You can be pretty inventive on how to hold it, using another pair of Vise-Grips to hold it or even sticking the fixed handle into a pipe.
I do agree, though, this style is not a do-all version, but a more specialized tool.
I’ve tried to use it for similar back-fastener tasks, but the bulkiness always got in the way, but that could also be due to the geometries and setups.
I think Knipex should come out with something sort of like this as a pliers wrench permutation. E.g. use a smooth upside down V for the upper jaw like these vise grips do – but with the skinnier leveraged jaw from the pliers wrench.
In my imagination, that three-sided squeeze would help grasp round things you don’t want to mar. Could still be used on bolts too – just within a narrower size limit.
Knipex makes a smooth jaw parrot nose plier called Raptor pliers. It doesn’t have the parallel jaw action like the pliers wrench though, it works like their other pliers with the button adjust jaws. I have a pair and they work really well.
I have a complete set of old ones in a tool roll that I got cheap at a second hand store. I don’t use them much, but they have made life a lot easier on more than a few occasions. They work very to hold any hexogon shaped object. It’s true you can probably get by without them, but these will not mar fasteners at all, and you can lock them on super tight. I love them, and plan to keep my set around.
The clearance needed to use that tool is substaintual. No thanks.
I have 3 pair of these. One that someone hand made, basically they took a block of steel, drilled 2 holes in it, sliced it down the center and welded each half to a jaw of the vise grips. Then I saw the actual vise grip versions and bought both sizes. I work for a shock and strut company and I install and assemble on a regular basis. These are invaluable for grabbing shock rods or to prevent coil springs from slipping in compressors. I hang a pair on a nail near the compressor and use them almost every time. So yes, agreed, these are definitely specialized use, but I bet there are more opportunities with some thought.
I’m a welder and I love them. I have about 12 old USA made pair that was my dads. Very handy to clamp things together, as a third hand, for welding and such.
Like others I too have a pair of these, had them for years. I might have used them a half dozen times, don’t recall them doing the job I asked of them. They just lay in my plier drawer looking Purdy.
If you don’t want to mar the surface on apiece your clampining with, .Pliers. Plumbers Pliers. Vice grips, Etc. Cut a 1/2” to 2” pcs of 1/2” hose to slip over the clamping teeth. Then clamp away with no worries of making your work piece.When done sip the pieces off 1 hose on each handle so they are ready fo nexts time use.
I must be odd. I have never that I recall ever used a vise grip tool of either sort on a actual nut or bolt. nor do I reach for any pliers I use often. that might change I now have a few more options. but normally I find either sockets, or wrenches to do the job.
so no I’d never consider such. I have used my vicegrips for bending stuff, holding, clamping etc.
I don’t have this specific Vise-Grip tool and I’ve never been in a situation where I thought “that’s what I need.”
I got a pair as a gift probably 20+ years ago probably used them 5 times but the times i used them they did great on really rounded over bolts. If I came across of cheap knives raptor I would be all over those too.
LOVE them to death. I’m ready to throw hands. Apparently your not from the rust belt. I’m from mid Michigan and use them almost daily. I was introduced to the 10 inch size when I was about 16 and thought then where have these been all my life. I now own all the sizes and have multiple pairs in multiple places, my home farm shop, my work tool box, my pickup, ext. In the old days GM steel threaded fuel lines, now every fastener that rot has got to and the hex is no longer a size. Doesn’t matter, I’ve used them on little bolts holding snow blowers together to f-ed up lug studs on tractor wheels. The possibilities are endless, especially here in the belly of the swamp and land of rust.
There great for getting broken bolts and old studs out
I ground the front face of them flat . I use the face straight on to remove tamper proof or messed up screw head
I purchased a couple of them years ago, but never found them of much use.
I’m sure they are still somewhere in the shop.
The “parrot head” style is unusual, and the angle it’s used at makes it even more specialized. But, as other’s have said, the lever action vise grips can be a lifesaver. Especially when you need a constant grip to pull on small objects like cables and springs!
For me they really only have one use, and it’s when a nut/bolt is extremely tight. These grab them hard where a wrench might flex and round them off. It’s one of those “don’t let you bad day get a whole lot worse” kind of tools. It’s not very useful, but when it is, it’s paid for itself.
I wouldn’t leave home without the vice-grips in my toolbox, the uses are as great as your imagination. When I pass the hometown of their invention, I feel a closeness.
This particular style?
I did imagine all kinds of uses for them, and that’s the problem. Imagination and reality didn’t agree with each other.
Tool-buying sometime does come from a speculation about what one might need versus what one really needs Once purchased it can even be difficult to cull tools where empirical evidence suggests lack of use. The argument you might make is that the purchase cost is already sunk and there is nothing to be done about sunk costs. But if unused tools are taking space or worse yet adding to unproductive clutter – then it might be worth rethinking. Even in business we had this sort of issue when we’d buy tools for a specialized job or jobs – then hang onto them ad infinitum on the speculation that the same sort of special job might be repeated.
