The 10 Best Linesman Pliers
This wiki has been updated 16 times since it was first published in August of 2019. Many tradespeople will agree: if you have to go to work with just one pair of pliers, you want it to be your linesman. Whether you're twisting wires, cutting cables, pulling a fish tape or just smashing an unwanted obstacle when your hammer's out of reach, this is the tool to have in your hand. Note that our selections are focused on noninsulated options that are not suitable for live-power work. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 14, 2020:
It was a fairly straightforward round of updates, as all of our picks from last year remain great choices today. That being said, we did find a couple opportunities to improve our rankings.
Firstly, we removed the Tekton 34514 and replaced it with the Milwaukee 48-22-6100. The 34514 are a respectable enough pair – for a general handyman, or a new apprentice who’s just starting to build a tool collection – and their price is hard to beat, but their thin vinyl grips leave something to be desired, in terms of comfort, and the durability of their jaws is questionable.
By contrast, the 48-22-6100, which I had a chance to work with this summer, feature surprisingly comfortable rubberized grips, and many users have reported preferring this pair to the Kleins they typically work with. They do cost considerably more than the Tektons, but can still be considered relatively affordable for the category. They come with a limited lifetime warranty, as well as a few useful, features, like an integrated dimple crimper and a fish tape puller.
Secondly, we removed the Klein Tools J2000-9NECRTP and replaced them with the Klein Tools 20009NEEINS. Despite having no voltage rating, our previous pick – a popular selection from Klein’s Journeyman Series that’s seen ubiquitously across the construction industry – is a fine choice. I’ve been through several pairs myself (replacements due to loss, not wear), and continue to purchase them in lieu of the company’s bulky, insulated model because they're more affordable and much more comfortable to work with.
Now, enter the 20009NEEINS, which incorporates the safety and peace of mind offered by the company’s 1,000-volt-rated pliers, and combines it with slim, comfortable grips that look to be quite similar to those of the Journeyman Series. Talk about the best of both worlds. Another standout feature offered with this pair is a white underlayer that’ll jump out if their black and orange grips catch a knick, giving you a heads up if your pliers’ voltage rating has been compromised.
While we’re on the subject of voltage ratings, in case any of our users are wondering why every pair on this list doesn’t have one by default: You’ve got to consider that insulated pliers are not only typically more expensive, but also often bulkier and less comfy to work with. Then, you’ve also got to consider that only a small portion of our audience works with live power on a regular basis. So, with that in mind, until such a time that insulated linesman earn their own set rankings for this website, we need to do our best to find a balance for this page.
August 14, 2019:
Before anything, it must be noted that these rankings are focused on non-insulated items that are not intended for use with live power. If there’s any chance that you’ll be working around live electricity with this tool, then you should consider investing in a pair of pliers with a 1000-volt rating, such as the Knipex Tools 240 T BKA.
Before anything else, it should also be noted that working with electricity is extremely dangerous: the risk of serious injury or death via electrocution or electrical fire should not be taken lightly. Make sure that all electrical work done on your home or property is completed by a reputable, licensed electrician.
Many tradespeople will agree: if you have to go to work with just one pair of pliers, you want it to be your linesman. Whether you're twisting wires, cutting cables, pulling a fish tape or just smashing an unwanted obstacle when your hammer's out of reach, this is the tool you want in your hand.
They might not be the first suspect that comes to mind when it comes to naming culprits responsible for catalyzing accident reports on job sites (poor ladder protocol and sharp-teethed power tools usually seem to skate with that infamy), but there are still best practices that need to be observed while working with pliers and other hand tools – even when live power isn’t involved.
If there’s any chance of flying debris while you work, whether it be stray chunks of masonry or loose shreds of wood, wear a face shield or safety glasses. It isn’t hard to find an option that’s relatively comfortable and inexpensive, and – especially while working on larger job sites with all sorts of trades around you – it isn’t a bad idea to just get into the habit of wearing them.
If you come across some material that’s tough to cut through, make sure you keep cutting with your hand strength. You might find that your natural reflex is to start putting your body weight behind your pliers, but that can easily wind up being the first step toward a slip-and-fall or a pulled muscle. To help avoid situations like this, keep the cutting edge of your pliers sharpened and the rivet well lubricated with grease, oil or a synthetic lubricant.
If you’re working at extreme heights, tie your tools off (yes, tools need fall protection too). It might seem inconsequential to drop a pair of pliers, but if it falls twenty-two floors and lands on top of somebody’s skull, it might kill them. Many regional health and safety authorities have regulations demanding that all tools be tied off for any work above a designated height. Offerings like the Knipex Tools 240 T BKA have a tether attachment point welded to their handle, to help facilitate the attachment of a lanyard for safety.
A few things to keep top of mind while you’re shopping for your linesman pliers:
Do you care more about comfort or cost? Sometimes, especially when considering multiple offerings from a single company, the biggest differentiator between these tools is the construction of their handle. If you’re a professional who’s going to be depending on this tool on a daily basis for years to come, then investing a little extra for a comfortable grip might make perfect sense. At the same time, if you’re a casual user who’s just hoping to see these pliers offer you a little utility around the house, once in a while, then you might be quite satisfied to save some money and select a more modestly-dressed option.
Is a multi-tool right for you? Some people sing the praises of a tool that serves many functions. For example, the Klein Tools J215-8CR functions not only as linesman pliers, but also a screw shearer, dimple crimper, side cutter and wire stripper. While this Swiss Army knife of pliers might seem superficially superb, it’s not always so simple.
Many users report that these multi-tools just don’t function as well as multiple tools performing one specific function each. For example, the strippers on the J215-8CR only strip #10 AWG to #14 AWG solid wires, while designated wire strippers from the same company can also strip #16 AWG to #20 AWG.
While the argument has been made that there is a savings in weight to be capitalized on by consolidating several pairs of pliers into a single multi-tool, it’s also been pointed out that some of these multi-tools are so heavy, that they can weigh more than the collective weight of several separate tools. Still, if your somebody who’s a fan of keeping things simple and not a fan of clutter, a multi-tool might be an awesome option for you.
What’s the warranty like? It might not be the first thing you’re thinking about during this purchase journey. We are, after all, talking about a hand tool and not a new automobile or laptop. But, with so many companies in this category backing their products with a lifetime warranty, why not make this the very last pair of linesman pliers you’ll ever invest in?
And finally, with all that being said, let me also just say: good luck to you – with your shopping, and even better luck to you – with whatever projects your new tool’s intended for!