PHOTO: Daniel Johnson
January 9, 2018

On several occasions in the past, I’ve mentioned how a simple pair of locking pliers can be a great item to have in your toolbox. But somewhat to my surprise, looking back, I see that these references have been brief, and I’ve not given locking pliers the full attention that they deserve. That’s about to change!

Locking pliers are pretty much what their name implies—pliers that lock into position, allowing them to tightly grip objects with remarkable strength. The exact point at which the pliers go from “open” to “locked” is adjustable, allowing you to lock them on to items of different sizes, such as nuts and bolts.

This ability to lock into place makes these pliers extremely valuable. Whereas an ordinary pair of pliers requires you to squeeze the handles to maintain the grip, locking pliers do the work for you, meaning that you can clamp them onto an item and hold on without any further effort on your part. This is particularly handy if you’re working on a project that requires you to continuously shift between different tools and parts, such as securing the wires for an electric fence. It’s almost like having an extra hand—if you’ve got the locking pliers clamped on to a bolt and need to leave for a moment, the pliers will stay right in place.

But locking pliers have other uses too. The action of locking them generates extraordinary strength; I once repaired the bent latch on a mailbox by grabbing on with locking pliers and simply squeezing the metal latch back into place, a task I couldn’t have begun to accomplish with ordinary pliers. If you need to hold two items together while working on a project (perhaps two thin pieces of wood), clamping them together with the locking pliers can work quite well.

If you think a little more creatively, there are all sorts of uses for a pair of locking pliers. I once saw where someone had clamped locking pliers on to the stub of a broken-off doorknob, turning the pliers into the new handle. It was a bit cumbersome, but it worked, though I don’t necessarily recommend it as a practical long-term solution!

So if you don’t already own a pair of locking pliers, I suggest you remedy this situation immediately and add one (or two or three) pair to your toolbox. You might be surprised at how useful they prove to be—they’re among my favorite tools!

Next Up