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Published Nov. 26, 2020

Almost everyone knows what pliers are. They come in a wide variety of forms to achieve a wide variety of results. Needle-nose pliers, diagonal pliers/wire cutters, locking pliers/vise grips, and slip-joint pliers are all familiar tools. But what about slip joint pliers? While the name may not be familiar, slip-joint pliers are the most common type of pliers. It simply means adjustable pliers where the pivot point usually consists of a nut-and-bolt combination and two channels. Switching from one channel to the other allows users to adjust the width of the jaws, making it easier to get a grip on both narrow and wide items. Tongue and groove pliers also fall into this category.

With an incredibly simplistic design, slip joint pliers are very versatile, making them a must-have tool for even the most basic of toolsets. This tool is a staple, but even when shopping for commonly available tools, buyers should purchase quality devices. With so many options available, a little research goes a long way.

The Best Slip Joint Pliers

Each type of pliers serves a certain role, but for those wanting one pair to rule them all, the Irwin Vise-Grip 8” Slip Joint Pliers are an excellent candidate. Due to its traditional slip joint design, this pair of pliers can tackle most jobs. This pair is built with a tough, durable nickel chromium steel alloy, and its jaws feature an induction-hardened wire cutter. Each right-angle tooth is machined for maximum strength and grip. The ProTouch grips use an anti-pinch design, and the rubberized ComfortGrip coating includes comfort and control while decreasing hand fatigue. As with all Irwin tools, the Irwin Vise-Grip 8” Slip Joint Pliers meet or exceed all ANSI specifications, ensuring high-quality operation.

These pliers are solid and reliable, yet some users have reported the occasional fit and finish issue. Others have also reported that the integrated wire cutter has only limited effectiveness. Still, these issues should not affect the overall performance of these sturdy pliers.

Key Features
  • 8-inch slip joint pliers
  • Nickel chromium steel construction
  • ProTouch Grip handle
Specification
  • Brand Irwin
  • Model 2078408
  • Weight 6.4 ounces
PROS

Good value

Tough construction

Rust-resistant

Cushioned ProTouch Grip handles

Meets or exceeds ANSI standards

CONS

Occasional fit and finish issues

Limited wire cutter performance

Looking for some slip joint pliers with a little something extra in tow? Then check out the Stanley 3-Piece Basic Pliers Set. In addition to a six-inch slip joint plier, this set also includes a six-inch-long nose plier and a six-inch diagonal plier (a.k.a., wire cutter). Each plier is drop forged with a durable nickel chromium steel alloy, and each one receives a rust-resistant finish for increased durability. The handles of each tool are dipped twice to create an oil-resistant, rubberized grip for both traction and comfortable handling. All cutting edges are hardened to make quick work of tough wires. Each tool meets or exceeds ANSI standards, and the Stanley 3-Piece Basic Pliers Set comes standard with a limited lifetime warranty.

A perfect tool or toolset is a rare find, and these tools sit with the majority. While this set lacks any significant design or material issues, some users have reported disappointment about the fit and finish. Still, this plier set is prepared to accomplish virtually any task.

Key Features
  • Three 6-inch pliers: slip joint, long nose, and diagonal
  • Drop-forged nickel chromium steel construction
  • Double-dipped handle
Specification
  • Brand Stanley
  • Model 84-114
  • Weight 8.1 ounces
PROS

Great value

Tough construction

Rust-resistant

Cushioned handles

Meets or exceeds ANSI standards

CONS

Occasional fit and finish issues

Looking for a top-quality, original slip joint plier design? The Channellock 6.5-Inch Tongue and Groove Plier skyrockets to the top of that list. Based in Meadville, Pennsylvania, Channellock produces this variant of its original tongue and groove plier design, drop forging each tool in the United States. Constructed with high-carbon steel, this pair of pliers is tough and durable. The tongue and each groove use an undercut design to create a non-slip action, and the PermaLock fastener effectively replaces the common nut and bolt fulcrum with perfect functionality. The tool’s jaw has right-angle, laser heat-treated teeth for strong, long-lasting grip, and the dipped handle increases grip and comfort. The Channellock 6.5-Inch Tongue and Groove Plier has five jaw size settings and is electronically coated for rust prevention.

