I NEVER cease to be amazed at the ways in which what seem like ‘standard’ tools in ‘standard’ forms can be re-imagined and reshaped in ways that (usually) result in a performance improvement.
Sometimes the changes in the tools reflect the changes in fixings or the need for more exacting standards in areas like specified torque levels. More sophisticated manufacturing, better materials and greater understanding of how these materials perform, probably means that no manufacturer can sit back and become complacent.
Modern users simply don’t seem to accept that their tools can’t be better. A hundred years ago trades weren’t as spoiled as we are, maybe?
Out of the eight Knipex samples I was sent for review, it was the biggest that caught my attention first – a 300mm long Pliers Wrench.
The name indicates its functions – it can be used as pliers and as a wrench or spanner. These functions are made possible by the ingenious design of the bottom jaws that not only slide up and down to adjust to the size of the fixing, but these jaws continue to remain parallel, making it much easier to get a good grip on a hex nut or the parallel faces on a particular fixing. A friend of mine with a 35-year career in the gas industry, from shop floor to management, declared that they were the perfect tool for gas and smart meter fitters because of this feature.
I must admit that it was the sheer ease of use and cleverness of the jaw design that made this tool a favourite for me. It is as good as a spanner in many situations, much better than a traditional adjustable spanner, and, in use, the handles stay close enough to allow me to use just one hand, and not two to operate it. The bottom jaw slides on a very accurate ratchet and can be moved by pressing the spring-loaded button on the top handle.
Operation is smooth – no catching or jerky adjustment on the ratchet teeth and it can stretch to a massive 68mm wide. Laser cut marks, metric on one side of the ratchet and imperial on the other, allow the user to set a size to suit the fixing.
Plastic jaws are available that fit tightly over the steel jaws to prevent marking on more sensitive or softer surfaces.
These Plier Wrenches come in a few sizes, in black and chrome finishes and different grips. Definitely a tool that I would want to add to my toolkit.
I am sure that there are many electricians out there who strip the ends of wires quickly and efficiently with a pair of side cutters, but the Knipex PreciStrip16 brings predictability, accuracy and versatility to the task.
Not to mention speed. As I worked the handles and watched the wire stripping process each time, I couldn’t help but admire the accuracy and ease with which the jaws worked – and it didn’t matter if it was 0.8mm wire or 16mm wire. All the user has to do to ensure that all the stripped ends are the same is to insert the wire to the set depth on the jaws – adjustable all the way to 20mm.
Apparently, the ease of cut is made possible by the parabolic blades that enclose the insulation better than circular ones as they cut. The blades can be easily replaced in one hit as they are contained in a cassette. The downside of sidecutters when they get blunt is that they have to be discarded.
It is fiddly and time consuming to change tools for different jobs, but the PreciStrip has a wire cutter on the fulcrum to ensure a neat end before starting the stripping process, so no need for another tool.
My electrician friend was predictably non-committal when I let him use them on a job, but his comments afterwards showed that they worked well and made his job easier. If you can impress the old timers, then I think Knipex has got it right. A definite thumbs up for the PreciStrip16.
I am used to cutting plastic pipes, mostly 20mm plumbing pipes, and I use the standard pipe cutters with the bypass blades that look like garden secateurs. Well forget them, what you need is a pair of the new Knipex plastic and aluminium pipe cutters.
The old expression ‘like a knife through butter’ applies here – they cut pipes from 12 to 25mm in diameter with an ease that will astonish. I was able to cut 5mm long sections off the end of a pipe with ease and the ends were perfectly straight and accurate because the blades cut so easily that the pipe did not deform when cut. I am sure that this speed and ease is almost entirely down to the super sharp hard steel blade and the design of the handles for easy cutting pressure to be applied. The blade is replaceable by simply unscrewing two screws, making it easy for this tool to be a long term and greener investment than older designs.
For cutting multi-layer and pneumatic hoses, the same ergonomic handle set is used with the addition of a different anvil/pipe support that makes it easier to ensure that the pipe is cut precisely at right angles. Again, this made cutting so easy and accurate that I think the old bypass designs will be binned quite soon. I just hope that the replaceable hardened steel blades for both tools are not overpriced.
The CoBolt family of cutters was designed to be smaller but not less capable of cutting bolts, hard wires and braided cables. The offset fulcrum design is the key to its cutting power and users have a choice of 160, 200 or 250mm lengths to suit their trade needs.
The cutting edges are well matched and hardened so even the small 160mm version was very capable of cutting bolts, cables and screws up to about 5mm in diameter. The handles are shaped to protect fingers and also increase cutting pressure. Another feature is the gripping surface behind the fulcrum that can be used to grip and pull wires.
Another pair of cutters that became a favourite is also 160mm long and light – so an easy fit into a trouser pocket. I mostly used it for cutting cables and wires which it did with ease. The cutting edges are designed in a series of small scallop shapes that spread the cutting load, so making it easier to snip away neatly.
Like the cutters above it has shaped handles to aid grip and cutting power and the simple dipped plastic handles aid comfort and handling.
TubiX pipe cutter
There is no doubt that the new TubiX pipe cutter is a more sophisticated way of slicing pipes. It can accommodate pipes from 35 to 6mm in diameter and can cope with copper, brass and stainless steel pipes courtesy of the ball-bearing quality steel cutting wheel that is mounted in roller bearings.
It didn’t take me long to get a series of cuts going on some copper pipe because the design follows a familiar pattern to standard pipe slices. To start, you simply place the pipe into the upper jaw against the rollers and then push the spring loaded cutting wheel against the pipe where with a bit of practise you can get it quite firmly bedded first time, every time, because the rollers are big with good bearings. Then twist the whole tool over the pipe and tighten the adjuster to push the cutting wheel into the pipe. As you get good at it, it takes only about 25 or 30 seconds to cut a 20mm copper pipe. A final deburring on the inside of the pipe is done by flicking up the deburring tool on the back.
Once I got used to the TubiX I found that I was able to cut and deburr pipes very quickly and I began to wonder whether I would ever want to go back to my simple pipe slice.
For most small electrical jobs I do, ‘crimping’ usually just involves twisting the end of the wire by hand, but these days with ever smaller junctions and connections, this way may not be accurate enough.
Knipex has a range of crimping tools but the one I was sent for review worked in a way that I was unfamiliar with. It is adjustable for crimps from 0.08 to 16mm by simply lifting and twisting the adjustment button to the right size. The results of this crimping tool are very neat, tight and square-shaped wire ends that fit easily into the contacts – and all of this is achieved in seconds. My guess is that once used, electricians might even use the crimps on basic electrical tasks like socket fitting to save time.
I have always rated Knipex products and I have used various Knipex cutters, pincers etc in my work for many years. But I am also happy that things move on and this range of new tools is definitely worth a look. I think they are greener and more sophisticated and, used correctly, they will be real time savers. Definitely lots to like.