Tool Tutorial: Linesman’s Pliers

Length of Project:
Project theme:
Suitable for grades:
Tools & Materials
Material List
  • ~3’ of 14/2 electrical wire
  • Wire connector cap (eg, yellow Marette)
  • Optional

  • ~10" tie wire
  • two+ pieces of rebar
Tool list
  • Linesman's pliers
  • Wire strippers
  • Utility knife

    What are Linesman's pliers used for?

  1. Linesman’s pliers are one of the most commonly used tools in an electrician’s toolkit. They are used to cut thick wire to length as well as splice wire ends together. They are heavy duty enough to clip through many strands of solid copper wire in one go, and their handles are insulated to protect electricians from small amounts of electrical current.
  2. Linesman’s pliers are also used by electricians to remove KO (“knock out”) circles, staples, as well as for gentle hammering purposes.
  3. Linesman’s pliers give you good grip on metal and can be used for bending or straightening sheet metal as well as wires.
  4. In a pinch, Linesman’s pliers can also be used for cutting and twisting tie wire onto rebar structures (in preparation for concrete work).
  5. Safety Considerations

  6. Always use safety glasses when using hand tools. Small pieces of wire clippings can fly up when you cut them.
  7. Cutting wire lengths

  8. Hold the open Linesman’s pliers in your dominant hand and place the wire between the cutting saws. Squeeze the handles together to cut the wire. Rock them gently side to side to help the wire cut if you need to. It’s ok to use two hands if you need more leverage.
  9. Remove a KO circle

  10. Push the tip of the pliers onto the circle to bend it into the box. Grip the circle with the tip of the pliers and bend/twist until the KO circle comes off.
  11. Splicing

  12. Try wiring up an outlet box from the Intro to Residential Electrical project, or cut two or three 1’ pieces of 14/2 wire. Slice the jacket open with a utility knife and remove the insulated wires. Use wire strippers to remove the last 1” of insulation from the wires.
  13. Line up the insulation edges as shown and hold the wires securely in your non-dominant hand. Pinch the Linesman’s on the tips of the wires, then twist the pliers several times to create a twist in the wires. Use the cutting section on the pliers to clip the tip of the twist off to make a clean end.
  14. Screw on a wire connector cap to finish the splice.
  15. Twisting tie wire

  16. If you don’t have a pair of rebar or ironworker’s pliers, you can use Linesman’s to secure tie wire on small projects. Cut a ~5”+ piece of tie wire and bend it into a “U” shape.
  17. Hook the wire behind a rebar junction, then twist it with your hands to make an “X”. Pinch the “X” firmly with the tip of the pliers and twist to tighten and secure the wire.
  18. Environmental concerns

  19. Choose a well-made pair of Linesman’s pliers so they will last you a long time, as they are difficult to repair if they break.
Extension Challenges
  1. Use your Linesman’s pliers to try out our Intro to Residential Wiring project, our Residential Wiring Model projects, or our Rebar Trellis project.
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