At my “day job” I am currently teaching another employee about wire work and he has started collecting tools. We had a conversation about where to buy, what to look for, and the next day I ended up giving him a duplicate type of tool that I had no reason to keep.
To me, that set of pliers was a “bad” set. I told him why, but it will also work just fine for him. Good and bad are obviously subjective, but explaining all of this to him has it rolling around in my head and I figured… why not share? So here we go.
As I gifted that “bad” set of pliers to him, I also explained that I had duplicates of other tools that I DO want to keep around. He got those nylon jaw pliers because I only need one pair of that type of pliers around, and the other pair is better. I will be keeping my five sets of cutters and three sets of bent nose and two round nose and… you get the idea. What’s the difference?
The cutters all do the same basic job, but are different enough that I want a particular one for a specific job. I would not want to use my heavy-duty ones to cut tiny jump rings- they wouldn’t even fit inside to cut them. I can’t cut 5 gauge wire with the smaller ones. The differences there are fairly obvious. For the bent nose and round nose and other types… things get more subjective.
I did not like the nylon jaws I gave him because they lack a spring for opening. Manually opening and closing pliers gets tedious when you are working a full day with them. That isn’t going to be an issue for him. It might not be an issue for you, and it could be an advantage depending on the type of work you are doing to not have a spring-loaded opening mechanism.
Some of the bent nose pliers have some sharp edges along the opening that make them unsuitable for working with aluminum wire (until I take the time to use my Dremel on them). The round nose pliers have different gauge ends on them. Some of the pliers I like for a particular task aren’t as ergonomic as ones I use on a more regular basis if I am going to do wire work for hours on end.
All of these subtle differences can make a pair of pliers good or bad to the person using them at the time. Some of them are immediately apparent, and some will take multiple uses of a tool to figure out. Your definition of good and bad can also change, depending on your experience.
One thing I am very adamant about, is to not let where a tool came from influence your immediate opinion of it. One of my favorite pairs of pliers is from the automotive section at Sears(R). If I only used “beading” pliers from craft and jewelry stores I would be limiting my availability. Those are not always good tools, and things from the hardware store are not always bad.
Think before you buy, if you get a chance- try first, if you can’t- do some research. And as always, enjoy!