This tool will elicit virtually no gripes beyond its price tag. While it may not be the most affordable option on this list, buyers who do splurge will be rewarded with a top-notch tool.

Key Features
  • 6.5-inch tongue and groove pliers
  • Drop-forged high-carbon steel construction
  • PermaLock fastener
Specification
  • Brand Channellock
  • Model 426
  • Weight 13.5 ounces
PROS

Tough construction

Rust-resistant

Cushioned handles

No nut and bolt fastener

Made in America

CONS

Expensive

While Channellock holds the title for King of the Tongue and Groove Pliers, the Knipex 10-Inch Cobra Pliers is the dark horse challenger vying for the title. This workhorse uses a self-locking pivot system to allow a level of precision and consistency that even the highest quality traditional designs could never dream of achieving. To adjust the jaw size, users simply depress a button at the pivot point and slide the jaws from there. This tool consists of a heavy-duty, forged chrome vanadium steel alloy that is oil-hardened before moving to the next stages of production. These German pliers are also user friendly thanks to the dipped, anti-pinch handles. The Knipex 10-Inch Cobra Pliers may be the toughest, smartest, and most durable pair on this list.

Unfortunately, the pliers are rather pricey, and to be honest, will never take Channellock’s title since they’re not a true tongue and groove or slip joint design. Then again, the out-of-the-box design makes them a perfect challenger to conventional designs.

Key Features
  • 10-inch pliers
  • Chrome vanadium steel construction
  • Self-locking pivot fastener
  • Cushioned grips
Specification
  • Brand Knipex Tools
  • Model 8701250
  • Weight 11.1 ounces
PROS

High quality

Tough, durable construction

Rust-resistant

Customizable jaw width

Cushioned handles

CONS

Very expensive

Not a true tongue and groove design

Looking for a pair of pliers with a full lifetime warranty behind them? The Craftsman 2-Piece Groove Joint Pliers Set provides two such tools with an affordable price to boot. This set includes two pairs of tongue and groove pliers: one eight-inch pair and one 10-inch pair. Each tool is built with drop-forged steel components, presenting users with strong and durable tools capable of tackling virtually any task. The jaws on each pair provide users with a strong, sure grip thanks to jaws and teeth machined with precision. The handles create a sure, comfortable grip thanks to their multi-zone design and bi-material construction. For those tough jobs requiring pulling, twisting, or tugging, the Craftsman 2-Piece Groove Joint Pliers Set gives users two comfortable yet effective tools.

Some users have reported that this set of pliers uses loose-fitting rivets, making it very easy to switch from one groove to another. While some may see this as a frustration or even a sign of poor quality, others will find it convenient instead, making it easier to complete quick, on-the-fly jobs.

Key Features
  • 8-inch and 10-inch tongue and groove pliers
  • Drop-forged steel construction
  • Bi-material, multi-zone handles
Specification
  • Brand Craftsman
  • Model CMHT82547
  • Weight 1.6 pounds
PROS

Tough construction

Cushioned handles

Full lifetime warranty

CONS

Loose-fitting rivets

Sometimes, one pair of slip joint pliers is not enough. With the WorkPro 7-Piece Pliers Set, buyers will find not one, not two, but three such pliers, including a six-inch pair, an eight-inch pair, and an eight-inch one tongue and groove pair, plus four additional plier types, resulting in an incredibly versatile set of tools. Each tool is constructed of drop-forged steel, then is heat-treated and polished for a strong, long-lasting final product. Each tool’s handles are double-dipped in a rubberized coating for increased comfort and grip. In addition to the three pairs listed above, the WorkPro 7-Piece Pliers Set also includes a seven-inch linesman plier, six- and 4.5-inch needle nose pliers, and a six-inch diagonal plier/wire cutter, each with hardened cutting edges for longevity.

While this set is a good bargain, these tools do have their limitations. Under high pressures, the needle-nose pliers may bend somewhat, limiting their practical use to lower-intensity jobs. Also, due to their lack of a rust-resistant finish, these tools will need a little extra care and attention.