Really if you dont see a use for it, its probably not a fit for you. If it helps solve a problem for a job thats costing a customer thousands a minute, then its a life saver. I know millwrights with a toolbox full of stuff they havent used in years, but if they need it one time it pays for all those years of non use.
No offense but I think you are taking a narrow view of a need. I wouldnt need one in a hundred years, but then again a bourbon glass is about all I need these days.
No offense intended
The examples that I was thinking about were ones like these:
In our plumbing business we had all sorts of lead-working tools. These included pots. ladles, running ropes, various caulking irons, picks, yarning irons etc. These might get some use. But the tools we had for creating and repairing lead bends – like hickory dressers, straightening eggs and forming jigs – were really more dust collectors than likely to ever be useful again.
In the remodeling business – we had invested in tools for timber-framing – based on a batch of jobs and the thought that it might be a business that would expand. As it turned out it seemed to fizzle out in our neck of the woods. We were sort of happy that we had bought mostly Makita (serviceable) tools rather than investing a lot more in Mafell. Yet even though that segment of work dried up for us after about 20 or so jobs – we never pulled the trigger on selling off the chain mortiser etc.
In our cabinet shop – we created many jigs and templates that were often specific for a job. The guys were always reluctant to toss them when the job was over. So, racks and shelves were created in ever increasing numbers in the shop basement to store these leftovers. That is, until we had a safety inspection and our insurers convinced us – saying that they constituted a fire hazard (even in our sprinklered building) that would be reflected in our premiums.
I agree with you wholeheartedly that specialized tools, either from the past or new – can sometimes be a lifesaver or expedite your work tremendously. But there is only so much room in your trucks – and picking and choosing wisely is often better than trying to buy larger trucks. The same is true for workout centers and tool rooms that are not infinitely expandable and old inventory needs to be reviewed periodically to make room for new needs.
Of course, there will always be the case (as in the old adage) that two minutes after you throw a tool away – you will encounter a job for which it is essential.
That happens to me every time I throw something away. LOL
Didn’t see it mentioned , but these are perfect options to hold vehicle hoods / lift gates open when the lift cylinder is worn out . Just remember to remove it before closing .
I don’t fault you in the slightest, Stuart, for not liking these. I personally prefer the standard grip, or flat-jaw editions. I’ve never tried the chain lock or clamp lock ones, but I imagine those would be more useful than the ones you’re showing as well.
When you need a Vice Grip… by whatever brand or name they’re going by… You just need a Vice Grip locking plier… That’s it. Dealing with nuts and bolts to this other degree is easier, and faster, using a power tool and some sockets. I don’t see it as “Worth It” to cross the line here.
I notice nobody here mentioned what these are actually for.
They are line wrench vise grips. When a line wrench fails to remove the nut on a brake line or fuel line this will remove it far more effectively then pliers or channel locks.
I knew this the first time I saw them on the tool truck and knew they were not for any other use. Don’t buy if you don’t round a lot of brake lines and such.
I don’t think that any car or truck I’ve ever worked on would have enough clearance for this tool to access a brake line nut. The “head” is far too large. These are no replacements for flare nut wrenches IMO.
Unfortunately flare nut wrench’s as good as they are do not work on a lot of the tighter/rusted in brake lines. I have yet to see a single flare nut that didn’t have enough room for these. Anything else would require more room like a torch or larger channel locks or regular vise grips. They don’t work as well.
To be fair if you don’t have to reuse the line, I cut it and use a turbo socket.
Like I said, other than rusty lines you have to break loose there is no use for these.
Agreed. I have a pair of these and that’s all I use them for, but I wouldn’t use anything else.
If you need to maintain farm equipment in the field, you can’t be without these things. Especially OLD farm equipment.
Exclusively used to lock onto to round pieced without marring them, nothing else will work. We had 3 different sizes and boy do i miss them.
Used to use them in building machinery, now i mostly miss them when tightening shower arms or other finished round shaft (especially the black finished ones)
I have this particular style and actually use them quite often for a specific use. Pulling nails. They work awesome for grabbing onto the nail and use the curved head as a pivot point like the curve of a claw hammer to lever put the nail. Try it out sometime!
I have a pair of those and love them. I use them to hold fasteners in blind locations when I don’t want to damage them and can hold them to tighten them and some times on pipes their handy if you know exactly what you want them for
In blacksmithing they’re useful. I use mine to hold a punch or chisel steady while I hit it on hot steel. These grips help keep your hand away from the heat of the hot steel and protect your hand from a miss strike. They’re not exactly essential, but they are handy.
I use them on round stuff, small pipes and shafts. They have three contact points, better than curved jaws.