In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
There's No Such Thing As Too Many Pliers
Jul 17, 2014
Pliers are wondrous tools because they are simultaneously generic and specific. A pair of 9-inch slip-joint pocket pliers like many farmers carry in a pouch on their belt is the original Wonder-Tool: they can turn out bolts, pull nails, hammer nails, dig up corn seedlings, turn petcocks, tighten wingnuts, pull splinters out of fingers--the list is endless. You can always tell the farmers helping out at church socials or at public meetings--when it's time to set up or tear down equipment, the farmers are the ones who futilely paw at their hip, where they usually carry pliers in a pouch, when they need to take something apart.
Other pliers are wonderfully specific in their application. Take wire-cutting pliers for example, They come in many designs. Some have jaws that have their cutting edge in the center of the jaws, others have the cutting edge along the edge of the jaws so it's easier to cut flush with a surface. I prefer wire cutters with the cutting edge on the edge of the jaws, and with the handles at a slight angle to the jaws. That allows me to keep my knuckles unscarred when cutting close to a surface..
Most toolboxes have one or more needle nose pliers. The odd thing about needle nose pliers is that, if there are several needle nose pliers in a tool box, nine times out of ten a person will grab the longest pair available. There are times in close quarters where a user might specifically select a short pair of needle nose pliers, but otherwise, it's human nature to grab the longest pair available. At last count I had seven needle nose pliers of various lengths and tip configurations in my tool box, but I invariablly grab the 15-inchers, the longest ones in the drawer.
Speaking of big pliers, I heartily recommend Knipex-brand slip-joint pliers. Knipex slip-joint pliers come in a range of sizes, with a variety of jaw designs, and are sometimes branded with the logos of tool retailers. I've go everything from a cute little 6-incher to a hefty 24-incher, and both have performed miracles for me. All I can say is that the Knipex design doesn't slip, their jaws don't round off, and they grip as well as any plier I've used. Even though I've got a number of traditional slip-jaw type pliers in my tool box, I always paw around to find the appropriate-size Knipex pliers when I'm in need of slip-jaw pliers.
Yes, I have a "thing" for pliers. Maybe I have too many. But I'm not sure you can have too much of a good thing, and pliers are a good thing.