EarthWorks Designs - How-To - Know Your Pliers
Know Your Pliers

by Blaise Hartley


A key ingredient of successful maille-making is to have the right tools for the job. Newcomers are always posting requests for advice on what tools to buy, but rarely does anyone explain or describe the tools suggested. This article is intended to help clarify the area of pliers, especially in the area of names, which are often confused. It is by no means a comprehensive listing of every pliers type known to man, but rather a simple overview of those commonly used by maillers.

There are three main types of pliers, Flat-Nose, Needle-Nose, and Chain-Nose. Two other commonly used subtypes are the Hook-Nose (sometimes called Bent-Nose), which is derived from the Chain-Nose pliers, and the Linesman's, which is derived from the Flat-Nose pliers. All five of these pliers types are described below.

The Flat-Nose pliers are, unsurprisingly, pliers whose tips are broad and rectangular in cross section:

These pliers are most useful for heavy work, usually gripping and holding a piece while another type of pliers is used to work it, or squeezing/twisting a piece into shape.

The Needle-Nose pliers have tips which are tapered and round, and in some cases even pointed (rather like needles):

These pliers are normally used for finer work, such as shaping curves or making rounded bends in wire. Note that these pliers are often confused with Chain-Nose pliers, as described below.

The Chain-Nose pliers are probably the most all-around useful pliers to a mailler. The inside of the jaw is flat, like a Flat-Nose, while the outside is round, like a Needle-Nose. The tips are D-shaped:

These are the generalist's pliers. Some maillers need no other kind of pliers to get the job done.

The Hook-Nose pliers have the same tips as Chain-Nose, only the last quarter( or so) of the jaws are hooked downward anywhere from 30 to 90. These are often used by maillers with wrist problems, as they are more ergonomically designed for some tasks.

The Linesman's pliers have tips much like Flat-Nose, but they are much thicker. Additionally, the first half-inch (or so) of the jaws are hollowed out and sharpened, allowing them to be used as cutters, as well as pliers. Linesman's tend to be big, strong, and chunky, which makes them great for working hard metals in large sizes, such as those used in armor or what has of-late come to be known as "macro-maille".

All of the pliers described above except for the Needle-Nose can have smooth or toothed jaws. Teeth are sometimes needed to gain purchase on hard or large pieces, but generally speaking, maillers use smooth-jawed pliers to avoid excessive tooling marks on their work.


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