Slip-joint pliers are one of the most versatile tools: they provide reliable gripping control for tasks both on the job and at home. No one tool can fit every job—but a nice pair of of the best slip joint pliers comes close. In this article, we’ll go over the uses and different types of this basic tool, and review ten of the best slip-joint pliers currently on the market.
Buyer’s Guide Of The Best Slip-Joint Pliers
What are Slip-Joint Pliers?
The basic straight tool is made of two separate pieces, joined at a common point to form opposing jaws. One of these rods has holes for the joint’s bolt, which is mounted on the other side, so you can slide easily between the holes to change the fulcrum of the jaws.
Each jaw normally has two surfaces. The contact area, or pad, has a scored or fine-toothed texture, and the middle section is curved and has larger teeth for gripping nuts, pipes or other round objects.
Why do you need them?
Slip-joint pliers are used to grip and manipulate small objects: they allow you to carefully apply significant force. Because they are adjustable, these tools are useful in a huge range of tasks, from plumbing to electrical work. The adjustment system is simple and mechanically powered, with few parts to break down.
Pro Tip: Though tough professional jobs require higher quality pliers, cheaper models are usually fine for routine household use.
Different design configurations exist for pliers. Some are long and narrow to reach inside wiring, others have a long shank to fit larger pipes—as long as their joint can be shifted, they are a slip-joint tool.
There are two main categories of slip-joint tools: Straight and Tongue-and-Groove.
Straight Slip-Joint Pliers
The generic household pliers are the simple clam-shell pliers with opposing jaws that have a simple sliding adjustment. These can come with or without a cushioned grip, and they are strong, durable, adjustable tools. These are especially useful when working around pipes or machinery with nuts, and for manipulating delicate or hard-to-reach items.
The main difference between straight pliers varieties is size. You can also find “soft-headed” pliers that won’t mar or scratch objects.
Other designs use channels or grooves in place of the holes of straight pliers, which allows for a wider variety of shapes and specializations. Here are the main types:
Water Pump – These pliers have a longer shank for a greater adjustment range.
Angled head – This style provides greater leverage and is popular for automotive and plumbing work.
Needle-nosed – The long, skinny head is perfect for reaching into a computer or wire-filled box.
Reviews of the 10 Best Slip-Joint Pliers
These basic pliers come to us from an old American name, since parted out worldwide in search of lower costs. Stanley succeeded in its quest: these are a usable pair of pliers that will work for most household tasks, and will rust only slowly, at a nice low price.
There are several convenient, versatile sizes for tasks around the house. The double-dipped plastic handles they sport are seamless pull-on covers made of a rubbery plastic. They are comfortable and offer a good grip.
These pliers don’t have the quality of most Stanley tools, and they will probably break if given a tough job. Very occasionally they will break anyway due to material or construction issues, so the lifetime warranty is nice … though the postage will likely cost more than buying a new one.
Sometimes you just want a cheap pair of pliers for little repair jobs around the house. These are back-of-the-drawer pliers with a good name and a basic, capable design.
- Forged, chrome-nickel steel construction
- Hardened cutting edges
- Lifetime Limited Warranty
- Cable-tied packaging is difficult to open
- Chrome-nickel finish slowly rusts
- Mid-grade materials and craftsmanship
Here’s another pair of economical straight slip-joint pliers. These have a better quality of steel, and they’re made in the USA. There are many sizes, and each is made of high-carbon steel with an electronically applied seal to ward off rust.
It uses the straight slip-joint design with a serrated underside for tight grips. There’s also a PermaLock fastener that seals the joint, so you don’t have to keep re-tightening a nut and bolt.
The metal is quality high carbon 1080 steel. The tool is made in America … and so is the steel. It has a smooth, clean finish, and light blue plastic handles that provide a nice grip. The serrated jaws are well-machined, with a span of 2 inches.
Another similarity these Channellocks have with Stanley’s pliers is that they’re both discount goods selling under a well-known name. They’re not bad, though, especially if you like the baby-blue color. They’re all most households need, and a good value overall.
- High carbon steel
- Rust Resistant
- PermaLock fastener (not nut and bolt)
- Made in the USA
- Indeterminate Warranty
Here they are, the original classic. These Crescent slip-joints are multi-use, single mold forged carbon steel that’s strong and durable enough for a lifetime of use.
The simple design opens wide and grips with hardened steel teeth. The wire cutter is sturdy and sharp. The handles are knurled for grip and have a clean-looking finish.
Keep in mind that the cushioned, double-dipped handles on most current models were added to the all-metal grip for reasons of comfort. Thin bare steel can be rough on the hands.
Barring the need for a cushioned grip, these are a great value if you’re looking for a nice pair for work or home. They have a classic, efficient style that understates the tool’s performance.
- Forged Carbon Steel construction
- Heat-hardened teeth
- Classic style
- Bare metal handles
These Japanese slip-joint pliers have replaceable plastic jaws for the times you don’t want to mar the surface. The hard resin pads have three points of contact to hold securely without scratching or denting.
