We’ve got a massive drawer full of pliers in the Toolmonger shop, including a good many tongue-in-groove pliers. They’re particularly handy because they’re adjustable to fit even large items and the long handles let you get a good purchase on what you’re gripping. (Ironically, it seems that in many cases a firmer grip, while still biting into the object more than a softer hold, actually does less damage because you’re less likely to slip/rotate and machine in gouges.)
When we tried out Irwin’s new Vise-Grip-branded GrooveLock pliers, we thought just what you’re probably thinking: Decent quality pliers are decent quality pliers, right? We were thoroughly (and happily) surprised. While the GrooveLocks fill the same role as a set of standard tongue-in-groove pliers, they function quite differently, and are significantly easier to use. Read on to find out what’s so different about them and why you’ll want to own a set (or three).
The GrooveLocks come in a partial package so you can feel the nice molded rubber grips when you’re shelf-shopping. They’re the same thermal plastic rubber (TPR) ProTouch grips shared with a number of other hand tools in the Vise-Grip lineup, and they make the tool very comfortable to hold in your hand. The grips are larger than they seem in photos, and their molded shape is designed to encourage you to hold them in a way that keeps your fingers out from between the handles (where they can get pinched).
The majority of the tool is forged from chrome nickel steel and incorporates a black oxide finish.
The GrooveLocks’ most noticeable feature, though, is the ratcheting adjustment system. Unlike standard tongue-in-groove pliers where you adjust them by moving the handles out and slipping the tongue in the groove, the GrooveLocks’ adjust with a button release. To adjust the jaws, you simply push the button and slide them to the desired position. They slide freely as long as the button is depressed, and lock into the closest groove when released.
It’s worth noting that the GrooveLocks grooves are much smaller than those you’re used to as they’ve been relieved of the additional machining required for a slip-adjustment mechanism. In fact, the 12″ version we tested had 19 grooves — about twice as many as other similar pliers. This means you can adjust the GrooveLocks much more accurately.
Irwin also touts their “metal injection molding” (MIM) metal forming process which is used to create the GrooveLocks’ internal mechanism. They claim MIM gives them the ability to mold small and complex-shaped metal parts with improced surface finish, close porosity, and high final density. What this means to you is that the GrooveLocks’ mechanism is quite strong and should last for quite a while.
GrooveLocks feature an “all-purpose” jaw that’s shaped to grip flat, square, and hex shapes more accurately than a simple curved-with-teeth design.
Read on to see how the GrooveLocks performed for us in everyday use.
From the very start we fell in love with the GrooveLocks’ quick adjust mechanism. It’s light-years ahead of the standard slip-adjust mechanism, and truly makes using the pliers easier and more enjoyable.
This type of design change at the core of a tool has a positive effect that carries into almost all modes of operation. For example, the push-button mechanism not only allows more grooves (and therefore more accurate adjustment), but it also eliminates the need for the pliers’ handles to open wide. So, no more grabbing the pliers by one handle and having them slide open wide, losing your last adjustment. The GrooveLocks open only enough to allow the jaws to open fully, and your adjustment is saved until you press the button again.
The adjustment button is large enough and protrudes enough from the side of the tool to be operated with gloved hands.
We were also impressed with how easily the TPR grips cleaned up. We had no problem getting brake dust, grease, and other shop mess off the grips with a rag and a bit of cleaner.
Irwin’s GrooveLocks are excellent pliers. The quick adjust mechanism is a time- and hassle-saver, and their ability to adjust accurately significantly increases their utility. They’re very easy to use and have become very popular in our shop. Is there higher praise than to say that we plan to pick up the 8″ and 10″ versions as well?
GrooveLocks are available in three models:
the 8″ GV8 with a 1-3/4″ jaw capacity and 13 grooves
the 10″ GV10 with a 2-1/4″ jaw capacity and 16 grooves
and the 12″ GV12 with a 2-3/4″ jaw capacity and 19 grooves
You can find them at many local home improvement and hardware stores as well as online starting for around $15 to $25 depending on size (and how well you shop).