Photo by: Mark Viker
Pliers extend and increase the strength of your hand's grip. They're simple levers, with the joint as the fulcrum: By pressing on the handles, you magnify your holding power and direct it to the tiny point where the jaws meet.

Every toolbox contains a fistful of pliers, with various sizes, jaws, joints, and handles, each suited to a particular task. But for all their differences, pliers come in just three basic types: locking, adjustable, and nonadjustable.

Locking pliers tighten mechanically onto the workpiece, freeing you to pull, twist, or even let go without losing your grip. Adjustable pliers can be sized to a variety of openings, while the jaws remain parallel so they can grip bolts or pipes. (Avoid the familiar slip-joint pliers that have a figure-eight joint perpendicular to the handles — you'll likely skin your knuckles when the tool slips.) Nonadjustable pliers move around a fixed joint, sometimes aided by a spring to open the jaws.

No one pair of pliers can do everything; turn the page to see which you'll need around your house. In all cases, look for simple but substantial tools with a smooth-operating, tight joint, and choose ones that are sized to the job at hand. Expect to pay about $20 to $30 for a decent pair — you won't find hard, tough steel for bargain-basement prices.

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