Key Features
  • Set of seven pliers, including two slip joint and one tongue and groove
  • Drop-forged steel construction
  • Double-dipped handle
Specification
  • Brand WorkPro
  • Model W001306A
  • Weight 2.3 pounds
PROS

Inexpensive

Cushioned handles

CONS

No rust-resistant finish

Limited tensile strength

While six-inch and eight-inch pliers are good for most jobs, the Tekton 10-Inch Slip Joint Pliers are designed to tackle those jobs where its smaller competitors simply do not have what it takes. This tool from Tekton is made in the U.S.A. using 4150 steel, resulting in a tough, durable, and reliable pair of pliers. Its sturdy design and stout build give users peace of mind by reducing twisting and bending while providing an excellent grip on bolts, nails, and other objects. The jaws on this tool are made for extreme versatility, thanks to three separate gripping zones inside and the wire shear tucked away behind these zones. The Tekton 10-Inch Slip Joint Pliers also has dipped handles for a slim, cushioned grip.

Unfortunately, all of these features result in a high price tag for the overall package. As such, some may wonder why Tekton chose to use nut-and-bolt pivoting hardware instead of a rivet and to forgo a rust-resistant finish. While some may dislike this feature, it has the added benefit of allowing for adjustable pivot tension, and since few users have reported issues with the system, buyers can avoid fretting over this design feature.

Key Features
  • 10-inch pliers
  • 4150 steel construction
  • Three-zone jaws
  • Slim, cushioned grips
Specification
  • Brand Tekton
  • Model 37124
  • Weight 1.0 pounds
PROS

Tough construction

Cushioned handles

Adjustable tension

Made in America

CONS

Expensive

Nut and bolt pivot hardware

No rust-resistant finish

When it comes to tools, form usually gives way to function, but the Maxpower 3-Piece Tongue and Groove Pliers Set incorporates both in an unconventional way. This set of pliers replaces the traditional tongue and groove design with a ratcheting push-button pivot point that allows users to maintain consistent jaw size for repeatable results. Each of the three tools, measuring seven, 10, and 16 inches, is built with strong, durable chrome vanadium steel and is oil-hardened for added strength and rust resistance. The multi-groove ratcheting system gives users fine-tuned control over jaw sizing, and once the dimensions are set, the self-locking jaws will easily grip objects of virtually any size or shape. The Maxpower 3-Piece Tongue and Groove Pliers Set also leverage dipped handles for comfort, cushion, and grip.

While innovation is a key part of product improvement, the unusual mechanisms of this tool make it expensive to manufacture, although not exorbitantly so. Purists may also object to the non-traditional design, although a little hands-on experience may change that perspective.

Key Features
  • Three tongue and groove pliers: seven-inch, 10-inch, and 16-inch
  • Chrome vanadium steel construction
  • Self-locking pivot fastener
  • Cushioned grips
Specification
  • Brand Maxpower
  • Model QF-OWX2-E8FQ
  • Weight 4.1 pounds
PROS

Tough construction

Rust-resistant

Customizable jaw width

Cushioned handles

Lifetime warranty

CONS

Expensive

Not a true tongue and groove design

Sometimes, the toughest jobs are the smallest one, and the Crescent 4.5-Inch Mini Tongue and Groove Pliers are perfectly suited for just such a challenge. This handy little tool takes advantage of a tongue and groove pivot design for quick and easy jaw size adjustments. The V-shaped jaw is offset and locks into four different positions to allow for the perfect fit around a variety of objects. The steel alloy construction results in a durable tool, and the precision-machined joint uses a riveted pivot point to ensure smooth action while eliminating slippage. To ensure a comfortable and confident experience, the handles are dipped in tacky rubberized plastic. The Crescent 4.5-Inch Mini Tongue and Groove Pliers also receive a black oxide to prevent rust.

While this pair of pliers is perfect for smaller jobs, its diminutive size limits its applications. For any job involving objects with a diameter greater than 3/4 of an inch, look for something bigger, but for anything less, this tool is the best.

