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What are Combination Pliers?

As the name suggests, combination pliers take two or more functions from a range of pliers and join them together. You’ll always get a toothed jaw to grip an object, plus you’ll get extra built-in feature so the pliers can be used in a many situations. They’re the go-to for any tradesman because of their incredible versatility; they get you out of a bind wether you’re under a car or on top of a roof, making jewellery or fixing a sink. So what are combination pliers, and what kinds are out there?

Essentially, they’re a tool for holding an object while you perform a function (bending, twisting, cutting, snipping etc). The long handles give you leverage (the longer than handle, the greater the leverage) so that the force between the jaws is greater than the input pressure you’re applying to the object. This gives you a much better grip than you could ever achieve with just your hand. Combination pliers typically have serrated jaws which provide friction and further increase that grip.

Although some jaw designs have a rounded nose, most are flat allowing you to get in tight to the object. They often have a rounded cutout within the jaws called a pipe grip. This is usually serrated and is used for holding rounded materials without crushing them.

That’s the base design. The extra features added to combination pliers is what increases their versatility, and makes them an essential tool in any toolbox. For instance, the gripping jaws and longer handles are ideal for compressing materials such as a clamping collar. Perfect for closing chain links if you’re doing fencing or in some jewellery work.

Materials held firmly in the jaws of pliers can be manipulated in various ways. While gripping with pliers, you can bend or twist material with another pair of pliers, a clamp or even your hands depending on how you want to shape the material. The firm grip provided by combination pliers means you can easily pull objects like nails or pins to remove them from a wall. They’re perfect for extracting staples and other thin, hard to grasp objects.
Many combination pliers are twinned with a cutting blade, sometimes called side cutters. They’re positioned near the pivot point where the jaws exert the most force. Cutters like these are typically used to cut cables, nails, pins and soft wires. They have short blades which are not designed to make long cuts, and therefore aren’t used on flat materials. The thickness and hardness of materials you can cut with pliers depend on the individual tool’s specifications: the longer the handles, the more force you’ll be able to apply.

You’ll probably want more than one set of combination pliers. As mentioned, they come in assorted sizes, some with longer handles, some with different noses. They’re not a one-size-fits-all tool, but a couple of these beauties in your toolbox means you’re ready to handle just about any situation. Combination pliers often come with a plastic or rubberised sheath on the handles that will offer a better grip and are more comfortable to use. Keep this in mind if you’ll be using them frequently or for long periods of time.

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