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Tons of gimmick-laden hand tools grace the shelves at the local home center every year — and they come and go with such speed it’s hard to keep track. But C.H. Hanson has rolled out a new locking set of pliers that seems to be as far away from late night infomercial as you can get. If they work half as well as the video demonstrates, we might have a winner here.

The term “automatic” in this case refers to a knobless adjustment for gripping items of different sizes. Instead, you set the desired clamp pressure in the center with a small knob and squeeze. To release, just flick the lever at the back end (with the same hand you’re holding it with) and the clamp releases.

C.H. Hanson says its automatic has more power than standard locking pliers as well, so you’re not losing anything with their new style. Here’s a chunk from their press release:

The redesigned tools deliver twice as much power as before and even 25 percent more power than the leading competitive product. Certified by a third party laboratory, the Automatics generated 1,660 pounds of tip pressure when the handles are closed with 83 pounds of force, compared to 1,265 pounds the competitor’s tool generated at the same force.

C.H Hanson further enhanced the Automatics line to improve performance and enhance the user experience including:

  • Redesign the handle to be 15 percent thinner and more ergonomic
  • Devise the release lever to provide a controlled release
  • Construct the tool to eliminate points that may pinch the user’s hand

If these statements are true, and the new locking pliers are lighter, tougher, easier to handle, and all with a controlled release, then it sounds like C.H. Hanson may have a bunch of these sold in the months ahead. Apparently someone was listening when all of us cursed aloud after over/under adjusting the pressure on standard locking pliers.

Pricing is in the $18 range for a set of standard 6″ automatic locking pliers, which isn’t cheap, but not the worst we’ve seen either. To sum this up, the dream of operating locking pliers with one hand and and never putting your beer down is now a reality. Just a little side-perk from your friends at C.H. Hanson.

Automatic Locking Pliers [C.H. Hanson]
Locking Pliers Video [C.H. Hanson]


19 Responses to Automatic Locking Pliers — Who Knew?

  1. Brian Stevens says:

    I have some of the “C Clamps” with swivel pads. I’m not sure if they’re made by CH Hanson, but I think they are. They are absolutely awesome! Much better than bar clamps, clamps, or vice grips, given the proper scenario.

  2. Mike47 says:

    Looks like another case of re-branding. Lock-Jaw brand automatic pliers have been available for years. Hanson must have bought the patent.

  3. jesse says:

    Hanson acquired LockJaw.

  4. I’ve got a large, a small, and a needlenose Lockjaw. Same design, as has already been pointed out.

    I don’t even know where my regular vice-grips are. There’s absolutely ZERO need for the old kind if you have the Lockjaws. They are that good.

    Sell your Vice-Grips and get these.

  5. Jason says:

    I’ve had a set of these for about 10 years now…


  6. There’s also the Sebertech “SeberGrip” pliers, which I wrote about here:

    They’re mechanically similar, but bigger and bulkier than normal Vise-Grips and their relatives, and the jaws are of the possibly-inferior laminated-steel type, instead of single forged pieces. They perform as advertised and are easy to adjust (and have a lock-disable lever too, which only occasionally comes in handy), but they only come in one size. If I were buying today I’d probably look at the Lockjaw/Hanson versions first.

  7. Artie says:

    I’m a ”Craftsman-crack-head” with hand tools and still I like my ViseGrip brand better than any others. I even bought the Craftsman version set of three over 20 yrs ago& have them in different tool boxes. But ViseGrip brand is the ones I like best 🙂

  8. Brau says:

    I have the LockJaw Grips and ViceGrips too. Both have their place, in my books. Once set, the LockJaw design unfortunately grabs more loosely on larger clamping items rather than vice versa. This means going from small nuts to large ones usually means you have to reset the adjuster, which is small, fiddly, and turns opposite to what you normally expect. I recently dismantled a porch, assembled at the turn of the century by a ship builder using a wide assortment of square nuts, and the LockJaws were indispensable for this task. They went easily from one size to another without having to resize.

    For gloved hand work, I find the good ol’ ViceGrips are still the best.

  9. Phil Hanson says:

    From the manufacturer: Thank you for all the positive feedback. Hanson did acquire LockJaw two years ago. I should point out that we have completely re-engineered the tool during the last 12 months and have relaunched the product as Automatic in January of 2011. There are HUGE differences in performance between the old “LockJaw” and the new “Automatic”. We have DOUBLED the amount of tip pressure generated per lb. of input force Vs. the old design and have made the tool much more ergonomic by thinning the “spine” of the tool and extended the rear handle. If you liked the old LockJaw, you will LOVE the new Automatic.

  10. IronHerder says:

    As always, the insightful comments are required reading (for me, anyway).

    But I’m left with two puzzles: 1. Where did the either/or point of view originate? I have a large variety of locking pliers sizes & brands. I do not have anything close to a surplus (they are clamps, after all), and the appropriate locking pliers is available, when not lost. 2. Why is “Vise-Grips” so consistently misspelled? Is “Vice-Grips” akin to “Horror Fright?” Or an adolescent fascination with the word “vice?” Actually, I approve of the latter. Remember, you can take the boy out of junior high, but you can’t the junior high out of the boy.


  11. JML says:

    I picked up several of each of the LockJaws because they were of higher quality than the Irwin Vise-Grip product (which seems to have gone downhill in the past several years), and they also performed better (and are easier to adjust and use). I am not sure I’ll replace all of mine with the new versions. From the information that came out with the re-launch of the product, it seems that Hanson is not offering an updated version of the plastic handle cover of the LockJaw pliers; that would be too bad, as the grip is much better with the nice wide and forgiving cover (hint!).

  12. Phil Hanson says:

    JML…thanks for the post. The tools are available with an updated soft grip handle.

  13. JML says:

    Phil, thanks for the response. But I don’t see any reference on your site, or on a seller’s site, to the new Automatic locking pliers coming with a soft-grip handle. The images and part #s all refer to the plain metal handle versions. I’ve seen – on the web and in a local Sears – your other automatics with the yellow handle in place of the original LockJaw orange handle, but not the locking pliers.

    And your own website seems to have a fifth pliers listed, but without a number, and it appears to duplicate the needle-nose!

  14. Phil Hanson says:

    The soft grip availablility has not made it onto the website yet..rest assured that they are indeed available…you get cutting edge information on ToolMonger! The reference you make on the 7″ NN is correct…its a mistake.
    Keep checking back on our website for the appearance of the soft grip.

  15. jeffo says:

    is it made in the usa?

  16. Phil Hanson says:

    Jeffo: They are made in China…unfortunately there is not a single manufacuter of locking pliers left in the US.

  17. I just got my hands on two new pairs of CH Hanson brand locking pliers. They are superb. I wouldn’t worry that they are made in China. They certainly seem to be well-made.

    The parts fit very snugly together, with zero slop. There are no flaws in the finish, no excessive grinding or assembly marks, and no sharp edges. The tool appears to be top-notch.

    I carried the needlenose in my pocket all day and showed them off to several people, all of whom were impressed.

    This is certainly NOT the kind of tool you would find at Harbor Freight.

  18. KenZ says:

    We just got in a pair of these. They’re fantastic. We’re going to rid ourselves of our other 7+ pairs of vice grips and replace with these models. They’re that good.

    That, and replace all our crescent and adjustable wrenches with the Knipex Pliers-Wrench which is similarly fantastic, but for a different purpose.

  19. Dave says:

    Harbor Freight generic channel locks are still the best for welding to stuff or welding stuff on to.

    It’s a joke of course. We would always buy a few handfuls of generic locking pliers and use as makeshift “fasteners” on our work trucks.

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