Key Features
  • 4.5-inch tongue and groove pliers
  • Steel alloy construction
  • Black oxide finish
  • Riveted pivot hardware
Specification
  • Brand Crescent
  • Model RT24CVS
  • Weight 2.1 ounces
PROS

Tough construction

Rust-resistant

Cushioned handles

CONS

Small: 3/4-inch maximum jaw capacity

Looking for the perfect pliers for use around the house? The FastPro 7-Piece Utility Pliers and Wrench Set easily fits the bill. This set includes six- and eight-inch slip joint pliers, an eight-inch tongue and groove plier, an eight-inch adjustable wrench, a six-inch diagonal plier/wire cutter, a six-inch needle nose plier, and a six-inch lineman plier. Each tool is built with drop-forged carbon steel and is heat-treated to increase hardness, durability, and strength. The jaws on each tool are machined to create a strong, sure grip, allowing users to securely grasp any necessary items. The cutting tools have hardened cutting edges for extra toughness and effortless cutting. Each plier and wrench in the FastPro 7-Piece Utility Pliers and Wrench Set is double dipped for increased grip and comfort.

Unfortunately, no tool is perfect, and this set is no different. Despite all its strengths, these tools have limited tensile strength, most easily seen in the needle-nose pliers. Under pressure, they may bend, so their use should be limited to lower-pressure applications.

Key Features
  • Set of seven pliers, including two slip joint and one tongue and groove
  • Drop-forged carbon steel construction
  • Heat-treated
  • Double-dipped handle
Specification
  • Brand FastPro
  • Model F00150
  • Weight 3.1 pounds
PROS

Inexpensive

Cushioned handles

Meets or exceeds ANSI standards

CONS

Limited tensile strength

Best Slip Joint Pliers Buying Guide & FAQ

Often known simply as “pliers,” the slip joint plier is a ubiquitous tool. It can be found in home repair tool sets, plumbers’ tool bags, and mechanics’ toolboxes. Not only can this tool be found virtually anywhere, but it’s also sold by almost most manufacturers.

To some, it would seem that a tool is a tool. Yet, in actuality, even tools that look virtually identical may not be the same item. On the flip side, tools that may not look the same may both be considered slip-joint pliers.

Knowing the design, features, and intended application of any tool is critical when it comes to finding and purchasing a quality product. To make the selection process simpler, we have researched to save you the pain of sifting through everything yourself and to make it easier to find a quality slip joint plier.

Do You Need Slip Joint Pliers?

Slip joint pliers are the most common and may well be the most versatile type of pliers currently known to mankind. In virtually all but the most specialized tool collections, one will find one or more pairs of these pliers, and yours should be no exception to this rule. Originally, this design was engineered primarily to support plumbers and their work, but since it first entered the workforce the slip joint plier has proven to be capable of tackling a variety of other jobs, particularly in the mechanical world.

By nature, slip joint pliers are adjustable, allowing users to switch from grasping narrower objects to securing wider ones without switching tools or physically changing their position. This feature is especially helpful in tight spaces, such as under the hood or the sink. Additionally, this tool can fill in for a wrench should the need arise. While certainly not ideal for regular automotive work, keeping one of these tools in an emergency car tool kit is not at all a bad idea.

Whether you are a plumber, a car owner, or a homeowner, slip joint pliers are an essential tool to keep on hand.

  • Slip joint pliers can be used for a variety of job types, particularly plumbing and mechanical jobs.
  • Slip joint pliers are adjustable.
  • In a pinch, a slip joint plier can replace a wrench.

Types of Slip Joint Pliers

While many slip joint pliers have a common form factor, there are three main variants buyers may come across. The traditional design, tongue and groove version, and ratcheting plier were all designed with plumbing applications in mind. Despite this, all slip joint pliers can be used in a variety of roles, although some will do so better than others.

  • Traditional Design

The traditional slip joint plier is easily the most common type. This variant uses a symmetrical design with two individual pieces fastened to each other in the middle with either a fixed rivet or a nut-and-bolt combination. One of the two pieces seats the pivot point while the other features two slots between which the hinge fastener can be moved. The hinge fastener creates enough pressure to allow users to easily switch from a narrow jaw size to a wide one with incredible ease while minimizing the tool’s likelihood of moving out of position during use.

The jaws used in this design often have aggressive teeth to provide a firm, anti-slip grip. The jaw surfaces also vary in width to accommodate a number of different object shapes and sizes. This allows the tool to adapt easily to applications such as auto repair, giving users a solid grip on nuts and bolts.

