Last week the FedEx guy showed up with an unexpected delivery from Irwin. The box contained a hand tool plus the kind of plastic case a technician might use. Curious to know what was inside I ignored the tool and looked for the combination to the cable lock that held the case shut. No luck; it wasn’t written anywhere. Turning my attention to the tool I suddenly realized how I was expected to open the case; the tool was Irwin’s Vice-Grip Max Leverage Diagonal Cutting Pliers, which use compound cutting action to greatly reduce the amount of force required for cutting. They cut through the steel lock cable with no more effort than takes to cut a 14-gauge copper ground wire with regular wire cutters.
I was impressed by the tool’s ability to cut steel cable until I cut the same material again with the kind of small diagonal pliers an electronic tech might use. They cut it easily, which made me think the cable was not so tough. So I decided to try something harder and test the Irwin tool against some of the other cutters I had in the shop: 8-inch Milwaukee (48-22-4108) diagonal pliers, 7-inch Channellock (337) diagonal pliers, and 7-inch NWS combination pliers (109-49-180). It was not an apples-to-apples comparison because some tools were smaller and the Irwins were the only compound model.
The first thing I cut were 16d galvanized finish nails. The 8-inch tools cut them one-handed; the 7-inch tools required two hands. Next I cut #8 gold drywall screws; only the Max Leverage Pliers cut them one-handed (video below). If there is something to be learned from the test, it’s that it’s easier on your hand and muscles to use compound cut pliers, such as Irwin's, when making difficult cuts or making heavy cuts all day long.
Unlike bolt cutters and some less-expensive compound cutters, the Max Leverage Pliers contain a minimal number of parts. They are cleanly machined, have comfortable molded grips, and are no bigger or heavier than any other 8-inch diagonal cut pliers. But their compound action means they cut more easily. The grips are equipped with loops to which a lanyard can be connected to prevent them from falling.
These pliers are among the newer offerings in a line of German-made Irwin pliers, which includes end cutting pliers, lineman’s pliers, and Ergo Multi long nose pliers. Long nose and bent long nose pliers are also available.
Irwin’s tools come from all over the world; this is the first I’ve heard of them coming from Germany. Most of the company’s hand tools seem to be made in Taiwan and China, circular blades in Italy, and recip blades in the U.S.A (I’ve seen them manufactured at the Lenox plant in Massachusetts). Irwin probably makes tools in other locations but these are the ones I’m aware of. I viewed the Max Leverage Diagonal Pliers on Amazon and learned they are made in Solingen, the town where NWS Tools are made. NWS is a high-end German brand with limited U.S. distribution; I got a pair of their combination pliers a couple of years back because I couldn’t resist buying them.
Irwin’s German-made pliers appear to be slightly modified NWS Tools; the Max Leverage Diagonal Cut Pliers look just like the FantasticoPlus Side Cutters. There’s nothing wrong with OEMing tools in this manner; in today’s world it would be rare for a company to produce every item it sells. If NWS is making tools for Irwin it’s a win all around: Irwin gets to offer high-end German tools, NWS gets to sell more product, and U.S. tradesmen gain access to tools that were previously hard to find.
The manufacturer suggested retail prices for this new line of tools is $27-55. I found the Max Leverage Diagonal Cut Pliers online for $40-46 and Lineman’s Pliers for $40-45. About the plastic storage case—more on it later.