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question-tm.jpgStuey writes: “I recently ordered Irwin GrooveLock pliers and Vise-Grip 7LW pliers, and I already have a few Crescent wrenches.  All three tools — at least to the best of my knowledge — can turn a fastener or nut without marring its finish. I’m curious to see what preferences you Toolmongers in regard to these tools.  Disregarding the plumbing advantage for tongue and groove pliers, it seems that the three pliers are interchangeable when it comes to standard sized nuts or bolts.  Let’s say you have a single nut to loosen 1/2 a turn before (or after) spinning it by hand. Which pair of adjustable pliers (they’re all the same length) would you reach for and why?”

Admittedly, I’m pretty reluctant to use pliers on a standard-sized fastener in most any circumstance — save when I’ve already destroyed it by other means.  I generally use pliers for gripping non-standard items and use properly-sized wrenches or sockets for nuts and bolts.

But that said, I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes you’ve gotta use what’s available to you.  In those cases, my first choice would be an adjustable wrench for nuts and bolts and the GrooveLocks for non-standard items.  I’m a pretty big fan of the GrooveLocks — I’ve got a pair that never seems to make it all the way back to the toolbox.

What say you?  Let us know in comments.


12 Responses to Reader Question: Which Adjustable Tool Rules ’em All?

  1. Don says:

    I’ve used a few different tools like this and I do think they have their place. I did end up leaving most of them in my shop rather than carry them around in the field though. I just didn’t like the wide range of motion when working on smaller bolts and nuts. Also, I don’t think they held as strong when really putting presure against larger bolts. These Irwin plyers do look pretty nice though.

  2. Greg Smith says:

    I love my RoboGrips, I use them all the time.

  3. The Knipex “water pump” pliers, posted back in August, are the best I’ve used. They provide tons of leverage, they’re surprisingly slim to reach into awkward places, and the metal has just enough “give” to it that you can tell how much force you’re really exerting. When my everyday Crescents slip, I stop before doing too much damage and grab the Knipex. They’ve never failed me.

  4. Chris Ball says:

    It depends:
    Cresent wrench – Lots of room to work and I don’t want to wreck the nut.
    Pump pliers – big nuts, less room to work with, slightly less care about the nut’s finish.
    Vice grips – last step before I grab a nut splitter or torch. You know it is properly set when the teeth have bitten about 2/32″ into the nut.

    Obviously if the thing isn’t really torqued together any of these things will get it apart without problems but, I think, each has a specific use that it is designed for.

    Of these things, the cresent wrench is the most dependant on tool quality so if you are going cheap, stick with pump pliers or just get one big pair of vice grips.

  5. Stuey says:

    Well, I didn’t mean regular toothed Vise-Grips, I meant these:


    I ordered a pair anyways, but the questions hit me afterwards. If I had to do something relatively simple and easy, say tighten the antenna on my car, and couldn’t use a regular wrench, all three tool choices would be appropriate.

    Maybe it’s just my lack of experience crying out.

  6. eschoendorff says:

    Robogrips are a joke… Knipex Cobras are the best choice in this situation.

  7. Cybergibbons says:

    The only tools I carry with me everyday are a Bahco 10″ shifter, a Pelican torch and a insulated terminal screwdriver. The shifter does most of the things you need it to – if you need to do anything else, then there is probably the “correct” tool back in the workshop, so there is no need to use pliers.

    I do use pump pliers now and then, for huge nuts and stuff like you find on, well, pumps. Mole grips are great for removing rusted studs, and rounded off Allen head bolts.

  8. Roscoe says:

    I’m a firm believer that a crescent wrench or any other adjustable tool should never be a first-choice substitute for the proper size end wrench. That being said, if you’re end the field and have to carry one tool that will work every time for loosening fasteners, I’d go with the vice-grips. I’d rather mar a bolt and replace it later, that not get it off at all.

  9. nrChris says:

    I just picked up a set of the Cobras from Knipex, and I have to agree with eschoendorff, they are great. I paid about $25 for a 10″ set, and I think that I will probably pick up the smaller size too.

  10. Stuart says:

    Knipex are simply the best. And priced accordingly…

  11. Jeff T says:

    Hey, anybody try the Stanley locking crescent wrench? It is a crescent wrench that are also vice-grips at the same time. I’ve heard it’s awesome.

  12. Eric Corson says:

    I second the two previous Knipex fans, they are ahead of everyone including latest Irwin, which is a fine tool. They excell at tight small plumbing but i always carry the twelve inch cobra in my tool bucket along with a couple Crescents and come off the roof when i need more specific wrench sizes.

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