  • Tongue and Groove

Tongue and groove pliers vary from the traditional pattern in two main ways. First, this variant uses a head with offset handles. In coordination with the hinge mechanism, this offset design allows the jaws to work better with much larger objects than a traditional design with a similar overall length.

Second, this subset of slip joint pliers uses a more complex hinge mechanism. As the name implies, one of the two primary tool parts features a series of grooves at the pivot point along with a slot running perpendicular to the grooves. The second part uses a bump, or “tongue”, that, once secured in place, can slide in and out of any given groove as the user demands. This setup makes tongue and groove pliers particularly helpful for plumbers and others working in confined spaces.

  • Ratcheting

While technically different, ratcheting slip joint pliers look very similar to tongue and groove pliers. In fact, at a glance, they are virtually indistinguishable. Due to their matching form factors, both ratcheting slip joint pliers and tongue and groove pliers work incredibly in the same contexts, such as plumbing and working in spaces too tight for a traditional variant of similar size.

The hinge design on the ratcheting slip joint plier is what sets it apart from the rest of the family. Easily the most complicated hinge of the three, this design uses a series of ratcheting teeth along the length of the slot it borrows from the tongue and groove design. To change the tool’s jaw size, users must depress a button at the pivot point and slide the jaws into their proper place. Once in plays, the ratchet locks the jaws into place for consistent, repeatable results.

What to Consider When Buying Slip Joint Pliers

Yes, slip joint pliers are simple tools with a straightforward design. No, not every set of pliers is the same even if they look it. As such, there are important things to consider when purchasing a pair of slip-joint pliers. Knowing what a tool’s construction materials and finish are can make all the difference between buying a quality product and adding another piece of junk to the scrap heap.

  • Build Materials and Finishes

Build materials and tool finishes are critical but, often, overlooked elements of the tool selection process. Today, quality tools are almost always drop-forged, and commonly, tool steels will be high-carbon steels and/or alloys that include chromium, such as chrome-vanadium (often abbreviated “Cr-V”) or chrome-molybdenum (also known as “chrome-moly”. Both high-carbon steels and chrome-based steel alloys tend to be strong and more durable than regular steel, and chrome-based alloys tend to be somewhat more rust-resistant. Heat-treated steels are also stronger and more durable than their competitors.

Today’s tools can use a variety of rust-resistant finishes, although many inexpensive tools will skip the finishing process entirely, making them more rust-prone. Common quality finishes include chrome plating, black oxide, and case hardening (also known as oil hardening). On the flip side, avoid stainless steel like the plague. It may be rust-resistant, but its strength only beats that of aluminum.

The Best Slip Joint Pliers FAQ:

While the basic slip joint plier design is pretty straightforward, buyers may still find themselves asking a few questions about this tool. Before purchasing a tool, it helps to understand how it is used, what size or sizes may be needed, and so on. Sometimes, it even helps to know what kind of names the tool goes by to ensure a thorough search for the best options available.

Q: What are slip joint pliers used for?

Slip joint pliers were originally designed to be used by plumbers, but they are just as helpful in a variety of other realms, particularly mechanical and automotive applications.

Q: What is another name for slip joint pliers?

Usually, slip joint pliers do not go by other names; however, one variant of this design is the tongue and groove plier, known for its tongue-and-groove hinge and offset jaws.

Q: What is the most common size of slip joint pliers?

Slip joint pliers usually come in two common sizes: six-inch and eight-inch.

Our Top Pick

Even with all the many choices available, the Irwin Vise-Grip 8” Slip Joint Pliers managed to steal the show. Constructed of nickel-chromium steel, this tough, durable tool was built to last while still being comfortable to use. Safety is a top priority for Irwin, and the company made sure that this set of pliers meets or exceeds ANSI specifications for professional use. To top it all off, users absolutely love these pliers, which should give any buyer the ability to purchase this tool with confidence.

Final Thoughts

The Irwin Vise-Grip 8” Slip Joint Pliers are tough, durable pliers that are well-rated for safety, performance, and customer satisfaction, making them a can’t-miss purchase. When value matters most, the Stanley 3-Piece Basic Pliers Set will do the job, providing you with all of the plier basics.

Sources:

  1. Slip Joint Pliers – Wikipedia

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