Klein Tools NTD team News & Opinion

Irwin Tools 2015 Media Event


We got to visit Irwin Tools this year in Huntersville, NC to help them celebrate their 6th annual National Tradesman Day at the Irwin Tools 2015 Media Event. Irwin is a 13 year old brand—but only because Newell acquired it in 2002. If you take into account some of the companies that fall under the related brands, like Irwin, Vise-Grip, Marples…well, let’s just say that the Irwin auger bit was invented back in 1885. Go back further, and Marples chisels were crafted in Sheffield England in 1828. The current date of interest, however, is the third Friday in September, also known as National Tradesmen Day. Six years ago, the National Tradesmen Day program was birthed, and this year Irwin up the ante, announcing a Irwin 2015 Nominate a Tradesman Grand Prize Winner by the name of Jen Netherwood. Her prize? A 2015 Ford F-150 XLT Super Crew 4×4 truck.

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Irwin Vise-Grip Multi-Pliers

Irwin Vise-Grip Multi-PliersIrwin loves Pro-level testing of its tools, and we had a couple handy at the Irwin Tools 2015 Media Event to test out their new Vise-Grip multi-pliers. These new pliers are very interesting—and quite different from anything we’d seen on the market. The Vise-Grips were invented in 1924—and while much has changed with regard to the options, handles, cutting features and  clamping and releasing of the handles (like the trigger release in 1957)—Vise-Grips pliers have never really added anything in terms of multiple-use functionality. Recent research (performed by Irwin Tools) showed that 82.1% of people own something like a Leatherman multitool, and that use was split between Pro and personal users. People bought and used products from many different manufacturers as well, including Leatherman, Gerber, and Stanley to name just a few.

Irwin Tools history of Vise-Grips pliers

Here’s a brief visual walk down memory lane with a history of Irwin Tools Vise-Grips pliers over the years.

What the Irwin Vise-Grip Multi-Pliers do is take their small locking pliers and add the functions of a multitool right into the handle. There was some serious focus group testing to see just which tools would be included—after all, this was designed to be a hybrid tool—not a Swiss Army knife.

Irwin Vise-Grip Multi-Pliers bit holder

Ultimately, Irwin decided on three models:

  • Irwin 5WR Vise-GripCurved Jaw Locking Multi-Pliers with Wire Cutter
  • Irwin 6LN Vise-Grip Long Nose Locking Multi-Pliers
  • Irwin 5CR Vise-Grip Curved Jaw Locking Multi-Pliers

Irwin 5wr locking-multi-plier Irwin 6ln vise-grip locking mulit-pliersIrwin 5cr vise-grip multi-pliers

Each comes either in a tool-only format or in a pouch. So what are the Irwin Vise-Grip Multi-Pliers? In a nutshell, you get a pair of Vise-Grips with a fold out stainless steel knife blade with liner lock as well as a convenient fold out screwdriver with 1/4″ bit holder. The tool body is made of a high grade heat treated alloy steel. It will sell for between $20-25.

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Redesigned Irwin Line Nose Pliers, Lineman’s Pliers, Diagonal Pliers, and End Cutting Pliers

Irwin has a bunch of new pliers that it’s bringing to the market with improved ergonomics and performance features. They had good tools to begin with, so adding even slight improvements was a net gain in our minds.

Irwin Tools Pliers

In addition to the Irwin Vise-Grip Multi-Pliers above, here are some of the highlights:

  • Integrated Performance Lanyard System with Clip
    These lanyards clip right onto any of the new Irwin Tools Vise-Grip pliers and make them instantly drop-safe.
  • 8″ Max Leverage End Cutting Pliers with PowerSlot
    The imported PowerSlot technology delivers twice the cutting power, or half the effort—depending upon which you require…
  • 6-3/4″ Bent Nose Pliers
    These pliers are strong enough to cut even the thickest, toughest materials.
  • 8″ Ergomulti Long Nose Pliers with Wire Stripper & Wire Crimper
    These pliers are more ergonomic for your wrist and hands and are engineered with a 62° ergonomic angled head.
  • 8″ Standard Long Nose Pliers
  • 6″ Standard Long Nose Pliers
  • 9-1/2″ High Leverage Lineman’s Pliers with Fish Tape Puller

The fish tape puller on the new 9-1/2 inch Lineman’s Pliers are sure to be a hit.

