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The Vise-Grip line has changed surprisingly little in terms of how they are made and the quality. However, they are still coming up with new ways to make their technology more useful.
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On the Original series of pliers/clamps the metal release lever is still pushed down to the locking handle to release it. The rubber over molded handle on the newer "Fast Release™" makes them a little easier to use.
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Vise-Grip Locking Pliers and Clamps

An old favorite keeps on keeping on

Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz

Posted – 12-22-2010

My first recollection of a Vise-Grip™ tool was when I could reach my father’s basement workbench. Even at that early age it did not take long for me to realize the capabilities of these locking pliers. Later through my times as a mechanic and messing with racecar's, I was never far from several Vise-Grip™ tools. Fortunately for all of us, the folks at Vise-Grip™ continue to uphold their reputation for a solid tool that performs as expected, sometimes better. They have made small improvements along the way to make their tools more comfortable and easier to use. But none of those changes lowered the quality and we can be especially thankful for that kind of loyalty to their customers.

The Basics

Vise-Grip™ tools are well made and designed to apply surprising amounts of pressure in a controllable and comfortable manner. The jaws on most tools are hardened to both grip well and resist wear.

From the start Vise-Grip™ tools used a single knurled knob at the end of the top handle to adjust the gripping range of the jaws and thereby the amount of pressure generated. The only change to that knurled adjusting knob is the addition of a socket on the rear face that accepts a hex wrench to make changing the clamping range/pressure easier. This system means that you can easily dial in a small amount of pressure to just hold something or crank in a bunch of pressure to get the death-grip necessary to break stubborn fasteners loose. Over the years I became so accustomed to the Vise-Grip™ gripping ability that I often skipped a torch and went right to my Vise-Grip™ to get a hold on and twist off a damaged nut or bolt.

While the Original Vise-Grip™ line with the all-steel body and handles remains, newer versions that sport comfort-enhancing rubber-like coatings in crucial areas of the handles are also available. Hold a new version of a Vise-Grip™ tool next to one that is 20 years old and the primary difference will be the rubber over mold.

On the Original line of Vise-Grip™ tools the paddle release that was built into the lower handle remains. Squeeze that paddle against the lower handle and the jaws pop open. Many Vise-Grip™ versions are now available with a rubber over mold on the lower handle. Pull on that rubber portion and the jaws pop open.

The Straight Jaw model may be the most familiar but it retains the original handle/lever (left) designs we know so well. The jaws (right) are hardened and designed to get a firm grip on whatever you need to move.
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Original Straight Jaw Pliers

Probably the most recognizable Vise-Grip™ is the straight jaw Original locking pliers that have been in continuous production since 1924! It is not uncommon to find one of these pliers in virtually any toolbox, including those dating back 30 or 40 years! The straight jaws feature hardened serrations that are designed to get a firm grip on flat, square or hex materials. If you own one of these Straight Jaw Vise-Grips™ you already know that if you squeeze hard enough those jaws can develop an immense grip on lots of shapes besides the square variety.

The Vise-Grip™ Straight Jaw pliers is available in 10”-long (10R) and 7”-long (7R) models. If you are like me, both sizes (actually two of each size) are in my plier drawer and

have saved the day more than once. With a street price hovering around $12.00 for the 10R model (12-15-2010) getting one of the best locking pliers available is not as expensive as many think. For me, the first time the Vise-Grip™ 10R breaks a stuck fastener free it has paid for itself and the remaining years in its useful life are all gravy!

Locking C-Clamps – Regular tips

The C-Clamp models allow "reaching" over or around obstructions to apply the force to hold the work securely.
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A favorite of welders and anyone else that puts things together the C-Clamp Vise-Grip™ offers the ability to reach over or around obstructions and still have the power to secure the pieces for welding or other operations. The Vise-Grip™ Locking C-Clamps are available in “the Original” all steel version or the newer “Fast Release™” models with the rubber over mold on the lower handle.

The wide C-shaped jaws are available with rounded tips (as shown here) or with swivel-mounted pads that conform to many irregular surfaces. The Vise-Grip™ Locking C-Clamps are available in 6 sizes with jaw capacities of 10” to 2-1/8” and lengths from 24” to 6”.

With a street price of $10.99 for the 6R, 6”-long model, to $13.40 (12-15-2010) for the 11R, 11”-model. There are many other sizes of this popular locking clamp style so check with your favorite outlet for pricing and availability information on them.

Sheet Metal Tool

The locking Sheet Metal Tool is great for making or holding lips, joining panel lips and more. The broad, flat jaws (right) give you lots of grip on hard-to-hold sheet metal, making lots of those operations easier and safer.
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The Vise-Grip™ 8R, 8”-long Sheet Metal Tool has a generous 3-1/8” jaw capacity that makes forming or grasping sheet metal easy and effective. The wide flat jaws make forming lips or other small bends in sheet metal easier and safer in terms of fewer nicks and cuts.

Being able to lock the flat jaws at whatever pressure needed keeps your hands free to complete the task. Whether you are just holding sheet metal in place, drilling holes or welding the Vise-Grip™ 8R Sheet Metal Tool lets you work faster, more effectively and safer.

