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I'm a big fan of Knipex tools. Made in Germany, these are some of the best tools you can buy, and at prices that won't break the bank.
Recently, the Knipex Cobra XS water pump pliers have replaced the ever-popular multitool as my go-to EDC (everyday carry) pocket tool.
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I've always wanted a pair of pliers that are compact enough to unobtrusively fit into a pocket, yet strong enough to, well, do what I expect pliers to do.
And this is exactly what the Knipex Cobra XS water pump pliers do.
But I'm the first to admit that these have a couple of issues.
First, the handles aren't the most comfortable. They're raw metal, and this might not be great for everyone. I've been using tools all my life -- one of my earliest memories is of using a hammer with my grandfather – so while they don't bother me, even I notice they're not the most comfortable hand tools I've used.
A second issue is the jaws of the Cobra XS water pump pliers. They're super grippy, which is good when you need the bite, but they can chew up fasteners, which is not ideal.
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Is there a tool that combines the power, performance, and compact size of the Cobra XS water pump pliers, but with more comfortable handles and jaws that won't chew up fasteners?
The Knipex 5-inch mini pliers wrench.
First off, the 5-inch mini pliers wrench is bigger than the Cobra XS, an inch bigger to be precise. While you can get a 4-inch mini pliers wrench, it doesn't have the coated handles.
The 5-inch mini pliers wrench features a push-button to adjust the size of the jaws. The plus side of this is that they lock in place in use, but the downside is that they can't easily be adjusted using one hand.
And powering the jaws is a cam action, multiplying and amplifying the popwer of your hand several times.
You've probably noticed the handles too -- plastic coated for comfort and insulation from cold/heat (note that this coating does not provide electrical insulation). This makes the handles a lot more comfortable than the Cobra XS, especially when it comes to extended use.
One thing I really like about the Cobra XS is that the handles have been designed to be pinch-free. What do I mean by that? Well, with some pliers, it's possible for the handles to clamp shut on the skin of the palm of your hands.
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And this hurts.
The handles of the smaller Cobra XS are totally pinch-proof, and I like this, but the handles on the 5-inch mini pliers wrench are a little different, and can, under rare conditions, catch your skin. I've not had this happen during real life usage, but it's certainly possible.
The jaws are also very different.
They are smooth and parallel, compared to the curved jaws with biting grips on the Cobra XS.
There are pros and cons here. On the plus side, those biting grips on the Cobra XS are great for getting hold of fasteners, especially if they are rusted in place or damaged.
The downside is that those jaws can easily mar or damage a fastener.
The jaws on the 5-inch mini pliers wrench on the other are great for gripping onto nuts and bolts that are in good condition and shouldn't damage anything, but they struggle to get a grip on badly damaged fasteners.
Oddly, the jaws on the smaller Cobra XS open significantly more than the jaws on the 5-inch mini pliers wrench.
This means that the 5-inch mini pliers wrench struggles with things -- like spring hose clamps -- that the smaller Cobra XS has no problems with.
So, which is best?
If you want a small, rugged and reliable tool designed to grip fasteners and undo them, no matter what, then my vote goes to the Cobra XS. They're no-nonsense, and those jaws will grip and remove fasteners, no matter how worn or chewed up they are.
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But, if you want something a little more, civilized, a little more comfortable, and something that won't chew up fasteners, then the 5-inch mini pliers wrench is a great choice. This wrench has earned a place in my toolkit, as a great pocket-friendly tool that replaces a full set of open-end wrenches or socket set. It's powerful, really well made, and a tool that will last a lifetime.
That said, I also recommend you get a decent socket set and wrenches, because you can't beat having the right tool for the right job.