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Must-have tool for your toolbox: Knipex Cobra XS

Bigger is not always better.

Over the past few weeks I've been testing out Knipex's new 4-inch Cobra XS water pump pliers, and while they might be small, they are mighty powerful.

Knipex is a German tool brand that makes professional-quality pliers, and I've been using Knipex tools for years, ever since I learned the value of using good tools over cheap tools.

But despite being a long-term user, I have to admit that the first time I handled the new Cobra XS water pump pliers, I thought that they might be a joke. After all, at 4-inches long, they seemed too small to get much done.

I was wrong.

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The jaws on the Cobra XS can open to accommodate fasteners up to 28mm, and yet they are compact enough to get into tight spots. And despite the handles being small, I've found that I could put a lot of force through them, enough to handle plumbing tasks.

But computer engineers aren't going to be doing much plumbing, so why should they have a pair in their toolbag?

Well, for me, the biggest selling point are the precision-grounded tips. They're perfect for getting a grip onto awkward, hard to reach fasteners. Even if there's only a tiny amount of a fastener sticking out, they can get a bite on them.

I've also found them to be great for clipping and unclipping connectors, bending and forming wires other random tasks that I find myself doing.

A lot of thought has been put into the Cobra XS, from the single-handed opening, 11 adjustment points, to the built-in guards that prevent you from pinching the skin on your hands during use.

Hallmarks of a quality tool.

Knipex Cobra XS highlights

  • Optimum access in the narrowest spaces: an especially compact design with a very slim head
  • Single-handed fine adjustment by sliding for optimal fitting to various workpiece sizes
  • Long-lasting secure grip ensured by high wear resistance
  • Gripping capacity Ø 28 mm, width across flats up to 24 mm - at only 100 mm length
  • Box joint: high quality and durability provided by dual guide
  • Gripping surfaces with specially hardened teeth, hardness approx. 60 HRC
  • Self-locking on pipes and nuts: no slipping on the workpiece and low handforce required
  • Guard prevents operators' fingers being pinched
  • Fine adjustment with 11 adjustment positions
$34 at Amazon

Prior to the Cobra XS pliers, I was using the pliers on my multitool a lot, and while they're versatile, they're not as tough, not as well-engineered, and not as good for precise work as the Cobra XS. Also, the handles are much more comfortable to use than the handles on multitool pliers, which is a factor if you are going to be using them a lot or have to put a lot of pressure.

Another feature that I like is the durability. I've worked these pliers hard, and they look like new, without any scuffs or damage anywhere, even on the tips that have seen some serious use.

And at $33, they're not expensive for a quality tool that will, assuming you don't lose it, outlast you.

One small complaint I have is that I wish they came with some insulation on the handles. Not only would that make them a little more comfortable to use, but they'd be a little bit nicer to use for those of us who live and work in cold climates.