With a street price of just $13.50 (12-15-2010) the Vise-Grip™ Sheet Metal Tool will be a welcome addition to any shop that works with sheet metal all of the time of just once in a while.

The Locking Welding Clamp makes joining two pieces easier and leaves room for tack welding. Being able to reach over small to medium angle pieces makes this clamp just that much easier to use.
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Locking Welding Clamp

If you weld things together, chances are you either have or need the Vise-Grip™ Locking Welding Clamp. The over-reaching split upper jaw let you clamp pieces in place and still have room to weld or at least firmly tack them in place for full welding later.

The Vise-Grip™ Locking Welding Clamp (#9R) is 9”-long and has a jaw capacity of 2-3/4” which turns out to be more than sufficient for a huge number of assembly situations in any shop. Both the upper split jaws with their 90-degree bend downwards and the u-shaped lower jaw are made from heavy gauge steel so they can withstand the clamping pressures the Locking Welding Clamp is capable of generating.

With a street price of just $18.60 (12-15-2010) you need not continue trying to use other tools for jobs for which the Vise-Grip™ Locking Welding Clamp was designed and built. I’ve only had the Vise-Grip™ Locking Welding Clamp in my shop for several days now but find myself reaching for it often.

The Panel Clamp works especially well with sheet metal lips as well as angle pieces or whatever you need to join that has a lip. The pieces are held tight so you can weld or fasten them perfectly.
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Locking Panel Clamp

The Vise-Grip™ Locking Panel Clamp almost looks like a mistake until you see what it does so well. This clamp makes joining a pair of sheet metal lips very easy and secure. The 90-degree dual arm jaws (upper and lower) make joining lots of pieces with vertical edges much easier because the jaws pull the ends of their jaws together which means you can develop a tight seam whether you use welding, rivets or screws.

The Vise-Grip™ Locking Panel Clamp is 9”-long and has a 3/8” jaw capacity. I know that jaw capacity sounds minimal but when working with sheet metal it is actually quite generous. The split design of the jaws lets you hold two sheet metal lips or a single sheet metal piece to angle stock both easy and very secure because of the clamping pressure the Locking Panel Clamp can generate. The split jaws also allow tack welding or installing screw or pop-rivets between the jaw arms to insure a tight seam.

The Vise-Grip™ Locking Panel Clamp has a street price of $14.00 (12-15-2010) which makes it a very good value in addition to its usefulness in the shop. If you are tired of loose sheet metal seams, the Vise-Grip™ Locking Panel Clamp could be just what you need.

Vise-Grip™ GrooveLock Straight Jaw Pliers

The Vise-Grip GrooveLock pliers takes this type of tool to a new level. The pushbutton pivot lets you move the lower jaw where needed for the size of the piece being worked with. Note the "teeth" in the right photo above that have ramps on one side. That is so you can slide the lower jaw up to fit a nut or bolt and not worry about it not locking in that groove.
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I know that the GrooveLock Pliers (GV10R) are not “locking” but they are from Vise-Grip™ and do work very well in any metal or woodworking shop. At the heart of the GrooveLock Pliers is the mechanism that changes the position of the lower jaw which changes the capacity.

Vise-Grip™ developed a pushbutton pivot that lets the user choose from a large series of surprisingly small grooves that locate the lower jaw. The traditional pliers like this had much larger grooves and consequently fewer of them. The close fit and controlled pivot along with high-end materials and manufacturing allow a very precise fit that makes the finer grooves very strong and secure.

A close look at the grooves reveals that they actually have a ramp on one side and a straight tooth-like shape on the other. That allows the user to slide the jaw against an object to make setting it up very fast. When you want to increase the jaw spacing simply push the button at the pivot and slide the lower jaw where you need it. Both jaws have rubber over molds that provide a very comfortable, easy to grip surface.

The Vise-Grip™ GrooveLock Straight Jaw Pliers have a street price of about $13.00 (12-16-2010) and carry a lifetime guarantee from Irwin Industrial Tools, the parent company of Vise-Grip™. It is hard for me to imagine anyone owning a car or a home and not having at least one Vise-Grip™ GrooveLock Straight Jaw Pliers.

In the Shop

Video Tour

Using any of the Vise-Grip™ designs shown in this review is very simple and requires little getting used to. In fact the only aspect of them that gets better with use is getting some time under your belt adjusting the opening/pressure. Get used to that and applying any of the Vise-Grip™ to your work is simple.

All of the Vise-Grip™ tools in this review are well made and will appear very familiar to long-time Vise-Grip™ users. It looks like the folks at Vise-Grip™ (and parent company, Irwin) realized that they had a very useful design so left it alone!

The only thing I would recommend is that you check out the Vise-Grip™ site to see all of the variations they offer. You just might find the perfect tool for a troublesome job.


Vise-Grip™ pliers and locking clamps have been a favorite of people doing all sorts of jobs for many years because they work. And they keep on working after bouncing around in a toolbox or drawer. If you do not have a Vise-Grip™ in your shop, chances are that you are not working as efficiently as you could be.

Visit the Vise-Grip™ web site – Click Here

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