Skip to main content

Get to Know Your Pliers

There are certain foundational tools every toolbox needs–a hammer, screwdriver, wrench, spanners and sockets, and, of course, pliers. Like these other essential tools, there are plenty of different types of pliers, from super specialized to general use.

What are Pliers?

Pliers are hand tools that help you hold objects securely as well as bend, crimp, compress, or cut wire. There are two main types of pliers–fixed and adjustable.


Pliers are used for installing and shaping wire, tightening and loosening nuts and bolts, removing nails, gripping objects in place, and a host of other functions necessary in DIY projects big and small.

Pliers Parts


What you squeeze to engage the cutter, locking mechanism, and/or the pivot point, They are often wrapped in an easy-grip material , sometimes cushioned, and arrive in a variety of lengths. Some handles are especially insulated to help lessen or prevent shock if you’re working with live electricity, though please check with the individual manufacturer on that!


As you’d expect, the cutter is the part of the nose that will cut–in this case, wire. If pliers have a cutter, it’ll be lower on the nose, and will often be serrated or notched; you simply set the wire there and squeeze to cut.

Pivot Point

This is where the nose and the handles connect; also called the fulcrum, it’s what you engage to make the pliers work.

Locking Mechanism

Some, but not all, pliers have a locking mechanism that will engage when you open the handles. This is most helpful when you’re using pliers to hold objects.


Also known as the jaws. This is the working end of pliers and is what changes between the different types/uses. Some pliers have long, thin noses and others have more rounded, thick noses.



From the same family as bell pliers, which were used to cut wires while hanging bells in the 19th century, linesman pliers are most often used in electrical or metal work. The nose includes shallow serrations for a tight grip as well as cutters to cut wire while you work. As always, when working with electrical wires, be sure that the wires you’re working on are not live; while most linesman pliers do have plastic handles, they are not insulated and will not prevent shock!

Available to purchase at Home Depot


Locking pliers lock so you can use them as a clamp on projects. We like to use them for hard-to-turn nuts and bolts, because the locking clamp gives extra power to loosen the most stubborn of them. They’re one of our favorites (and our pros’ favorites too!) because they allow for so much problem solving.

Available to purchase at Home Depot

Needle Nose

With a long, pointed nose, these pliers are most often used for bending or crimping wire and are especially useful for smaller DIY projects like wreath making or jewelry making.

Available to purchase at Home Depot

Slip Joint

Because the slip-joint allows an adjustable grip or clamp, meaning you can work with a wide range of materials and objects, these pliers are one of the most versatile types. They’re good for fixing broken household objects, clamping, crimping, and cutting wires, bending materials, loosening and tightening bolts, and beyond.

Available to purchase at Home Depot

Adjustable Joint

Built for clamping and gripping pipes. The nose on water-pump pliers are angled in such a way to allow for easy access to awkwardly spaced pipes. The nose is serrated, and, like the slip joint pliers, can be opened at different positions for the most hold depending on the object you’re working with.

Available to purchase at Home Depot

DIY + Inspiration

Pressure Washers: Types + How to Use
Get to Know Katie Freeman
Top 6 Places to Feature Handmade Tile with Fireclay Tile
Stay Up To Date With Us
Positive vibes. No mansplaining. Ever. Follow along to learn about the newest Pros on the MBuild roster, our favorite DIY + renovation tips, and stories about badass women in the trades. Let’s build the matriarchy one project at a time.