Irwin Linemans Pliers fish tape puller

I know the focus is on the fish tape puller, but we swear that’s a fancy bottle opener built into the jaws of these Lineman’s pliers!

The integrated lanyard system on all of the new pliers is a really great addition for addressing drop safety. OSHA will be pleased…and that means you, as a business owner, should be too.

Irwin Tools Vise-Grip lanyard

The entire new line of Irwin Vise-Grip cutting pliers are made in Germany and have induction hardened cutting edges. How hard are they? With the PowerSlot technology—which gives you    we were ale to take the Irwin Vise-Grip 8″ Max Leverage Diagonal Cutting Pliers and snap through Romex one-handed…then we went to work on some piano wire. That’s hard stuff. We were impressed.

Irwin PowerSlot Cutting Pliers 2

Irwin Strait-Line Chalk & Reel Upgrades

It was back in 1960 that the first Strait Line chalk reel was made out of aluminum. 2008 was Irwin Tools’ last big innovative push in this category when they introduced some new features like geared line retraction and better case durability.

Irwin chalk reels lineup

The market has some serious need for innovation in the chalk reel category. Most guys will retract their chalk lines after an average of 2.5 snaps—that’s an average, but it mean you don’t retain much chalk and you spend a lot of time refilling and rewinding.

Irwin chalk reel flip topOverfilling the reel is also another main cause of the line getting bound up inside the chalk reel. Irwin says they see guys toss their shall lines all the time out of frustration on the jobsite—that’s not a great way to work. If you simply accept that a tool doesn’t work well, then you likely need either a new technique—or a new tool. In this case, it’s a bit of both. Because most refill holes are small, you really can’t see how much chalk you’re putting in—and overfilling is common. Overfill a chalk reel, and it will bind up. Bind up, and the line is likely to snap as you try to pull it free. You see the cycle? Irwin’s new Strit-Line Chalk Reels have oversized fill holes. You can see what you’re doing. In addition, their newest Pro model has a quarter-turn lock top that pulls right off and lets you get right in there for refilling. It’s less messy, and you won’t likely overfill the container.

Irwin chalk reels filling

Irwin has retraction gear rations for any preference. Their Classic does 1x, while they also have models that do 2x, 3x, and the Mach 6 model that retracts at an astounding 6x speed. All models except the Irwin Strait-Line Classic also utilize a clutch for releasing the line. This is a fantastic addition as it keeps the handle from spinning when you let out the line—kinda like a fishing reel. It’ a great feature that we hope Irwin didn’t patent so that it comes out on every other chalk reel in the near future! (Hey, it’s the way they should be designed!)

The Irwin Strait-Line Pro and Mach 6 models have a nylon embedded string and larger hooks which we like. I think those are going to be big sellers. String abrasion resistance and tensile strength were addressed, as that results in breakage—which is frustrating when you’re trying to do a job. Irwin has responded buy increasing their twisted string to last much longer than traditional spun polyester. Higher up models also include abrasion-resistant braided polyester line.

Of course, Irwin also addressed the Pros who need longer distance products, redesigning the look of their 100′ and 150′ Strait-Line reels. The 100′ reel, which is new, holds about 10 ounces of chalk.

Irwin Tools 2015 Media Event Conclusion

We also got to take a look at Irwin’s Learning & Development Center where they do rapid prototyping and tool testing—but that’s another article. For now, Irwin had showed us some cool new hand tools that we are looking forward to reviewing in our shop. In particular, the addition of the high leverage cutting pliers and the fall-safety lanyards are a big hit as are the revisions made to the Irwin Strait-Line chalk reels that make them longer lasting and easier-to-use than ever before.

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