The construction is basic but effective with machine-grade steel and plastic-coated handles. The pliers are fully functional, and include a wire cutter suitable for soft iron. The rather restrictive jaw span is just over an inch.
The plastic jaw pads are theoretically replaceable, but they aren’t available in the US currently. There are times you need a soft touch, and the price and craftsmanship of these pliers make them a solid value—but until head replacements are available domestically, these are basically nice disposables if you live in the States.
- Plastic jaws to prevent scratching
- Built-in spring
- Replacement pads unavailable in the US
- Narrow jaw span
Here’s another soft-jawed Japanese model. For a couple of dollars more you get a bit sleeker style with purple/pink handles. More importantly, you can find replacements for them domestically, so you don’t have to buy a new tool when the jaw cracks.
The soft jaws are molded using a special resin formulated to preserve surfaces, so they are suitable for polished hardware, plastic car trims, etc. The resin jaw is fitted securely with screws.
These Japanese-made tools have style and some quality, and they’re cheap enough to keep around for the odd job that needs soft-headed pliers. With this model, you can also replace the heads as needed.
- Soft jaw to prevent scratching
- Replaceable soft jaw
- Durable metal construction
- Resin too soft for some uses
These pliers are another step up in quality, and have a quality close to premium. It’s a well-balanced and accurately machined tool that feels comfortable in your hand. There is no play in the slots. Plastic handles cushion the metal frame.
SK’s pliers are made in the USA. The Lifetime Warranty is for the “expected life” of the tool (not the owner) … but the manufacturer is less forthcoming about how that translates to each tool.
If you’re looking for a rugged tool, this is a good one to check out. Overall they’re good quality pliers suitable for tasks at home or on a job site.
- Good ergonomics
- Cushion grip
- Lifetime warranty
- Indeterminate Warranty
Moving to the category of tongue-and-groove pliers, this Irwin model features a popular design with a fast-set adjustment and wide potential span.
The V-shape of the jaws makes it easier to grip nuts than does the usual flat pad. The maker claims their Multi-Groove Ratcheting System has twice as many positions as other groove-slot competitors, so it offers an exacting span. The comfortable handle features a press-and-slide button to quickly change grooves, but you can also open the handle for free changes. The tool is well made, and doesn’t slip to another size accidentally under pressure.
The pliers come with a Lifetime Warranty, and there are several sizes available. They are a durable too, but keep them indoors to avoid rust. Overall these are a nice pair of quality pliers and a good value.
- Button-operated adjustment
- Multi-Groove Ratcheting System
- V-shaped jaws
- Rusts too easily
These are high-quality tongue-and-groove pliers made in Kansas, USA. Made of drop-forged nickel chromium steel, they are specially heat treated to emerge, as the company lyrically claims, “the toughest tool available in the market.”
The jaws have deep, self-gripping teeth, like those of a pipe wrench. The span is wide and the steel stands up to hard labor. They are one degree away from hand-crafted pliers, but they’re priced competitively with mass-produced units.
These are whoppers at 11 inches, so they aren’t the best candidate for a household utility tool. However, if you’re looking for a solid working tool that’s made in America with high-end steel and superior construction, you should check out this Wilde one.
- Nickel chromium steel construction
- Precision Heat Treated metal
- Induction-hardened shear cutting edge
- Anti-rust Zinc coating
- Oversized for many uses
This is probably the current market leader for higher-end pliers, and they deliver real value for their premium price. It features one-handed operation, secure gripping and fine-tune control.
The adjustment guard has a push button system that can be worked with one hand: this prevents pinching that is so common with larger groove pliers. The box-joint design has a double guide for extra stability, and the jaws are self-locking on pipes and fasteners—so once it’s set, it sticks.
The Knipex Cobra is made of chrome vanadium which resists rust. The high quality steel and its comprehensive heat treatment produces a thin profile that can fit in tight spaces.
It’s good stuff, and there aren’t many quibbles. It’s pricey, sure, and the push-button thingie is bound to cause problems, but it’s also a high-quality, balanced tool with a large fan club.
- One-handed operation with push-button clutch
- High-quality Steel
- Rust-resistant chrome vanadium finish
- Self-locking Box-Joint design
- Locking mechanism difficult for some users
- Some durability issues reported
This German-made heavy-duty tool has a unique jaw assembly for extra grip and a compact, narrow head for working in small spaces. The Klein name has a large following for its premium quality.
The teeth are hardened for tight clenching without wear, and are arranged in an unsymmetrical, ridged design. This unusual configuration provides more points of contact for greater gripping power. Extended cushion grips increase comfort and versatility in handling.
These are tough pliers by a quality brand, and they offer a little more strength than most mass-market tools. Not a whole lot more, though, and they are a bit heavy at one pound, and awkward for routine home use.
The unorthodox grip is especially helpful for plumbing jobs, where a secure grip on round pipes is frequently needed. If you’re looking for quality pliers that professionals use, these are ones to check out.
- Quality name in tradesmen’s tools
- Unique jaw teeth pattern for better grip
- Durable steel construction