ManMade Essential Toolbox: Get Yourself a Serious Pair of Cutting Pliers
There are those tools that are exciting. The ones you look forward to using: table saws, routers, even hand planes. And then there are the tools that sit there on the peg board, unassuming, know they’re perfect at the one task they were designed to do. And when you need them for that task, accept no substitutes. And when that task is cutting bits of metal like wire, nails and hardware, screen, etc – you want a pair of cutting pliers. Note: these pliers are designed for one task – cutting – and not for turning or grabbing anything. So, if you’ve been using pair of needlenose or lineman’s pliers for everything, it’s time to embrace the joy of the flush cut.
There are two main types of pliers dedicated for cutting. The first is the diagonal pliers, also known as wirecutters, diagonal cutters, side cutters, etc. They work by indenting the material with a sharp edge, then wedging it apart (as opposed to shearing like tin snips or scissors). They allow you to cut wire or small fasteners made of almost any common metal (brass, aluminum, copper, steel, iron, tempered steel). They also work well for skinning wire (removing the insulation) when a stripper is not available.
Because the entire surface is dedicated to cutting, you can manipulate these guys to cut inside many different angles, such as snipping inside a small space, or, you know, dismantling a bomb, or something.
The other style are known as nippers, or end-cutters, and are used for trimming protruding wire, nails, or rivets close to the work. This is my go-to tool when cutting errant pneumatic nailer fasteners (nail gun nails), and their larger cutting surface make them great for around the house tasks (I used them to cut guitar strings, for example.) You can even use these to cut tile when you need to fit it around an odd shape.
Both have a place in your tool box alongside your twisting pliers. If you only get one pair, start with the diagonal cutters, as they’re a bit more versatile, but, these are not expensive, and it’s great to have the right tool for the job on hand when you need it. Whatever you get, get a pair made from a manufacturer known for its high-quality, tempered steel so you don’t ruin the edges. These shouldn’t only cost six bucks, but thankfully, only go for about $15-20. The extra money to get a tool that will last, and can be sharpened to a new edge, is well worth it. Buy the right pair now, and you’re grandkids will still be using them.