Tool Review - Knipex Cobra Pliers
Updated: Jul 12, 2021
I have loved tools for a long time. From the time I was able to walk I was into my dad’s tool box. Mixing them up, losing them, and definitely misusing them. Probably the tool most misused were the pliers. Pliers are the universal tool that were never meant to be universal. From a wrench to a hammer and most everything in between pliers are used and abused on the regular.
It wasn’t until I began turning wrenches for a living that I learned the value of having good tools. I started out changing oil for income and even things like a quality oil filter wrenches made a huge difference in the efficiency and ease of the work I was doing. I’ve been turning wrenches full time now for almost 15 years and while I can admit to, at times, using my tools in ways they weren’t necessarily intended I can also deeply appreciate having the correct tool for the job. And when it comes to pliers there is one brand in particular that do their job very well.
I discovered Knipex about seven or eight years ago and almost instantly fell in love. From the durability in construction to the engineering and thoughtful design elements that edge this tool to the top of my plyers’ drawer. They are the set I reach for most often whether I’m wrenching on a car, welding or metal working, or checking off those “honey-do’s” around the house. They are versatile, precise, and comfortable, and although a little on the pricey side they are well worth the purchase.
Founded in 1882, Knipex has been at the forefront of quality since its inception. Carl Gustav Putsch began with a journeyman and a couple of apprentices in the basement of his house making pincers for carpenters and farriers. By 1927 the company had grown to a huge 7000 pliers a week being produced by 27 employees, but it would take another 15 years before Knipex became the name of the already “world famous pliers and cutters.” Today Knipex employs over 1200 and continues to grow with their guiding principle of “Always better pliers.”
The particular pliers I use are the Cobra water pump pliers* and would fit traditionally into the “slip jaw” pliers. Instead of a traditional “cam style” bolt holding the two halves of the pliers together these have a spring loaded button with 25 teeth called folds as locking points. They create “convenient and fine adjustment” and biting strength because it offers a flat area for pressure distribution, unlike the cam bolt in other pliers. This means applying grip strength is more precise and actually easier. The span on the pliers can be right where you need it for maximum bite.
Speaking of teeth, these things have serious bite. From the plastic grip coating to the specially designed self-locking grip in the mouth of the pliers mean they’ll bite on almost anything, from flat thin pieces of metal to round and even square bar, including the pipe and nuts they were designed for in the plumbing industry. According to Knipex multiple steps are used to harden the pliers, and specifically the teeth, to a hardness of approximately 61 HRC(Hardness Rockwell C) through a process that involves high frequency current.
The thing that sold me on these pliers was the demonstration from my tool dealer. She took the pliers and had me clamp them down on a piece of pipe that was welded between two pedestals over a flat piece of steel. She then proceeded to have me stand on the pliers while they were gripping the pipe. Believe it or not the pliers didn’t move! The teeth bit into the smooth round pipe combined with the pliers construction meant those pliers were able to suspend over 200lbs! I was blown away, and even after owning a pair for several years they bite just as hard now as the day I bought them.
Many places are carrying these pliers now, from Matco, Snap-on, Cornwell (who I bought them from), and many other tool trucks, to places like Lowe’s and Home Depot, and even Walmart and, of course, Amazon. They are readily available, but they’ll cost you. Ranging anywhere from $26 to $40 for one pair, and many places offer sets which will run you over $100.
If the price scares you a bit that’s understandable, but I will say, as an Automotive Technician and bus mechanic using them on the regular, you pay for what you get. Absolutely there are many less expensive options available but the quality and capability of these pliers are unmatched. If you are looking for a cheap pair of pliers to throw in the tool box at home for the once or twice a year they’ll be used then these are not the pliers for you. But if your tools are the way you make money and you’re using them nearly every day I would highly recommend the Knipex Cobra pliers.
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Matt’s love of all things automotive came about at a very young age when his grandmother (an ex race car driver) would put him in her lap while driving around their rural neighborhood and let him “drive.” This started a passion that ultimately lead him to pursue a degree in Automotive Technology and several ASE certifications and a handful of jobs in the auto industry. His first car was non other than Kit from night rider (albeit a 12V Power Wheels like version). For Christmas some years later he was given a 1980 Honda XR80 dirt bike, which for a preteen made for an abundant amount of freedom. It was the sale of this beloved bike that funded his first car purchase of a 1971 VW Super Beetle, which he and his father rebuilt from the ground up. He currently works for an East Texas school district as a bus mechanic, but the passion for air cooled VW’s lives on.